These vegetarian baked beans are smoky, tender, and full of flavor.
No, they are definitely not authentic Boston baked beans (though the flavors are definitely inspired by them!) 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
- 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.
What a great recipe! I’ve always used the hot soak for beans – clean, separate, add 4 cups cold water to every cup of beans, bring to a boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat and set pot aside overnight. Next morning, I assembled the ingredients, added some liquid smoke, and put them in my Aroma rice cooker/slow cooker. It has just one temperature, so I set it for 7 hours. It was so delicious!
I thought we’d have leftover for Sunday breakfast, but nope -all gone!
Love it! I keep meaning to try them with liquid smoke. 🙂
I don’t understand why the crazy long cooking time was necessary. My beans were done after 4.5 hours on high and I have a totally normal, non-fancy crock pot. I had to use way more broth than was called for—one cup did not come close to covering the beans. So I ended up uncovering after the beans were tender and cooking another 30 min or so to reduce the liquid. The finished beans were absolutely delicious, though maybe a tad too salty. I will absolutely make again but with more liquid and a much shorter cooking time.
I have made this recipe about 5 times and it’s a hit. For me, doubling the amount of water/broth was required. Also I skip the green peppers. Finally, I add a dash of smoky bbq sauce. A great recipe!
What a great recipe. Followed all as directed, except used 3 cups of broth and cooked in a cast iron pot in my oven at 250 degrees F for 8 hours. Perfect results. Will make again but cut the sugar in half.
So glad you liked it!
Can I double the quantity on everything and will it still fit in the crockpot? Planning on making this for a school celebration at Munich daughter’s school!
Does black strap molasses work for this recipe or should I use another kind? Or could I just use blackstrap molasses but use a smaller amount? Thanks
I would love to make this in the InstaPot. I will be uding rinsed canned beans, less salt, less sugar. Would love suggestions on how to Instantpot this recipe since Im new to tge Instantpot and Vegan cooking. Thanx
The first time I made this recipe it was a fail. However, after reading the instructions on the packaging for the beans, I realized that I didn’t boil them. Perhaps that is the reason why others also did not succeed.
The second time around I boiled the beans and everything turned out great. Note that both times I substituted the molasses and brown sugar with date syrup as I do not use cane sugar in any form.
I’m actually making them for the third time now 🙂
This recipe worked great for me! I was a little worried the beans wouldn’t cook right because I saw some comments claiming theirs didn’t, but by eight hours on high they were the perfect texture! I used dry navy beans. Some beans take a little longer to cook so that may be why some of the commenters said their’s weren’t cooked enough. Next time I would do a little less of the sugar, but besides that, I would make this same recipe again and again! Very savory, hearty, and easy. Great with some buttermilk biscuits and coleslaw!
So glad, Hannah! Thank you for the review! 🙂
I made these beans with a few modifications. I soaked dry white navy beans overnight in a pot, rinsed the beans then returned to the pot. I filled with 3:1 ratio fresh water and brought to boil for 3 minutes. I removed the pot from the heat and let the beans sit for an hour. Meantime I followed the recipe ingredients but omitted the salt and doubled the spices for added flavour. I cooked these ingredients separately in the crock pot on high while the beans sat. After an hour, I drained and rinsed the beans and added them to the crock pot. I continued cooking on high for 7 hours. The beans always turn out great! I’ve been asked to bring these beans to many family gatherings and potlucks. They are perfect for sodium and tomato intolerant gluten free vegetarians and meat eaters alike!
Flavor is great, but after simmering all day in crock pot, beans are still hard. I followed the recipe, but usually when I make beans, I simmer in stovetop for at least an hour prior to adding any flavors. Not sure if that is issue, but now I need to try and rescue these beans before family cookout tomorrow.
I made a double recipe and followed exactly. It was a little sweeter than I anticipated but it was delicious with the the brisket / pork crockpot meat mix for sandwiches that someone else made. Someone mentioned these were the best they had eaten.
Hi Christopher George,
I followed the recipe for the crockpot beans after soaking them for about 15 hours and then starting them on high for 2 hours and then low for at this point 8 hours. the beans are still rock hard. I followed the recipe exactly. I’m frustrated because I went out and bought the ingredients and planned to have them for a barbecue with friends tomorrow. any advice you can offer will be appreciated! After doing research online it seems like almost all of the recipe contributed to the beans staying hard. The salt, the sugar and even using a crockpot to cook them.
