Make delicious Boston baked beans slowly — very slowly

  • The deep flavor and creamy texture of Boston baked beans is the product of simple ingredients and slow cooking. AP Photo

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The deep flavor and creamy texture of Boston baked beans is the product of simple, yet judiciously chosen ingredients and slow — very slow — cooking. It seemed a natural recipe to adapt to the slow cooker, and we were under pressure to get this recipe just right.

We wanted our slow-cooker “baked” beans to have all the flavor and texture of the real deal, and began by determining the correct ratio of water to beans. Once we had evenly tender beans throughout, we focused on building flavor with traditional ingredients: salt pork, onion, molasses, brown sugar and bay leaves.

The flavor was decent, but not deep enough, and the texture of the salt pork was not appealing. We decided it was necessary to pull out a skillet to render the fat from the salt pork and soften the onion first, which made the salt pork palatable and greatly intensified the flavors of the dish.

To brighten things up at the end of cooking, spicy mustard and a splash of cider vinegar went in, along with a touch more molasses to round out the acidity. Don’t use dark or blackstrap molasses, which will become bitter tasting in the slow cooker. Be sure to let the beans sit and finish thickening for 10 minutes before serving.

Boston baked beans


1 onion, chopped fine

6 oz. salt pork, rind removed, cut into ½-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

6 cups water, plus extra as needed

1 lb. dried navy beans (2½ cups), picked over and rinsed

¼ cup plus 1 T molasses

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

2 bay leaves

1 T soy sauce

4 tsp. cider vinegar

2 tsp. dry mustard

Microwave onion, salt pork, and half a teaspoon of salt in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened (about five minutes). Transfer to a four- to seven-quart slow cooker. Stir in the water, beans, two tablespoons of molasses, two tablespoons of sugar and the bay leaves. Cover and cook until the beans are tender (eight to nine hours on high).

Discard the bay leaves. Drain the beans, reserving three-quarters of a cup of cooking liquid. Return the beans to the now-empty slow cooker. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, remaining three tablespoons of molasses, and the remaining two tablespoons of sugar. Cover and cook on high until the beans are thickened slightly (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes six servings.