The Ideal Beans To Use In Any Homemade Baked Bean Recipe

Baked beans are the perfect side dish for your next cookout or picnic. They have a balance of sweetness and tanginess that pairs well with creamier sides like coleslaw and potato salad. You're probably used to those canned baked beans from the grocery store, and while they are delicious and take little effort to get on the table, a pot of homemade ones tastes even better. But there's one important ingredient you need to figure out before you start cooking: the beans. They are the main ingredient, after all.

You can't just use any beans because. They need to withstand the long cooking time since you have to boil them first, then cook them with your sauce, onions, bacon, and whatever other ingredients your family's secret recipe includes. So what kind of beans should you use? To withstand all of that cooking, thick-skinned varieties like navy, kidney, or pinto beans are the best options so you don't end up with a pot of mush.

Getting the beans right

When it comes to those thick-skinned beans, how do you know which ones are right for your recipe? Traditionally, navy beans are the go-to option because they're smaller than other varieties and stay tender after all of that cooking. The majority of canned options use navy beans, so that's probably what you're used to already. You can also use kidney, pinto, cannellini, or Great Northern beans, although they are slightly bigger than navy beans. But they're all packed with fiber and protein and are guaranteed to combine perfectly with the tangy sauce for your pot of baked beans.

We must warn you, though — patience is key when it comes to cooking baked beans from scratch. It'll take up to two hours for dried beans to get tender, and that's after you've soaked them for a while. The good news is that it'll give you plenty of time to perfect your sauce and prepare the other ingredients. Using dried beans is also the more cost-effective option because a big bag is cheap, which is great if you need to make a double portion (or you want to test your recipe a few times). If you're short on time, canned beans work fine, but you won't have as much control over their texture and the amounts of salt. Still, canned beans are a solid option if you're all about convenience in the kitchen, because you can even buy some that are seasoned to make the recipe even easier.