The Subtle Difference Between Baked And Ranch Style Beans

Beans truly are the magical fruit, and if you've ever had them baked, you know exactly what we're talking about. These legumes may be somewhat bland on their own, but once you toss them in the oven (or slow cooker) and let them marinate in a variety of tasty ingredients, they transform into a sweet, savory side dish worthy of your favorite barbecue mains. Britain may consume more baked beans than anywhere else in the world, but locations like Maine and Boston have turned this dish into a classic here in the U.S. too.

And yet, it's easy to get them confused with another American favorite: ranch style beans. Both of these dishes pair well with barbecue and both involve zhuzhing up these legumes to turn them into a delectable side. The biggest differences between the two? The ranch style dish has a strictly savory flavor, while baked beans can be sweet and savory. And while the former may include ingredients that come from meat, like beef broth, it generally doesn't incorporate actual chunks of meat like baked beans does.

The lack of sweetness makes all the difference

Between these two styles of legumes, baked beans are generally the more popular type — so what exactly are ranch style beans? This dish is a combination of pinto beans and a chili gravy, which can be made out of flavoring ingredients like diced onion, minced garlic, tomato paste, chili peppers, cumin, cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika, and oregano. Some recipes use water, while others sub in beef broth. And while you can leave this ingredient out, feel free to include a little brown sugar as well, although not enough to make the final product distinctly sweet.

After soaking dried beans (if you're using them), you'll want to simmer them for a good long time (about an hour and a half) in the water or broth on the stove. Then add in the rest of your ingredients, cover your pot, and simmer it on low for another hour and a half, until a thick, spicy gravy has formed. Unlike baked beans, which typically incorporate some bacon and go in the oven for at least an hour, your ranch style dish is done at this point. Since it's a Texan favorite, feel free to pair it with your favorite barbecue meal, Mexican spread, or even a camping trip. And don't forget the delicious toppings, which can include shredded cheddar, sour cream, and chopped green onion.