Instead of calling this a “Healthy Baked Beans Recipe”, I really should call it healthiER baked beans…
This one is a combination of four different recipes; one from our friend, Brother Andy, one from my sister, Terri, one from the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, and one from Kent's Mom, Mary Ellen (who I'll tell you a little more about below). I've added my own little twists to it as well – using more natural sugars and less brown sugar.
Kent's Mom, Mary Ellen, is a great cook, and she gave me some good tips on making baked beans. First I have to tell you how cool she is, though. Seriously, I'm so thankful for her — she's always been kind and supportive (not ONE word or even hint of criticism from her, EVER, for real!) and she's taught me a lot through the years, but my two favorites are these:
1. Keep it simple, worrying about too many details only stresses you out. Things like eating on our laps with paper plates is no big deal, as long as we're all together.
2. If you don't put any pressure or expectations on your grown kids, and just love and support them, they'll want to be around you as much as possible. She loves it when we're all together, but if anyone can't make it for a holiday she gets it and remembers how tricky it can be juggling families. She and Ron raised 5 boys who all turned into really great, solid men and fathers (the kind of men who do what's right, even when it's not easy, or when no one is looking), and they love to come home and be together – we enjoy each other's company and always have a lot of laughs. It's nothing to take for granted! As her grand kids have grown up, they all stop by and enjoy visiting with her, too, she's a great listener. 🙂
Skip down if you just want the recipe, but first I want to talk about soaking beans…
Traditionally people have soaked beans to make them more digestible (less intestinal gas!), but whether they knew it or not, it also served as a way to break down the phytates in the beans (“phytates” or “phytic acid” will bind with minerals so our bodies can't absorb and use them). However, in one of the forums I belong to, members have said that when they soak their beans according to Nourishing Traditions, they would take forever to cook and wouldn't get soft. Sheila, one of the members of the forum, shared this:
“I had the same thing happen to me (soaked beans taking forever to cook and never really getting soft), so I grabbed Sandor Katz (author of Wild Fermentation) at a WAPF conference to ask him about this and whether it could be due to the addition of the whey in the soaking. He said you should effectively be able to deactivate phytates by simply soaking overnight in plain water. More recently, Sally has come out with the recommendation that you add baking soda to the soak water for specific bean varieties – can't recall which ones – that some need alkaline soak water, not acidic soak water. I say just use plain water, soak at least overnight, and be sure not to add salt too soon.”
So I asked Mary Ellen what she does:
When using dry, raw beans, Mary Ellen soaks them overnight in water, and then to reduce the digestive gas, she uses a method she swears by: bring beans to a boil for 3-4 minutes, drain & rinse – do this 3 times, which gets the icky foam off, then cook for 3-4 hours until tender (“how long depends on the age of the beans”). She does the same thing for her bean soup that everyone loves. If she's using canned beans, she doesn't soak, but she always rinses the beans well to get all the juice off of them that they came in.
*Important note: Below I've updated the links to beans that are actually PRE-soaked, so I just use those now!
Healthy Baked Beans
- Mary Ellen uses a bag of navy beans prepared as described above (2 cups)
- Brother Andy's recipe calls for 3 cans of Great Northern beans, undrained
- My sister's recipe also calls for a can of butter beans undrained, a can of kidney beansdrained & a can of lima beans drained, and hers is called “4 bean bake”. If you add any extras, don't forget to adjust the amount of sauce accordingly.
- Reserve some of the juices/water that the beans were cooked in or came in if you bought them in a can or jar, and if your sauce is too thick just use this as needed.
- 1/2 pound bacon uncooked, chopped into small pieces (preferably from a local farm, or try here if you don't have a local farm)
- 1 small onion chopped (organic if possible)
- 2 Tablespoons of organic molasses
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard or a squirt of prepared mustard
- 1/2 cup organic ketchup
- 1/2 Tablespoon fermented soy sauce
- 1/2 Tablespoon raw vinegar
- 1/2 t. garlic powder or minced fresh organic garlic
- 1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup taste it after 1/4 c. and see if it's enough for you
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- Mary Ellen sometimes also adds in 1/2 pound of ground beef
- Soak and prepare the beans as described above. (Or skip that step and buy this brand of pre-soaked organic beans!!!) Combine all ingredients except beans in a sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring. Boil for 5-10 minutes or so, then stir in beans.
- OR I just put mine in a crock pot until it's time to serve.
Is this like your own healthy baked beans recipe? How is yours different?
More you might like:
- Have you seen the recipe for my Mom's famous baked macaroni & cheese?
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- Alternatives to hot lunch at school (I'm so thankful my kids never ask for hot lunch!)
- Have you ever fed 5 kids a healthy breakfast in 5 minutes?
- Healthy Fast Food Alternatives