I did follow these instructions – soaked the beans overnight, etc. Had the beans cooking on high for 10 hours before taking them to a party. But they still were not cooked all the way through. Had them plugged in at the party while we delayed dinner for various reasons, and an hour later, they still were not cooked all the way through. We kept them cooking all throughout the party, as they had now become a joke, just to see if they were going to get cooked and they did not. I also kept the liquid on them for them to cook, but they just never did. Unfortunately, this recipe didn’t work out well for me.
I am a serious carnivore but my wife is a vegetarian. I tried this recipe thinking it would be a compromise but boy was I wrong. It is possibly the best baked beans we have ever had.
I made a double batch and it filled my slow cooker perfectly. I substituted turmeric for the dry mustard, went a little heavy on the brown sugar and added a couple chili’s to add a hint of heat.
Thank you for providing the recipe.
I love hearing this! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 I love the idea of adding turmeric and chiles. YUM!
What could you replace the molasses with? Could maple syrup work?
Yes. The beans will lack that dark rich color and will be a little sweeter.
Great recipe! I made this for a company cookout and everyone loved it. I soaked the beans for 12 hours and then assembled everything in the crock pot and let it cook overnight. Perfect!
I made these beans today and they turned out really well. I added a little more broth at the beginning since I had a busy day and wasn’t going to be able to keep a close eye on them. They probably didn’t need the extra liquid. He only other change I made was using liquid smoke instead of Tabasco because I didn’t have any.
Can this be doubled/tripled?
If I triple this recipe, is there something I should decrease..I see someone doubled it and it was too sweet.
Thank you for your reply
The Joy of Cooking cookbook says to soak your beans overnight in 3-4 times as much water as beans. The next morning, drain them, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes or more until tender. To test for tenderness, blow on a spoonful of beans. The skins will burst if they are done.
The other ingredients are added once the beans are tender, and then they are cooked for 6-9 hours in a slow oven. While this is part of a recipe for oven-baked beans rather than crockpot beans, I’m betting that those experiencing undone beans will have great luck if they pre-cook the beans before adding them to the crockpot. I’m planning to try the recipe using this method for a family reunion next weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’ve made these beans many times and they always work out. I cook them in the oven though with more water and at 300F for several hours until they are done. Love this recipe because my daughter is vegan, I am not, and we both can enjoy these beans.
Thanks so much, Cindy! <3
regarding undercooked beans, beans that are old may not cook well.
I am looking forward to trying this recipe!
My beans also didn’t cook using this recipe. I used the low temperature settings and cooked them for a few hours longer than stated, too. I ended up pulling out my bean and boiling them on the stove top in fresh water until softened and then returning to the sauce in the pot.
Did this work for you? Might give it a try. Ingredients have been cooking in crockpot for 17 hours, and beans are not soft yet.
Hi! I totally forgot about this but yes, it did work for me. And it tasted good after that. I’ve made this again but I’ve precooked my beans now.
A Grandma here, to folks responding: hard beans is not the recipe’s fault. It’s your beans. Dried beans keep for years. They keep so long there’s no way to know how old the ones in your store are. They could already be ancient! The fresher the bean, the faster it soaks, the faster it cooks. The older the bean, the longer it takes: they taste good, look the same in the packaging, but old beans take many hours longer than any recipe states. Experienced cooks know it and plan ahead.
I consider beans not done soaking until they at least double in volume. This usually takes 8 hours MINIMUM. The last pintos I soaked took 18 hours. *After 12 hours, put them in your fridge, for food safety. Once plumped, they should cook to tender, but still may take longer than a recipe states. The pintos took + 2.5 hours. Patience! Planning!
Don’t be troubled by hard beans again: properly soak, plan ahead for extra time (serve the next day?), and buy your beans from a store with good product turnover.
Since, although I loved baked beans in college in Boston, I don’t like their chalky dryness, I will have to play with this recipe. Soupier beans have a flavor advantage: they reheat better. Plus I’m now pre-diabetic, so can’t do molasses, sugar. Maybe adding carrots…
Thanks so much for your thoughts on this! 🙂
The reason why so many people are complaining that beans prepared according to this recipe aren’t coming out with the correct texture is the hardness (calcium content) of the water they are using.
