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Doctoring canned baked beans. Suggestions?

I would appreciate any suggestions as to your favorite brands and types (i.e., flavor combinations in the beans) of canned baked beans and how you doctor them to improve the flavor.

I realize that if you suggest a tomato sauce, bacon, and onion-based canned baked bean, doctoring it is going to require a different combination of ingredients than if you suggest a molasses, brown sugar, and salt pork baked bean. Hence, my request that you specify the brand and type of baked bean to which you are doing the doctoring.


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  1. I usually start with a plain baked bean..no flavored beans...that way, you can add anything you want & regulate what goes in the dish plus I think the beans that already contain brown sugar or molasses are too sweet for my taste

    Some combos I've used:
    ground ham & pineapple & molasses

    cumin, ancho chile powder, oregano, latin style (usually comes with garlic & onion) tomato sauce, chopped onions, garlic, vegetable juice cocktail & brown sugar

    bacon, shredded smoked gouda cheese, onions & chopped celery leaves

    chopped tomatoes, celery leaves, onion, garlic, bell pepper, chopped mushrooms, zucchini, tomato juice, tomato paste, vegetable sea salt, a touch of hickory smoke seasoning for a veggie bean dish.

    1. I'm in the tomato-based camp. When I was little, the only choice was Campbell's, with its sad little cube of slab bacon. The woman next door doctored it up by adding minced onion, brown sugar, catsup, and mustard, in a 9x13 pan. She laid bacon strips on top and baked till it was browned and the sauce thickened and browned. I loved that stuff.
      Today, if I buy Bush's I don't find any difference between their basic tomato-based beans and the ones specifying onion, or brown sugar, or whatever. I still use Mrs. Martin's add-ins, but less of them. I slice the bacon crosswise into little pieces, sautee it, and then the onions in the bacon fat before adding the beans and the rest, and simmer on the stove until reduced. Although I've made them from scratch, I actually prefer to start with canned since the tomato flavor has fully permeated the beans. I buy either Bush or Campbell's, depending on price.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        Today I did something different, and now I have the perfect style for me. This one has sliced frankfurters included, but I usually do that - I failed to mention that when posting in 2010. I realized that I tend to find the flavor of the doctored beans TOO intense. So this time I added (plain water) soaked dried navy beans that were cooked in unsalted water. Roughly in a plain to canned ratio of 1:4. I used navy because they are cheap, and close in size to the canned beans. Pinto would have matched the color of the canned beans better. I found that the plain beans absorbed the excess flavorings and make for a more balanced dish.

      2. I use Bush's original or homestyle canned beans for my baked beans base. I fry bacon until the fat is rendered from ii, remove it from the pan and throw some chopped onions and green peppers into the bacon grease. Fry them until they are soft. To the baked beans I add a couple of large squirts of plain yellow mustard, a couple of squirts of ketchup, and couple big lumps of brown sugar. I also add about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Drain the onions and peppers and mix them into the beans. Place this into a baking dish and top with the bacon. Bakeat 350 until bubbly. Very white trash I know, but I am what I am.

        10 Replies
        1. re: vafarmwife

          lol, are you kidding? sounds good to me.

          1. re: ChristinaMason

            I have been made fun of on here before and called a white trash cook.

            1. re: vafarmwife

              Well whoever said that is wrong and rude to boot. You cook just the way I do and everything I know I learned living in suburban Long Island. Don't worry about the one or two people with attitudes, just feel sorry for them ;-) they don't know what they're missing! P.S. My MIL who was from Italy made her baked beans EXACTLY the way you do.

              1. re: coll

                I grew up in Nassau County on Long Island in the 1950's/60's and as in my above post, learned something almost identical. Nowadays, it seems like baked beans are either served at barbecues or, in the case of the non-tomato type, part of a traditional New England supper. The latter appeals to me not at all (though I've lived near Boston most of my life), and I think barbecued meat has too much flavor of its own to be accompanied by the similarly intense taste and sweetness of baked beans. Ordinary beans and franks are anachronistic, I guess. I recall that on the old Dick van Dyke show, Rob Petrie's favorite breakfast was leftover beans and franks (cold, possibly?). I used to like them cold, between two slices of white bread, but I can't remember if that was how he ate them.

