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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!

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