I have always loved baked beans in a thick sweet sauce. It’s a universal side dish during grilling season, and a welcome addition to any backyard barbeque. I’ve been trying to make my own vegetarian version — without pork — for years and have finally found a combination of flavors that works for me. This makes them vegan, since no animal products are required.
Ingredients needed for these vegan baked beans
- Beans – clearly the main ingredient. I use canned beans for convenience, and 3 different types to give that “calico” bean appearance and some variety in texture. My preferred beans are kidney, pinto and butter but these can be revised per the FAQs below.
- Brown sugar
- Yellow mustard
- Apple cider vinegar
- Chili powder
- Liquid smoke
Can you really make homemade baked beans without bacon?
I know what you’re thinking. They are actually called Pork and Beans, and how could they possibly taste right without the pork? This was a problem for me as well. It’s tough to get that special umami (savory) taste without using meat. But I was finally happy when I tried adding Liquid Smoke. Only a bit is necessary. It was the final ingredient needed to give my beans the flavor I craved.
I also feel that most of the appeal of baked beans comes from the sweetness of the sauce. Most baked bean recipes call for either brown sugar or molasses. I use both. 😃
How to make these vegetarian baked beans
I am using the term “baked beans” because it’s a catch phrase. We all call them that. However, I don’t bake them. My preferred cooking method is a crockpot/slow cooker. And I start with canned beans to make it as simple as possible.
Basically, dump all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours. My crockpot has a “warm” setting, which I switch to after about 6 hours on low. It’s a good sign when the sauce starts getting thick.
These vegetarian baked beans are the perfect side at every backyard BBQ!
Vegetarian Baked Beans
- 1 can butter beans rinsed and drained
- 1 can pinto beans rinsed and drained
- 1 can red kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 1 yellow onion diced
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¾ cup water
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons molasses
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
- Dash of chili powder
- Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir well to combine.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Check the beans at 6 hours and if the sauce is starting to thicken, reduce heat to warm. Stir and serve.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
Calico Beans is the term for the hamburger and baked beans casserole my mom used to make. It’s delicious and very popular, but definitely not vegetarian. The term also describes other pork and beans recipes that use multiple colors of beans. I love both the look and the taste. So I challenged myself to re-create that taste in a vegetarian version. 😄
As stated above, I like using 3 types to achieve that calico bean appearance. However, most any canned bean will work in this recipe. I have used navy beans, cannellini beans and great northern beans with success. Or, use 3 cans of the same type of bean (pinto) for a more uniform appearance.
This recipe translates well to the Instant Pot. In that case, I prefer to sauté the onions a little first, since the Instant Pot makes that so easy. But it is not strictly necessary. Just put all the ingredients in the Instant Pot and cook for 18 minutes. Allow the pressure to release for at least 20 minutes before venting and then opening the lid.
More ideas for your summer BBQ
It’s always good to have some vegetarian options along with all the meat, to have something for everyone. Here are some other recipes to help round out your summer BBQ menu: