Judy’s Baked Beans got a glow up!
If you’re a long time reader of IGE then you know there’s room for just one baked bean recipe on this site: Judy’s Baked Beans, aka the best baked beans EVER. I’ve been eating these epic baked beans since I was a kid, and shared the dish here on the mothership 10 years ago this summer.
It is HIGH time this signature, practically heirloom recipe got another chance to shine in the spotlight!
Take one bite and you’ll understand why these baked beans deserve the title of “best ever”. They’re the perfect balance of savory and sweet, plus they’re super simple because canned baked beans form the base, vs having to make beans from scratch, plus you don’t have to cook anything on the stove first. I guess you could call them kicked up canned baked beans (or just one of the best things you’ve ever eaten!) They’re old-fashioned in the best possible way.
How Do You Make Baked Beans Taste Better?
Personally I love plain canned baked beans, especially Bush’s, which is what I recommend you use in this easy baked beans recipe. But, if you really want to transform canned beans into a luscious, thick yet syrupy, irresistible side dish, add diced kielbasa, smoky steak sauce, brown sugar, and ketchup-slathered bacon on top. Awwww yeah. After being baked low and slow for a few hours, the top becomes lacquered and caramelized, while the beans below become permeated with flavor.
This is a dish we make over and over again in the summertime for every holiday, potluck, birthday, and BBQ. It’s simple to make, able to made ahead of time, and a total crowd pleaser!
- Baked beans: canned baked beans form the base of these kicked up canned baked beans. I love Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans because they’re a little lower in sugar than other varieties.
- Kielbasa: Diced kielbasa added to the mix is a nod to “franks and beans”. They’re my favorite part of the recipe. Johnsonville brand is gluten free.
- Crushed pineapple: buy the kind packed in its own juices, vs heavy syrup, then use the lid to push down and drain away the juices before adding them to the beans. I’ve even used a can of pineapple tidbits that I’ve drained then minced finely before.
- Onion: a diced onion adds savory spice to the baked bean mixture.
- Brown sugar: brown sugar adds sweetness and depth of flavor thanks to the molasses inside.
- Steak sauce and yellow mustard: steak sauce and mustard add savory flavor and tang to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple and brown sugar.
- Bacon: bacon slices cover the top to permeate the baked beans with luscious, bacon flavor while it bakes. The beans surprisingly don’t taste extremely bacon-y – it just adds to the overall flavor of the dish.
- Ketchup: I slather the top of the bacon with ketchup which caramelizes in the oven while the beans bake low and slow. It not only adds to the gorgeousness of the dish, but the flavor too.
They’re Freezer Friendly Too!
Although we usually serve these baked beans for family get togethers, sometimes I just want to make them for our immediate family of five, so I’ll bake half of the recipe, and freeze the other half to make another time.
Simply assemble the beans according to the recipe, stopping short of baking, then cover with saran wrap, and then foil, and then freeze. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator then bake like normal. You may not need the entire recommended bake time if you’re baking a half batch vs full batch, FYI.
Whether this is your first or 100th time make the best baked beans ever, I know you’ll love each and every bite of this perfect side dish!!
How to Make this Recipe
Start with canned baked beans – again, I highly recommend Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans as they’re a little lower in sugar than other varieties. Open the cans then drain off almost all of the liquid that sits on top of each can. This will ensure your baked beans don’t turn out soupy.
Add the beans to a large mixing bowl with diced kielbasa, crushed pineapple, minced onion, brown sugar, steak sauce, and mustard the stir well to combine.
Scoop the mixture into a nonstick sprayed 9×13″ baking dish, or two smaller baking dishes, then line the top with bacon. You’ll want regular or center cut, not thick cut, and I usually use about 3/4 of a full pack of bacon. Finally, slather ketchup over the top of the bacon with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 2 – 2-1/2 hours at 250 degrees until the bacon is deeply caramelized and the beans are bubbling. Oh my gosh, just looking at this photo makes me so happy. These baked beans screams summer to me, and I hope you, like my family, enjoy them as often as possible until the sun sets on this glorious season. Enjoy!
