Baked beans

Baked beans
Baked beans over scrambled eggs on toast
Associated national cuisine United Kingdom and Ireland
Serving temperature Hot or cold
Main ingredients Beans
Ingredients generally used Tomato sauce
Cookbook: Baked beans  Media: Baked beans

Baked beans is a dish containing beans, sometimes baked but, despite the name, usually stewed, in a sauce.[1] Most commercially canned baked beans are made from haricot beans, also known as navy beans (a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris) in a sauce. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, a tomato sauce is most commonly used, and they are commonly eaten on toast or as part of a full English, Scottish, or Irish Breakfast.

American Boston baked beans use a sauce prepared with molasses and salt pork, the popularity of which has led to the city's being nicknamed "Beantown".[2] Beans in a tomato and brown sugar, sugar, or corn syrup sauce are widely available throughout the US.

Canada's Quebec-style beans often use maple syrup. This style is also popular in states bordering Canada's Eastern provinces.

Canned baked beans are used as a convenience food. They may be eaten hot or cold, straight from the can, as they are already fully cooked.[3]


The beans presently used to make baked beans are all native to South America and were introduced to Europe around 1528.[4] The dish is commonly described as having a savory-sweet flavor and a brownish or reddish tinted white bean once baked, stewed, canned or otherwise cooked. According to alternative traditions, sailors brought cassoulet from the south of France or northern France, and the Channel Islands, where bean stews were popular. Most probably, a number of regional bean recipes coalesced and cross-fertilised in North America and ultimately gave rise to the baked bean culinary tradition familiar today.

While many recipes today are stewed, traditionally beans were slow baked in a ceramic or cast-iron beanpot. A tradition in Maine, of "bean hole" cooking, may have originated with the native Penobscot people and was later practiced in logging camps. A fire would be made in a stone-lined pit and allowed to burn down to hot coals, and then a pot with 11[5] pounds of seasoned beans would be placed in the ashes, covered over with dirt, and left to cook overnight or longer. These beans were a staple of Maine's logging camps, served at every meal.[6][7]

Canned beans, often containing pork, were among the first convenience foods, and it is in this form that they became exported and popularised by U.S. companies operating in the UK in the early 20th century. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated in 1996: "It has for years been recognized by consumers generally that the designation 'beans with pork,' or 'pork and beans' is the common or usual name for an article of commerce that contains very little pork."[8] The included pork is typically a piece of salt pork that adds fat to the dish.

Canned baked beans with small pork sausages are still available,[9] as are variants with other added ingredients such as chili.

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, the term baked beans usually refers to tinned beans in a tomato sauce. They were originally imported from American companies, first sold in the UK in 1886 in the upmarket Fortnum & Mason store in London as an expensive foreign delicacy.[10]

Today, baked beans are a staple convenience food in the UK, often eaten as part of the modern full English breakfast and particularly on toast (called simply 'beans on toast'). Baked beans freshly cooked from raw ingredients, much closer to their original unprocessed, unindustrialised form, are offered by a few upmarket brunch establishments.

The best-selling brand in the UK is Heinz Baked Beans.[11]

United States

In the United States, Bush's (Bush Brothers and Company), Van Camp's, B&M (Burnham & Morrill Inc.), Allens, Inc., the H. J. Heinz Company, and the Campbell's Soup Company are well-known producers or brands of packaged baked beans. B&M specializes in Boston-style baked beans often sold in beanpot-shaped jars, and canned brown bread, a traditional regional accompaniment to baked beans, whereas Bush and Van Camp produce multiple flavor varieties of canned beans, some styles using cured bacon to flavor the products.

In the New England region, baked beans are flavored either with maple syrup (Northern New England), or with molasses (Boston), and are traditionally cooked with salt pork in a beanpot in a brick oven for six to eight hours.[12] In the absence of a brick oven, the beans were cooked in a beanpot nestled in a bed of embers placed near the outer edges of a hearth, about a foot away from the fire. Today, baked beans can be made in a slow cooker or in a modern oven using a traditional beanpot, Dutch oven, or casserole dish.

