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Grandpa Clarence’s Smoky-Sweet Baked Beans are the BEST You’ll Ever Have!
This is a super special recipe because it comes from my Hawaiian Grandpa Clarence’s kitchen. He made the BEST baked beans – everyone who tries them agrees. My friends have been begging me to publish his recipe here on PWWB, so I’m excited to finally share it in Grandpa’s honor. 💗
This tried & true brown sugar baked beans recipe is made with both bacon & smoked sausage, which not only makes the beans extra satisfying, but also layers them with irresistibly rich & smoky flavor. Grandpa always used Portuguese sausage (a staple in local Hawaii cuisine), but you can also make these baked beans with sausage using any variety you love.
Everything simmers together in a homemade sauce made with a simple lineup of pantry staples that create the perfect balance in flavor: smoky molasses, sweet brown sugar, rich Worcestershire sauce, & tangy ketchup & mustard. The secret ingredient, though, is the littlest dash of red wine vinegar – its tanginess will have you reaching back in for seconds!
Despite being really complex in flavor, these one-pot bacon baked beans are SO easy to make. The oven does most of the work, though you can easily prep them in a slow cooker, too! They’re the perfect side dish for any summer cookout, especially when you serve them alongside BBQ classics like grilled ribs or Wisconsin beer brats. After all, no BBQ is complete without baked beans!
Baked Beans with Bacon Recipe Highlights
This tried & true recipe makes the best baked beans out there – you’re going to love them! They’re…
RICH & FLAVORFUL. Bacon & smoked sausage bulk up these brown sugar baked beans with meat, creating layers of rich & smoky-spiced flavor. But the secret ingredient is a splash of red wine vinegar, which cuts through the richness & makes all the flavors sing. Everyone will want seconds, guaranteed!
A ONE-POT OPERATION. Simply render bacon & brown sausage, then use their rich drippings to create a sweet & sticky sauce – one pot means you never lose a drop of flavor! And, if you don’t feel like turning on your oven on a hot summer day, this easy baked beans recipe is slow cooker-friendly too!
A BBQ STAPLE. Smoky brown sugar baked beans are a must-have for any backyard cookout. They pair perfectly with burgers, brats, ribs, & so much more. Keep party prep simple with the make-ahead instructions below!
Grandpa knows best! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Brown Sugar Baked Beans with Bacon & Sausage, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
Like many of my family’s recipes, these easy baked beans rely on simple pantry staples for no-fuss prep. Just gather the ingredients, toss them in a pan, & hearty baked beans with bacon are always within reach!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Navy beans – Navy beans are small white beans with beautifully creamy texture. Their mellow flavor is the perfect blank canvas for the boldness of the smoky meat & tangy-sweet sauce in this recipe. Feel free to use another white bean, like Great Northern or cannellini beans, & canned beans work great here!
- Bacon – It’s not bacon baked beans without it! By draping thick-cut bacon over the baked beans as they cook, the bacon renders down into the beans & infuses the entire pot with its deliciously rich & smoky flavor. Plus, the resulting crispy bits of bacon add the best texture to this otherwise tender recipe.
- Smoked sausage – Use whatever variety you love! For this baked beans recipe, Grandpa always used Hawaii-style Portuguese sausage, a richly spiced variety of sausage that’s readily available on the islands. Polska kielbasa & andouille sausage are also both great options that are a little easier to find here on the mainland.
- Pantry staple condiments – The homemade baked bean sauce is a simple mix of molasses, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, & brown sugar. Feel free to use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar, which has deeper caramelly notes. If you have some on hand, a dash of liquid smoke is also a delicious addition!
- Vinegar – The acidity of vinegar adds beautiful brightness to the brown sugar baked beans, which balances out their sweetness & brings the rich flavors to life. It’s a game-changer! We like using red wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar works great too.
