Easy, delicious and budget friendly homemade vegetarian baked beans. Served with buttered toast or giant baked potatoes, they’re the ultimate comfort food!
I cannot count how many cans of Heinz baked beans I ate with buttered toast as a kid. Too many. That, I can tell you. I’m going to say it’s because my mom is British and those Brits certainly do love their baked beans on toast. It’s certainly for good reasons- they’re cheap, filling, delicious and for us, have become the most comforting of foods. If you give my mom a jacket potato with plenty of butter and baked beans, she just might kiss you.
Over the years, the canned beans became less and less appealing to me as I preferred to cook from scratch and really started to notice just how cloyingly sweet those canned syrupy beans are. They are absolutely riddled with sugar and it makes me feel gross just thinking about eating a bowl of them. I’ve found restaurants to be no better : under cooked beans, over salted, disgustingly sweet, too smokey, too NOT what I wanted so I decided it was high time I made my own.
Yes, in North America they’re usually just a side at a bbq but in British homes, they’re a staple year round. Since my mom is a vegetarian, I never make my beans with pork which, at first made Mark put off by the idea until he tried them. Now, he’ll eat homemade vegetarian baked beans all day long.
They get their smokiness from the addition of liquid smoke OR smoked paprika, whichever you have or prefer (I LOVE liquid hickory smoke), they’re heavy on the molasses, light on the brown sugar/maple syrup, some tamari soy sauce and apple cider vinegar liven them up, sauteed onions bring a nice savoriness to them and a healthy amount of mustard, salt and pepper finish them off. They cook for 4-5 hours in the slow cooker with about 3 cups of water until they get all thick and saucy and then they’ll keep all week long for quick lunches and easy dinners.
Each serving of these homemade vegetarian baked beans only costs about $0.35 and even less if you’re in the states. Paired with a side of broccoli and toast, you’re looking at under a dollar for a completely filling meal. They’re also amazing shoved in to a big, buttered baked potato, a savory scone, or as a side to a homemade bagel (OR PRETZEL!) and cream cheese. If you’re feeling like you need something lighter to go with them, I really love roasting delicata squash and topping them with a little butter and plenty of beans with a side of veg.
The best part of making your own baked beans? You get to decide how sweet/salty/saucy you want them and there’s no funky bpas. Something I didn’t do here but have done in the past is saute up some bell peppers and red onions and toss them in while they’re in the slow cooker. It adds a bit of a different flavor to them (in a good way!) and gets a little more veg in to your belly. My only regret every single time I make them is not doubling the recipe. They always seem to disappear so much faster than I expect them to and I’m sad when I go the fridge and they’re gone. Do yourself a favor, double the recipe even if you don’t think you could possibly eat that many beans in a week. You can and you will.
IF by some chance you don’t finish them, simply pop them in the freezer in a good, airtight container or freezer bag and they’ll keep for around 3 months. You won’t have them for 3 months, though. THAT I can guarantee.
Cheers! Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and, when you make a recipe, tag your photo #thepretendbaker so I can see what you’re whipping up! And be sure to sign up for my weekly mailing list so you never miss a recipe!
- 1 lb dry navy beans rinsed and soaked overnight.
- 1 tsp butter or oil
- 1 medium onion, diced fine
- 4-5 TBSP molasses (NOT blackstrap)
- 3 TBSP maple syrup
- 1-2 TBSP brown sugar
- 2 tsp paprika** see note
- ¼-1/2 tsp liquid smoke** see note
- 2 TBSP whole grain mustard, divided
- 2 TBSP tamari soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp salt** see note
- ½ tsp fresh black pepper
- 3 cups of water
- 2-3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- After soaking beans, drain and rinse them then cook them in a large pot of boiling water until soft, about 1 hour. Drain, rinse and place in your slow cooker.
- Saute onion in butter for about 5 minutes until soft and add to the slow cooker.
- Add everything, including water, except 1 TBSP mustard, the apple cider vinegar and half of the salt. Start with only ¼ tsp liquid smoke, if using.
- Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 until the liquid is thick and saucy and beans are completely tender.
- Add remaining mustard and 2 TBSP vinegar. Taste, adjust salt, pepper, vinegar and smoke, to taste.
- Serve warm.
If using liquid smoke, start with less and add more to taste at the end. It is a powerful ingredient and a little goes a long way.
I used about 1½ tsp salt.
I used barbados molasses but fancy or cooking will also work. I do not recommend blackstrap since it is too bitter.
If the liquid is too thick, simply add more water.
Beans will keep for a week in an airtight container in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
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