In southern states and along the eastern seaboard of the U.S., the beans become tangier usually due to the addition of yellow mustard. For example, the baked beans of Tennessee-based Bush's include mustard in most of their varieties of beans. Ground beef may also become common alongside bacon in the home versions some of these bean styles. They may take on a flavor similar to Cowboy Beans, a home-mixed stew, somewhat similar to a chili but made instead with sweet baked beans.

Baked beans are a staple side dish for various types of barbecue. This is due in part to the ease of handling, as they can be served hot or cold, directly from the can, making them handy for outdoor eating. The tomato-based sweet sauce also complements many types of barbecue. The already-cooked beans may also be baked in a casserole dish topped with slices of raw bacon, which is baked until the bacon is cooked. Additional seasonings are sometimes used, such as additional brown sugar or mustard to make the sauce more tangy.

Heinz baked beans became very successful as an export to the UK, where canned baked beans are now a staple food. In America, the H. J. Heinz Co. continue to sell baked beans, although they are not always as widely distributed as competing American brands. Despite their international fame, there are currently substantial differences between the Heinz baked beans produced for the UK market (descended from the original American recipe) and the nearest currently equivalent American product (Heinz Premium Vegetarian Beans).

The American product contains brown sugar where the British beans do not, and the U.S. product contains 14 g of sugar per 16 oz tin[13] compared to 7 g for the British version (equating to 140 versus 90 calories). The U.S. beans have a mushier texture and are darker in color than their UK counterpart. This has resulted in a situation where the product is now imported back to the brand's home country. For several years, UK Heinz Baked Beans have been available in the U.S., either in different-sized cans from those sold in the UK or in a 385-gram can (the same can as the 415-gram can in the UK) with an "export" label with American English spelling and the word "baked" dropped from the title on the label. These are sold in many U.S. specialty stores, attesting to the popularity of baked beans and their appeal to expats. Bush, Van Camp, B&M, and Heinz all produce pork-free baked beans labeled as vegetarian beans, making this American dish available to people who abstain from pork for religious, dietary, or ethical reasons.

Around the world

Traditional cuisines of many regions claim such recipes as typical specialities, for example:

  • In Poland, with the addition of bacon and/or sausage these are known as Breton Beans (fasolka po bretońsku).[14]
  • In France these are known as cocos de Paimpol à la bretonne.
  • Jersey bean crock
  • Boston baked beans
  • Pork and beans, which despite the name often contain very little pork
  • Guernsey Bean Jar
  • Spanish Cocido Montañés
  • Cassoulet (South-western France)
  • Feijoada
  • Fasolada
  • Frijoles charros, pinto beans cooked with bacon and sometimes tomatoes, are popular in Mexico and the American border states.
  • Greek Fasolia Gigandes Gigandes plaki
  • In the Italian cuisine beans (of various size and various types) are widely used for several recipes also mixed with other ingredients: "fagiolata" generally stands for baked beans but there are also regional variations like "fagioli all'uccelletto" in Florence; "minestra di fagioli" (beans soup normally cooked with vegetables) "pasta e fagioli" (meaning "pasta and beans").
  • New England baked beans
  • Quebec-style baked beans are often prepared with maple syrup.
  • Bean-hole beans, traditionally from Northern New England and Quebec, cooked in a covered fire pit in the ground for up to two days
  • British cuisine claims beans on toast as a teatime favourite, the combination of cereal and legume forming an inexpensive complete protein; compare rice and beans. Variations of "beans on toast deluxe" can include extras as such as egg, grated cheese, marmite, tuna etc., and baked beans sometimes form part of a full English breakfast.
  • Beans cooked in barbecue sauce (or a similarly flavoured sauce) are a traditional side dish in an American barbecue.
  • "Franks & beans", a recipe wherein hot dogs are cut up and cooked in the same sauce as the baked beans. In Canada, this recipe is more commonly called "beans and wieners".
  • In the north of the Netherlands brown beans are often stewed and served with lardons baked until crisp, pickled silverskin onions and gherkins, and sugar syrup or apple syrup. In the province of Drenthe, this dish has a cultural significance due to the regional nostalgic novel and TV series Bartje.
  • In Mexico and Latin America baked beans are also popular: black beans (frijoles negros) and frijoles pintos (pinto beans) are the most common.
  • Chilean porotos con riendas
  • In the Balkans, they are known as prebranac.
  • The traditional Jewish Shabbat dish cholent (also known as hamin) is made with meat, potatoes, beans and barley.
  • Turkish Fasolia (fasulye), usually served with rice
  • Iranian Loobia Chiti is made from pinto beans, usually served with olive oil and lemon juice.

