Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans

  • 2 pounds white beans (northern or navy beans)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (optional, if you like your beans sweet)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of tap water. Or, you can bring them to a boil on the stove and then turn them off; cover them and let them sit for an hour or two. The point of this is to reconstitute them some, making them easier to cook.

After the initial preparation, boil your beans on the back of the stove for about 30 to 45 minutes. They won’t be perfectly soft, but they will be almost soft. Drain off the cooking water. In a very large casserole (4 quart) combine the semi-cooked beans, salt, dry mustard, molasses, sugar, onion, olive oil and liquid smoke to taste. Add enough hot water to barely come to the top of the beans. Put a lid on the casserole, or tin foil. Bake the beans at 300° for about 5 to 7 hours. They will be tender, fragrant and delicious. My kids love this stuff. The cooked beans may be frozen in 2-cup portions to substitute for canned baked beans or canned pork’n’beans in any recipe. They make a good main dish, or a side dish for a large crowd. This recipe serves about 16. I make such a large amount so I can have plenty of leftovers to freeze.

Another way to cook this, good in the summertime, is to use a crock pot. Boil the soaked beans for 30 minutes, as directed above. Then, instead of combining everything in a casserole, combine them in the crock pot instead. Put the lid on the Crock Pot after you’ve mixed everything up in it, and cook it on High for about 3 or 4 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours. You can position a folded dish towel on top of the lid if your crock pot doesn’t get quite hot enough to cook beans normally. The dish towel helps maintain a temperature hot enough to just barely simmer the beans. Serve with Corn Casserole, Mixed Greens and Oatmeal Muffins or Whole Wheat Bread.

Not a vegetarian? Here’s the traditional version of this famous bean recipe Boston Baked Beans.

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Janet - December 16, 2010

I didn’t know boston baked beans had any meat!
When I was a young wife, I made boston baked beans with chopped onions and chopped green pepper!!

Sue - March 14, 2012

When you say the recipe servees about 16 – what is the individual serving size? How many cups of baked beans does this recipe make?

Tami - November 21, 2012

It would be really cool if there were printer-friendly versions of these recipes.

Stephanie Grotzky - June 21, 2013

If I am making this in the crock pot, how much water should I add? I am also going to make this from canned beans,

Charlotte - June 14, 2015

The traditional Boston Baked Beans of course have salt pork. I went vegetarian more than ten years ago and had concocted my own modified recipe that used liquid smoke in lieu of the salt pork, and some oil or Crisco to provide the fat (which carries the flavor to some extent and adds texture). I’m so pleased to see that someone else has come up with the same kludge! It gives me a sense of validation, since I was just kind of making it up as I went. Liquid smoke rocks. I use it to turn pasta sauces into a bolognese approximation as well. In my Boston beans I add a splash of Worcestershire and a splash of soy sauce for added savoriness, helps come even closer to the missing meat flavor.

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