Being vegan, I cook beans every day in a crockpot. I live in Rome, where the tap water is super-hard, but I also have another dwelling nearby, where the water have almost no calcium.
When in Rome, beans won’t cook even on 10 hours on high, unless:
1) I don’t presoak them with salt;
2) I don’t presoak them with salt and a pinch of baking soda;
3) I don’t soak and cook them with low mineral bottled water. In this case, no presoaking is needed (I just put all the ingredients in the crockpot and turn on low. In 5 – 6 hours beans are ready).
Be aware that adding salt AFTER having presoaked the beans using a hard and non salted water will only make them harder and indigestible.
The age of beans is not important. Even beans cooked ages after the expiration date comes well if the water used is low im calcium.
Also, soaking beans in a salted but hard water, can not be enough for some varieties. For example, lentils and light purple borlotti comes ok, but darker borlotti or pintos remains a little crunchier, and so chickpeas. So, for certain varieties of beans, baking soda is needed if using hard water, but this will affect the taste.
When I cook beans in my other house outside of Rome (or in Rome, but with bottled water), them always comes ok, without salt or baking soda. So, for me, this is the proof that success in cooking beans relies for 99% in the water used for soaking and cooking.
Unfortunately, I never found on the internet such detailed information on cooking water, so these observations are only fruit of my trial and errors.
Feel free to correct the grammar of my comment, since I am not a native English speaker.
I think you have something there about the water. My mother made way better beans than me. I use her basic recipe except for one thing. She used to take water from the rain barrel, boil it for a few minutes, cool till not really hot then used this water to soak her beans, in effect she used soft water for the soak. I never thought about till I read your post I am just skipping a step using tap water. Mom has been gone for 50 years, in my mind I hear “that’s what you get for being lazy” Thank-you for the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.
I also am looking forward to trying beans without pork, wanting to eat less meat. Brenda
#1 Your English is excellent!
#2 Thank you for sharing your trial and error experience. I’m new to using dry beans so I’ll take your observations into account as I cook beans going forward . I think we may have hard water where I live too.
I’ve made your recipe a few times. The first couple of times it came out great. The last two times, I honestly don’t know what I did differently, they are black (but not burnt) and after 16+ hours on low they are still not super soft.
I pre soaked them a while days en night even.
Maybe it was a user error. I love baked beans and tried this recipe. I cooked them for 4 hours and the ingredients were burnt and the beans were still as hard as they were in the packaging 🙁
Your beans were too old. That’s simply the nature of old beans to stay hard after cooking.
Buy fresh beans!
Hi can I used canned navy beans and not have to soak them?
We have been making these every Sunday since Christmas. I’m using a traditional beanpot in the oven instead of the slow cooker, but the recipe is truly spot on traditional new england baked bean flavor for those who don’t eat meat. We dialed back the salt and sugar just a tad for personal preference, but the flavor itself is really remarkably accurate for traditional baked beans. Thanks so much for publishing this.
Hi Nate! Thanks so much for your review. I need to try the oven method!
How long did you cook them in the oven? At what temperature?
we took a break on these throughout the summer, so that we weren’t using the oven when it’s 95 (not a lot of AC in NE), but since sweater weather started, we’re back making this recipe every other week at a minimum. We cook them at 285 F, and leave them in for a minimum of 8 hours. I check them after 4-5 hours to make sure that there is still a little bit of liquid covering the beans and stir up the pot, and then I make the same check at 6 and 7 hours. Generally if I’ve soaked them correctly 8 hours is alright, but if I can go for 9 or 10, I know they’ll be ready for dinner. I just taste them every twenty minutes or so starting at 8 hours. Happy to answer any more questions. I love this recipe and so does my family. It’s become one of our foundation recipes. I guesstimate the ratios now but it’s only because we make it so often.
I made these in the instant pot and they turned out great, I made them exactly as you direct, except instead of putting them in the crock pot I put them in the instant pot and cooked for 40 minutes on high pressure with natural release (about 20 min). Worked beautifully.
Yum! I had no issue with hard beans. Soaked for 12 hours overnight. I reduced the sugar and molasses slightly based on other comments. Would definitely recommend!
The problem with this recipe is in the amount of water/ broth for cooking.
It takes THREE cups of liquid to cook, NOT ONE.
