This post has been updated for recipe, content and photos since its original publication in 2015.
These old fashioned baked beans are the best “from scratch” Southern baked beans recipe you’ve ever had. They’re thick and rich, with a complex smoky, sweet and spicy flavor. A few “secret ingredients” are the key to these heavenly BBQ baked beans and they make a perfect side dish with everything from burgers and hot dogs to chicken, ribs and steaks.
There is a BIG difference between baked beans from a can and real, old-fashioned, Southern style baked beans from scratch. Trust me. Canned are often overly sweet, the beans are kinda mushy and even if you do your best to “doctor them up” they still fall short of the bliss that slow-cooked homemade BBQ baked beans deliver. Yes, they take a little time… but it’s cooking time, not “working” time… and it’s worth it.
Ingredients for old fashioned baked beans
- Dried Pinto Beans (or other bean of your choice)
- Bell Pepper
- Brown Sugar
- Prepared Yellow Mustard
- Dry Mustard
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Liquid Smoke (optional, but good)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Black Pepper
- Kosher Salt
- Chipotle BBQ Seasoning (Secret ingredient #1)
- Strong Black Coffee (Secret ingredient #2)
- Reserved Bean Liquid
Prepping Dried Beans
Begin making the beans the day before you want to serve them, this will give them a chance to soak overnight.There are short cuts you can take if you don’t want to soak the beans (and I’ve shared them here), but I really prefer the overnight soak and have found that the long soak reduces uncomfortable bloating and gas that some people experience when enjoying legumes. If you’re pressed for time, you can also try the quick-soak method.
You can cook your old fashioned beans in a Dutch oven or a pressure cooker. I used my Instant Pot for this batch of beans (note: that pressure cookers like the instant pot are not “instant”. They have to come to pressure and naturally reduce pressure, which can take about 45 minutes… not including the cooking time).That said, it will cut off about one hour of cooking time so if speed is your thing, go with that method. Otherwise, the stovetop is fine. Note: This first simmer is just cooking the beans until they’re tender, not making the Southern BBQ baked beans… yet.
Best ways to cook dried beans
Cooking beans in the Dutch oven
- To cook beans in the dutch oven, drain the soaked legumes and rinse with fresh water.
- Transfer the pinto beans to the Dutch oven and cover with about 2″ of fresh water.
- Set on the stovetop and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a medium simmer and cover tightly with the lid.
- Simmer for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the beans achieve the desired texture. (They should be tender and creamy).
Cooking beans in the Instant Pot/pressure cooker
- To cook beans in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker, drain the soaked beans and rinse with fresh water.
- Add the pinto beans to the pressure cooker and cover with about 2″ of fresh water.
- Place the lid on the pressure cooker/Instant Pot to seal. Bring the the pot to full pressure and cook for 8 minutes on HIGH for pinto beans. If you’re using another type of dried bean, check this chart for correct cooking times.
- Let the pot release the pressure naturally.
I usually get the tangy, smoky BBQ seasoning sauce started while the legumes are cooking. This BBQ seasoning is smoky, sweet and rich. It’s got a nice tingly spice, without being overly hot. My husband said these were the best old fashioned baked beans he’d ever had and I largely credit this layered blend of ingredients for that.
Make the BBQ seasoning for the baked beans
- The flavor starts by crisping bacon in a large, heavy pot or dutch oven. Once the bacon is cooked transfer it to a dish lined with a paper towel to drain.
- Sauté the onions, bell pepper and garlic in the rendered bacon fat until it’s softened and fragrant.
- Add the brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, prepared mustard, dry mustard, worcestershire, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper, and chipotle BBQ seasoning. The seasoning is my own BBQ blend and it’s got plenty of smoke, sweet and spicy flavors. You can also use a store bought BBQ seasoning blend.
- Cook the BBQ sauce until the brown sugar has dissolved.
To make old fashioned baked beans, you’ll use the BBQ seasoning sauce as well as a bit of the cooking liquid from the beans to help with that saucy effect.
Reserve bean liquid from the cooked beans
- Dip a 2 cup glass measure into the cooked beans and reserve about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the liquid for the BBQ baked beans.
- Pour the remainder of the cooked beans through a colander to drain.
- Add the cooked beans to the BBQ seasoning sauce and stir in one cup of the reserved bean liquid. Save the rest in case it’s needed later.
Strong coffee is my other secret ingredient for these homemade baked beans. Its bold flavor stands up to the spice, sweet brown sugar and molasses, taming the sugary nature of those flavors and deepening the complexity of the spices.
Add the secret ingredient
- Stir in the coffee and transfer the old fashioned beans to the oven to bake.
- They’ll take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, uncovered in the oven.
- If the beans look dry, you can add more of the reserved bean liquid, but if they’re saucy and perfect, leave well enough alone.
How do BBQ baked beans taste?
Finish the old fashioned pot of baked pinto beans with the reserved bacon crumbles and maybe a sprinkle of parsley for color and serve. These old fashioned Southern baked beans are creamy and tender, sweet, smoky and spicy. Utterly delicious, these are the beans you want for every cookout, barbecue and potluck. Each bite is perfectly balanced and spiced. Promise me now, you’ll make them and see how much better BBQ baked beans from scratch can be.
What to serve with Southern baked beans:
- Tender Hickory Smoked Ribs
- Bourbon Marinated Grilled Flank Steak
- Chili Cheese Dilly Dogs
- BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger
- Brined Smoked BBQ Chicken
More Southern BBQ side dishes you might like:
- Southern Style Coleslaw
- Classic Southern Deviled Eggs
- Hatch Pepper Skillet Cornbread
- Fall Corn Sauté
- Southern French Potato Salad
Barbecue Baked Beans
- Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot (optional)
- Dutch Oven
- 1 pound dried pinto beans (or 4 15-ounce cans) not drained
- 4 slices bacon 1/2" dice
- 1 medium yellow onion minced
- 1/2 green bell pepper minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon hickory liquid smoke optional
- 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chipotle BBQ rub recipe on this site
- 1 cup strong brewed coffee
- 1 cup reserved bean liquid (from cooking the beans)
PREPARE THE DRY BEANS:
- Sift through the dry beans and remove any debris, pebbles or bad beans. Cover the beans with 2" of fresh water and let soak for 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot and bring to high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes on high. Set aside and let the pressure reduce naturally.
MAKE THE SAUCE FOR BAKED BEANS
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Place a dutch oven or heavy pot on medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain.
- Add the green bell pepper, onion and garlic to the dutch oven and cook for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and translucent.
- Add the brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, yellow mustard, dry mustard, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, red pepper flakes, black pepper, kosher salt, and BBQ rub. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is fragrant.
- Reserve 1 cup of bean liquid.
- Drain the beans and add them to the pot with the brown sugar mixture. Pour in the coffee and bean liquid and stir gently to combine. Place the dutch oven, uncovered into the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove the baked beans and sprinkle with reserved bacon and parsley for color (optional). Serve.
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