More Summer Side Dish Staples
- The BEST Pasta Salad
- Mojito Fruit Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Napa Sweet Corn Salad
- Marinated Vegetable Salad
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The Best Baked Beans EVER
The Best Baked Beans Ever are the perfect mix of sweet and savory. These old fashioned beans will liven up any BBQ or cookout!
- 2, 28oz cans Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans (see notes)
- 13.5oz package kielbasa, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I like Johnsonville)
- 8oz can crushed pineapple in natural juices, drained
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons gluten free steak sauce
- 1 Tablespoon mustard
- 1lb package bacon, regular or center cut - not thick cut
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees then spray a 9x13” baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
- Drain most of the liquid from the tops of the cans of beans then add beans to a large mixing bowl with kielbasa, pineapple, onions, brown sugar, steak sauce, and mustard then stir until well combined. Scoop mixture into prepared baking dish.
- Lay bacon slices across the top of the beans (may not use the entire package) then spread ketchup on top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 2 — 2-1/2 hours or until the top of the bacon is deeply caramelized. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
- I like using Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans because the sugar content is a little lower than other varieties. You can use your favorite type of canned baked beans, just be mindful of the sugar quantity and how sweet you like your final baked beans to be.
- Recipe and photos updated in 2022. Original recipe called for 3lbs VanCamp's pork & beans instead of the Bush's Baked Beans.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
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Help! These were a family FAVORITE for years, and I’ve always come straight to your website to get the the recipe each time – but the last two times they’re soupy and not caramelizing at all. It seems like the temp on the recipe used to be higher. Am I crazy??
Oh no! I haven’t touched the recipe, but it’s possible that the beans and/or the pineapple products have changed to include more liquid than they used to. Next time I’d drain the beans more, and the pineapple all the way. Let me know if that helps!
Wow, this was so easy to go back and find! Longtime(2010!)reader who doesn’t eat red meat or pork, nor does my now-spouse–all that to say, do you think these beans will taste good with turkey substitutes? Won’t be mad if the answer is no. ??
Hi Heather! Thank you so much for being a long time, loyal reader! I think if you guys like the flavor of turkey substitutes then they could definitely work in here. If you have liquid smoke on hand, I might add a dash of that (start with a little – you can always add more) to mimic the flavor of the pork bacon and smoked pork sausage.
Can these be made in a crockpot
You bet – here’s the recipe: https://iowagirleats.com/2016/06/20/crock-pot-baked-beans/
Can you turn this recipe into a party tray size? If so, how?
I would double it for a 15+ person party!
I made this for my family tonight for our Fourth of July dinner and it was a huge hit! Thanks so much for sharing!
these are in the oven right now and they smell amazing…and just like the beans my gramma makes! i’m also making some bbq chicken but by the smell of them i kind of just want to eat the beans, haha.
i know this is an old post, but as for foods i can’t leave alone – storebought potato salad, especially if i’m drunk or hungover (weird, i know). rolls & soft real butter (if we end up with leftover rolls or bread from a bakery i will literally throw it away so i don’t eat it all at night, haha!) and i saw someone else mention pastries – i am not a sweets person really, but if i ever bought cheese danish (which i haven’t yet) that wouldn’t last the day i’m sure.
i also tend to eat too many doritos – not even because they’re so good, but because you’ll get one really good chip (you know, the one totally coated in cheese flavoring) and you spend the rest of the bag eating away searching for another mysterious “good chip”! (and yes, i do sometimes take one out, look at it, and put it back in the bag!)
by the way, these were as delicious as they smelled! boyperson said he could smell them all the way downstairs (we live on the third floor) and whatever it was, it smelled awesome. i halved the recipe for us, and the only other “changes” i made were that i used bold & spicy A1 (just what i had on hand) and used the full amount of mustard and a little salt so it wouldn’t be too sweet. definitely added to my bookmarks!
oh, for the half recipe i used two 14oz cans of campbells pork & beans. (my store doesn’t carry van camp’s.)
Kathy G 07.01.2015
To up your recipe another level add Frenchs Fried onions to your mixture. Crush some to mix in then add additional as a topper toward the end of the cooking time. You’ll love it.
I made your baked beans for our race party and they were a hit! So delicious. I wish there were leftovers.