                1. re: coll

                  Well I guess b/c when I post my recipes, I don't post measurements and I use condensed soup, Cool Whip, and Kraft American cheese. THese things seem to inspire condescension. But hey that's me so I embrace it. I've never had anybody turn up their nose when I put meals on the table.

                  1. re: vafarmwife

                    Yeah, these people will eat you alive for using that stuff.

                    1. re: vafarmwife

                      You need to find a way to use the words hummus, eggplant and curry in your posts.

                      1. re: vafarmwife

                        LOL My favorite snack of all time is a packette of Lipton's onion soup in a pint of sour cream for a chip dip.

                        1. re: vafarmwife

                          Hey I'm with you Virginia.

                          I use CO'Mush soup in my chicken and dumplin's and everyone loves it.

                          To me it's not about the ingredients it's about what you make of them.

                          As for the beans, no matter what base you use I'd look at adding onions and jalapenos. Seed out the chilies if they're gonna be too hot. Adding BBQ seasoning, and assorted sugars (molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar) are always good.

                          I always just wing it.


                      2. re: vafarmwife

                        Well, that's mean, hurtful, supercilious and judgemental, VAFW. So you use convenience foods now and then, so you like some classic retro recipes, so what? I've never seen a post from you that sounded like bad food. Just because you choose to cook a bit differently than some on here (and don't we all cook differently anyway?)
                        shouldn't make you a target for someone who thinks their rarified culinary skills and ingredients qualifies them to throw a label like that at you.
                        And by the way, your bean fixup sounds totally delicious.

                  2. Lots of great suggestions, too bad it's 85°+ here, not really bean eating weather, although I do like them with bbg and all the fixin's in the summer.

                    When I'm doctoring them up, I buy either Bush's Original or plain old Campbell's, or sometimes Heinz vegetarian beans, (which don't have much flavor at all) and add maple syrup or dark brown sugar, bacon, onion, mustard and sometimes ancho chile powder or a little celery seed. if I'm baking them from scratch, I use a base of molasses or maple syrup, pork stock, if I have, chicken stock or tomato juice (V8) slightly diluted with water, and ketchup, along with bacon, prepared mustard and onion. Cheryl mentioned pineapple, I like that idea for beans. I would think either the juice or a can of crushed in juice would be very nice.

                    I used to regularly buy B & M Baked Beans, in those lovely brown glass jars, but I haven't bought them in years, and it seems they're fallen out of favor a bit with consumers. They can stand some doctoring up as well, if you buy that brand.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      If I don't want to heat up the house by turning on the oven, I'll cook them in the crockpot.

                      1. re: vafarmwife

                        That is a great way to cook them, and I've done it that way, but unfortunately I don't own a crockpot now, and as much as I'd like to, there's just no room for one in my little kitchen (well, unless I tucked it into the corner on the floor.) But it's a great suggestion for doing baked beans w/o the oven.

                      2. re: bushwickgirl

                        I had switched to Bush for awhile, but came back to B&M. Maybe because I grew up with it, but it is so superior to my taste. No more brown bottles though, just cans.

                        This is my favorite the last few years: A can of Maple Flavored B&M bean, splash some Captain Morgan rum in and bake til it's thick again. I eat the leftovers cold, I love it so much.

                        1. re: coll

                          Yes, I really liked those glass jars. B &M are the baked beans from my childhood as well. Do you remember their canned brown bread? Is that still made? I don't ever see it in BK.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            No we always got Arnold date nut bread, which when spread with cream cheese was my favorite school lunch in the world. That's not made anymore either, but I finally cobbled together a recipe that's pretty tasty. Involving Kahlua ;-)

                            I totally forgot about the brown jars until you mentioned it, bet you could find some at a thrift shop, just for kicks.

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              Do you remember their canned brown bread? Is that still made?

                              Yes, indeed! I have a can of it in my larder as I write this.

                              1. re: al b. darned

                                Now that you mention it....I feel like I've seen it at the supermarket, but where? Either in the bread aisle or the bean aisle.......maybe even in the deli section. Of course, now next time I shop I will look to see.

                                1. re: coll

                                  It's usually found next to the baked beans.

                              2. re: bushwickgirl

                                I remember the brown bread well. One of my favorite memories was from my childhood, when I was served baked beans and brown bread in the dining car of a train. Yum!

