A healthy diet includes eating plenty of foods high in fiber. Western diets–with all our processed foods–typically fall short of the recommended fiber intake. Dried beans, peas and lentils provide substantial amounts of fiber and can greatly boost the fiber in meals. I love baked beans and have made many variations over the past year. Here are several of my recipes.The classic image of baked beans for me comes from a Western movie where a can of pork and beans is opened and heated on a campfire. While these beans are edible, baked beans can be prepared to make them much more tasty. Load the beans up with onions, bell peppers, molasses, seasonings and perhaps a little meat and the beans become a delicious side dish or entree.
Baked Bean Variations
I’ve made many variations of baked beans over the past year: dried beans versus canned pork and beans, blackstrap molasses vs unsulfured molasses, vegetarian vs beans with bacon. I’ve increased and decreased the ketchup, barbecue sauce and molasses. Here is my best recipe which can be made with either canned or dried beans.
Blackstrap Molasses Baked Beans
For this recipe I used canned baked beans and blackstrap molasses. Using canned beans is much quicker than cooking with dried beans and I actually liked the recipes made with canned beans the best. However, using dried beans lets you make a recipe which is lower in sodium.Blackstrap molasses. For this variation, I used blackstrap molasses. And what is blackstrap molasses? Blackstrap molasses is stronger flavored, more bitter and less sweet than other molasses sold in stores. According to “The Worlds Healthiest Food” WEB site, blackstrap molasses is higher in nutritional value than ordinary molasses containing more minerals including “manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.” (//www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=350)Blackstrap molasses is made during the process of making granulated sugar from sugar cane. As the sugar cane is boiled and concentrated, it is centrifuged off to extract the sugar. The remaining syrup is molasses. This process is done three times–the first spinning yields a light molasses, the second centrifuging yields a dark molasses which is typically sold in stores and the third spinning yields blackstrap molasses.
Blackstrap molasses is bitter–and using only blackstrap molasses resulted in beans with a strong flavor. Therefore, I used part blackstrap molasses and part light brown sugar or skipped the blackstrap molasses all together–hum, less nutritional value but better flavor. Your choice.
Other ingredients: Black pepper and dried mustard. My recipe includes generous amounts of black pepper and dried mustard. Black pepper and dried mustard (not prepared mustard) adds punch which separates these beans from other recipes. Don’t omit these ingredients; remember we are making outstanding beans not campfire beans.
Applewood smoked bacon. This recipe is easily made without bacon or meat for a vegetarian alternate. However, just a little smoked bacon adds to the flavor. I like Applewood smoked bacon for a smoked taste. You don’t need much bacon–just a little bacon for seasoning. For a lower fat version, substitute smoked turkey.
Onions and bell peppers. I added lots of onion and bell peppers — a good way to add vegetables. Again, this also makes a very favorable bean recipe.
Canned pork and beans. I used several brands of canned pork and beans. It doesn’t make a difference. The general idea is to purchase canned beans which don’t have other seasonings and barbecue sauce already added.
Molasses Baked Beans made with dried Navy beans
For my second variation, I made essentially the same recipe using dried Navy beans. There are many types of dried white beans: small Navy beans, large Navy beans, Great Northern beans, small and large lima beans, chickpeas. After trying them all, I settled on using small dried Navy beans. This is the type of bean which the Campbell’s company uses in their canned bean products. It cooks quicker than some of the other dried beans.
Blue Runner Beans
I’m using Blue Runner brand of dried Navy beans. This is a Louisiana company and their products are manufactured in nearby Gonzales, Louisiana. Their main product is canned Creole creamed-style beans. These beans are truly delicious!
Cooking with dried beans
Cooking with dried beans is a different experience. It takes time to cook dried beans. So pick an afternoon where you have time to spare. These dried beans cooked relatively quickly; they were soft in an hour. Several types of beans which I tried took from 3 to 5 hours to cook. That’s no fun.
