Easy BBQ Baked Beans Recipe

4.50 from 16 votes
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Easy BBQ Baked Beans that are comforting, slightly sweet, mildly smoky, rich, meaty, and totally indulgent. Serve these beans at your next barbecue and they’re sure to be a hit.

BBQ Baked Beans in a cast iron pan
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One of the very first recipes we served to our friends at the inauguration of our first smoker was BBQ Baked Beans. Ever since this BBQ Baked Beans recipe became a staple at our house and at our events.

Ingredients + Substitutions

  • Bacon – Thick cut bacon is best.
  • Red Onion – You can use any onion but the sweeter flavor of red onion after it’s softened is our preferred.
  • Garlic – Garlic adds a nice flavor profile.
  • Beer – Amber or Pale Ale is best. The choice of beer will add various flavor profiles. If you want a darker richer flavor as an example use the same portion of stout or a darker beer.
  • Tomato Sauce – Similar to chili, the tomato sauce adds acidity and more complex flavors to the BBQ beans.
  • Balsamic Vinegar – Any of our recipes need acid to balance the rich dishes. We like the flavor of balsamic vinegar. You can sub for any vinegar, the next most common we recommend is apple cider vinegar.
  • Molasses – Adding (Blackstrap) Molasses is a great way to add a rich smoky flavor without using liquid smoke.
  • Brown Sugar – Sweetens the recipe and balances the acidity.
  • Dijon Mustard – We love Dijon as a thickener and to add flavor. You can sub with yellow mustard if that’s what you have.
  • Seasoning – Kosher salt and coarse black pepper to taste. But if you want a great way to enhance the flavor add your favorite store bought – or make one of our own seasoning recipes.
  • Canned Beans – Drained and rinsed. We use a combination of pinto, kidney, and black beans. You can use the same beans or mix and match.
  • Meat – While optional, it is a great way to use leftover pulled pork or brisket. Add shredded to the BBQ Beans.
  • Additional Liquid – You can use water or other liquids like coffee. See recipe card notes for more inspiration.

Why We Never Use Liquid Smoke

The flavor of most store bought liquid smoke is, frankly, terrible. This is especially true when adding to something like baked beans.

It gives an artificial smoky flavor (read bitter and harsh), rather than something that can be achieved naturally, from your smoker or grill. I didn’t realize this until we started experimenting and comparing the differences.

A spoonful of BBQ Baked Beans

Recipe Steps

  1. If you plan to smoke for additional flavor, get your smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit using fruit woods like apple or cherry for a sweeter flavor. For more intense flavor use oak, hickory, or mesquite.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet, sauté the bacon over medium heat about 5 minutes, just to render the fat and crisp up the bacon. Remove the bacon (set aside for later) and discard most of the fat (saving about 2 tablespoons for the next step).
  3. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes or until onion and garlic is soft, but not caramelized.
  4. Add the beer and cook down for 1 minute. The beer should be simmering. If it isn’t, turn the heat up. Add the tomato sauce, balsamic, molasses, brown sugar, Dijon, salt, pepper, beans and the cooked bacon. Mix to combine. If adding pulled pork or brisket, do it now and mix to combine.
  5. If you plan to smoke, transfer pot onto the smoker at this time, uncovered, and cook for 60 minutes until they are thick, rich, and well combined. Stirring occasionally.
  6. If they start to reduce too much, or look a little dried out, add some water or other liquids (like coffee or chicken stock), in small increments (about ½ cup at a time). Be sure to stir.
Baked Beans cooking on the Smoker

Today, baked beans are still a favorite that we serve at catering events, but it’s all homemade and naturally smoky. Comforting, slightly sweet, mildly smoky, rich, meaty, and indulgent. So good!

Adaptions for BBQ Baked Beans

YES! The nice thing about this recipe is it’s totally adaptable! You can add or take out whatever ingredients that don’t float your boat.

  • Don’t want to use bacon? Fine. You can use pancetta.
  • Add smoked meat. If you have any leftover brisket or pulled pork lying around (don’t judge!), then heat up some brisket in place of the bacon (or in addition to bacon). These BBQ beans are so stinkin’ good with brisket! You can also use leftover pulled pork.
  • Make them vegetarian by leaving out the meat. We always cook a vegetarian batch when we serve these beans at catering events, like the batch below.
  • Change up the beans. You can even just do one type of bean if that’s all you have.
  • Want to make it a little darker? Add a little bit of coffee to the pot.
  • Want them a little sweeter? Add more brown sugar or a couple tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • Want some kick? Add a few dashes of hot sauce or red pepper flakes. You can even add in a couple tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce to jazz the baked beans up. It’s up to you.
Side Dishes for a crowd

Scaling Up and Making Ahead

Making Ahead – You can follow the same directions and make the BBQ Beans up to three days prior to eating them. Follow the directions and then cool after they come off the smoker. Reheat in a Dutch Oven or large skillet on medium heat until warm.

Scaling Up – If scaling up for a larger crowd start by planning 1/4 cup of beans per person. Adjust the scale of this recipe and plan to add liquids as the beans smoke. You can make the beans in a large Dutch Oven and then transfer when smoking into a large aluminum pan. These are easy to remove and serve directly out of.

Frequently Asked Questions

What To use as an alternative to liquid smoke

Molasses. Adding molasses to the dish brings a rich, sweet flavor. As it reduces, it tends to get a smoky characteristic mimicking liquid smoke (only much more natural tasting).