                              3. re: coll

                                I get B&M Baked Beans in a brown glass beanpot-shaped jar in Chicago. I didn't realize they weren't available everywhere.

                            2. I say forget canned baked beans--especially if you are going to spend all that time adding your own ingredients. Throw some dried beans in the fridge the night before and simmer to make from scratch--or even canned beans that haven't had flavor added are good. You can never get away from that processed over sugared flavor.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: fayehess

                                I did that one time, ran the oven for six hours or whatever, and in the end, it tasted just like B&M to me. What a waste of propane.

                                1. re: coll

                                  I agree. The few times I have tried to make them from scratch it was a waste of good beans. Couldn't get them right to save my life. Besides, B&M are so good as a starting point.

                              2. Had some rattlesnake baked beans at a BBQ bar today...detected onion, bacon, garlic flavors, maybe sugar. (Being CT and not cajun country I'm sure the rattlesnake referred to the beans, not the critter.) These sound like reasonable additives to commercial products. And I agree that I don't have the time to mess with cooking the beans myself.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DonShirer

                                  Yes, "rattle snake" is a variety of bean, very similar to pinto beans. I use them in chili when I can find them.

                                2. DH loves these, so sometimes I make them, I buy Bush's and I add barbeque sauce and chopped onion to them. I like a little chipotle in them too. But my greatest breakthrough came when I decided to put sliced deli ham--a sweet ham--on the top instead of bacon. (We are low fat at my house.) I slice the ham pieces into strips and place directly on the beans. The ham browns on top of the beans as they bake very nicely.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    Have you ever tried crisping up the deli ham before adding? I started doing it because I had a bunch of watery cheap stuff to use up (I never throw anything out!) I've been adding this in lots of dishes and what a flavor. I dice it big, and cook in hot cast iron with a tiny bit of grease for 15 or 20 minutes til it starts to burn almost, then toss in a splash of coffee from my cup and let that cook away (that only takes a couple of minutes). It's my version of red eye ham, totally inauthentic but .....when added to soup, casseroles, for breakfast and whatever, it is better than bacon, I swear!

                                  2. Take one can of any brand of canned beans.


                                    Empty into a bowl.

                                    Place two slices of American cheese over the beans (or as many slices as necessary to cover the beans).

                                    Drizzle with Sriracha sauce.

                                    Put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until cheese is completely melted.

                                    Eat immediately with spoon or fork, or spork.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Why such disparagement of the widely beloved dish of baked beans?

                                      The "microwave for 30 seconds" gave it away as a food-patrician flick of the wrist to the plebes. Non-credible. And not worthy of your potential as a poster of acumen.

                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                        I shall go away now in shame ... but I wear my Scarlet [Bean] Letter proudly.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          But the Scarlet Runner be a mildly poisonous bean, never used in canning.

                                          And Hawthorne, being the original proximate Beantown Boy, allowed only the deltoid "A" as the Scarlet Letter. He knew that the doubly-bulbous "B" could excite passions, especially if sewn to clothing when rotated 90 degrees north or south. His Puritan instincts said that one should not go too far when doctoring beans or using letters.

                                    2. The upcoming 4th of July will be a good time to look for loss-leader prices on canned baked beans. Four years ago, prior to when the ethanol-corn wars skewed the retail prices, you could easily find 28 oz cans of Bush's for 89 cents. Check the papers.

                                      Canned beans are the right thing for this job. As a home cook with a few bags of dried beans, I cannot compete with the manufacturers' industrial tools that offer precise control of temperature and pressure that result in unfractured beans that are infused with flavor.

                                      That being said, not all canned beans are the same.

                                      Campbell's "Pork and beans" should not only change their industrial formulation, but also take out a full page advertisement in the New York Times to apologize for their abuses to our palates in the past. If you use it, it needs to be rinsed and drained, which says something about their canning medium.

                                      Bushes make me happy. No need to drain the liquid. In the last ten years they have really expanded their line to offer various flavors, but it is not necessary if you are planning to add your own. Their "vegetarian baked beans" are a product of perfection, awaiting the home cook's extra additions.

