Molasses Baked Beans

Absolutely not a replacement for the kind served on toast (I like mine with cheese please), but rather its own thing. To be served with slaw, cornbread, corn on the cob, anything you might dry-rub or slather with barbecue sauce…

This recipe is very flexible. I call it molasses baked beans, but we make it with treacle just as often, use whichever you have. Add more smoked paprika if you like it really smoky, or more cayenne if you want spicier beans. If you had some pork fat lying around, you could use it instead of the oil to fry the onions. Or fry a little chopped bacon or pancetta (smoked or green) with the onions for a stronger porky flavour. I’ve used tomato paste, as I like the rich flavour and smooth sauce it gives you. But you could definitely use tinned tomatoes or passata if it’s whats on hand, or if you want a more fresh tomatoey taste.

If you’re in a hurry, you can easily use tinned beans instead of dried (I’d use maybe three tins to equal the volume below). Simply skip the first two steps of the recipe and add the tinned beans straight into the baked bean base. Either way, I much prefer making these a day ahead. The flavour will only get better and the sauce will thicken up. However, if you don’t have time they’ll still be brilliant.

Serves six to ten depending on what it’s being served with (this scales up or down very easily).


To cook the beans:

  • 350g Dried beans (I have used cannellini, because they’re what I had. But any kind of white bean will work great. Haricot will give you that classic Heinz look)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the baked bean base:

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste.
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 140g tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or treacle

Cover the beans in water and soaked overnight. Use a large bowl and plenty of water, the beans will double in size during their soaking.

When the beans are done soaking, drain them and rinse well. Put the beans in a large pot, along with the bay leaves, soda and salt and cover well with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer them until cooked through. This will take anywhere from forty minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the age and type of the beans. Taste a bean to check, you want it not at all crunchy, but not breaking apart to mush yet. As they begin to boil a thick foam will appear of the surface, use a spoon to skim this off, and discard (I did some research, and there doesn’t seem to be any practical reason for doing this, the foam will not affect the taste or appearance of the beans. But sometimes we do these things because they are part of a ritual. And because it’s a bit like messing with bubble bath). Remove and discard the bay leaves.

While your beans are cooking, prepare the baked bean base. Add the oil to a medium saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add your diced onions and a pinch of salt. Stir well, then cover and leave to cook until well softened. This could take up to 20 minutes, give them a stir every so often to make sure they aren’t sticking. When they are ready add the rest of the salt, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, and pepper. Cook while stirring for about a minute before adding the tomato paste and cooking for a further minute. Add the vinegar and molasses and cook for another minute or two.

Drain and reserve any excess water from the beans (you want them to be barely covered, so they aren’t too soupy). Add the onion mixture to the beans, and cook over a low heat for a further half an hour or so, adding back the bean water if they start to dry out (or add fresh hot water if you didn’t have extra after cooking the beans).

The beans are now ready to eat, but will benefit from being made a day ahead and having a sleepover in your fridge.



The dried beans.
Cover well with water.
After soaking overnight. Doubled in weight.
Add to a large pot with the salt, soda and bay leaves.
The beans coming to a boil.
Beans cooked. Excess cooking water reserved and bay leaves removed.
Preparing the baked bean base.
Onions fully softened.
Baked bean base ready.
Baked bean base added to cooked beans.
Well rested and ready to eat.


3 thoughts on “Molasses Baked Beans”

  1. This reminds me of Ma Ingalls baked beans so will add more fatty bacon. Can you do both paprika and cayenne in terms of addition to get more smoke and spicey? This is a real winter warmer. Brill.


    1. Absolutely! I was definitely channeling Ma Ingalls with this one. Bring on the salt pork and rye ‘n’ injun.


  2. What the people want to know is: what’s the difference between peas and beans? Because for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee it’s Cornbread peas black molasses:

    Altho it seems they ‘don’t want no’ ditto


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