Nana’s Baked Beans – tweaked

These beans are a staple from my childhood. My Nana used to make these every time we had a picnic, cookout or summer family gathering outdoors. They are delicious. Once you have them you will never go back to canned baked beans again when you realize how good and how easy it is to make these!

The great thing about this recipe is that it has evolved several times in my lifetime, from her original recipe to a healthier but still quick version, to my signature slow cooked version. Over the years I have also begun to tweak the recipe a bit, using flavors that I feel really complements her original recipe and of course using ingredients that are better for you. But I give you first HER original recipe, then an easy “cheaters” recipe that can be used in a pinch and finally, how I have modified it over time and prepare it regularly these days.

A signature ingredient to these beans are the canned mushrooms. I am not usually a fan of canned veggies, but for some reason they go great in this dish. Sometimes I have sauteed fresh ‘shrooms and used those instead, but I prefer the canned – must be nostalgia. If you use canned mushrooms be sure to go organic.  Also part of the nostalgia is using one tin of  canned baked beans. I used to use Heinz. My grandfather and his family, when they came over from Sicily, grew tomatoes for Heinz, so we were always loyal to that company for their tomato products! However it now contains high fructose corn syrup and other preservatives…so that is the end of my loyalty to Heinz! These days I usually use Amy’s. But most times I forego the canned beans all together.

Nana’s Original Recipe


1 small Heinz baked beans
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
some ketchup and a little water
pieces of bacon or ham
cut up green pepper
cut up celery
cut up onion
one can of mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

(All of these ingredients are to taste, you may use as much of the vegetables as you like! Nana, like her grand-daughter was an eye-baller when it came to cooking. So this is her original recipe as she wrote it down for us.)

Now for the Cheaters Version:

I add another can of beans, either pinto, navy or kidney work great. Butter beans are great too- pretty much any kind of bean you have in your pantry (although I have never tried black beans!). I also add equal parts BBQ sauce to the ketchup, and some smoked paprika and coriander and maple syrup or maple sugar in place of the brown sugar.



Mix all the ingredients together in a baking dish. Bake at 350 F for one hour. If you don’t want it as liquidy, bake for a little longer. That’s it! How easy is that?

The New Version


1 cup of each: dry red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans (soaked for 24 hours in enough water to cover the beans (you might have to add some more every few hours) and 2 TBS of apple cider vinegar – if you have “issues” with beans this method will likely cure you!)

3 cups of filtered water
3 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or maple sugar
3 strips of organic nitrate-free bacon, cut up into small pieces
cut up green pepper
cut up onion
two  cans of  organic mushrooms
2 tsp each: smoked paprika, coriander, cumin (sometimes I am more heavy handed).
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: Put it all in your crockpot. Cook on high for about 12 hours, and then they should be ready. Sometimes I cook them a full 24 hours, but lower the heat to “keep warm” for the rest of the time.
Then as Nana used to say:


Serves: varies