British Baked Beans
British Baked Beans are just like store bought but better, because they are homemade and homemade is always best. Similar to American-style, but meat-free and without the smoky flavor, just like mum used to serve. Navy, great northern (or haricot) beans are cooked with vegetables and flavorings in tomato sauce for a taste of a British classic.
Baked beans are probably one of the most common (if not the) canned items to buy in England. A delicious, saucy side for any dish, from fish and chips, sausage rolls, to beans on toast (the perfect budget meal) and even breakfast.
This is not a vegetarian recipe because of the Worcestershire sauce, but there are some delicious substitutes available to buy.
Dried beans are best
Everyone loves good baked beans, they really go with just about anything and good homemade baked beans start with dried beans, not canned. Dried beans just have better texture. If you used canned for this recipe they would be mush by the end of the recipe.
This is the most common issue that readers have had and it is all to do with the beans. I’ve had some be almost mushy in 30 minutes and some take almost 2 hours. You just have to keep testing them as they boil. There are no hard-and- fast rules as to why dried beans take longer to cook because it seems every batch of beans are different (see below at my test results on this). A few reasons could be, they are old beans. You can’t be sure how old they are, even if they are within their expiration date. You have hard water. Hard water can toughen the skins. You didn’t soak long enough. 8-12 hours is optimal but no more than 24.
- Use bottled or distilled water to soak.
- Allow enough time to soak the dried beans. This helps them soften and cook faster.
- Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) per cup (453 grams) of beans to the soaking water, this may not always work.
My test on cooking beans (updated 28th February 2020)
Regarding the above information on the cooking of the beans, this week I decided to test out some beans from different sources. Each batch I spilt into two pans, one I added baking soda and salt, the other nothing.
The result is, some cooked really quickly (they were almost mushy in 40 minutes) and some took almost 2 hours to cook. The baking soda and salt did not make a difference. The beans are going to be done when they want.
Did you know Brits eat beans for breakfast? We do and this is because England is known for its Full English Breakfast (picture below) consisting of sunny-side up eggs, English back bacon, cooked tomato slices, black pudding (sausage), mushrooms and fried bread.
British Baked Beans v’s American Beans
Baked bean originated in the U.S. American-style baked beans are cooked with pork (bacon) molasses and brown sugar and the sauce is much sweeter and thick. These British-style beans are without meat, with a thinner tomato sauce with carrots, celery and Worcestershire sauce.
How long will these beans keep?
These beans will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for 3-4 days or frozen for 2-3 months.
This recipe yields 2 quarts/8 cups/1.8 kg.
If you’ve made these British Baked Beans or any other recipe leave a comment below. I love to hear from my readers!