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Molasses Baked Beans

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This molasses baked beans recipe is a year-round favorite! Soak dried beans in the morning, boil in the evening, and slow bake overnight.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Soaking Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 17 hours
Homemade molasses baked beans in a pot.

Homemade molasses baked beans are a tradition in Nova Scotia, and this recipe yields perfect results every time. With their rich, deep flavor of molasses and touch of sweetness from brown sugar, I make baked beans year-round. They are wonderful as a stick-to-your-ribs hot meal in the winter and especially good in the summer as a side with grilled chicken or ribs.

Start by soaking dried navy beans, which helps soften them and reduces the cooking time. After soaking, cook the beans with a bit of baking soda to tenderize them further. Once the beans are cooked, they’re drained and mixed with the other ingredients.

The slow baking process is where the real magic happens. I don’t know what kind of sorcery it is, but baking the beans at a low temperature for eight hours in a sweet, smoky sauce, turns these tiny pantry staples into a freakin’ flavor bomb. I like to bake the beans overnight, so when I wake up, I’m instantly hit with the smell of comfort and home.

For an even truer taste of the East Coast, try serving your beans on the side of these lobster cakes or this Nova Scotia lobster roll. However you serve them, I hope you love them!

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Ingredients For Molasses Baked Beans

Ingredients to make this recipe.

Ingredient Notes

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adds a slight tanginess that balances the sweetness of the molasses and brown sugar.
  • Bacon: Provides a smoky, savory depth, while the bacon fat adds richness.
  • Baking Soda: Helps to soften the beans during cooking.
  • Brown Sugar: Contributes to the sweetness and adds a rich caramel flavor.
  • Dried Navy Beans: The base of the dish, these beans are known for their creamy texture and ability to absorb flavors well during the slow baking process.
  • Ground Mustard: Adds a mild, tangy spice.
  • Ketchup: The backbone of the sauce which all the other layers of flavor are built upon.
  • Molasses: The key ingredient! Feel free to experiment with different types of molasses. Blackstrap molasses will give a more robust, slightly bitter flavor, while regular molasses will be sweeter and lighter.
  • Onion: Adds sweetness and a bit of texture.

It’s important to note that when making substitutions in recipes, the texture and flavor may be slightly different. However, these substitutes are the best options for changing the original recipe.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Substitute with white vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Bacon: Use turkey bacon or smoked sausage or omit for a vegetarian version. You can also use salt pork scraps, but they won’t have a smoky flavor.
  • Baking Soda: If you don’t have baking soda, you can skip it, but be prepared for a longer cooking time to achieve the same creamy tenderness.
  • Black Pepper: Substitute with white pepper for a milder flavor, or use cayenne pepper for more heat.
  • Brown Sugar: Replace with honey or maple syrup.
  • Dried Navy Beans: Dried yellow-eyed beans, white cannellini beans (aka white kidney beans), or great northern beans can be an alternative.
  • Ground Mustard: Substitute with Dijon mustard or yellow mustard.
  • Ketchup: Try tomato paste mixed with sugar and vinegar or barbecue sauce.
  • Molasses: Replace with honey or maple syrup.
  • Onion: Use shallots, leeks, or even onion powder if fresh onions are unavailable.

Recipe Variations

Try any of the following for a twist on this molasses baked beans recipe:

  • Apple Chunks: Stir in small apple chunks with the bacon and onion.
  • BBQ Sauce: Mix a half cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.
  • Beer: Replace some of the reserved bean cooking liquid with beer.
  • Bell Peppers: Stir in diced bell peppers for added color.
  • Caramelized Onions: Caramelize the onions before adding them to the beans for a sweeter, more complex flavor.
  • Chili Peppers: Stir in diced jalapeños or chipotle peppers.
  • Different Meats: Try sausage, ham, or leftover pulled pork instead of bacon.
  • Fresh Herbs: Stir in chopped herbs like thyme or rosemary after baking.
  • Garlic: Add a few minced garlic cloves.
  • Green Onions: Garnish with chopped green onions or chives for a fresh, bright finish.
  • Ham Hock: Replace the bacon with a ham hock for a different, hearty flavor.
  • Liquid Smoke: Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke, especially if your bacon is not overly smoky.
  • Smoked Paprika: Try a teaspoon of smoked paprika.
  • Spices: Add a pinch of cloves, cinnamon, or allspice for a warm flavor note.
  • Tomato Paste: Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste for a richer base.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: A tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce adds savory, umami depth.

Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top of this post, or scroll to the bottom to see the PRINTABLE recipe card with ingredient measurements and complete instructions.

How To Make Molasses Baked Beans

Process shots 1 through 4.

STEP 1: Place the dried beans in a Dutch oven. Cover with cold water and soak for eight hours or overnight.

STEP 2: Drain and rinse the beans. Place them back in the Dutch oven and cover with fresh, cold water. Bring the beans to a light boil and cook for 30 minutes or until tender.

STEP 3: Drain the cooked beans into a colander fitted over a large bowl or another vessel to catch the liquid. Set aside.

STEP 4: Give the Dutch oven a quick wash, then add the ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ground dry mustard, and pepper.

Process shots 5 though 8.

STEP 5: Stir the sauce ingredients together until smooth.

STEP 6: Add the onion, bacon, reserved bean liquid, and cooked beans to the pot.

STEP 7: Stir well to combine.

STEP 8: Place the lid on the Dutch oven and transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Bake the beans for 8 hours. Remove the beans from the oven, remove the lid, stir, and serve.

Expert Tips

1. I like to use thick-cut, double-smoked bacon from my local butcher. The smokier, the better!
2. When you add the baking soda to the beans, the bean liquid may foam up and over the edges of the pot. Blow gently on the foam or lift the pot away from the burner to help it settle down.
3. I like to soak my dried beans in the morning and boil them in the evening. I then mix them with the remaining ingredients and bake them overnight. I love the scent wafting through the house while we sleep!

Recipe Notes

  • When boiling the beans, keep the heat at a low bubble to prevent them from breaking apart. Rapid boiling can cause the beans to become mushy and may affect the texture of the final dish.
  • If your beans are watery when you take them out of the oven after baking, don’t worry! They will thicken as they cool. If your beans don’t thicken, preheat the oven to 250ºF (120ºC), place the pot back in the oven uncovered, and bake for up to 3 hours.
  • On the flip side, if your beans seem dry after baking, try stirring them first. Sometimes, the top can look dry, but the beans are perfect underneath. If you still find your beans are dry, stir in a splash of water to loosen them.

Storage

  • Leftover baked beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can reheat them gently on the stove over low-medium heat or in the microwave. If needed, add a splash of water to loosen the sauce.
  • For longer storage, freeze the beans in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. Avoid refreezing to maintain the best texture and flavor.
Molasses baked beans in a pot with a wooden spatula.

Did you make these molasses baked beans? Please rate the recipe and tell me how it went in the comments below. Also, stay in touch with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to see more delicious food and recipes!

Printable Recipe Card

Homemade molasses baked beans in a pot.

Molasses Baked Beans

Author: Kelly Neil
This molasses baked beans recipe is a year-round favorite! Soak dried beans in the morning, boil in the evening, and slow bake overnight.
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours 30 minutes
Soaking Time: 8 hours
Total Time 17 hours
Course Family Meal Ideas
Cuisine Canadian / American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 257 kcal

Special Equipment

  • 4 to 6 quart (litre) cast iron Dutch oven with lid
  • Colander
  • Measuring cups and spoons or digital kitchen scale
  • Sharp knife
  • Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams.

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 cups dried white navy beans
  • 6 cups cold water
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 medium onion, ends trimmed, peeled, chopped
  • 6 to 8 strips bacon, cut into ½ inch (1 ¼ cm) pieces

Instructions
 

Soak The Dried Beans (8 hours)

  • Place the dried navy beans in a 4-quart (4 L) Dutch oven. Cover the beans with cold water and let them soak for eight hours or overnight.

Rinse & Cook The Beans (45 minutes)

  • Drain and rinse the beans with cool water. Place the drained beans back in the Dutch oven and cover them with 6 cups (1 ½ L) of fresh cold water. Bring the beans to a light boil over medium-high heat. Once bubbling, add the baking soda. Reduce the heat, place the lid on the pot, and simmer the beans for 30 minutes or until tender.

