Boston Baked Beans

Back to Julia Child for the best Boston Baked Beans recipe I’ve tried.

Except for this: when the beans were at the six-hour mark, I tasted them. It’s always a good idea to taste what you’re cooking as you go, so you can adjust the seasonings or toss the entire mess into the garbage before you waste any more time. These beans were tasting great but maybe because I have a bit of a sweet tooth or maybe because I am used to eating canned beans which have the sweetness ramped up so they are more appealing, I thought there needed to be some brown sugar in the mix. Adding some helped.

There is a downside to cooking a crock pot full of beans when there is only one person to eat them… you can get pretty tired of beans when you eat them every night for an entire week. There are a few containers in the freezer now as I didn’t make it past Day 3 of beans before throwing in the towel.

And because I didn’t have any bacon thawed, I used pancetta. To replace the smokey flavour that bacon would have added, I poured in some liquid smoke.

Here’s what happened.

Got the beans.



And the pancetta, which was diced.

diced pancetta

Diced pancetta.

Got some onion and diced it too.

diced onion

Diced onion.

Diced some garlic.
(Thanks to my brother for the lovely new knife pictured here… it is very nice to work with!)

diced garlic

Diced garlic.

Here’s the molasses.



And the Dijon mustard.

Dijon mustard

Dijon mustard.

Herbs: thyme, ginger and bay leaves.

thyme, ginger and bay leaves

Thyme, ginger and bay leaves.

And this is what a bottle of liquid smoke looks like.

liquid smoke

Liquid smoke.

Everything is in the crock pot, ready to cook for hours and hours.

assembled Boston baked beans.

Assembled Boston baked beans.

Boston Baked Beans, served with Boston Baked Bread.

Boston baked beans served with Boston baked bread

Boston Baked Beans served with Boston Baked Bread.

From The Way to Cook, Julia Child
The original recipe can be seen here:, on page 352. Below: Julia Child’s recipe, my tweaked ingredients.

Boston Baked Beans

The Boston baked bean is a story in itself, cooked long and slow, so that the beans literally caramelize in their juices. This is my favourite cooking system, and the only one I’ve used since the day it was suggested to me by a kind reader a number of years ago. No soaking, no fussing, just dump everything into the pot and away you go; come back the next morning and the beans are done.

For about 2 quarts of beans, serving 6 to 8

A piece of pancetta, diced (4 ounces)
2 cups small white beans, well picked over and washed
5 cups water
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely sliced onions
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. dark unsulfured molasses
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 imported bay leaves
1/2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
6 grinds pepper
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 Tbs. brown sugar

Assemble all the ingredients in the pot. When all the ingredients are in the crock pot, cover it and bring to the simmer; then cook with low heat (250°F to 275°F). The beans should barely bubble, and will take 12 to 14 hours. Look at them once in a while to be sure all is well—they may need a little bit of boiling water. They are not done until they have turned a dark reddish brown. Correct seasoning.

May be baked a day or more ahead and reheated.


5 thoughts on “Boston Baked Beans

  1. I tried these last night and they were very very bitter. I made the recipe from Julia’s book. I’m wondering if I’m just used to the canned ones. I’m going to have to try what you said and add some brown sugar.

    I’m also vegetarian, so I leave out the pork. I tried these once before and tried liquid smoke and it made them taste burnt. I’m almost afraid to use it again. Have you ever tried any smoked paprika?

    • I wonder how come the beans were bitter? That would be disappointing. I use liquid smoke, but in moderation… maybe that’s the answer so the beans don’t taste burnt.
      I have never tried smoked paprika in beans, but like it in everything I have used it in (pork ribs, bean soup).

      • They weren’t bad, just not what I was expecting. They weren’t sweet at all. I do want to try what you said and use brown sugar. I think they would taste better to me.

        I’ve read something online that have said that cooking beans in a crackpot can make them bitter. I’m baffled by this recipe. Julia usually never does me wrong, but I was disappointed in this one.

      • These beans were made in a crock pot so yes, the bitterness is a mystery. Maple syrup could be a good addition to sweeten the beans too.
        I like that you’re willing to try again. Good luck!

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