Bacon. This recipe contains bacon, which has a naturally delicious smoky flavor!
Or even better, cook the beans ON your smoker or grill to get the most natural smoke infusion.

Best beans for BBQ Baked beans

I like a combination of three different kinds of beans — kidney, white (great northern beans to be specific), and pinto. But black beans work well too. You can mix and match 2 or 3, or go with just one.

This recipe is also made entirely without the help of store bought canned “baked beans”. I’m a little shocked to see how many recipes are out there that use canned baked beans (that are already overly sweet and high in sodium) that they just “jazz up” by adding more sweet stuff.

Take the extra step to make them yourself, and avoid the canned baked beans, and you’ll be much more satisfied with the outcome.

What goes with BBQ Baked Beans

Cooking BBQ side dishes on the grill

Products Used In This Recipe


*This post was originally published in October 2016, and updated in July 2019 with new photos and tips. 

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Now on 2nd edition

Fire + Wine Cookbook


“This book is a one-stop guide for anyone truly interested in elevating their BBQ experience into a culinary work of art.”
5 out of 5 Stars
San Francisco Book Review

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

BBQ Baked Beans in a cast iron pan
4.50 from 16 votes

Smoked BBQ Baked Beans Recipe

Easy barbecued baked beans that are comforting, slightly sweet, mildly smoky, rich, meaty, and totally indulgent.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
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Ingredients 

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 large red onion, chopped, (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beer, amber or pale ale
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 3 15-oz cans beans, drained and rinsed (a combination of pinto, white, kidney, or black beans)
  • 1 cup water, as needed (or a combination of other liquids, including coffee, see notes)

Optional additions:

  • 1 cup shredded brisket or pulled pork
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, for sweetness
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot sauce, for heat
  • ¼ cup coffee, for richness
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, for acid/tang

Instructions 

  • Pre-heat Smoker: to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook Bacon: In a large cast iron skillet, sauté the bacon over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to render the fat and crisp up the bacon. Remove the bacon (set aside for later) and discard most of the fat (saving about 2 tablespoons for the next step).
  • Soften Vegetables: Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes or until onion and garlic are soft, but not caramelized.
  • Remaining Ingredients: Add the beer and cook down for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, balsamic, molasses, brown sugar, Dijon, salt, pepper, beans, and the cooked bacon. Mix to combine.
    If adding pulled pork or brisket, do it now and mix to combine.
  • Smoke Beans: Transfer pot onto the smoker, uncovered, and cook for 60 minutes until they are thick, rich, and well combined. Stirring occasionally. Serve warm.
  • If they start to look a little dried out, add some water or other liquids (like coffee), in small increments (about ½ cup at a time).

Notes

  • Don’t want to use bacon? Fine. You can use pancetta.
  • Add smoked meat. If you have any leftover brisket or pulled pork lying around (don’t judge!), then heat up some brisket in place of the bacon (or in addition to bacon). These BBQ beans are so stinkin’ good with brisket! You can also use leftover pulled pork.
  • Make them vegetarian by leaving out the meat. We always cook a vegetarian batch when we serve these beans at catering events, like the batch below.
  • Change up the beans. You can even just do one type of bean if that’s all you have.
  • Want to make it a little darker? Add a little bit of coffee to the pot.
  • Want them a little sweeter? Add more brown sugar or a couple tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • Want some kick? Add a few dashes of hot sauce or red pepper flakes. You can even add in a couple tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce to jazz the baked beans up. It’s up to you.

Nutrition

Calories: 274kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 1100mg | Potassium: 468mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 254IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: barbecue, bbq, side dish, Smoked Food
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 274
Keyword: barbecued baked beans, BBQ Baked Beans, smoked baked beans
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!


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Vindulge

About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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4.50 from 16 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We tried this recipe just the other day for a potluck. Very straight-forward and, really, you can’t miss with this. Used a small Traeger smoker with a mix of Apple and Alder pellets. Used cannellini, kidney and pinto canned beans. Used a pilsner instead of an ale, added some smoked paprika and tossed in a little dark maple syrup. Smoked the beans for a little over an hour between 250°F and 300°, stirring occasionally. They were enjoyed by all! We will be making them again. Thanks Mary and Sean!

  2. 5 stars
    This is now my favorite baked bean recipe. Thank you! I always dislike how sweet baked beans normally are but these are perfect! I’ll definitely be making again!

    1. We target 275 degrees in the smoker, which we highlight in the recipe card. That adds a nice crust of smoke and flavor versus just grilling them indirect.

    1. Cameron, these would be precooked beans, versus beans needing a soak. Often just using from the can then just add them straight in.

  3. 5 stars
    This is exactly how I like my baked beans! I love that your recipe has pulled pork or brisket added.

  4. Oh my! I think I would double up on the bacon rather than leave it out! This looks GREAT! I am going to try it… Thank you.

  5. i feel like i rarely (if ever!) see black beans used in a mess of baked beans, but i would enjoy their presence very much!

  6. These look absolutely FANTASTIC!!! I want to dig right in. I can only imagine that the smoked flavor is so yummy and perfectly suited to pair with any BBQ dish!

  7. I like the use of molasses in your recipe to add that extra touch of smokiness without just relying on bacon for vegetarian guests!