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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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  • 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…! 🙂

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