My British Baked Beans are copycat Heinz beans, and as close in flavor to them as you will find, but these are oh so better because they’re homemade and haven’t been sitting in a can for who knows how long. Similar to American-style, but meat-free and without the smokey flavor, just like my mum in England used to serve. Navy, great northern (or haricot) beans are cooked in tomato sauce for an authentic taste of a truly British classic.

Baked beans on a large spoon

Baked beans are probably one of the most common (if not the most) canned items to buy in England. A delicious, saucy side for any dish, from fish and chips, sausage rolls, to beans on toast (picture below). The perfect budget meal enjoyed by college students and bachelors. Let’s not forget about beans for breakfast too… yes, really! See more below on this subject.

British baked beans served over toast on a white plate

I recently updated the pictures and video and made a few improvements and simplified  original recipe. If you see the recipe anywhere else like Pinterest, Yummly etc., I cannot guarantee it will taste as good as the recipe you see on this page.

Dried beans are best for baked beans

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. Dried beans are best for baked beans, but I wont be mad at you if you used pre-cooked canned.

A pan full of baked beans in a tomato sauce

Below I am answering one of the biggest question I have had when cooking dried beans.

Why are my beans hard and wont cook?

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.

Possible solutions:

  • 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 

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.

Is it necessary to soak dried beans?

Yes! They cook faster because they absorb a lot of liquid. Take a look at the the difference between a non-soaked and soaked bean below.

Dried beans in a hand

In addition to eating beans on toast for breakfast, they are also served with the most popular British breakfast, the  Full English Breakfast (picture below) consisting of sunny-side up eggs, English back bacon, cooked tomato slices, black pudding (sausage), mushrooms and fried bread.

Sausages, tomato, mushrooms, bacon and egg in a cast iron skillet

British Baked Beans v’s American Beans

These British Baked beans are made without meat, with a thinner tomato-based sauce. American-style baked beans are cooked with pork (bacon) molasses and brown sugar and the sauce is much sweeter, thicker and smoky.

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!

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Yield: 8 servings

British Baked Beans

Using a ladle to lift some baked beans from a pan

Navy or haricot beans baked in a simply tomato-based sauce that tastes as close to store bought as you will find.

Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 17 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (360 grams) dried great northern, navy or haricot beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (140 grams) tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 cups chicken stock + 1 tablespoon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour

Instructions

  1. To a large bowl add the beans, cover with water, more than double the amount and soak at room temperature for 8 hours.
  2. After 8 hours drain, discard the liquid and rinse the beans.
  3. Add the beans to a large saucepan. Cover the beans about 2 inches (5 cm) above the beans with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour uncovered. Stirring often so they don't stick to the bottom. Cooking time will depend on your beans so check them often for tenderness. Drain. If using already cooked beans, skip these 2 steps.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
  5. To the same pan, add the ketchup (taste the ketchup for sweetness, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar so the sauce is not too sweet), tomato paste, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, vinegar and chicken stock. Whisk to combine. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of stock or water with the cornstarch and mix until dissolved, stir into the sauce. Transfer to a high-sided baking dish, or, if your pan is ovenproof use that and transfer to the oven and bake uncovered until thickened, 20-25 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 89Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 3mgSodium 385mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 2gSugar 8gProtein 4g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.