Instant Pot or traditional oven, Sweet and Smoky Baked Beans are delicious and so easy to prepare. Never buy canned beans from the grocer again! Make them vegetarian or add bacon or ham!
There’s one person that comes to mind every time I eat beans. It’s my sister. I have never met anyone in my life that hates beans as much as she does. I don’t even think she will allow her husband to bring them in the house! That’s a serious distaste, Dear Reader.
It’s clear that she hasn’t tasted my homemade Sweet and Smoky Baked Beans – right!? I know I have hit the mark with a recipe when both John.e and McKenna tell me how good it tastes. In fact, John.e couldn’t get enough of these beans.
I prepared the beans you see in the photographs using my Instant Pot. Yes, I finally broke down and got one. I’m not a huge fan of kitchen appliances. I trust my baking and cooking to my oven and stove top. I rarely use any other cooking appliance.
But Instant Pot recipes are everywhere! They wore me down and now that I’ve used one a few times, I can’t imagine what I did without it. It’s certainly going to make weeknight dinners a whole lot faster.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry. You can prepared these baked beans in the oven too. I will provide a instructions for both in the recipe card below. The only difference is timing really! Just an FYI – I have a stove top baked bean recipe that might appeal to you as well!
Let’s talk Beans!
I’m using navy beans. You can use other beans if you prefer. This recipe would work just as well with pinto beans, black beans, black eyed peas, etc. You can use kidney beans too if you wish. I used navy beans, because it’s most traditionally used in baked beans.
For this recipe to work well, you will need to use dried beans. Before you start to pull the recipe together, you will need to prepare the dried beans. For this, you have two options. If you’re using an Instant Pot, you do not have to pre-soak the beans. The Instant Pot will do the work for you.
If you’re not using an Instant Pot, you will need to pre-soak the beans. For both options, rinse the beans under cold running water first. Next, place the washed beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. You will want the water to be at least one inch above the top of the beans.
Cover and allow the beans to soak for a minimum of 12 hours. Once done, drain and rinse the beans. Transfer them to a roasting pan or a covered casserole dish. If using an Instant Pot, you can place the washed beans into the pot, add the water, and cook. See the recipe card for more details.
Preparing the Sauce:
The sauce couldn’t be easier! You don’t need to mess up a bowl; there’s no whisking or combining. It’s as simple as adding the ingredients into the pot and stirring to combine with the beans. It really couldn’t get any easier!
Once the sauce ingredients are stirred through, this is where you can either add the bacon or ham if you choose to use it. If you want vegetarian beans, just leave those things out.
I prefer to cook the bacon or ham first and then add it to the beans. This allows me to render off the fat and to discard the extra grease. Trust me, it’s just easier to pan fry the meat and then add it in. Otherwise, the bacon tends to be a little rubbery and soft. I like the bacon or ham to be browned first.
If you want it both ways, prepare the beans without any meat at all. You can always add a bowl of crumbled bacon or diced ham to the table. Allow you family to add the meat to their beans if they wish. This way, they can add a little or a lot!
The smokiness comes from the bacon or the ham. You will get a little smokiness from the Worcestershire sauce, but not much. If you are creating a vegetarian version, feel free to add a splash of liquid smoke. You can add some smoky barbecue sauce too instead of the ketchup if you prefer.
Finally, here’s the recipe. I have included the instructions for preparation in an Instant Pot. If you want to prepare this dish in the oven, see the notes in the recipe card.
Sweet and Smoky Baked Beans
- 2 pounds dried navy beans, washed and rinsed
- 10 cups water
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 12 slices bacon (or 1 large ham steak)
- Add the beans, salt, and water to the Instant Pot. Lock on the lid, close the steam valve (if applicable to your pot) and set to the bean setting, normal, for 60 minutes.
- In the meantime, pan fry the bacon or ham until cooked to your preference. Drain and allow to cool. Crumble or slice the bacon into 1 inch pieces. Ham should be cut into a 1/2 inch dice.
- Once done, release the steam. Once steam is released, remove the lid and stir the beans. At this point, you can drain the water for a dryer version of baked beans, or you can leave the water in. (I left the water in the pot.)
- Add in the onion, molasses, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, dry mustard, chili powder, ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Stir to combine.
- Lock on the lid, close the valve if applicable, and set to bean, normal, for 30 minutes.
- Release the steam and remove the lid once it's safe to do so. Turn off your Instant Pot. Stir the beans. You will notice that there is a lot of liquid. Don't worry; the liquid will be absorbed.
- If you are adding bacon or ham, do so now and stir into the beans. Allow the beans to sit for 10 minutes before serving.