Dried beans expand while cooking–add plenty of water. For one cup of beans I added six cups of water. Bring the beans to a boil and then simmer until they are tender–start checking the beans after an hour. You don’t want mushy beans-these will fall apart. The beans will take from an hour to an hour-and-a-half to become soft. Cook the beans at simmering; just a very slight bubbling in the pot. They shouldn’t boil; all the cooking liquid will evaporate and the outside shell of the bean will cook too quickly. Add additional water if needed, so the beans don’t become dry. Here are the cooked beans.One cup of dried beans yields three cups of cooked beans. Here is the yield of beans from the one cup of dried beans shown above.
Making the recipe
After the dried beans are cooked, pan fry the bacon or seasoning meat. Remove most of the drippings; add the onions and bell peppers. When these are cooked and the onions are transparent assemble all the ingredients. Add the beans to an oiled casserole dish, add the onions, bell pepper, seasonings, bacon and water to cover.Baking the beans. The beans need to bake in the oven so that the flavors blend. This also helps the canned beans cook a little further. Dried beans, however, don’t really cook further in the oven (unless you cook them for hours), so they need to be completely cooked before baking. Bake for an hour to an hour-and-a-half until bubbly. If needed, remove the aluminum foil and cook off some of the liquid to thicken the beans. Delicious! It is hard to stop eating these beans.
Nutritional Value of Beans
Dietary guidelines include the recommendation to include at least three cups of beans and legumes a week along with whole grain products, fruits and vegetables. That is alot of beans!
Dried beans are high in protein, complex carbohydrates; they are naturally low in fat and they supply vitamins and minerals. Dried beans have numerous nutritional benefits. The fiber content helps lower cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Beans have a low glycemic index and help control diabetes and lower blood sugar. Beans are source of antioxidants and phytochemicals which may help in reducing risk of some types of cancer.
With these nutritional benefits, there is a real value in eating more dried and cooked beans and lentils.
After many, many trials, here’s my final recipe; either canned pork and beans or dried Navy beans can be used in the recipe.
Molasses Baked Beans by MayleesKitchen
- 1/2 1 lb small dried Navy beans (1 cup dried)*
- 6 cups water plus additional water as needed
- 2 oz Applewood smoked bacon or smoked turkey, diced
- 1 cup chopped onion (1/2 large onion)
- 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (1/3 large bell pepper)
- oil to grease casserole dish
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried mustard powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (either blackstrap or regular unsulfured molasses)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 cups water
*May Substitute 28 oz can of pork and beans for the dried beans. Begin the recipe at Step #4.
Method and Steps
- Add dried beans to six cups water in large stock pot or pan. Bring to boil; then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for one hour, adjusting stove heat setting as needed so beans simmer and just begin to bubble. Add additional water by the cup as needed so beans don’t become dry. After one hour, check beans for doneness. They should be tender to the bite, not mushy. Cook an additional one-half hour if needed.
- When cooked, remove beans, drain off cooking liquid with colander.Set aside.
- In non-stick skillet, fry bacon until crisp over medium-high heat. Remove bacon, drain of excess fat. Set bacon aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, lightly oil 9×9″ casserole dish.
- In same skillet over medium heat, saute onion and bell pepper for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and cooked. (Baking in oven for an hour will not remove raw taste from onion.)
- Add the strained beans to the casserole dish. Add the cooked onions and bell pepper, salt, black pepper, dried mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
- Stir in the molasses, brown sugar and ketchup and stir to combine. Crumble and add bacon (or add smoked turkey).
- Add 2 cups water to cover beans and stir to combine.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hour until the beans are bubbly. If needed, remove aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes longer to elaborate excess cooking liquid.
If you never cared for pork and beans; you will like these Molasses Baked Beans! Enjoy.
“Can you tell me more about blackstrap molasses?” The World’s Healthinesst Foods. //www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=350
“What is the difference between blackstrap and unsulfured molasses?” Food52 //food52.com/hotline/4503-what-is-the-difference-between-blackstrap-and-unsulphured-molasses ©2016Food52
Blue Runner Foods //www.bluerunnerfoods.com/
The Nutritional Value of Dried Beans. The Bean Institute ://beaninstitute.com/nutritional-value-of-dry-beans/ © 2016 Northarvest Bean Growers Association
US Dried Bean Council //www.usdrybeans.com/nutrition/health-benefits-of-beans/
Bean Varieties. US Dried Bean Council. //www.usdrybeans.com/resources/varieties/