How to Make Baked Beans with Bacon
Since they’re scratch-made & layered with so much rich flavor, I always assumed Grandpa’s baked beans with bacon would be a bit fussy to make. Turns out, that’s not the case at all! This recipe is a one-skillet operation that’s also easy to make ahead of time & slow cooker-friendly!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Cook the bacon & brown sausage. Using a heavy-bottomed pot, par-cook thick-cut bacon for a few minutes until golden & remove. If your sausage is not fully-cooked, quickly brown it in the rendered bacon grease next. Why? ⇢ Flavor, of course! Both the bacon & sausage leave behind delicious drippings that infuse the pot of brown sugar baked beans with complex richness.
Mix the brown sugar baked bean sauce. In a large bowl, whisk together chicken broth, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, & red wine vinegar to create a sticky-sweet sauce. Why vinegar? ⇢ Its acidity is a game-changer! The littlest splash of vinegar brightens up the rest of the rich, sweet flavors & makes everything pop. It’s probably our favorite part of these baked beans!
Assemble the baked beans with bacon & sausage. Soften the onion in the meat drippings, then add the navy beans & sausage to the pot. Stir in the brown sugar baked bean sauce, then drape the par-cooked bacon over top. Why? ⇢ The bacon continues to cook as everything bakes together. Draping it over top ensures that its rich flavor renders right down into the beans.
Bake! Cover the baked beans, then transfer them to the oven. Remove the lid after 30 minutes & continue to cook until the sauce is thickened & the bacon is crispy. You’ll know the baked beans are ready when everything is bubbling!
Alternate Cooking Methods
Make-Ahead Baked Beans with Bacon
A great option for busy summer cookout prep! Feel free to assemble the whole pot of bacon baked beans ahead of time & wait to cook them later. About 1 hour before you’d like to serve them, simply pop them in the oven & let them simmer. You may need to add 5-10 minutes to the cooking time – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!
Slow Cooker Baked Beans with Bacon
This hands-off cooking method is perfect for hot summer days when you can’t bear to turn on the oven! Render the bacon & brown the sausage on the stovetop then transfer to your slow cooker, assemble the brown sugar baked beans, & cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. If your slow cooker or Crockpot has a built-in browning feature, you can prep everything in the slow cooker start to finish! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
What Goes With Baked Beans?
The real question is what doesn’t?! 😆 Brown sugar baked beans are an American BBQ staple & their smoky sweetness pairs well with tons of different proteins. For an epic backyard cookout, serve your bacon baked beans with…
- Grilled Baby Back Ribs
- Classic Grilled BBQ Chicken
- Must-Have Pulled Pork
- Grilled Wisconsin Beer Brats
- Spiralized Grilled Hot Dogs
- Grilled Chicken Wings
- Burgers, of course! These Caramelized Onion Burgers, Blue Cheese Burgers, Bacon Cheddar Cheese Burgers are our favorites, & you can never go wrong with our Best-Ever Turkey Burgers & Best-Ever Chicken Burgers.
Leftover bacon baked beans with sausage last 4-5 days in the fridge & are perfect to enjoy any time of day, especially for breakfast! With the bacon & sausage, these leftover baked beans are like an English-meets-American breakfast. They’re fantastic hot or cold. Just add a thick slice of toast, a runny egg, & you’re fueled for the day. Grandpa loved eating leftovers this way!
Can you freeze baked beans? ⇢ Yes! This baked beans with bacon recipe makes a BIG pot of beans, so feel free to freeze some for later. Frozen brown sugar baked beans will keep up to 3 months. The trick is to omit the red wine vinegar – with prolonged contact, its acidity breaks down the texture of the beans. Simply bake the beans without vinegar, then cool & transfer to a freezer safe container. When you reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, simply add a splash of vinegar to bring everything back to life.
I can’t wait for you to try these Brown Sugar Baked Beans with Bacon & Sausage! Grandpa’s recipe is super special to my family, so it means a lot to share it with you too. Just one taste of their smoky-sweet flavor & we think you’ll understand right away why Grandpa’s are truly the best baked beans!
