When it comes to BBQ side dish recipes, there are a few that are essential: pasta salad, potato salad, and baked beans. Ironically baked beans…I’m not sure what says summer about hot beans in a thick, tangy, sweet, and savory sauce. Nonetheless, they work and they are 100% a must-have at the potluck.
A must-have that everyone can enjoy, too.
Did you know that most canned baked beans are not vegetarian? When I went to search for meatless baked beans at the store, I was out of luck.
And I searched for a homemade vegetarian baked beans recipe, but they all required soaking dried beans, and you know I’m all about the quick-and-easy when it comes to side dishes recipes. So I took inspiration from my mom’s jazzed-up canned baked beans and got into the kitchen.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Yes, the credit goes to my mama. Let’s be real, don’t most of our best recipes in life come from our moms? We’re using very similar ingredients to make magic:
- Canned Navy Beans: they’re small white beans, and using the canned variety means we don’t need to do any soaking. You can also substitute another white bean if needed (like Great Northern or Cannelini Beans or even Pinto Beans)
- Molasses: sweet and somewhat smoky, molasses adds a great depth and flavor to the beans. Be sure to use unsulphured molasses, not blackstrap molasses, because it is more bitter.
- Brown Sugar: adds a little more sweetness with a hint of molasses, too.
- Ketchup: an easy way to add tomato to the beans; you could also substitute tomato paste if you prefer.
- Yellow Mustard: tangy and delicious, another pantry staple to make this recipe easy! Use Dijon mustard for a little more tang and spice.
- Onion Powder: for an added savory flavor.
- Baking Soda: there’s science here, friends. Too much acid has a tendency to turn beans tough, which isn’t ideal for baked beans. Adding baking soda helps to balance out the acidity of the other ingredients, keeping the means tender as they cook, and you wouldn’t even know it was there. Win, win!
This recipe is also gluten-free and vegan (just be sure to check the specific ingredients you use)!
If you’ve never jazzed up beans with all the sweet, tanginess of molasses, ketchup, and mustard, have you really been living? THESE are the baked beans that we’ve been waiting for all our lives. Ok, ok, maybe they’re a little more nostalgic for me. But I do promise you won’t be disappointed. They’re stick-to-your-ribs good.
Other Ways to Jazz Up Baked Beans
The main ingredients make a wonderful baked bean base, however, depending on your preferences you may be looking for a little more savory bean recipe, or one with a kick (my version is definitely on the sweet-savory side). Here are a few variations you might want to play around with:
- Sriracha – just a little goes a long way and adds a lot of depth!
- BBQ Sauce – use your favorite in place of some of the molasses or brown sugar for more of a savory kick
- Garlic Powder – pairs well with the onion powder for more flavor
- Vegan Worchestershire Sauce or Soy Sauce – a few dashes of either adds a lot of umami and savoriness to the beans
- Liquid Smoke – for added smokiness
- Smoked Paprika – for a little smoky and spice
How to Make Vegetarian Baked Beans
You are going to LOVE how easy this recipe is to make, especially on summer days when it’s time to enjoy gathering with family and friends, not making labor-intensive side dishes.
First, drain and rinse the beans. I let them sit in the colander while I prepare the sauce.
Whisk together the rest of the ingredients until combined. When the baking soda reacts with the acid, it will foam and bubble. This is absolutely normal! By the time the beans are done baking, the color will be a rich golden brown and the sauce thick; you won’t even know it had been foamy!
Stir together the beans and the sauce until combined and spread in an even layer in a baking dish. I often use my Dutch oven but any baking dish will work, the wider, the thicker the sauce will turn out and the faster it will cook.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and thicker, stirring halfway through the cooking time, if you’d like. It’s not necessary but can prevent some of the beans that might be sticking on top from drying out. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools once removed from the oven.
The more spread out the beans are in the dish (i.e. the shallower the pan) the faster they will cook and the thicker the sauce because more of the liquid will evaporate. The beans will also thicken as they cool.
Make-Ahead and Reheating
You can prepare the beans ahead of time, too. Combine all the ingredients together, cover the pan, and store them in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to bake them, bring the pan out of the fridge to come to room temperature before going into the oven. This makes sure your pan isn’t shocked by the drastic temperature change. Then, bake as instructed.
You can also bake the beans in advance, then reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop as needed.
For leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Again, reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop as desired.
Slow Cooker Directions
To make these baked beans in a slow cooker or crockpot, mix all ingredients in the slow cooker. Then cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. You can also transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm during your event.
What to Serve with Baked Beans
All your favorite BBQ recipes are fair game when it comes to what to serve with baked beans. They pair well with a variety of main dishes and other side dishes. I like to pair them with something cool, and something tangy or spicy to balance out their sweetness.
- Vegan Carrot “Hot Dogs”
- Grilled Veggie Burger
- Honey Skillet Cornbread
- Herby Potato Salad
- Homemade Coleslaw
- The Best Pasta Salad
- Avocado and Green Bean Salad
- Milk Chocolate Scotcheroos (every good BBQ needs dessert!)
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Easy Vegetarian Baked Beans
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Drain and rinse bean, then set aside.2 15.5 oz cans navy beans
- In an oven-safe Dutch oven or pan, combine the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, onion powder, baking soda, and salt (as needed); whisk together until combined, then stir in the beans. This is an easy one-pan way, but you can also do this in a separate bowl and transfer to a baking dish, depending on what you're using.½ cup unsulphured molasses*, ½ cup brown sugar, 4 Tablespoons ketchup, 4 Tablespoons yellow mustard, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Taste test the mixture for salt levels, just note that the flavors will mellow out as they bake and as the beans absorb the flavor.½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until thicker and bubbly, stirring halfway through cooking time as desired. Remove from heat and let sit for a minute as the beans thicken as they cool.
- Makes approximately 4 cups total.
- Slow Cooker: Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. You can also transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm during your event.
- I recommend using unsulfered molasses, like Grandma’s brand. Do not use blackstrap molasses, as it is more bitter.
- May 2022 Updates:
- Added baking soda to prevent the beans from potentially hardening from the acidic ingredients.
- Increased temperature from 350F to 400 and removed the stovetop simmer of the sauce and the addition of water. After more testing, the stovetop simmer wasn’t necessary with the higher oven temperature.