Boston Baked Beans: Recipes and Lore

Boston's Not Called Beantown for Nothing!

Boston Baked beans with broken bread
Trevor Wood / Getty Images

Ever wonder why Boston is called Beantown? Here's the answer to this burning question. Beans slow-baked in molasses have been a favorite Boston dish since colonial days, when the city was awash in molasses due to its rum-producing role in the "triangular trade." Sugar cane harvested by slaves in the West Indies was shipped to Boston to be made into rum to be sent to West Africa to buy more slaves to send to the West Indies. Even after slavery's end, Boston continued to be a big rum-producing city. The Great Molasses Flood of 1919, which killed 21 and injured 150, occurred when a 50-foot tank holding 2.5 million gallons of molasses for production of rum and industrial alcohol exploded. What a way to go.

On a much more pleasant note, Boston Baked Beans continue to be one of New England's most-loved traditional dishes, and there are a delightful assortment of recipes that you can make to bring the flavor of this New England favorite home.You can also order bean pots, Boston Baked Bean mixes and even already prepared Boston Baked Beans if you don't have time to wait for your beans to bake... or if you're suddenly afraid to handle molasses!

First... here's an easy, flavorful recipe from my New England kitchen for Crock Pot Boston Baked Beans: the perfect side dish for summer cookouts.

Crock Pot Boston Baked Beans

Maple syrup gives these beans a touch of sweetness and added New England flavor. Use a large crock pot, and you'll be able to serve six to eight with this recipe. Expect your guests to ask to take leftovers home!

2 pounds of navy beans
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
3 cloves garlic, diced into small pieces
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 pound salt pork


Soak beans in water overnight and drain. Cut salt pork into thin strips and brown in a frying pan, then cut into pieces.

Mix all ingredients in a large crock pot. Keep Boston Baked Beans cooking on a low heat setting for 10 to 12 hours. Be patient: The sauce will thicken at the 8 or 9 hour mark.

More Recipes for Boston Baked Beans

Bon Apetit's Boston Baked Beans - Try this gourmet, slow-cooked version of the classic.

Boston Baked Beans - Here's a simple, eight-ingredient recipe from Jacquie's Cooking Link.

Boston Baked Beans - The Pioneer Woman says you'll "feel like a Pilgrim" when you follow her instructions for making the New England dish intuitively.

Boston Bacon Baked Beans - Chef John gives Boston Baked Beans a twist: This recipe calls for bacon instead of traditional salt pork.

Boston Baked Beans and Brown Bread - Boston Brown Bread is the perfect accompaniment to Boston Baked Beans: Here are recipes passed down by a New England family for both.

Boston Baked Beans Mix in a Jar Recipe - Want to give someone the gift of Boston Baked Beans? This recipe allows you to prepare a baked bean "kit" in a jar with instructions for the lucky recipient.

Durgin-Park's Boston Baked Beans - From Boston's legendary Durgin-Park restaurant, which closed in 2019 after nearly 200 years in business, here's a beloved traditional recipe for the city's famous beans.

Franks & Boston Baked Beans - Add some chicken franks to the traditional bean dish.

Quick and Easy Boston Baked Beans - Don't have hours to slow-cook your beans? This recipe posted on The Recipe Link speeds things up.

Roger Williams's Boston Baked Beans - Here's a recipe with colonial origins for the classic Boston dish.

Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans - It's Not Easy Eating Green shares this recipe for a vegetarian variation on traditional Boston Baked Beans, prepared on the stove and slow-cooked in the oven.

Order Boston Baked Beans Online

Here are a few online shopping resources for having Boston Baked Beans gifts delivered to your doorstep.

Boston Bean Pot Gifts from The Pot Shop of Boston - These authentic bean pots from Boston can be ordered in a variety of sizes.

Maple Baked Beans from Dakin Farm - Well, they're not from Boston, but these Maple Baked Beans from Vermont's Dakin Farm come in a can, which makes it easy to savor a taste of New England without hovering over a bean pot all day.

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