Kitchn Love Letters

The Only Baked Beans Worth Making for the 4th of July (They’re Seriously Incredible)

published Jul 3, 2024
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Baked beans with strips of bacon on top, in a cast iron skillet, with a wooden spoon, with a blue napkin on the side.
Credit: Laura Rege

I was menu planning the other day for a family vacation (well, interpret “vacation” as you wish; I will be cooking dinner nearly every night for a group of 11), and racking my brain for a side dish for burgers when I realized had a huge gap in my meals: Where were the baked beans? I was so focused on what to throw on the grill I had forgotten about one of my true summer loves. And it doesn’t get much better than these bacon baked beans

Get the recipe: Baked Beans

Some baked bean recipes I’ve made start with a can of ready-made baked beans, and then get all doctored up. Those are great, but kinda make you wonder why you’re buying baked beans in the first place. This recipe, however, begins with canned pinto beans — a quintessential “baked bean” bean — which then get all the delicious flavor from the usual ingredients, like barbecue sauce (we tasted and ranked 20 bottles to determine the barbecue sauce worth buying), apple cider vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, onion, and garlic. But the real star here is — you guessed it — bacon. 

Credit: Laura Rege

What Makes These Baked Beans So Good

After getting the bacon nicely crisped, you sauté the onion and garlic in the bacon fat for flavor, but the real fun starts when you get the beans nicely saucy and then lay bacon strips over the top of the pot and let everything simmer in the oven. You don’t need me to tell you what happens during that time, but I will: The beans not only soak up the sauce, but they also absorb all that savory bacon flavor for a side dish that’s truly memorable. I haven’t met someone yet who doesn’t dig in for a second helping of these beans; they have so much flavor and come together in just 15 minutes before heading into the oven. Be sure not to sleep on them for your summer cookouts.

Get the recipe: Baked Beans