                                      Mentioned upthread were several items of my personal preference: molasses and mustard. For green peppers I use roasted Poblanos for more kick. Instead of ketchup I use browned tomato paste and vinegar for depth. Celery seeds. Dehydrated onions give deeper kick than fresh. If the kids clamor for hot dogs, minimize their mass and maximize their contribution with thin (3 mm) slicing and pre-broiling to give a fond. Worcestershire or fish sauce or anchovies will provide that je ne sais quois.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                        I am so lucky, my local store often has B&M (and probably Bushs too, I don't pay attention) 28z cans for 99 cents. I always stock up. I even use them to make refried beans in a pinch...which may be non-credible in some quarters, but better than nothing to me!

                                      2. Glad you asked this question. I never realised baked beans could be made so interesting.
                                        I know this isn't quite doctoring, but I like Heinz plain baked beans with fried garlic & onions served with a poached egg.

                                        1. Saute a chopped green onion in olive oil or even better bacon grease. Add some fresh corn (two or three ears, corn cut off). Then add a can of drained pinto beans. S&P. Maybe some chipolte powder or ancho chile powder or other spices if you want. Serve with rice.
                                          As to the brand of beans... I almost always go for Goya.

                                          1. This has been our family recipe for 50+ years. It's called Joe's Baked Beans, and no one has any idea who "Joe" is or was. One of my aunts acquired the recipe and the rest has been family history.

                                            2 - 1# cans of B&M brand baked beans (and ONLY B&M)
                                            3/4 Cup sugar
                                            1 medium or small onion in small dice
                                            A heavy dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
                                            3/4 Cup catsup
                                            2 slices of raw bacon, cut into small dice
                                            1/2-1 cup crushed corn flakes

                                            Mix all the ingredients except the bacon and corn flakes together and turn into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the corn flakes and diced bacon. Bake at 400* for 1 hour.

                                            You can also just mix the diced bacon in with the bean mixture as well.

                                            1. I usually mix canned baked beans and canned, plain beans (my favorites are black and cannellini), then start adding.

                                              In addition to the usual (mustard, brown sugar, ketchup, etc), I love ginger--either dried, ground or freshly grated.

                                              1. This is good with any basic baked bean, and what's nice is that it comes out looking beautiful and presentable.

                                                Pour into pyrex (if the brand seems really liquidy I drain a little of the sauce). I like to stir in a little extra chili powder and cayenne but that's just me. Slice a large onion thinly and lay slices across the top (if you use a 9 by 13 you may want two onions). Then lay slices of bacon out over the entire thing, overlapping so it is covered. Add black pepper over the top. Bake until the onions are cooked and the bacon is rendered and crispy. It's amazing. The original recipe involves homemade beans with a tomato sauce and is phenomenal, but I'll do this if I'm in a crunch and it is a delicious addition.

                                                1. I typically buy the Vegetarian-style baked bean.....and this probably makes no sense, but I then like to slice kielbasa and mix the slices in with the baked beans & bake them uncovered until the top is crispy & the sauce very thick - usually over 1 hour.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jenscats5

                                                    Actaully, I think that's cool, as the vegetarian style canned beans are quite mild flavored and therefore make a very good base for doctoring, whether it's with kielbasa, bacon or ingredients from the vegetarian arena.

                                                    After all this dicussion about doctoring up canned beans, I've been arm twisted into a scratch made baked beans "will bring" for the 4th and no cheating allowed, my host will know if I do.

                                                    Hopefully the weather will not be insultingly hot for 2-3 hours of oven output.

                                                  2. Now that Bush Beans are around, I don't do any doctoring - I like them just as they are and *do* taste the onion in the one labeled "Onion", which for some reason, is difficult to find in my local area stores.

                                                    However, Campbell's used to have a corner on the market and it required LOTS of help. As already mentioned, I'd add ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, (sauteed) minced onion, bacon grease, and NOT mentioned so far..... Lea & Perrin's Worchestershire.

                                                    (off topic: I seldom make it anymore, but I'd use the exact same items + garlic powder, to make Sloppy Joe's from a can of Hormel's corned beef - never measured, but increased the amt of ketchup to probably a cup w/3-ish cups of water cooked down over about an hour)

                                                    1. A shot or better of Makers Mark. And some more for the beans :)

                                                      Seriously. My MIL makes beans for a summer picnic they do every year. I don't know what her base recipe is but every year she asks me to put the finishing touches on it. Usually cider vinegar and the obligatory bourbon puts it just right.

