The Cottage Smallholder

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Slow cooked Boston Baked Beans recipe

Boston baked beans“American baked beans are different from yours. Heinz are so bland. We have loads of different ways of making beans. Hot, with molasses, with sausage or bacon. There’s real variety in the States.” Mike was giving his beans a final stir before their 8 hour simmer in his crock pot.

I’ve never been a baked bean fan. Danny likes me to buy those tiny tins of beans for his weekend brunch. The Min Pins will wolf down any leftovers but Great Aunt Daisy Beatyl is like me, she’d eat them if there was nothing else left in the world and even then she wouldn’t rush to the table.

The smell of Mike’s beans tantalised me for hours. After a few hours I had fallen in love with the aroma. When I tasted them I knew that this was the start of a passionate affair with the humble haricot.

Saturday night was marked on the calendar as Boston Baked Bean night. I was also cooking Cretan lamb in our slow cooker so the beans were relegated to the Marmite stockpot on the hob. Which dish would I serve?

The lamb was ready after three hours. We agreed to let it simmer away for at least seven hours. This was a big mistake. The lamb needed no chewing, it could easily have been sipped as a health drink. I hadn’t ruined the beans though, so we pounced on the stockpot and gorged.

If you can get a joint salt pork/streaky bacon from your local butcher or cure your own belly of pork, I recommend soaking it for an hour before simmering it for 3 minutes and adding it to the beans. Mike’s going to do this from now on, he used to use dark muscovado sugar and now is switching to light muscovado as this retains the traditional baked bean colour. This dish can be cooked in either in your slow cooker or on the hob and would probably be fine in the slow oven of an Aga.

Mike’s recipe originally came from Slow Cooker recipe book by Catherine Atkinson and has been tweaked by both Mike and me.

Boston Baked Beans recipe


  • 500g of dried haricot beans soaked overnight
  • 4 small onions (my 4 weighed 350g) peeled and studded with 4 cloves at the base
  • 6 tbsp of tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp of molasses
  • 2 tbsp of light muscovado sugar (if you use dark the beans turn out dark brown)
  • 1 tbsp of French (Dijon) mustard
  • 500ml of vegetable stock to cover
  • 200g – 225g joint of salt pork/streaky bacon (soaked for an hour)
  • Lashings of ground black pepper (salt will probably be unnecessary).


  1. Rinse and soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Put them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water, bring them to the boil and boil gently for 10 minutes. Pour off the water and put the beans into a large casserole dish.
  2. Put the peeled onions, bases studded with the cloves, clove ends down into the beans.
  3. Mix the ketchup, mustard, molasses and sugar and pour over the beans.
  4. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the beans and bring the liquid to a very slow simmer. Simmer for 3 hours (lid on).
  5. Meanwhile, after 2 hours, soak your salt pork for an hour and then place it in a saucepan of fresh cold water. Bring this to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the pork from the water and score the rind deeply (half an inch).
  6. Pop it into the bean casserole pushing it down between the beans and cook for a further 5 – 6 hours on a very gentle simmer. When the beans are cooked, remove the rind and fat from the pork and tease the flesh apart with a fork. Add the pork to the beans and serve hot with coleslaw.

Tricks and tips:

  • The simmer must be a real slow cook low heat, bubbles just brushing the surface simmer. A fast simmer would split the beans and leave you with a mushy mess.
  • The beans are very filling so there is no need for potatoes. Crusty bread would be good on the side to calm the ravenous.
  • The beans are excellent cold so if you want to kepp them for another meal and do not live alone, hide them in the fridge.

  Leave a reply


  1. Joe Dee

    What a wonderful surprise on a recent trip to the USA we were invited to a friends house for a meal where we were served with Boston beans.We enjoyed them so much that aas soon as we got back I looked for the recipe on the internet. We have just finnished our meal and would just like to say thank you from the top of our full bellys

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pamela

    Yes tinned treacle (not golden syrup) is the same as molasses. It’s called molasses if you look on the side of the tin.

    Hi Ray

    We live in Cheveley – near Newmarket in a hilly area tat used to be referred to as Little Switzerland when my mother was growing up around here!

  3. I’ve just noticed that you live on the Cambs/Suffolk border, this is also my part of the world. My wife and I live with our daughter in Bury St Edmunds.

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