Pork and beans, the popular companion to barbecued meat at summer cookouts, doesn't have to come straight out of a can — nor does it mean soaking dried beans and hours of slow cooking time. With your favorite cut of cured pork, smoky molasses, canned beans, and a secret ingredient, you can be eating creamy beans suspended in a smoky, velvety, sweet, and savory sauce with just 30 minutes of stovetop time. This recipe is fast but just a touch fancy — just the way we like it.
The Secret Ingredient to a Velvety Sauce
Traditional baked beans rely on the starch from the beans to thicken the sauce. In this fast-cooking version, however, canned beans are used. The trick here is to not drain the liquid that's in the can. This thick, flavorful bean liquid is the backbone to the final hearty sauce that we all know and love in pork and beans. While navy beans are the traditional bean of choice, cannellini beans work wonderfully well and can sometimes be easier to find.
Pick Your Pork
A small amount of cured pork is the base of flavor in this pork and beans recipe, but you have lots of options here. Smoked bacon, whether in slab form or in slices, will lend an extra-smoky flavor to the finished dish, but salt pork or pancetta, which are not smoked, will also give porky goodness to the beans. Pick your favorite pork — you can't go wrong.
Fast and Fancy Pork and Beans
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts; serves 6
small-dice slab bacon, thick-cut bacon slices, salt pork, or pancetta (about 3 ounces)
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons
freshly ground black pepper
(15-ounce) cans navy or cannellini beans (do not drain)
Place the bacon in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat begins to render out, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, molasses, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire, and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and all the canning liquid and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.