                                                      1. People rave about this recipe, and it's almost embarrassing.

                                                        Bush's baked beans mixed with KC Masterpiece, cover with squares of thick bacon (I mean COVER) and bake until thickened at 350, about 3 hours for a small party batch.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: dekethedog

                                                          It's amazing how good simple canned beans can be
                                                          and that Bush's are best brand I surely agree
                                                          But if one uses Campbell's. Van Camp's, or those Stokely's.
                                                          I'll politely defer, and ask not cook for me.

                                                          I don't know how them Bush's have topped the bean market
                                                          but their beans are the best and so why not remark it.
                                                          Still the question is how to best ""doctor up" these
                                                          So these canned beans can be the best beans that can bees.

                                                          I'm all for the KC and using the bacon, since sweet and fat pork surely please.
                                                          But could we add onions and peppers and Worcestershire even, for bit of a tease?.

                                                          It's a good simple dish, that most folks find delish, and a staple at many a gathering,
                                                          but the Worcestershire fix of fermented anchovies gives those beans just a wee bit more rathering.

                                                          1. re: FoodFuser

                                                            For a party, I made mine in the crockpot -- soaked overnight, and cook overnight (about 6-7 hours - I put 'em on just before midnight) (I can't buy baked beans here -- the only ones available in France are Heinz from the UK, and there's too much tomato in them. They're good, but they make weird-tasting baked beans for an American recipe.)

                                                            In the morning, I add molasses, brown sugar, ginger, onions, and a couple of spoonsful of Dijon mustard, Tabasco --- and a LOT of cinnamon. Got enough raves that I gave up trying to remember who asked for the recipe and just emailed it to everyone.

                                                            I have no idea what the original recipe is, but Big John's Alabama Bar-B-Q in Tampa makes awesome cinnamon baked beans...these aren't exact, but they're pretty darned close.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              That ginger and cinnamon sound really interesting.

                                                              What kind of dried beans are you starting with?

                                                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                I used a combination of pintos, red kidneys, and navy beans. (what I could buy in France, and even then had to go to the ethnic grocery!)....any bean that stays firm after cooking will be fine.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Gosh, it's hard to believe that the Franks can't give beans.

                                                                  I would think that legumes were distributed well, given cassoulet and other bean dishes they tell.

                                                                  Is America just the best place to get beans? So many brands canned, whatever that means.

                                                                  1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                    Plain old white beans (like navy beans) yes...Lentils, yes. Chickpeas/garbanzos are pretty easy, too, because of the African/north African influence here.

                                                                    Red beans, pintos, cranberries, and black beans? Forget it...fortunately, there are plenty of good ethnic grocers around who stock a good variety of the things I was used to cooking and eating in Florida.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      I'm glad that you're well with the beans and legumes that will keep you both well fed and flatulent,

                                                                      I might be just lazy when I reach for canned brand of those beans are labeled as Bush's.

                                                                      It's OT, but must share, when feast bean times do get here, it's dried Pintos in force of five pounders.

                                                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                        actually, if you eat beans regularly, the flatulence all but goes away, because your intestinal flora become accustomed to dealing with them, and they no longer cause problems.

                                                                        When I'm in the States, it's Bush's Grillin' Beans....so don't believe for a second that I'm some purist...it's because I have no alternative but to make them from scratch!

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          I am so glad to see that you so regularly
                                                                          Have a chance to get hold of canned beans.

                                                                          Have you thought to give send
                                                                          of a shipload of them
                                                                          to the French who now lack those sweet Bush's?

                                                                          "Twould be good deed indeed
                                                                          to restore to that breed
                                                                          just the concept for which they'd thanks

                                                                          Just a wee bit of beanies
                                                                          that could go with their wienies
                                                                          And be classically good Beans and Franks.

                                                        2. While I have my crushes
                                                          On plain B&M's and Bushes,
                                                          Occasionally when I make a batcha--
                                                          Legumes and Weenies
                                                          I pep up the beanies
                                                          By adding a dash of sriracha!

                                                          (blame FoodFuser...he started it!)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: DonShirer

                                                            thanks for a nice tribute to Fuser. I miss him.

                                                          2. Canned beans in various formats are good for no-brainer meals.

                                                            Last night emptied a can of pork and beans into a pot, added a Louisiana hot sausage from my amazing collection of frozen wurst, and when it was hot and ready it went into a bowl with half an avocado laid on top. A to toasted bun rounded things out nicely.