Molasses Makes All The Difference In Giada De Laurentiis' Baked Beans

Baked beans don't have to come from a can. In fact, the side dish — popularized across summer barbecues and outdoor picnics alike — tastes all the more flavorful when you make your own from scratch. To achieve the beans' trademark taste and texture, take your cue from celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, who pairs baked beans with just a few tablespoons of molasses. The common bean addition is just enough to upgrade the dish's texture — and add the necessary level of sweetness. 

In her recipe for Italian-style baked beans, which she shared on Food Network's "Everyday Italian," De Laurentiis embraces the benefits of molasses. She refers to the sweet syrup as a classic baked bean ingredient, making it a must-have to include in her own recipe. Indeed, molasses and baked beans are a popular combination, thanks to their complementary nature. On the textural end, molasses acts as a helpful thickener, lending baked beans a trademark, chili-esque consistency. Meanwhile, when it comes to taste, molasses is just as imperative; as a syrup, it's sweet but also comes with a bit of smokiness. What better undertones to combine with baked beans? 

If you're sold on De Laurentiis' approach, simply grab a can of baked beans and a jar of molasses. You'll need less molasses than you think to get the job done — though the amount ultimately depends on you and your chosen recipe.

Molasses can transform baked beans, no matter the amount.

Adding molasses to baked beans is as straightforward as it sounds. However, the sweetener also complements a slew of other ingredients, so the specifics depend on your recipe — and desired flavors. If you're following De Laurentiis' lead, for example, you'll only need three tablespoons of molasses for 15 ounces, or two cans, of cannellini beans. In that recipe, other ingredients — like balsamic vinegar, dark beer, tomato sauce, and brown sugar — play a more prominent role. The molasses is, therefore, more subtle, but no less effective. Additionally, De Laurentiis adds pancetta, garlic, and onions, adding a full Italian twist to the American staple. 

Meanwhile, in Tasting Table's slow cooker baked beans, molasses takes center stage. That recipe forgoes Italian influences to pair a variety of beans with one-third a cup of molasses. The recipe also utilizes half a cup of barbecue sauce, as well as smaller amounts of brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and gochujang. 

No matter your flavors, molasses comes in handy across recipes. De Laurentiis uses thick molasses, though there are three types of molasses you can choose from. When in doubt, start with a small amount and work your way up. Your beans will be all the better.