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Just about any can of baked beans you pick up at the store is going to taste pretty good. It’s hard to screw up the delicious formula of beans sitting in a salty, sugary sauce. That’s not to say that all brands of baked beans are the same — far from it. There is immense variety in sauce recipes, with some brands using tomato, others adding brown sugar or molasses, and even others throwing in some pork. Sometimes the recipe includes a little mustard, vinegar, garlic powder, or other special seasonings. The beans themselves also vary both in size and texture.
We set out to determine once and for all who makes the best can of baked beans that you can buy at an average grocery store. We scoured the shelves of all the supermarkets in our area to find the best contenders and tasted every one, eating enough fiber to last us for several weeks. In the end, none of these tasted bad, but one stood out as a clear winner. Keep on reading to find out the best brand of baked beans, and remember that any prices listed may vary.
12. 365 by Whole Foods Market
365 is Whole Foods Market’s store brand. These beans are vegetarian and organic, so they’re kind of starting at a disadvantage, in our opinion. The sauce was thin and runny, and there were noticeably fewer beans in the can than in many of the other brands. However, contrary to this grocery store’s "Whole Paycheck" reputation, the can was quite reasonably priced at around $1.50 (not bad).
These were some of the tangiest beans in the taste test, with a pronounced vinegar kick. We also tasted brown sugar, but not much else in the way of seasoning. Despite the simple flavor profile and lack of pork, they do manage to hit all the classic baked bean flavor notes. They have some tomatoes in them, which we could detect faintly in the background. The beans were by far the weakest element of this product. They weren’t mushy, but they were grainy, and the skins were noticeably tougher than they were in any other product we tested.
11. Van Camp’s
Van Camp’s pork and beans in tomato sauce have a rather different flavor profile than Boston-style baked beans, which tend to have pork and either brown sugar or molasses in them. There’s still sugar and bacon, but the sauce tastes much more like ketchup or canned tomato soup than like molasses. The sauce is quite savory, but it has surprisingly little acid in it for a tomato product. It is very salty, which helps wake up the starchy beans.
Speaking of the beans, you can really taste them in this product. With some brands of baked beans, the taste of the beans themselves becomes lost in the sauce, so to speak. It was nice to be able to pick up the subtle savory qualities of the white beans. Our one complaint about this product is the texture of both the sauce and the beans could be improved. The sauce was pretty thin and watery, and the beans were both mushy and gritty. Overall, we enjoyed the flavor of Van Camp’s, but the soft texture puts this brand toward the bottom of our list.
10. Serious Bean Co. Dr Pepper
Soda isn’t the first ingredient we’d grab if we were making a batch of baked beans from scratch at home, but we thought these Dr Pepper-flavored beans from Serious Bean Co. might end up tasting great anyway. Dr Pepper can play well with savory flavors in certain contexts, we’ve found. Our recipe for Dr Pepper-glazed ribs is pretty awesome, for example.
If there’s one thing we can say about these beans, it’s that they deliver on their Dr Pepper promise. The predominant taste in the sauce is the soda’s mysterious blend of 23 flavors. How much you enjoy this will depend on how into Dr Pepper you are. If you’re a fanatic, these are worth a try. If not, they might not be your favorite. We enjoyed them, but we found them to be a tad too sweet. We could have used a little acidity or spiciness to counteract all the sugar.
As far as the actual bean content of this can goes, it was middle-of-the-pack. The beans were a bit soft and gritty, but not so much so that they became unpleasant. This was a fun novelty product, but it won’t become our go-to baked bean pick.
9. Kroger Country Style
This can says it’s made with extra bacon and brown sugar, and it’s not lying. We could see many small strips of bacon floating in the sauce, and the beans were quite sweet as well. If you want maximum pork flavor in your baked beans, these Kroger country style baked beans are for you. We loved the assertiveness of the bacon but felt that the overall mix of flavors in this can was a little out of whack. There wasn’t any sharpness from vinegar, pepper, or mustard to lighten up the flavor. These beans just tasted like bacon with a ton of brown sugar on it. That wasn’t a bad thing, but other brands brought more finesse and nuance to their offerings.
The beans in Kroger’s offering were some of the squishiest we tried in our test. The sauce, however, was nice and thick. Overall, the product had a pretty good texture. If you add some hot sauce to brighten them up, these beans would be quite delicious.
8. Walnut Acres
If we’re talking purely about bean cookery, these Walnut Acres organic baked beans were the best in the competition. They were quite firm but still smooth. They reminded us of home-cooked baked beans made from scratch. Also, the beans had a nice earthy flavor that didn’t get crowded out by the seasonings in the sauce.
The sauce was molasses-forward with a little bit of mustardy kick. We couldn’t detect any acidity. There is some tomato in this recipe, but we couldn’t really taste it, which was fine by us. The flavor had us wanting to come back for more, and the texture of the beans was impressive, but we didn’t love everything about them. For one, the sauce was the runniest out of the brands. The can also had noticeably fewer beans in it than even the 365 by Whole Foods Market one did. That’s disappointing, especially since these were by far the most expensive beans in our test, at over $4 per can.
Heinz baked beans (sold as Heinz beans in tomato sauce in the U.S.) are something of a British obsession, so much so that the company opened a temporary museum in London all about baked beans (via Londonist). And what food lover doesn’t enjoy visitingu00a0museums about food? Baked beans are an essential component of the beloved British dish called beans on toast. Although they’re made by an American company, Heinz beans are somewhat different from most American brands of baked beans. They don’t contain pork, and they don’t have much sweetness to them apart from the natural sweetness of tomatoes.
