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Boston Baked Beans - A Family Feast

Today we’re sharing our own ‘secret family recipe’ for Boston Baked Beans!  This is a recipe that Jack has perfected over the years and it’s so much better than any canned baked beans you can buy.

Boston baked beans are another one of those dishes that I never really liked – until I ate Jack’s recipe.  Growing up, we had canned baked beans on occasion, and I just never understood what the fuss was all about!

But Jack’s Boston baked beans are tender and delicious – and the sauce is rich and sweet thanks to a combination of salt pork, onion, molasses, brown sugar, and maple syrup.  And the sauce gets an even more amazing depth of flavor from Dijon mustard, ketchup, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and a hint of vinegar.

Boston Baked Beans - A Family Feast

These Boston baked beans take some time to cook – first to soak the dry beans and then to bake – but it’s actually a very easy dish to make!   Boston baked beans go great with a fish cakes and coleslaw dinner, or franks and Boston Brown Bread – a dark, slightly sweet bread with or without raisins.

If you’ve never had Boston brown bread before, you can sometimes find it in the grocery store along with the canned baked beans.  Brown bread is cooked by steam in a can, and cans of the bread can be found on the supermarket shelf right next to the cans of baked beans!   It’s another popular New England favorite! 

Also on a side note, make sure you rinse any salt from the salt pork before dicing and that you do not add the salt until the beans have cooked for at least 90 minutes. If you add salt at the beginning, the beans will cook hard and not soften. As well, one of our readers suggested waiting to add the ketchup and vinegar because acid can sometimes keep the beans hard if added too early. As well, she also suggested using bottled water if you have a hard water problem.

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Boston Baked Beans - A Family Feast

Boston Baked Beans

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 12 hours
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 16 hours
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: baked
  • Cuisine: New England


Be sure to read the Notes section below this recipe!


1 pound dry navy beans

½ pound rinsed salt pork, rind left on and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups onion, sliced thick

½ cup molasses

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

3 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

6 cups of water, divided

½ cup ketchup

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt


Soak beans overnight at room temperature in 2 quarts of water.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Drain and rinse beans.

In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook rinsed diced salt pork, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on all sides.

Add onions and cook two minutes.

Add the drained beans, molasses, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, brown sugar, black pepper and garlic powder.

Stir and add two cups of water.

Place in the oven covered and cook for 90 minutes. Stir and add the ketchup, vinegar, salt and two more cups of water.

Bake for 90 more minutes covered, stir and add one cup of water.

Reduce oven to 275 degrees and bake for one hour covered.

Stir, and if beans are not soft enough to the bite, add the last cup of water and continue cooking covered until they are tender – just make sure they don’t burn if the sauce is very thick.

Serve with brown bread.


Salt added too early in the cooking process may stop the beans from becoming tender (especially if you have hard water at your home) so wait to add the salt until the recipe indicates.

As well, one of our very smart readers also noted that the acid in ketchup and vinegar will sometimes do the same, so those two ingredients get added with the salt.

Another reasons your beans may stay hard after cooking is that they are  stale – so always check the expiration date on your dry beans package.

Finally if you do have hard water, use bottled filtered water for this recipe. (Thanks to Karla Mae for the tips!)

Keywords: Boston Baked Beans

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  • Maureen wrote:

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I made it just the other day (halving the recipe) because I was craving B&M’s Bacon & Onion Beans and being under pandemic isolation, was unable to get out there to buy them. But — I had a pound of dry Navy beans on hand and some really good, thick-cut bacon. Searching for a good facsmile of my favorite beans, I found Jack’s recipe. While the time to cook turned out much longer than described, in the end, the result was exactly what I had been looking for! I will definitely be making these again.

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re welcome Maureen – glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  • James A Brady wrote:

    Nowhere in your recipe do you say when to actually add the beans! lol

    • Martha wrote:

      Ooops!! Fixed now…thank you!

