Beans, beans … you know what they say. But beans are actually good for your heart, or at least for your overall health. They’re also easy on your wallet, being one of the most budget-friendly sources of protein out there. Beans can also be very easy to prepare, too, particularly in a recipe like this one where you’re beginning with canned beans. As recipe developer Erin Johnson tells us, "You can use any bean combination that you’d like for this. I chose navy beans because that is what most people associate [with] baked beans, but you can use anything you have on hand." She adds that you can even use dried beans if you prefer, but you’ll need to soak them beforehand and then cook the dish for 3 hours longer than the time given here.
Johnson also adds a secret ingredient to the dish: gochujang. This popular Korean condiment, she says, "is spicy and sweet and just adds a depth of flavor," adding, "It’s my favorite way to add heat without overwhelming the dish."
Gather the slow cooker baked beans ingredients
The base of this baked bean recipe is, of course, the beans. Johnson chose black and kidney beans in addition to the aforementioned navy beans. The cooking liquid is made up of barbecue sauce, molasses, and apple cider vinegar, while the beans get some additional flavor from brown sugar, bacon, an onion, salt and pepper, and gochujang. If you don’t have any gochujang on hand, potential substitutes include sriracha, chili-garlic sauce, and sambal oelek.
Prepare the ingredients
Before you start cooking, several of the ingredients require a bit of prep work. The onion will need to be peeled and chopped, and Johnson also recommends rinsing the beans in addition to draining them. (You might want to save the liquid from the canned beans, though, as it’s a very versatile ingredient that can be used in other recipes.)
While you will need to chop the bacon, too, you won’t need to cook it. "Because of the way slow cookers cook," Johnson explains, "it will not be crispy at the end anyway, [so] I save myself the time of browning it."
Layer the ingredients
You’ll be constructing this dish in layers: bacon at the bottom, beans in the middle (if you’re using multiple kinds, mix them together first), then onions, then finally, the cooking liquids. Johnson insists that you not stir these ingredients together at this point: "The bacon at the bottom of the crock allows it to be at the hottest point, which renders the fat into the beans [while] the onions get soft on the top and impart all their flavors into the beans without disappearing."
Cook the beans low and slow
Cook the beans on low for 4 hours or on high for 2. Once they are done, you can finally stir everything together, then season the dish with salt and pepper to taste. You can also add crushed red pepper and/or additional gochujang, if desired.
Johnson says that cooking baked beans this way "requires little more effort than opening a can of the prepared baked beans, but tastes so much better." Once cooked, any leftovers can be refrigerated for a few days. If you want to store them for longer, the beans also freeze well.
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- ⅓ cup molasses
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon gochujang (or more to taste)
- ½ pound bacon (about 8 strips), chopped
- 2 (15.5-ounce) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 onion, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, and gochujang. Stir until well blended.
- Add the bacon to the bottom of the slow cooker pot in a single layer.
- Mix all the beans together, then place on top of the bacon without stirring.
- Sprinkle the onion on top of the beans — again, without stirring. Pour the sauce prepared in Step 1 over the onions.
- Cook the beans for 4 hours on low or 2 hours on high.
- Stir the beans; season with salt and pepper to taste.