Boston Baked Beans- The Recipe

Boston Baked Beans are one of those iconic dishes, especially if you live in New England. Many families would eat franks and beans every Saturday night, though canned baked beans were often used instead of homemade. Like many families, mine has a recipe for Boston Baked Beans. As far as I can tell, I’m the 6th generation to use this recipe. My mom learned how to make these from her grandmother, Clara, and has since passed this recipe along to me. Growing up, it was the one thing that my mom was responsible for bringing to every gathering that had food, especially the summer cookouts that started on Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day.

This is a post that I have been debating about for a while now. This recipe was always considered a “family secret” and was not to be shared. People would always ask for it, but I think it was only shared with one person outside of the family, who I believe ended up making her own changes to it. The interesting thing about this recipe is not what’s in it, but what isn’t. As I’ve said in an earlier post, people always try to guess what the secret ingredients are. The secret is that there aren’t any.

Right now is the best time for the sharing of recipes and culinary techniques. After years of “secret recipes”, a new generation of chefs are leading the way by putting it all out there, much of it for free on the internet. There’s been a shift from competition to collaboration. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made in recent years.

Having lost my mom, dad and grandmother all in the last 4 years has taken a mental toll on me. It’s something that I carry with me most days. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only person who has this recipe. If it’s something that people really like, why shouldn’t it be shared? It’s nice to think that some part of my family’s culinary legacy lives on. Since I don’t know the originator of the recipe, I’ve attributed it to my great grandmother Clara, who taught me so much about food, even at a young age. I’ll give the recipe as it was passed along to me, followed by by notes. If you make this and like the recipe, let me know. Please share freely.

Clara’s Boston Baked Beans

1 lb Dry Yellow Eye (Steuben) Beans

3/4 Cup + Granulated White Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 Med-Lg White/Yellow Onion, Chopped Fine

Lots of Salt Pork (1/3-1/2 #)

Water for Cooking

1. Day 1- Soak Beans in Water Overnight

2. Day 2- Boil Enough Water to Cover Beans Well. This Should Be a Little More Than 4 Cups

3. Put Beans in a Ceramic Bean Pot

4. Add Onion, Sugar & Salt.

5. Remove Tough Skin from Salt Pork and Cut into Medium Dice. Add to Beans.

6. Cover with Boiling Water.  Cover and Bake @275 Degrees for 6-8 Hours. No Stirring Necessary, But Add More Water if Needed While Cooking.

Notes: If you can’t find the Yellow Eye Steuben Beans, you can use Great Northern Beans, but it won’t be the same. They’re very expensive if you buy them special order, but are usually in stock at Hannaford’s Grocery Store.

3/4 cup of sugar is plenty.

I usually use close to 1/2# of Hormel salt pork. I’ve only seen it sold in 12 oz packages. Resist the urge to use the extra 4 oz.

Use 4 1/2 cups of water and you shouldn’t have to add any more.

I’ve never made this in anything but a traditional bean pot, but I know of people that make theirs in a Corningware dish. The 275 degrees is for a standard home oven. Adjust accordingly if using a commercial convection oven.


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Chris Spear

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6 thoughts on “Boston Baked Beans- The Recipe

  1. Your mom had shared her recipe with me during several of our “summer visits”. I never wrote it down~ I always thought I had time to get it at our next visit. I totally agree about sharing a favorite recipe.
    The only issue is where to find the bean pot, any ideas?
    Thanks for sharing Aunt Kay’s Baked Bean recipe~ Ev

  2. Hello. Thank you for posting this recipe. It appears to be just what I have been searching for. My mother Evelyn, born 08/11/1909, used to bring baked beans to every family picnic. I wrote down the recipe years ago but, lost it. I just popped her crock with your recipe into the oven. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Barbara

  3. They’re nearly a match for my mothers. Maybe a bit less sugar and less water. I cooked them for 6 hours and had to use Great Northern beans. Love them! Thank you again. Barbara PS: I covered the bean pot with its own cover. Evelyn Sica can probably find a bean pot on Ebay or Williams Sonoma.

  4. My Mom died suddenly about 40 years ago when I was pretty young. I have been trying to find her bean recipe and have hunted for a long time. I have made many batches trying different things over the years but have not really found something so good as her beans. I remember her boasted that her beans were made with white sugar and yellow eyed beans and were very simple. I remember the salt pork but not any onion. I ordered yellow eye beans and they arrived this week and I soaked and boiled them and was getting ready to put them in the oven and decided to look on the internet one more time and found your recipe. It is so very close to what I remember so I am going to try it. I loved those beans and it has been a long time since I had anything like what she made. Thank for the sharing of the recipe! Hope it works. I would love to pass a recipe on to my daughters. Our recipes are so important to keep alive!

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