  • Jeanne Malave wrote:

    We are going to a barbecue tomorrow so I thought I would start by soaking the beans in the fridge for 24 plus hours. I now have had them in the oven for almost 2 hours but they are very watery like a thin soup. I have followed directions to the smallest detail. I live in Chicago so I think altitude and quality of out water is fine. I may be panicking prematurely but want to know if this is normal. I realize I likely won’t get any responses till long after the party is over, but they smell great and I desperately want them to turn out. If they thicken up and are good I will definitely make more often. I’m just scrambling to find something else to make in case I don’t have success. I haven’t read any remarks or questions regarding the watery issue. Please advise for future attempts. Thank you in advance! Jeanne

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Jeanne – Just checking to make sure that you drained the beans? Not sure why the sauce would be so watery as you described…Hope they turned out for you!

  • shirley a oteri wrote:

    Best Boston baked beans recipe yet. I make them every couple of months. Brings me right back to Mom’s homemade Boston baked beans when I was a kid.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Shirley – comparing our recipe to your Mom’s is probably one of the nicest compliments you could give us! <3 So glad you enjoy the recipe!

  • Sarah wrote:

    My family loves this recipe. Have made them several times. They are always a hit. Once made them with canned beans in a pinch. Recipe is fail proof. Takes a while but oh so worth the wait!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Sarah!

  • Karla Mae wrote:

    The flavor of this baked beans recipe is fantastic! I omitted ketchup (don’t own any) and boosted the molasses in its place, and omitted dry mustard because I had none on hand.

    I sadly had the same issue as others with my beans not softening; even after cooking 10 hours total – including a 40 minute pre-baking stovetop simmer – in hopes of getting there. I hadn’t read the comments before following the recipe and wouldn’t have anticipated this issue as I’ve made baked beans several times in the past and never encountered it. But I live someplace new from then, and obviously have harder water than I’d realized – beans are fresh & organic.

    One tip I will add is that for those concerned about softening, the cider vinegar and ketchup should also be held back until after the beans have cooked a while and softened – apparently the acid from tomato or vinegar products can also prevent the beans from softening properly, which I learned as I researched this issue while my beans cooked and cooked.

    Again, the flavor is the best I’ve had in a baked bean recipe and I will use it again in future. I would suggest that it couldn’t hurt to add a note about the soaking/softening issue up above in the recipe, to assist folks like me in avoiding this issue. I would recommend that people just default to using bottled water for cooking dry beans, and hold off on the tomato and vinegar ingredients until after the first round of cooking.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you for all of the suggestions Karla! We’ve been so puzzled by the different results that only some of our readers are having (even soaking the beans ahead of time, we’ve been told isn’t for softening but it’s more for reducing the gas effect!) and we’ve made this recipe a few additional times after posting it to verify the results ourselves. Your information about the impact of cider vinegar and ketchup is new news to us – but it may be the culprit! Thank you! We will definitely make some updates to our post and recipe.

  • Beth Olson wrote:

    Made these for the 4th of July barbecue and they were amazing. The only change I made was using a cup of dark brown sugar and omitting the molasses. The last couple recipes I used were a little “molasses-forward” so I decided to hope the dark sugar would work and they were perfect. Thank you for sharing this !

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Beth! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Shannon wrote:

    Could you use canned beans?

    • Martha wrote:

      You can but you will need to adjust the cooking time. Also, the sauce may not achieve the same depth of flavor without cooking it for as long.

  • Diane in Nebraska wrote:

    In the oven! So excited! The aroma is heavenly! I used half dry navy beans, 1/4 dry pinto beans and 1/4 dried black beans….living on the adventurous side 🙂 can’t wait 🙂

    • Martha wrote:

      Hope you love the recipe Diane!

  • Pam wrote:

    Only a 3 star because like some of the others the beans are not softening up. I made baked beans a few months ago with the same lot of beans and they turned out fine, but the other recipe said to put them in a pan with plenty of water and bring them to a boil on the stove then remove and leave covered for 1 hr, then simmer them for another hour. I followed the directions completely on this one and soaked for 12 hours on the counter then cooked as directed and after 6 hrs the beans are still way to hard. I’m not giving up yet I have moved them to the slow cooker and set on med-low and will let them continue to cook for a few hours. The sauce is very good, so I don’t want to give up. Thanks for the recipe, like Ed I am also stubborn.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for sharing your feedback Pam! We’re always sorry to hear when a reader doesn’t see success with our recipe…and this one has us stumped! (Who knew that baked beans were such a temperamental recipe!) We hope the addition time in the slow cooker softened them up for you!

