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
- 2 15.5 oz cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses*, not blackstrap
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 Tablespoons ketchup
- 4 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- 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. After more testing, the stovetop simmer wasn’t necessary with the higher oven temperature.
These baked beans look wonderful – and I completely agree that it can be tough to find good vegetarian baked beans at the store. I’ve never tried making my own at home, but now I definitely want to. 30 minutes?! I’m sold!
Thanks! They’re so easy and delicious (if I do say so!). I hope you enjoy if you give them a try!
Turned out great! Added some garlic powder, onion powder, and liquid smoke to jazz it up.
Sounds awesome! Love the addition of liquid smoke!
I put a little smoked paprika and it was amazing!
Yay, so glad to hear! Thanks, Carolyn!
Could you substitute honey for the molasses? My family does not like the taste of molasses.
Hi Debbie! The molasses really adds a unique flavor to the beans; I’d worry that a full honey substitute would be too strong but I haven’t tried it myself. I’d recommend either substituting with all brown sugar or substituting the molasses half with honey and half brown sugar. Let me know if you give it a try!
Would this also work well for most any kind of bean?
Hi Matt – great question. I’ve made it with Navy Beans, Great Northern Beans, and Canellini Beans. Any of those will work. I’m not sure about others but if it’s a light, neutral flavored bean it should work. I’d love to hear what you try!
I really enjoyed this recipe, and couldn’t help snacking on these before dinner was ready to be served! Not having 2 cans of navy beans on hand, I used 1 can navy beans and 1 can pintos, and though the flavor was fine, we found the Pintos unpleasantly dense. This will certainly become a regular dish on hamburger nights!
I’m so glad to hear you enjoy this recipe! Good to note on the pinto beans – thanks for that tip!
Cooking dry beans with a little baking soda makes them cook a lot faster and makes the skins of the beans more tender. You can take a pound of dry navy beans in enough water to cover with a few inches and 1/8 tsp of baking soda. Simmer this for 30 minutes to one hour and test the beans for doneness. This is a fast way to get tender beans for baked beans.
Thanks for sharing your method, Marty.
I love this recipe. It has become a regular for dinner. Will this freeze and reheat well?
I’m so glad to hear! I haven’t tried freezing them myself, but you should be able to. Let me know if you give it a try, and I’ll report back once I try it!
I have on hand, an unopened jar of Blackstrap Molasses, Unsulfered, non GMO, suitable for vegans. I can’t find your reason for not using Blackstrap. Why won’t this work? Or will it?
Hi Kathy! I recommend not using blackstrap molasses because it is quite bitter. You can give it a try, just note it will change the flavor (and if you like less sweet, more bitter, you might love it!). For future reference, I have such information listed under the ingredients section in the post and in the notes section of the recipe card. Hope this helps!
This is the third time I have these vegan baked beans and the flavor has been amazing every time! Tonight’s batch however (on Thanksgiving of all times) were very hard after being baked, which is odd since they were canned beans and therefore are already cooked to tenderness. Nonetheless I put them back in the oven to bake a bit longer. That actually made them even harder and inedible. Any ideas why that might have happened? I could not find navy beans to save my soul so I had to sub great northern. The flavor was still outstanding.
Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear. Did you add the baking soda? Sometimes with the acidic ingredients, the beans can become tough/hard and it helps to prevent that. Again, so sorry that happened on Thanksgiving!
Can I mix this all together and keep refrigerated before baking? I think you say you can in the instructions, except the instruction says ” before serving” , not before baking. Was this a misprint? Am I able to mix it all ingredients together the night before and then bake it the next day? Thanks so much!
Hi Ruth – yes you can mix it together and bake it the next day. Thanks for noting the confusion there, I’ll be sure to update to make it more clear. Hope you enjoy!
I’m making this for dinner tonight and will be adding some veggie franks. The sauce on the beans tasted wonderful! Can hardly wait till they are ready to eat!
Awesome, sounds yummy! Thanks, Donna!
The flavor of the beans is wonderful! But the calorie count is way off. I do realize it was stated that the calorie count was estimated but you can’t eat a cup of plain beans for under 200 calories, let alone when the sugar and molasses are added. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the beans are delicious, but is incredibly misleading.
Hi Tracy – thanks for the feedback! Sorry for the confusion, there was no intention to be misleading. You’re right, there was an error in the calculation. Unfortunately, it was not translating “2 15.5 ounce cans” into the correct amount of beans. The recipe calculator divides the ingredients by the serving amount, which for this recipe is 6, which comes to just over 1/2 cup per serving. I apologize for the confusion and have updated the recipe card. I hope this helps. I’m glad you enjoyed the flavor of the beans!
Really good! Simple and easy. Added butter beans which I love! Yum! Used dried onion instead of onion powder.
Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Kim, I’m glad you enjoyed!
I’d like to make this for a party. Can I double this recipe? Do I need to change any of the ratios?
Yep, you should be able to double no problem. I’d recommend using a larger pan or increasing the cook time to make sure the sauce thickens up. Would love to hear how it turns out – enjoy!