These slow cooker baked beans are made completely from scratch in the slow cooker and perfectly sweet and hearty. Bring these baked beans to any cookout and watch them be the star of the side dishes!
We’re revamping a summer cookout classic today! Just in time for all those backyard grill-outs that 100% need a strong side dish game.
While I know the traditional canned baked beans hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, I promise these scratch-made baked beans are going to make you an instant convert.
They’ve got all the things you love about the canned stuff, but BETTER. The sauce has that signature sweet ‘n’ tangy barbecue flavor, the beans are soo tender and flavorful, and best of all, it’s made in your slow cooker!
These baked beans have been a well-loved summer recipe in my family since I was a teenager and you’ll soon see why a batch never makes it to the end of the cookout!
These Baked Beans feature…
- Perfectly tender navy beans and smoky bacon bits
- A sweet, flavorful homemade barbecue sauce
- Made in the slow cooker and easy to prep ahead of time for events
Making The Baked Beans
(scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe)
Ingredients You Will Need
- Navy beans
- Yellow onion
- Tomato paste
- Brown sugar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Chili powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Bay leaf
Choosing Your Beans
We recommend using either dried navy or pinto beans for this recipe because we found that these particular types of beans mimicked the classic canned baked beans the closest in texture.
Since we’re using dried beans in this recipe, plan ahead because the dried beans will need to soak overnight before proceeding with this recipe.
Tips for Perfect Baked Beans
- Soak the beans – since we’re using dried beans, an overnight or at least 8-hour soak is essential for the beans to cook up tender.
- Add salt to soaking water – this helps flavor the otherwise-bland beans immensely!
- Use a mix of brown sugar and molasses – this adds a perfect level of sweetness and gives the beans that signature dark, molassesy flavor.
- Bring beans to a simmer on stovetop before slow cooking – simmering the beans and sauce on the stovetop jumpstarts the cooking process and gets everything ready for the slow cooker.
- Cook beans on low or high – depending on how much time you have, you can choose to either cook the beans on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Regardless of the heat you choose, make sure you check the beans periodically to make sure the liquid isn’t evaporating too quickly.
- Add more water as needed – all dried beans are different and some may soak up more water than others. Keep an eye on the beans throughout cooking and add more water if needed.
- Remove lid for last 45 minutes of cooking – this may seem weird, but removing the lid during the last bit of cooking helps the beans thicken up perfectly.
Try these ideas for a different twist on these beans!
- Use canned beans – you will need about 3 (15 oz) drained/rinsed cans of your choice of beans. You will also need to decrease the amount of water down to about 1-2 cups. You can always thin with additional water or add more beans if needed to get the texture where you want it.
- Make beans vegetarian – simply skip the bacon for vegetarian-friendly baked beans.
- Add more meat – for extra-meaty beans, add 1/2 lb browned ground beef to bean mixture before slow cooking.
- Make them spicy – feel free to add a minced jalapeno, serrano, extra cayenne, or a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce to beans.
Make Ahead Instructions
Follow these instructions for time-saving make ahead options!
- Soak beans the night before – it will only take a few minutes the next morning to throw everything in the slow cooker.
- Allow beans to sit on ‘warm’ – once the beans are cooked, they can sit in the slow cooker on the ‘warm’ setting for up to 3 hours.
- Reheat beans – these beans reheat wonderfully on the stovetop if you want to cook them up and store them a day or two before serving.
There’s just no beating a bowl of these baked beans! I swear, the slow cooker works its magic here and develops so many incredible sweet, tangy, smoky flavors.
Watch these baked beans single-handedly make you the side dish queen of your next cookout!
Save this recipe using the ‘save to recipe box’ button below. If you make it, please let us know! Leave a comment + star rating below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #wholeandheavenlyoven.
More cookout side dishes you should definitely try next!
Ultimate Crockpot BBQ Baked Beans
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- 1 lb dried navy or pinto beans
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 oz bacon, diced into 1/4-in pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dark molasses
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place dry beans in a large bowl, pour cold water to about 4 inches over top, and stir in salt. Cover bowl and allow the beans to soak overnight.
- The next day, drain beans reserving 4 cups water. Set aside for a moment.
- In a Dutch oven or large skillet, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon and add onion and cook until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
- Stir tomato paste, molasses, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, bay leaf, bacon, 4 cups reserved water, and beans into onions and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Remove beans from heat and transfer to a 4-qt slow cooker. Cook beans on low 6-7 hours or on high 3-4 hours until beans are tender. Add more water as needed if liquid is evaporating too quickly. Remove lid from slow cooker during last 45 minutes of cooking to allow the sauce to thicken up.
- Remove bay leaf and discard. Season beans with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. Enjoy!
This post was updated with new recipe tips and photos on 5/23/23.