      • Pam wrote:

        Ended up adding 1/2 tsp of baking soda and another cup of water per suggestions I found on websites and it worked. Cooked for another 2-3 hrs, but they were worth it. Next time, and there will be a next time I’ll try soaking and precooking for 1 hr. The sauce was delish! Thanks for the recipe!

        • Martha wrote:

          Thank you for letting us know Pam! So glad you were able to get the beans to soften!

  • Kim wrote:

    Unfortunately, after following this recipe to a tee, even after 6 hours of cooking, these bean did not soften up. Disappointing and a waste of time and effort :/

    • Martha wrote:

      I’m so sorry Kim! I’m not sure if you’ve read through the comments – we had a few other readers experience the same issue and it seems to be an issue with old/stale beans not softening when cooked. We’ve made this recipe many times – and even tested it again after one reader had the same issue as you did. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

  • Ed Standish wrote:

    I am that other reader that had no success (Ed Standish)
    I have to tell you I did the recipe again today (1-20-17) with Perfect success!
    I made sure the beans were fresh and i followed the recipe exactly. That is important for it to turn out right. I changed it up the second time for my own taste ( i added a star of anise)
    Thanks again for a wonderful recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you, thank you so much for letting us know Ed! I have to tell you, Jack and I were so bothered that some of our readers were not seeing the same good results as we did at home. (I will always look at the use-by date on the package before I buy it!) I love the idea of adding a star of anise to the recipe…we’ll try that the next time we make the recipe! Thank you again for writing to us today. Have a great weekend.

  • Ruth Jones wrote:

    This is my second attempt at this recipe. I’m at the 5 hour mark still lots of liquid and hard beans. In looking at other recipes, that call for soaking beans overnight, then simmering on the stove top for 1 to 2 hours, I think I’ll try theirs. So disappointed.

    • Martha wrote:

      We’re so sorry to disappoint Ruth! We’ve had another reader make this recipe without success, similar to your results – so we have retested the recipe and it came out for us – with tender beans and a thick sauce, even without the pre-soaking or precooking. I have to say, we’re a little puzzled why sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. One reader suggested it could have something to do with the hardness of the water used (where we live, we do not have hard water). We also use a enamel-coated cast iron dutch oven which retains a lot of heat – different cooking vessels may impact the cooking time. Either way, I’m sorry you didn’t have good results with this recipe. Thank you for letting us know.

  • Rick wrote:

    Thank you for the Boston bean recipe,made these the other day and they are the best . Turned out exactly as discribed and they are pretty much gone,great recipe. I am trying your roast beef recipe Friday with your horseradish sauce, really happy to have found your site,Thank You again.

    • Martha wrote:

      We’re happy you found us too Rick! So glad you are enjoying the recipes.

  • Sarah wrote:

    Just made these and they are fabulous! I’ve never had success with home made baked beans, the texture is never right, but these were perfect. One thing I did different, which I’ve started doing with all my bean recipes, is soak them in the crock pot on low heat instead of room temperature soaking. I find the texture better, and the beans seem to hold their shape. Otherwise, I followed the directions exactly. Great recipe, thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Sarah! So glad you enjoyed the recipe. And great suggestion on using the crock pot for soaking the beans!

  • Mihoko wrote:

    Hi, Martha.
    I have lived in Boston for 10 years and never attempt to make Boston Baked Beans.
    Well, I’m glad I did. Your recipe is fantastic!
    And super EASY!! I love dump-em-all recipe 🙂
    I read the recipe and go, “For real???”
    In fact, I felt guilty and added one step (just one lol) which is sauteing onion in bacon fat.
    Yes, I used bacon fat because I didn’t have salt pork in hand.
    I dumped cooked and chopped bacon.
    Also I had to omit dried mustard but still turned out DEVINE !!!
    I don’t have dutch oven so I used Deep Covered Dish
    by Pampered Chef and cooked in the oven.
    I am not a careful reader. I filled the pot as much water as it took for start.
    It took me 5-6 hours to get my preferred doneness which was totally fine to make
    just in time of the historical kick-off.
    I served it with Trader Joe’s corn bread. Heavenly…!!!
    Thank you, thank you for sharing this recipe!
    I definitely make it again! Soon!