If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Summer Side Dishes
This tried & true recipe comes to us from my Hawaiian Grandpa Clarence’s kitchen. He made truly the best baked beans – everyone who tries them agrees! – so I’m excited to finally share this special recipe here on PWWB.
What sets Grandpa’s recipe apart from the rest is the fact that these baked beans are so substantial & layered with rich, perfectly balanced flavor.
They’re “beefed up” with smoked sausage & bacon, which render into the beans & infuse them with smoky, richness. For best results, use thick-cut bacon. As far as sausage goes, use your favorite smoky-spiced variety. I often use andouille here on the mainland, but if you’re in Hawaii, Portuguese sausage works beautifully too! The very best part, though, is the baked beans sauce. It’s spiked with the littlest bit of red wine vinegar, which adds brightness & cuts through the richness of the meat.
Prep a batch for your next backyard BBQ or summer gathering – I guarantee everyone will ask you for the recipe! ♡ Happy cooking!
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon
- 10–12 ounces smoked sausage of choice (e.g. Polska kielbasa, andouille, Hawaii-style Portuguese sausage, etc.), chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- two 15-ounce cans navy beans, drained
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, ensuring a rack is positioned in the center of the oven. Gather & prep all ingredients according to the Ingredients List, above.
- Render the bacon: To an oven-safe skillet with a lid such as a cast iron skillet or braiser, add the bacon. Par-cook over medium-high heat, 1-2 minutes per side, until golden & rendered slightly. (The bacon does not need to be crispy at this point – it will continue to cook in the oven with the baked beans). Remove from the skillet & carefully slice into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
- Optional: Brown the sausage: If using a variety of sausage that is not fully cooked (e.g. Hawaii-style Portuguese sausage), brown the sausage in the rendered bacon drippings. Place the chopped sausage in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is rendered & browned. Remove from the skillet & transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Soften the onions: Carefully remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon/sausage drippings from the skillet. Add the onions & season with a good pinch of kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened & fragrant.
- Assemble the baked beans with bacon & sausage: Meanwhile, as the onion softens, whisk together the chicken broth, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, & red wine vinegar. Once the onion is softened, add the navy beans & sausage to the skillet. Pour the brown sugar mixture over top, stirring gently to combine well. Arrange the par-cooked bacon over top.
- Bake the beans: Cover the skillet & transfer to the oven. Bake 30 minutes, until the beans are warmed through & bubbling around the edge of the skillet. Carefully remove the lid & bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened to your desired consistency. Remove from the oven & allow to cool slightly.
- Serve: Serve these brown sugar baked beans with bacon and sausage alongside any of your favorite summery main dishes, like Grilled Baby Back Ribs, Grilled BBQ Chicken, Pulled Pork, Beer Brats, or even Grilled Hot Dogs. Enjoy!
- Storage & Freezing:
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover baked beans with bacon will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
- Freezer Instructions: With a simple adjustment, this baked beans recipe freezes beautifully, too. If planning to freeze, omit the red wine vinegar to preserve the texture of the beans. Transfer the cooled baked beans with bacon to to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers! Freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen baked beans in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave & finish with a splash of red wine vinegar to bring all the flavors back to life.
- Alternate Cooking Methods:
- Make-Ahead Baked Beans with Bacon: This bacon baked beans recipe is very make ahead-friendly, which is great for party or cookout prep. Up to 3 days ahead of time, prepare the recipe according to Steps 1-5, above. Cool completely, then cover & store in the refrigerator. The day you’d like to serve your baked beans, remove them from the refrigerator as the oven preheats. Bake according to Step 6, above, noting that you may need to add 5-10 minutes to the initial bake to ensure the beans are warmed through.
- Slow Cooker Baked Beans with Bacon: This bacon baked beans recipe is also very slow cooker-friendly. Render the bacon & brown the sausage (if needed), according to Steps 3-4, then assemble the baked beans with the onions in your slow cooker according to Step 5 of Recipe Directions, above. Slow cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are as thick & syrupy as desired.
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.