Make your own smoky stout baked beans flavoured with dark beer, maple syrup and rosemary.
Sometimes life’s all about finding a pace that suits you. Lately I’ve been heavily focused on work and finding myself with little downtime. I’m okay with that – when you take a two month holiday you should expect to work hard when you get back to everyday life. I am however trying hard to prioritise the things that are most important to me, find a pace that works and not drop the ball on the little things that keep my family happy.
Good food is of course right up there. We have our fair share of quick and dirty weeknight dinners, generally balanced out by nourishing soups over the weekend and a few nights where we try a bit harder in terms of health, deliciousness, or both.
My favourite is when the happy worlds of health, deliciousness and hands-off cooking combine so that I can spend time OUT of the kitchen, and still enjoy a great meal at the end of the day. Instead of the Sunday roast that might tick the box for some families, this weekend I got right back to basics and soaked some dry beans.
Canned beans vs dry beans
Let me start by saying, I use canned beans ALL THE TIME. They’re high in protein, iron and fibre, inexpensive and endlessly versatile for plant-based meals.
But if canned beans are inexpensive, dry beans are positively dirt cheap and a little go a long way. Their taste and texture is hard to beat too. When I have the time or inclination, I love to cook chickpeas from scratch – I think they’re one of the best examples of the superior result you can achieve when you do it yourself. Whether they’re for hummus or a curry, they’re better every time.
This time I decided to try my hand at superior baked beans. Both kids love the canned variety, which are very high in sugar and salt, and I know I can do better. Baked beans are made with haricot beans (also known as navy beans), a small white oval shaped bean easily purchased from whole foods stores. Go to Bin Inn if you’re in New Zealand.
Stout baked beans from scratch, my way
If you’re not experienced cooking beans from scratch, don’t worry, it’s easy – it just needs a little forethought to soak the beans before cooking.
I soaked three cups of haricot beans overnight, drained and rinsed them, then simmered them for 30 minutes until tender. You’ll need to check your beans by eating a few as they cook – older, drier beans can take a bit longer. I set the beans to cook while we were eating breakfast, and they were done by the time we’d finished and cleaned up the breakfast dishes.
A bit later in the day, I cooked some onion and garlic until well coloured, mixed them with the beans, some tomato passata, stout beer and a few other flavourings then threw it all in the oven to bake. Because BAKED beans. It wasn’t long before my house had savoury, toasty aromas floating through it and I knew I was on to a winner with these stout baked beans.
Authentic baked bean recipes call for molasses, which I haven’t used here because I don’t know anyone who has it as a standard pantry item. Instead I used maple syrup and stout, a chocolatey dark beer that works beautifully to add depth and richness to the sauce.
There are other options
Yes, you can use canned beans and still get a good result here. If you want to do that, use four cans of haricot beans, or cannellini beans if you can’t find any.
Yes, you can use your slow cooker instead of the oven. You’ll get a great result. The beans are already cooked when they’re mixed with the sauce, so the cooking time is really about developing flavour and texture. Set your slow cooker to low and walk away, or set it to high if you’re starting these a bit later in the day.
Yes, you can also cook these baked beans in a saucepan if you prefer, just simmer them at a low temperature and stir often to ensure they don’t burn.
Use your own judgment for the cooking time – the stout baked beans are ready when they look and smell great, and the sauce has thickened up a bit.
This is a big recipe
If I’m going to the trouble of soaking and cooking beans, before baking them for an hour, I’m going to make a lot of them and enjoy leftovers for the next few days.
If you don’t want so many baked beans, feel free to halve the recipe.
- 3 cups haricot beans (dry) soaked overnight (or substitute 4 cans of beans, drained)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 3 tsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups tomato passata
- 1 cup stout beer (check label if vegan)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- If using dry beans, soak overnight in plenty of cold water. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans. Add them to a large saucepan with plenty of water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender. Drain and use immediately, or set aside for later.
- Preheat oven to 200C (390F).
- Heat olive oil in a frypan (skillet) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until well coloured. Add finely chopped rosemary and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add remaining sauce ingredients and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for a further five minutes.
- Mix beans and sauce, and pour into an ovenproof baking dish or casserole with a cover (or cover with aluminium foil if needed).
- Bake, covered, for 45 minutes, then remove the cover for a further 15 minutes. The baked beans should be bubbly and well coloured around the edges, without too much excess sauce.
- Serve on toast, with jacket or mashed potatoes, or as a barbecue side dish.
- Preparation time does not include soaking time.
- Not all stout beers are vegan. If that's important for you, find a vegan stout here.