Any time you want a delicious, easy side, don’t reach for a package of canned beans — make Grandma Browns Baked Beans yourself!
With just a few ingredients, you can quickly produce a filling side dish fit for a cookout or the holidays.
Lulu Brown started Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans in her Mexico kitchen when she was 63. After selling them in churches and grocery stores during the Great Depression, Lulu turned these beans into a New York staple.
This recipe is great for beginners because it’s straightforward and oven-baked, so you don’t have to watch the stove. Also, it produces a large amount, so you can freeze the extra.
While it’s a very simple recipe, it does take a bit of time. So, plan ahead to let your beans soak and cook properly.
You can experiment with different flavorings including adding bacon or chipotle. Or just enjoy these delicious beans as is.
Picking the Best Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans Ingredients
Navy beans aren’t navy-colored, but they are named after that branch of the armed services. They’re actually small, white or ivory beans that the US Navy has served its soldiers for more than 200 years.
With a mild flavor and tender texture, these beans are a great neutral base in many dishes. When you cook them with other seasonings, they absorb those flavors and become very rich.
The beans are fairly dense, and they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. In fact, they have 3x the quantity of protein that wheat or rice has.
Whether you call these legumes navy beans, Yankee beans, Boston beans, pea beans, or haricots, they’r fantastic in Grandma Brown’s baked beans recipe.
Brown sugar is similar to white sugar – they’re both crystalline sucrose. But the brown variety has some molasses in it.
The molasses turns the white sugar brown and gives a bit of caramel flavor or smokiness.
For this recipe, you can use either brown or white sugar because both will give it the characteristic sweetness. However, I love the flavor and the darker color of brown sugar.
If you don’t have any at home, you can make your own for this baked beans recipe! Simply add 1 tablespoon of molasses to each cup of white sugar in the recipe.
Stir the two together in a bowl until they’re combined evenly, and then add this mixture to your baked beans.
Sometimes old kitchen tricks are still the best. For instance, adding baking soda to the water when boiling beans makes them cook and soften faster.
Add about 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of dried beans. Your beans will be done in half the time.
Tips and Tricks for Making Grandma Browns Baked Beans
- Always save your bacon grease. If you’re adding bacon to this recipe, don’t throw away the drippings. Instead, stir the grease into your beans. That will add richness and even more bacon flavor.
- Cover Beans Fully. As your beans boil, make sure they’re always covered with water. If you don’t, some beans will soften before the others. Keep checking to make sure the water level doesn’t sink too low as the beans cook.
- Check Beans Frequently. When you bake the beans, stir them at least every hour. If they seem like they’re sticking to the bottom or look dry, add a little water. While you want the mixture to be thick, you don’t want it to burn on the bottom.
Grandma Browns Baked Beans Recipe
- Prep Time20 min
- Cook Time5 hours
- Total Time5 hr 20 min (plus overnight soak)
- Yield10 cups
Bean Soak Time: Overnight
- Sort and Soak Beans
On the stove, boil water and baking soda for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sort and rinse the navy beans, removing any debris.
Then, put the beans in the pot and boil them for 10 minutes. Finally, turn off the stove, put a lid on the pot, and let the beans soak overnight.
In the morning, strain the beans and rinse them well.
- Prep Seasonings and Bacon
When you’re ready to start baking, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.
Next, put your rinsed beans in the oven-poof pot. As well, add all of the seasoning ingredients.
If using the bacon, fry it in the skillet until it’s cooked through. Then, chop it finely, and put the pieces and remaining grease into the pot, as well.
Stir everything together, and finally, pour enough water into the pot to just cover the beans.
- Bake Beans
Put the lid on the pot and place everything in the oven. Cook the baked beans for about 4-5 hours, stirring them every hour. If they look dry, add more water.
- Check and Eat!
When the beans are close to done, check them occasionally with the fork. If they crush easily, they’re cooked!
Also, you want the sauce to have a thick texture. So, if it looks too watery, cook it with the lid off for a little while.
Serve your baked beans hot out of the oven, or let them cool and put them away to enjoy later.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Grandma Browns Baked Beans
According to the USDA, you can keep cooked beans in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. But if you freeze them, they’ll last for about 3 months.
There are two ways to thaw out your baked beans:
- Leave the container in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
- Defrost your beans as you heat them: simply put the frozen beans in a pot on the stove, and keep stirring so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. (You can also add a little water if necessary.)