Growing up, my mom made homemade baked beans for every single holiday. She’d cook them all day, and their luscious flavor and warmth and the delicious chunks of bacon fat are a special memory for me today. I tried a few times to make myself those kinds of beans, but I just don’t seem to have the right skills. Luckily, canned baked beans can be quite good, if you do some digging for the right brands.
I’ve sampled a lot of cans of beans in the past few years, and I’m going to share with you some of the ones I like best. Read on for more complete reviews of the different brands I’ve tried, or look at the chart above for a quick overview. The chart also includes a link to the current Amazon price for the brands of beans.
Best Baked Beans Roundup
1. Bush’s Homestyle Baked Beans
Every brand of Bushes beans tends to land on someone’s best beans list. They’re a consistently good product with strong flavors, good texture, and versatile uses. You can cook with them, heat them up for a side dish, or just eat them straight out of the can.
I particularly like the Homestyle flavor because they’re so different than many other easily available brands. Most brands with tomato paste end up tasting like ketchup, which is not a favorite of mine at all. These get the warm tang of tomato while the more robust flavor of the paste is balanced out by the other spices.
If you don’t like these, try the Boston or the Bold & Spicy. Both of these flavors are also excellent and I buy them regularly.
- 28 oz cans
- “tangy” flavor profile
- Cooked with bacon
- Larger cans can be too big for some families and recipes
- Some people find them too spicy or flavorful
2. B&M Baked Beans
This company has been around for more than a hundred years, and they’re really good at baked beans. They slow cook their beans in traditional ovens, season with molasses and brown sugar, and use a bit of pork to add a rich, warm flavor. One of the best things about these beans is how they are not mushy. If you want a dish that maintains its bean-y texture, like beans on toast or just a regular side dish, these are perfect. If, however, you’re looking for something where the beans sort of melt in, like the sloppy joe variant I mentioned up above, then you might want a bean that is going to be less structured as you reheat it.
- 16 oz cans
- Sweet, Boston Baked Bean flavor profile
- Slow cooked
- Not mushy
- Smaller cans may be too small for some families
- Sweet flavor profile can be difficult to correct into a spicy flavor
3. Heinz Beanz
Heinz Beanz are tomato based, and the flavor reflects that. These are what Brits think of when they say baked beans; the sweet brown version we’re used to in most of the United States are called Boston Baked Beans for a reason. That said, the time I ordered these just to try, my kids loved them mixed with hot dogs as the classic franks and beans dish, with a side of toast. For me, the tomato flavor was way too strong and reminiscent of ketchup, so I added a bunch of pepper, brown sugar, and some chili powder to my dish, and had a lovely meal. The kids ate them as they were and asked for more. Different tastes for different palate.
- 1 oz cans
- British stable
- Tomato based
- Strong tomato flavor
- Small cans
- British brand unfamiliar to many Americans
4. Bush’s Best Vegetarian
While many of the Bush’s recipes use pork or bacon to deepen the flavor of their beans, their Vegetarian recipe is the same tangy flavor profile as their Homestyle beans, but without the bacon to make them non-vegetarian.
- 28oz cans
- Tangy flavor
- Brown sugar sweetened
- Larger cans may be too big for some families
5. Grandma Brown’s Home Baked Beans
Many people who grew up in the New York area during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, remember these beans with a great deal of fondness. Thick and chunky, they report them as delicious, not overly spiced, and just right for picnics.
When I tried them myself, I was actually pretty disappointed. I found them to be a good starter for a baked bean dish, but I needed to first rebake them with some strips of bacon or slices of sausage, and then respice them with brown sugar, molasses, or chili powder and garlic if I’m looking for a warmer dish overall.
So in that way, these beans are great; having mild spices to start with means that I can adjust them as needed and customize to my pleasure. Since I have a nicely stocked spice cabinet, that’s fantastic. For someone who has fewer spices at hand, that might be a frustrating situation.
