Add Bacon To Baked Beans For A Salty, Umami Upgrade

Baked beans are a flavorful side dish to pair with many other foods like grilled chicken, hot dogs, and pan-seared burgers. To get the richest flavor, however, the beans need a boost from many other ingredients, like pieces of bacon. The result will be umami-packed baked beans with salty, savory, and meaty flavors in every bite. Who doesn't love bacon, after all? You can experiment with different cuts and flavors of bacon, like applewood smoked or an uncured variety, to reach your desired flavor profiles.

You can easily find homemade recipes that already incorporate bacon, like our recipe for slow cooker baked beans with a half-pound of bacon from Tasting Table recipe developer Erin Johnson. If you have a family baked beans recipe that's been passed down for generations, or you came across a different kind on social media that you want to try, just add bacon to its other ingredients. This technique also works to elevate a can of baked beans if you want umami-rich flavor with less effort or have a can in the back of the pantry that needs to be used.

Make umami-packed baked beans with bacon

The easiest way to add bacon to a pot of baked beans is to cook the bacon separately first. You'll want the bacon to be cooked, but not crispy, so it's easier to work into those beans. As the beans cook, the bacon will release those flavors we've been discussing into the beans with other ingredients like onion, brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup. If you're cooking baked beans in the oven, top the dish with the whole slices. And if you're cooking them in a pot on the stovetop, cut the bacon into pieces and stir it in, which also works when heating up canned baked beans. To save time and make less of a mess, use store-bought dehydrated bacon bits instead. The flavor won't be as intense but the bacon bits will add a subtle pork essence and crunch.

The pork is not the only way to infuse the beans with the bacon flavor. When you cook the bacon separately, use the rendered bacon fat to cook the onions and other ingredients that the recipe calls for. To lean into the meaty flavors, use a dash of Worcestershire sauce or a squirt of molasses or honey for sweetness to temper the richness of the bacon. And if you don't have any bacon, diced pancetta, ham hock, or pork sausage will all give an umami upgrade to your baked beans.