Many unusual dishes are made with baked beans including the baked bean sandwich. These are slices of bread topped with beans and other additions, such as melted cheese.


In 2002, the British Dietetic Association allowed manufacturers of canned baked beans to advertise the product as contributing to the recommended daily consumption of five to six vegetables per person. This concession was criticised by heart specialists, who pointed to the high levels of sugar and salt in the product. However, it has been proven that consumption of baked beans does indeed lower total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, even in normo-cholesterolaemic individuals.[15][16] Some manufacturers produce a "healthy" version of the product with reduced levels of sugar and salt.


Baked beans are known on occasion to cause a considerable increase in flatulence following consumption;[17][18] this is due to the fermentation of polysaccharides (specifically oligosaccharides) by gut flora, specifically Methanobrevibacter smithii. The oligosaccharides pass through the small intestine largely unchanged; when they reach the large intestine, bacteria feast on them, producing copious amounts of flatus.[19]

This condition is referenced in multiple works of popular culture. Some prominent examples include:

See also


  1. Thring, Oliver (22 February 2011). "Consider baked beans". The Guardian. London.
  2. Dalager, Norman (10 August 2006). "What's in a nickname?". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  3. "GuardianWitness - Cold Baked Beans salad". GuardianWitness. Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  4. "Food History: A timeline". Kid Cyber. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  5. "Common Ground's Bean Hole Beans". Archived from the original on 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  6. "Foodways Research: A Taste of Maine". Maine Folklife Center. Archived from the original on 18 August 2009.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-19., Maine Folklife Center
  8. "That's What and Beans? Pork Defends Its Image". The New York Times. 1 April 1998.
  9. "Heins Beanz with pork sausages". 11/10/2017. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. "1815: Our Waterloo". F&M. 11 May 2006. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 09/01/2009. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. "Heinz to change baked beans recipe as it faces Branston challenge".
  12. Farmer, Fannie (1896). Boston Cooking-School Cook Book'. p. 212. ISBN 0-451-12892-3.
  13. Vegetarian Beans – Premium. "Heinz Vegetarian Beans – Premium 16.00 oz Netgrocer". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  14. "We can see certain influences from the west (from France we took baked beans a la bretonne, surprisingly not known in today's Brittany) [in:] Culinary cultures of Europe: identity, diversity and dialogue by Darra Goldstein, Kathrin Merkle, Stephen Mennell. 2005
  15. Susan M. Shutler, Gemma M. Bircher, Jacki A. Tredger, Linda M. Morgan, Ann F. Walker and A. G. LOW (1989). The effect of daily baked bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) consumption on the plasma lipid levels of young, normo-cholesterolaemic men. British Journal of Nutrition, 61, pp 257–265 doi:10.1079/BJN19890114.
  16. Donna M. Winham, Andrea M. Hutchins. Baked bean consumption reduces serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.) 1 July 2007 (volume 27 issue 7 Pages 380–386 doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2007.04.017).
  17. "Health | Experts make flatulence-free bean". BBC News. 25 April 2006. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  18. "Flatulence – Overview – Introduction". Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  19. McGee, Harold (1984). On Food and Cooking. Scribner. pp. 257–8. ISBN 0-684-84328-5.
  20. Blazing Saddles -Farting Cowboys- Greatest Fart Scene of All Time - YouTube
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