I also added 2 T apple cider vinegar and it is Delish!
What is the actual amount of cooking liquid? A cup of broth isn’t anywhere near enough.
Start with 1 cup. Crock Pots need shockingly little liquid. But some Crock Pots need more than others, which is why I suggest checking to see if any additional liquid is needed while cooking.
Has anyone tried this with no salt? Looking for low or no salt options.
If your dry beans are old they will never cook till tender. I tried to cook old pinto beans in a pressure cooker and they never got tender. Just simply too old. I think about 12 – 18 months is about the extent you can expect from dry beans.
I’ve been looking for a slow cooker baked bean recipe. I read the comments about the beans not cooking. I’ve had the same problem as I’ve tested recipes and I am wondering if that has to do with the salt. I’ve been told to never cook beans with salt because they won’t soften. I am wondering if you perhaps only salted at the end, which is why yours turned out fine.
I’d suggest following the package instructions on dry bean bag…
How would you adjust the cooking time for a larger amount of beans? Like 3 times the original recipe?
Thanks so much for posting this recipe! it was delicious. I used a cheap brand of molasses, and there was a bit of a unfavorable after taste, do you think a different brand or kind of molasses would make a difference? Do you think I could replace the molasses with maple syrup instead?
Adam, I used Grandma’s Molasses Original and it tasted perfect! I would not use maple syrup instead because the molasses will enable you to cook the beans for what seems like forever, without the beans getting mushy.
I made these beans just as the recipe called for and they came out so good I was in shock! These beans are the most delicious beans I have ever made!!! I put them in the slow cooker and let them cook over night. This recipe blows away any “canned” baked beans which we have eaten a hundred times. No more!!!!!! I am making these beans again this month for a real Texas BBQ party and my friends will be so impressed!!!!!!! Oh and these beans pair perfectly with mustard potato salad! Thank you!
I’m so glad you loved them! Thank you so much for coming back and leaving this great comment. 🙂
I would like to make these for a party we’re having for 60 ppl. I’d like to omit the brown sugar, can I use maple syrup instead? Also, what do you think about chipotle pepper for smokey heat?
I think both of those substitutions sound amazing!
These are in my crockpot now. They are smelling so good! Can not wait to eat them tonight!!
I didn’t have a bay leaf thou. Is that going to mess it up? I really wanted this so i just left ot out. Do you think it will still turn out ok?
Should be just fine!
Absolutely delicious! My favorite go-to recipe for vegan baked beans. Almost know it by hard. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm
Thanks so much, Ginette! I’m so glad you like this one and I really appreciate the review.
Made this with newer crock. Never miss bacon anyway. Nope we really didn’t miss the bacon but overall good recipe for us. We used Hungarian and Serrano peppers, since no other available that day. Worked well…
Those peppers sound delicious! Thanks so much for sharing and for leaving a review!
You cannot use hard water for soaking or cooking beans. I have time in the winter for cooking beans and I always melt some snow. I would think every town water is soft, but country folk may be using well water that is hard, but do not use hard water!!!!
For those with problems with the beans not softening … it could be you have stale beans and no amount of soaking or cooking will solve. It could be that bag of beans was sitting on the shelf at the store or warehouse for months. Try a different brand or a different store next time.
Thank you! This was delicious and I could find everything I needed ( not always the case cooking from US recipes in Sydney, AU). I’m allergic to tomatoes and always on the lookout for hearty vegetarian meals my carnivore hubby will also enjoy – he LOVED these. This will be going into high rotation this winter.
These baked beans were delicious! I followed the recipe exactly except left out the green pepper (we didn’t have one on hand) and I used 1 cup of brown sugar since we didn’t have enough molasses. I pre-soaked the beans overnight and then cooked them for 9 hours in the crockpot on high, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. We would up adding an additional 3 1/2 cups water (adding it a cup at a time, like risotto, over the course of 9 hours. ) They turned out beautifully! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!
Not a good recipe. Followed it to a tee. 24 hours after starting the white beans are still crunchy. Edible but not what most people expect in a baked bean recipe. Soaked overnight. Slow cooked for over 10 hours in a crockpot which skews to the hotter side. I’d skip this one unless you’re looking for a “crunchy” baked bean recipe.
Be sure beans are fully cooked because once you add sugar the beans will not continue to soften.