Bake The Beans (8 hours)

  • Preheat the oven to 250ºF (120ºC).
  • Drain the cooked beans into a colander fitted over a large bowl or another vessel to catch the liquid. Once drained, you should have about 3 ½ cups (875 ml) of cooking liquid (if you don't have 3 ½ cups, top it up with water until you do). Rinse the cooked beans with cool water and drain. Set the cooking liquid and the drained beans aside.
  • Give the Dutch oven a quick wash to remove any cooked on bean scum. Add the ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ground dry mustard, and pepper to the pot. Stir together until smooth.
  • Add the chopped onion and bacon to the pot. Add the 3 ½ cups of reserved bean liquid and the cooked beans. Stir well to combine.
  • Place the lid on the Dutch oven and transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Bake the beans for 8 hours (I usually bake mine overnight). Remove the baked beans from the oven, remove the lid, stir, and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • When boiling the beans, keep the heat at a low bubble to prevent them from breaking apart. Rapid boiling can cause the beans to become mushy and may affect the texture of the final dish.
  • If your beans are watery when you take them out of the oven after baking, don’t worry! They will thicken as they cool. If your beans don’t thicken, preheat the oven to 250ºF (120ºC), place the pot back in the oven uncovered, and bake for up to 3 hours.
  • On the flip side, if your beans seem dry after baking, try stirring them first. Sometimes, the top can look dry, but the beans are perfect underneath. If you still find your beans are dry, stir in a splash of water to loosen them.

Storage

  • Leftover baked beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can reheat them gently on the stove over low-medium heat or in the microwave. If needed, add a splash of water to loosen the sauce.
  • For longer storage, freeze the beans in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. Avoid refreezing to maintain the best texture and flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 257kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 10gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 325mgPotassium: 754mgFiber: 9gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 113IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 99mgIron: 3mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. If accurate data is important to you, please verify it independently.

Did you make this recipe?Let me know on Instagram @kellyneildotcom or tag #kellyneil!

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12 Comments

    1. Oh good, I’m so glad Elaine! They are one of our winter time favourites for sure! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  1. Hi Kelly, Today I am making your baked beans recipe in my kitchen in Belgrade Serbia! I just scored a jar of molasses from a fellow Canadian friend (a pantry item that you will not find here). Stay tuned! I’ll send you a photo later 🙂
    Keely

  2. Hi there!
    I wanted to drop a line to you to say thank you for this old fashioned baked bean recipe! I’ve been looking for a good one for quite awhile. This fits the bill. I grew up in Alberta, far away from your Nova Scotia, but these are like the beans i remember.
    These days i cook recipes from all over the world, but i’m looking forward to making another batch of these and introducing my kids to weenies and beanies! Thanks again.

  3. 5 stars
    This is the first time I have ever made molasses beans and I used this recipe which is almost the same as my Mom’s. I took them out of the oven a couple of hours ago and they were a tad dry in my opinion but the overall taste was spot on. I added a cup of cold water to them to make them a bit more saucier which seemed to help. Just had one question for you before I make the recipe again — what type of molasses is the best one to use? There were at least three different kinds on the store shelf and I honestly had no idea on which one to select. I bought Crosby’s Cooking Molasses and that is what I used. I saw in a different recipe that the type of molasses to use is important. The best type for baked beans is apparently Crosby Fancy Molasses (not the cooking kind that I bought). Can you comment on that so I will be wiser next time. Many thanks again Kelly for your excellent recipes. You have excellent tastes and share good recipes that we love!

    1. Oh yay, that’s so great, thank you so much for letting me know! You’re right, the beans do thicken after cooking, which I like, but I will make a note to add a bit of water or more bean water for people who may like them a bit looser. Also, I always buy Crosby’s Fancy Molasses because that’s what I grew up with here on the East Coast—I honestly haven’t tried any other brands!😅 Thank you again so much for trying the recipe and for your kind words!🥰

  4. 5 stars
    Hi! Love these. Made this recipe for Thanksgiving I sauteed the onion in butter and baked the bacon then crumbled it and then I added cooked 80/20 ground chuck and added more seasonings to taste because the ground chuck needs more it soaks it up so to speak. I had lost my good recipe for baked beans and this is perfect! BTW when I click on the appetizers it doesn’t take me to recipes like the other links am I missing something? Love your blog.

  5. We were just talking about how nice a pot of beans would be after the cold snap on the weekend. Looking forward to these very much!

  6. Thank you so very much this recipe is outstanding. I followed the recipe exactly as described and it’s now my favourite baked bean dish. This I will keep forever and share the recipe with my daughter. I will make a larger batch next time because there’s just not enough. Thanks again can’t wait to try your other recipe’s

4.89 from 9 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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