Unlike the sauce in Van Camp’s, Heinz’s sauce isn’t ketchup-like. It tastes more like canned tomato puree with a little bit of extra seasoning. The beans are a lot less overcooked than most of the other brands we tried. Despite this, they weren’t grainy. They also had a strong bean flavor, which was quite enjoyable (and what you want from baked beans, after all). They almost tasted like cannellini beans. The Heinz sauce didn’t knock our socks off, but the texture and flavor of the beans were impressive. On the strength of the bean execution, these land around the middle of our list.
6. Serious Bean Co. Buffalo
Serious Bean Co. seems to specialize in unexpected bean flavors. These beans put a major twist on the baked bean formula by canning the beans in what amounts to a thickened and slightly sweetened Buffalo sauce. Like the company’s Dr Pepper beans, this product faithfully recreates the flavor of the food it’s based on. The sauce tasted almost exactly like Buffalo sauce, specifically, the kind made with Frank’s RedHot. It was surprisingly spicy, especially in the aftertaste.
Also, like the Dr Pepper Beans, how much you enjoy this product depends on whether or not the concept sounds good to you. It’s a very well-executed version of what it is, but it’s undeniably weird. We liked it more than the company’s other product we tried, but your mileage may vary. Curiously, we thought that the beans in this can were a little firmer and had better texture than the ones in the can of Dr Pepper baked beans. We couldn’t taste the bean flavor at all over the kick of the Buffalo sauce, though.
This brand was the runaway winner in one category: The number of beans in the can. Normally when you open a can of baked beans, you’re greeted by the sight of beans floating in a pool of sauce. In the case of Amy’s, the beans are packed in tightly, with only a thin layer of sauce separating the individual beans from each other.
Flavor-wise, these organic, vegetarian beans split the difference between tomato-y Heinz beans and sugary Boston-style baked beans. You notice some sweet tomato flavor that’s a little reminiscent of ketchup, but there’s also an undertone of molasses. Also like Heinz, the beans are on the firmer side, although they’re not as flavorful as the ones in Britain’s favorite can. We didn’t taste much going on in the sauce other than tomato, sweetness, and salt, but it was properly seasoned and had good flavor. These were our favorite of the organic brands, but they weren’t as good as some of the conventional brands that were seasoned with pork.
B&M is a venerable old New England cannery with a history that stretches well back into the 1800s. It started canning baked beans in the 1920s, and B&M beans are unlike any of the others on this list because they’re baked in brick ovens.
These beans were quite distinctive, with a different flavor from any of the other brands on this list. Per the label, this product is made with pea beans, which none of the other brands used. We thought we could taste a difference, as there was a noticeably earthy legume flavor in each bite. The closest flavor analog we could come up with was black-eyed peas, but these beans had their own unique taste.
Other than the earthy beans, the strongest flavor in this can of beans was molasses. The sauce had a lot of that special, slightly bitter molasses flavor. No other can of beans came close to having this much of a molasses taste. Overall, it was a special flavor profile, but we didn’t like it quite as much as some of the other cans.
3. Signature Select
Signature Select is one of the house brands sold by Safeway (and other grocery stores owned by Safeway). We were impressed by these beans, especially since they were from a supermarket brand. In many ways, they were similar to Bush’s. They had a good balance between sugar, pork, and the tangy flavor, with the smoky notes of bacon taking the lead. The sauce was a little bit thinner than some other brands that placed higher on this list, however.
The most distinctive aspect of these beans was the abundant amount of black pepper in the sauce. None of the other brands were seasoned with this much pepper, and it made the Signature Select stand out from the pack. We enjoyed the assertive black pepper, as it added a hint of spiciness that played well with the pork and sugar. We also noticed a little bit of mustard flavor in the aftertaste. The beans were nice and creamy, though perhaps a little softer than we would prefer.
2. Great Value
Buying products from Walmart’s house brand is always a roll of the dice. The company puts out some not-great stuff, but other items are just as tasty as more expensive brand-name products. We are happy to report that Great Value baked beans are in the latter category. They were the best of all the store brand beans we tried.
In fact, we could actually see little pieces of bacon floating in the sauce, which was a good sign. Thankfully, the looks of these beans did not deceive us, as they brought an intense pork flavor. They were super salty and smoky, almost like good pit barbecue. The sauce had less vinegar and mustard than some other brands, letting the pork do the talking. There was some sugar, but not too much. The Great Value beans also had a nice black pepper kick, though not nearly to the extent of the Signature Select beans.
The one thing that keeps the Great Value baked beans out of the top spot is the texture of the beans. It wasn’t bad, but it was a little less smooth and creamy than we would have liked.
1. Bush’s Original
When we think of canned baked beans, we think of Bush’s. That brown and gold can was a frequent accompaniment to barbecues, camping trips, and cheap college hot dog dinners. Sometimes, when we revisit other classics from childhood, they disappoint us, but we’re happy to report that Bush’s original baked beans tasted just as good as we remembered.
Bush’s excels by being exceptionally balanced. The most assertive flavor is smoky bacon, but that porky top note harmonizes with a bunch of other tastes. You get some brown sugar, but not so much of it that the beans become annoyingly sweet. There’s a decent amount of sharpness from the mustard and vinegar that cuts through all of the bacon and sugar. The sauce is thick enough to coat the beans without being overly starchy or sticky. We really can’t imagine nailing the flavor of classic baked beans any better than this.
The one aspect of Bush’s that some people could take issue with is the texture of the beans themselves, as they’re on the softer side. However, they’re super creamy and they don’t go into the mushy territory, so we didn’t mind them at all. Ultimately, Bush’s does everything right, and that’s why it takes the top spot in this ranking.