    Keep warm and enjoy snow !

    P.S. I changed my cover photo of the appetizer board into your baked beans 🙂

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Mihoko! We’re very glad you enjoyed the recipe – and this is perfect for a game day party! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to write to us today!

  • CHERYL wrote:


    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Cheryl! You have me craving some baked beans now…! 🙂

  • Diana wrote:

    Hi! I wanted to let you know that I made this recipe in the slow cooker and it was delicious! I used 5 cups of water, and cooked it on low for about 9 hours. I really enjoyed it!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Diana! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Heather wrote:

    Hi Martha and Jack!
    Loved this recipe – but I have a quick question. Do you take the lid off the beans while they’re in the oven? My sauce never got thickened and I needed to boil on the stove top for a few minutes to reduce down this liquid. It still tasted great but never got that beautiful caramelized color that your photos look like.
    Thanks for your recipes!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Heather – We definitely kept the cover on during the baking process in the oven (and we’ve updated the recipe to specifically state that). Thank you for your question!

  • Betty wrote:

    Could you do these in a crock pot after soaking the beans and browning the salt pork? How much water do you think? Thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Betty – We haven’t tried making this recipe in a crock pot so I’m sorry – we can’t give you any advice on how to adapt the recipe for that cooking method. I would imagine it will take a lot longer in a crock pot. But please let us know if you try it!

  • Ed Standish wrote:

    Thanks Martha, I have a little stubborn in me so I’m not giving up on this. I love the color of the beans and the flavor both is exactly what I’m looking for to go with my filipino crispy skin pork shoulder (Lechon) dish. I just need to get the texture of the beans right and I’m in business.

    • Jack wrote:

      Ed – This is Jack. Martha and I take every comment to heart and want very much for you and everyone else to be pleased with our recipes. So when you unsuccessfully made this twice, I had to run through our recipe again to see if there was a mistake. To be honest, I was hoping to find a mistake to solve your mystery, but they came out perfectly.

      I made them this morning, soaking the beans yesterday. The beans soaked for about 12 hours. There is one thing though that I think I will change on our site – I did not mention to soak the beans at room temperature, that is assumed but maybe not to everyone so I will add that to the instructions today. If you soaked your beans in the refrigerator, that may contribute to the longer cooking time, but not ten hours.

      When I made this today, I had several other things cooking at the same time so I added an hour to the cooking time with the cover off to evaporate a little more water. Lastly, they should have a little bite to them and not be mushy like the stuff out of a can, so maybe it depends on what your expectations are for the finished texture.

      Hope this helps and good luck Ed! Jack

      • Ed Standish wrote:

        Thanks Jack for doing this for me. I do like a little softer texture so I simply cooked my beans first. Then used your recipe for the sauce adding just enough hot water at a time to keep the beans from drying out during bake time. Yummy! Your Sauce is so good.

        • Tina edwards wrote:

          I had the same issue the first few times I tried making baked beans. Hard (as in not edible) or soft enough to eat but not quite right. So I did what I should have done from the start, asked my 98 year old Nana. We had hard water, which can make it hard for the beans to get tender. So for every pound of dried beans add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the soaking water. If you are using fresh water to cook them add the baking soda To that fresh water as well. I have never had issue once learning this trick. I realize this post is old but maybe it will help someone else along the way. 😀

          • Martha wrote:

            Thank you so much Tina!

          • Amanda Riccardi wrote:

            Thank you Tina for this tip! I had the same experience with the beans not getting tender and not soaking up the water after an overnight soak. I do have hard water and can see how the baking soda will help during the soak time. I’m excited to try this recipe again. The smell is out of this world.

