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Our Slow-Cooker Baked Beans Recipe Is the Perfect Fuss-Free Side for Memorial Day

This clever shortcut slashes the prep time without skimping on flavor

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Baked beans are the furthest thing from ordinary — and we have the recipe that proves it! Our Woman’s World test kitchen has cooked up their best-ever baked beans, which combines the buttery legumes with sweet onion, brown sugar, chili powder and other pantry staples. This creates a batch of smoky, sweet and tangy baked beans worth serving with BBQ dishes all grilling season long. (Plus, your slow cooker does all of the work for cooking this “set it and forget it” dish.) Keep reading to become a pro at turning regular baked beans into an unforgettable side!

The basics of baked beans

Baked beans are legumes cooked in a sauce consisting of bold ingredients like ketchup, spices and vinegar. Depending on the region, you’ll see different versions of this dish as it’s common to add hearty salt pork to the beans in New England (the dish’s birthplace), while the Tex-Mex variation relies on zesty ingredients such as bell peppers and jalapeños. Still, baked beans are a BBQ staple that you can customize by making them at home.

Our easy shortcut best-ever baked beans

Making baked beans entirely from scratch can be time-consuming as dry beans need to soak until they’re plump before they’re cooked and combined with the sauce. Instead, Woman’s World test kitchen director Susan Chiusano says you can take canned baked beans and enhance their flavor with additional ingredients.

“Using canned beans offers more flexibility in mixing a variety of beans as well as making the dish last minute,” Susan says. “It also allows you to get creative with flavorings.” Tweaks like mixing the canned legumes with other bean varieties and stirring in chopped bacon before heating up the dish boosts its taste and texture. It’s an almost-homemade version of baked beans that guests will love.

How to make BBQ baked beans

Our Slow-Cooker Baked Beans recipe uses this appliance to cook this dish to flavorful perfection with little stirring needed. While the recipe calls for bacon to add smokiness, Nicole Johnson, founder and recipe developer at OrWhateverYouDo.com, says “you can use leftover steak, brisket or pulled pork too.” For a spicier kick, stir in extra ground ancho chile pepper or chili powder to taste. These beans are yummy served dishes such as Grilled Hot Dogs, Poor Man’s Burnt Ends, or Tangy BBQ Baby Back Ribs!

Slow-Cooker Baked Beans

A pot of BBQ baked beans as part of a recipe showcasing how to make them
Grandriver/Getty

Our colorful beans with bacon are as easy as stirring together the ingredients and dumping them into your slow cooker.

  • 1 package (2.1 oz.) bacon
  • 2 cans (28 oz. each) baked beans
  • 1 can (19 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped, 2 cups
  • ⅓ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. vinegar, preferably apple cider
  • 2 Tbs. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. ground ancho chile pepper or chili powder

Directions:

  • Active: 15 mins
  • Total time: 3 hrs., 15 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings
  1. Cook bacon according to package directions; chop. In large bowl combine baked beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans and bacon. Place onion in bottom of 4-quart slow-cooker; top with bean mixture.
  2. In bowl stir together ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard powder, salt, garlic powder and chile pepper; pour over beans. Cover; cook on high 3 hours. Stir before serving.

For more BBQ-worthy sides, check out these recipes below!

Loaded Baked Potato Salad Recipe Is a Cheesy, Comforting Twist on the Classic Side

Cucumber Salad Is the Ultimate Summer Side — Here’s How To Make It Extra Crunchy and Flavorful

Test-Kitchen Secrets to the Best Corn on the Cob — and a Must-Try Air-Fryer Version

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