- 16oz cans
- Mild flavor
- Brown sugar sweetened
- Out of can flavor may be too mild for some tastes
- Smaller cans may not be enough for some recipes
6. Amy’s Organic Vegetarian Beans
For organic and health conscious foods that are affordable, Amy’s Organic is a great choice. These beans are no different. They are a tomato paste base, which gives them that distinctive flavor of ketchup, but the maple syrup balances it out better than some more traditional molasses varieties. Since the flavor is more mild than some other brands, I like to use these in dips, or for meals my kids are likely to eat, since I won’t have to work so hard to keep them from being overwhelmed. I also appreciate that they are vegetarian.
- Organic ingredients
- Gluten Free
- Tomato based
- Gluten Free
- Higher sodium content than other brands
- Tomato flavor is strong
What I’m looking for in canned baked beans
If you only think of baked beans as a side dish, you’re missing out. There are many different ways to used baked beans to make dinner; this article on MSN lists thirty great ones. Some of my favorites:
- Beans on toast. This is as simple as it sounds; heat your beans, toast your bread, put beans on toast, and enjoy. When I’m tired in the middle of winter, this can be a great comfort food dinner that feels warm and safe.
- Stuffed green peppers. This is another recipe my mother used to make with a lot of meat based recipes, so finding the baked bean variety was exciting for me. Add baked beans, corn, spicy peppers, then top with cheese and bake. Delicious, and fast enough for a great weeknight dinner.
- Can of beans chicken. Instead of roasting your chicken with a can of beer stuffed into its carcass, use a can of beans.
- Sloppy Joes. Mix baked beans and beef to stretch out your meat budget and have delicious sloppy joes with some extra fiber and starch.
- Smoked sausage and baked beans. Franks and beans were a classic when I was growing up, and for good reason. For a grown up twist on this meal, use smoked sausage and a spicy can of beans – or sweet Italian sausage and sweet baked beans. There are so many ways to customize this one!
More often than not, I’m cooking with my baked beans, so how I’m going to eat them is a huge factor in what brand I choose that day. Beans on toast for me requires a very different flavor than Sloppy Joes, for example. Here are some factors I tend to consider across brands:
Overall Flavor Profile
Some beans are cooked with jalapenos and other hot peppers; some are cooked with lots of brown sugar and other flavor rich fats. What beans are cooked with dramatically influences the flavor. Sometimes I want sweet beans, and sometimes I want spicy ones. Sometimes I even have a taste for barbeque flavored beans. I have different favorite brands depending on what I have in mind.
Now that said, I have a full cabinet of spices, and I don’t mind at all adding some special ingredients to make a can of baked beans taste like mine. Down below when I go through reviews, if I tend to add a particular seasoning for a brand, I’ll include that information in the review.
My mother made her baked beans with bacon fat, and the summer I was a vegetarian, she was completely boggled as to how to give her beans flavor without including bacon. Nowadays there are lots of recipes online for vegetarian baked beans, but back then she was at a loss. For me, being a vegetarian didn’t last too long, but there are still some foods that I prefer from vegetarian recipes. Baked beans (and corn chowder) are the big ones.
Whether your beans are barbeque, spicy, or sweet, some kind of sweetener will be used to bring out the overall flavor of the beans. What sweetener is used can make a very big difference. Molasses tends to be the gold standard for many cooks; other options include evaporated cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
For my family’s health, it’s important for us to avoid added sodium in foods. Like many canned produce items, baked beans can have a lot of added sodium, even if the food itself doesn’t taste salty. I like to look at nutrient content and avoid brands that have a lot of sodium; if the beans themselves taste flat once I’ve opened the can, I can always add a pinch of salt myself.
Which Baked Beans Are The Absolute Best?
As you can probably tell from my reviews up above, what beans I like best depends on what I’m going to do with them. When I’m going to just eat them plain, I tend to grab one of the various Bush’s varieties. Homestyle is great for cooking, Spicy goes great in a chili, and Boston baked beans are my favorite things to eat on toast.
Meanwhile, the Amy’s Organic brand is my go-to for vegetarian options. These beans are a great addition to thicken up a chili or make burritos when I want something more substantial than plain canned beans, but not as goopy as refried beans.
Which beans are your favorite?