          • Alisha wrote:

            Awesome! Thank you! I too have made these twice and they just don’t lose the crunch. We otherwise don’t like beans so I have zero experience with dry beans. These taste and smell amazing, they just stay slightly crunchy…it didn’t stop me from eating them but they could be much better with the right texture. The flavor in this recipe is on point, my problems are with the bean.

          • Martha wrote:

            Thanks Alisha…we are still stumped why sometimes the beans will soften and other times they don’t!!

  • Ed Standish wrote:

    Hi again. Well almost success. I cooked them for 50 minutes after they soaked over night. They were semi soft. I then went right into the recipe above. After which the texture was the exact. It was like they stopped getting tender. They are edible but a little crunchy. Not what I’m used to. Any ideas? The taste has a GREAT flavor. Just need to get the bean the right texture!

    • Martha wrote:

      Oh geez Ed! Jack is now planning to make our recipe again here at home just to test it again! We both remember the day we photographed the recipe – the beans were definitely tender… We aren’t sure what the issue is. If we make any changes to the recipe we will be sure to let you know!! Thank you for letting us know!

  • Ed Standish wrote:

    Hi Martha, I love the looks of your recipe. I tried it and must have done something wrong because 10 hours later…..that is 10 hours after the I soaked the beans overnight. My beans were still hard like they were under cooked. What did I do wrong?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Ed! Thanks for writing to us and we’re sorry you had problems with the recipe! Jack has made this exact recipe many times without issue. He said that the one time he experienced a similar issue was when he discovered that the beans he used were very old and out of code – is it possible that happened with the beans you used? If not – his only other suggestion would be to make sure that your oven, at low temperatures like the one used in this recipe, is accurate. (Sometimes ovens don’t hold the heat when set to low temps.) Again – we’re so sorry it didn’t work out for you – especially after putting so much time and effort into making the beans! Martha

      • Ed Standish wrote:

        I don’t give up that easy. I will try try again! The smell was out of this world. I will check date on new batch of beans. Have you ever tried to pre-boil the beans for lets say an hour or so before adding the sauce to give them a head start?

        • Martha wrote:

          Hi Ed – We’re glad to hear that you’re willing to try the recipe again! A gentle pre-boil for a while certainly won’t hurt the recipe! Please let us know how the recipe comes out for you the second time! M-

    • Earline wrote:

      Hi Ed, I realize that you wrote your comment a few years ago, however soaking Beans is not to soften them up, but to remove the gas. I’ve never heard of Beans softening up simply from soaking them. It’s a shame that the person who submitted this recipe didn’t tell you that when she replied to your comment. By the way Beans can be cooked without soaking them. However, for the reason that I mentioned is the reason to soak them.

  • Katie wrote:

    I am new to your site and am so looking forward to trying your recipes! The individual bowls you have pictured with this Boston Baked Bean recipe are beautiful. Any recommendation on where to purchase these?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Katie! I bought those at Crate and Barrel – but I know that they went on clearance a few months ago and I don’t think they have them in stock anymore. I’m sad I didn’t buy more myself…they are great bowls! Thanks for visiting our site! Martha

  • Stephanie wrote:

    I have been searching forever for good bean recipe. One question though…what is salt pork?? Can’t wait to give this a try!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Stephanie – Here’s a link from our How-To page that talks about salt pork…

      You can find it at most grocery stores in the meat section – likely near the pork. It looks like a small slab of bacon that has been cured in salt. It adds great flavor!

      I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do! Please let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for visiting our site! Martha

      • Stephanie wrote:

        Thank you so much! Showed the recipe to the hubster and he was drooling too. Got the ingredients on the shopping list. 🙂

  • Carol | a cup of mascarpone wrote:

    I’m just finding a beautiful array of recipes this morning on your gorgeous blog, Martha! I NEED a good baked bean recipe too! Now I have your coleslaw and baked beans…sounds like I’m getting ready for a picnic! :}

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks (as always) for your compliments Carol! I hope you continue to enjoy our recipes! Have a great weekend!

  • Mary wrote:

    These look perfectly delicious.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Mary!

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