Slow Cooker “You’ll Never Miss the Bacon” Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans
If you’ve ever wondered how many times food bloggers test the recipes they develop, well, if we’re going by this one: a whole frickin’ lot. From serving al-dente beans (think pebbles) at a family get-together to stirring a pot of beans after 12 hours of cooking and hearing the toddler on my hip declare, “mommy’s making soup!” – it took me a few tries to get these Crock Pot Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans right.
After about eight (I’m not exaggerating) tries, though, I’d like to just blatantly toot my own horn and call this a winner.
Yes, yes. I did just use the word “toot” in a recipe post about beans. Not intentional, but my inner 12-year-old is giggling quite a bit. So I think I’m going to leave it.
So! These beans. First, let me just say that these are not authentic Boston baked beans. That would pretty much be impossible because the authentic version includes salt pork or bacon. And if we’re going vegetarian with these bad boys, well, meat is no bueno.
To add some smoky flavor back into the mix, I’ve included smoked paprika. A diced green bell pepper adds loads of flavor, too. By the way – I really wanted to include a jalapeno, too, to add a bit of heat and even a slight smoky element, but ultimately I just found that jalapenos vary too much in heat level to maintain a consistent recipe. So out they went. And instead, we’ve got a little cayenne and a few dashes of Tabasco for heat.
How else do we add flavor? Dry mustard, onion, and vegetable broth instead of water, for starters. Water, by the way, will work fine as a substitute – veggie broth just deepens the flavors a bit.
Oh, and a bay leaf. Must have a bay leaf.
But let’s not forget the most important ingredient of all, aside from the beans themselves.
Molasses, baby. Thick, black molasses. That’s what gives these Crock Pot baked beans their unmistakably Boston-y flavor. Molasses, along with brown sugar, mingles with the onion, pepper, and spices to create a sweet, rich vegetarian Boston baked bean extravaganza.
Make these, and you’ll be tooting your own horn, too. Now go back and read the first six words of this sentence and giggle with the 12-year-old me. (Did I just go too far?)
Actually … speaking of. Did you know that’s why it’s so important to soak your beans (and discard that soaking liquid, and rinse well)? That helps remove many of the … gaseous compounds in beans.
All that’s left? Pure (vegetarian!) deliciousness.
If you’re tasked with bringing the baked beans to a barbecue this summer, try this meatless version. Even if you’re a meat-eater yourself, I guarantee there’ll be a vegetarian at the party who will thank you immensely. Vegetarian baked beans can be such a nice, protein-packed, satiating option for the vegetarians – take this from a vegetarian who has eaten one too many “cheese buns” (that is, a hamburger bun with cheese melted inside) at barbecues past. And you know what else? The carnivores won’t miss the bacon, I swear. Win-win!
Oh, wait! I have one more thing to say about this recipe. Lord knows, I’ve made it enough times and thought about it enough times to where I’m going to have to stop myself at some point here.
So I tried this recipe in the oven the first couple of times, and finally, it dawned on me. Baked beans, the perfect summertime substantial side, baking in a hot oven for hours? No. No no. So I broke out my Crock Pot and made this a slow cooker recipe. I love using the slow cooker in the summer months – no heating up the kitchen – and nice and portable too.
Okay, I’m done. Go forth and eat delicious (vegetarian!) beans!
I’ve had a couple of people report back that this recipe didn’t work for them, for various reasons (see comments). I tested this recipe a gazillion times over so I’m not sure what is going wrong for them. I’m keeping this recipe up because I believe in it but I will continue to test and hopefully replicate any issues – and solve them.
Slow Cooker "You'll Never Miss the Bacon" Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans
No bacon necessary! This meatless Boston baked bean recipe makes a tender, tasty, barbecue-worthy side that the vegetarians and the vegans at the party can enjoy along with everyone else. But the meat-eaters will love ’em, too!
- 1 pound dried small white beans or navy beans
- Water for soaking beans
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium green pepper, diced
- 1 cup vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 cup molasses (I use Grandma’s original)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-6 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)
- Soak. Rinse the beans and sort through them, discarding any beans that look “off” or any foreign objects. Place beans in Crock Pot and cover with 3-4 inches of water. You can also add them to a pot or bowl; I just like to use my Crock Pot stoneware because in the end that’s one less dish to clean. Cover and let soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. Pour the soaked beans into a colander and rinse well. Rinse out the Crock Pot. Set soaked beans aside; you’ll add them back to the Crock Pot in a minute.
- Assemble. Add onion, pepper, broth, molasses, brown sugar, olive oil, dry mustard, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to Crock Pot. Mix until combined. Add back your soaked and drained beans and stir until combined. Add bay leaf.
- Cook. Cook on high for 8-10 hours or on low for 12-14 hours. Note: Slow Cookers can vary, so the first time you make this, you may want check on it periodically and see if you need more broth or water after the first few hours. But don’t worry, your beans shouldn’t turn to mush! The molasses helps to prevent that.
- Leftover beans keep up to three days refrigerated in an airtight container. They also freeze well.
Prep time includes 8 hours soaking time and about 15 minutes hands-on time.