What Goes with Baked Beans? Best 13 Simple Pairings for a Hearty Meal!

What Goes with Baked Beans? Best 13 Simple Pairings for a Hearty Meal!

Baked beans are a staple in many households, cherished for their rich flavor and hearty texture. They evoke a sense of comfort and nostalgia, often reminding me of family gatherings and backyard barbecues.

Baked beans are incredibly versatile, pairing well with a wide range of dishes, from the classic barbecue fare to more contemporary culinary creations.

I love that baked beans can stand as a main dish themselves or as a savory side complementing other flavors on the plate. When it comes to what goes with them, there’s a bounty of options.

Whether you’re aiming for something traditional like grilled hot dogs and potato salad, or looking to add a modern twist by incorporating them into a gourmet burger, baked beans can enhance the overall dining experience with their smoky, sometimes sweet, and always satisfying taste.

Key Takeaways

  • 🍔 BBQ Sandwiches: Pair freshly-grilled meat slathered in BBQ sauce with smoky baked beans for a heavenly combination.
  • 🌭 Hot Dogs: The all-American classic hot dog is a crowd-pleaser, especially when served with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, or caramelized onions alongside baked beans.
  • 🍔 Hamburgers: Homemade burgers, loaded with toppings, go perfectly with simple baked beans for a satisfying meal.
  • 🍖 Baked Ham: Embrace the sweet, meaty flavor of baked ham alongside baked beans for a sinfully good entree.
  • 🍖 BBQ Ribs: Tender BBQ ribs complement the smokiness of baked beans and offer a delightful texture contrast.
  • 🥗 Fresh Salad: A light and healthy option – pair baked beans with a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers with a creamy dressing.
  • 🥪 Grilled Cheese: The classic grilled cheese sandwich pairs perfectly with baked beans, offering a combination of creamy goodness and crunchy bread.
  • 🌽 Cornbread: Cornbread and baked beans, both Southern staples, make for an epic combination, whether you use cornbread to mop up the sauce or enjoy it with butter and honey.
  • 🥔 Loaded Potatoes: A baked potato loaded with butter, sour cream, and bacon, alongside baked beans, creates a satisfying and customizable meal.
  • 🥔 Potato Salad: A flavorful potato salad, whether country-style or Southern-style, complements the smoky and meaty flavors of baked beans.
  • 🥚 Deviled Eggs: Creamy and indulgent deviled eggs make a great appetizer when served alongside steaming baked beans.
  • 🍝 Macaroni Salad: Rich and scrumptious macaroni salad pairs well with baked beans and other cookout classics.
  • 🧀 Mac and Cheese: Creamy macaroni and cheese, topped with bread crumbs or other delicious toppings, is a delightful contrast to smoky baked beans.

Classic Pairings with Baked Beans

When I think of baked beans, the comforting, rich flavor immediately calls to mind a host of classic foods that complement it perfectly. This food always reminds me of cold weather here in Cambridge right when the winter comes. Here’s how I like to enjoy this versatile side in these cold days.

Meat Complements

  • Hot Dogs & Sausages: A barbeque isn’t complete without the smoky flavors of grilled hot dogs or sausages nestled next to a scoop of baked beans. They’re practically made for each other.
  • Pulled Pork: The tenderness of slow-cooked pulled pork with its tangy sauce offers a savory contrast that’s irresistible.
  • Hamburgers: A juicy hamburger paired with the sweetness of baked beans is a match that’s hard for me to resist.

Vegetarian Options

  • Toast: For a simple vegetarian option, baked beans over a crispy slice of toast is a comforting favorite.
  • Eggs: I often incorporate baked beans with eggs for a protein-rich start to my day; think baked beans alongside a sunny-side-up.
  • Gluten-Free: Those following a gluten-free diet might team baked beans with gluten-free bread or even over a bed of quinoa for a hearty meal.

Side Dishes

  • Potatoes: Whether it’s potato salad or crispy French fries, potatoes are always a welcome accompaniment to baked beans in my kitchen.
  • Cornbread: The sweetness of cornbread harmonizes delightfully with baked beans, especially when there’s a bit of butter melting on top.
  • Salads: To balance out the richness, I pair baked beans with a refreshing salad. Coleslaw or a simple green salad adds a lovely crunch and freshness to the plate.

Modern Twists to Serving Baked Beans

In my kitchen, I love to bring a creative twist to classic dishes. When it comes to baked beans, integrating flavors from around the globe or focusing on health-conscious choices can truly elevate this humble side dish.

International Fusion

I find that integrating global flavors into baked beans is an adventurous way to enjoy this classic comfort food. For instance:

  • Pulled Chicken: Incorporate a taste of the South by mixing in some barbecue pulled chicken. The smoky flavor complements the sweetness of the beans.
  • Bell Peppers and Spinach: Sautee bell peppers and spinach and add them to vegetarian baked beans for a vibrant, nutrient-packed dish.

Health-Conscious Choices

For those of us paying close attention to our diet, baked beans can be both nutritious and delicious. Here’s how I keep it healthy:

  • Mac and Cheese: Opt for a whole grain or gluten-free pasta when making a side of mac and cheese, to serve alongside fiber-rich baked beans.
  • Fresh Salad: Toss a fresh green salad with a vinaigrette to add a light, refreshing contrast to the hearty beans.

By introducing exciting flavors or simply making smarter ingredient choices, I enhance my baked beans while keeping things fresh and satisfying.

Essential Ingredients

When I prepare baked beans, I pay special attention to the mix of ingredients that bring out the best in the dish. From the type of beans to the blend of herbs and aromatics, each component plays a vital role in creating a balanced, flavorful side dish.

Beans Selection

For my baked beans, I always start with a sturdy base, typically navy beans or great northern beans. These varieties hold up well to long cooking and absorb all the savory and sweet flavors perfectly.

Vegetables and Aromatics

I then add onions and garlic for a fragrant kick, sometimes including bell peppers for a slight crunch. A touch of brown sugar or molasses balances out these savory elements with a hint of sweetness.

Meats and Proteins

Bacon and sometimes ham are my go-to’s for a deep, smoky taste. I ensure the bacon is crisp before adding it to impart that signature savory note that complements the beans and sweetness.

Sauces and Seasonings

My sauce of choice is a homemade tomato sauce enriched with Worcestershire sauce and a splash of vinegar to cut through the richness. Mustard, a pinch of salt, and sometimes a dash of hot sauce add complexity and depth to my baked beans.

Preparation and Cooking Techniques

When I prepare baked beans, I focus on achieving that perfect tender texture and deep smoky flavor. Here are some techniques I’ve found most effective.

Traditional Baking

I like to start with dried beans, which I soak overnight to ensure they cook evenly. Then, in a heavy-duty oven pot, I combine the beans with a rich sauce often including a sweetener like molasses or brown sugar, and various spices to enhance the smokiness.

Cooking them slow and low in the oven brings out a beautifully tender texture and allows the flavors to meld together. Traditional baking can take several hours but the result is a deeply flavored dish that’s well worth the wait.

Use of Modern Appliances

Modern appliances can make the process much easier. Using an Instant Pot, I can cook beans that are just as tender in a fraction of the time. The pressure cooker function significantly cuts down on cooking time and the sealed environment infuses the beans with flavor.

For a lighter version, I sometimes use an air fryer with canned beans to crisp them up, adding in my smoky sauce afterwards for a quick side dish. And I can’t forget the slow cooker, which allows me to add all the ingredients in the morning and come home to perfectly cooked baked beans, no fuss necessary.

These appliances are not only convenient but also help ensure I don’t end up with overcooked or uneven beans.

Recipes for Homemade Baked Beans

When I make my own baked beans, I start with a base of canned beans to save time. It’s such a convenient shortcut and still allows for that homemade taste we all love. I always make sure to drain and rinse the beans first to remove any excess sodium and to have a clean slate for my flavors.

Here’s a simple baked beans recipe I swear by:

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cans of navy beans
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup of molasses
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup ketchup
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (smoked or sweet)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 strips of bacon, cut into pieces (optional for added protein)
  • Method:
    • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
    • In a skillet over medium heat, I cook the bacon until it’s crispy. I like to add the onion and garlic into the bacon fat to cook until they’re translucent for extra flavor. If you’re going for a vegetarian option, skip the bacon and sauté with olive oil instead.
    • I mix the bacon, onion, and garlic with the canned beans and then stir in the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, mustard, and spices.
    • I pour everything into a baking dish and bake covered for 45 minutes. Then, I uncover it and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get a nice caramelization on top.

These beans are not just delicious; they’re also packed with fiber and can be a great source of protein, especially if you include the bacon.

For a great side, I sometimes make a gluten-free cornbread. It’s a perfect match for the sweetness of the beans and helps to sop up any delectable sauce left on my plate!

Accompaniments and Toppings

Choosing the right accompaniments and toppings for baked beans can transform a simple dish into a standout meal.

I always consider the flavor balance, texture, and how the additions will complement the beans. My inspiration came from all the different restaurants that serve baked beans just across the bridge in Boston while walking alongside the Charles River.

Complementary Sides

When I serve baked beans, I like to add a variety of sides to round out the dish. Here’s a brief guide to my go-to options:

  • Cheese: A sprinkle of shredded cheddar or a dollop of creamy cheese sauce can add a rich depth to the savory taste of baked beans.
  • BBQ Sauce: I find that a good BBQ sauce enhances the smoky flavor that baked beans naturally have. It can be mixed in or used as a topping.
  • Rice: Serving baked beans over a bed of rice creates a complete protein and is especially great for vegetarian meals.
  • Chili: For a hearty option, I mix chili into my beans. It’s a crowd-pleaser and offers a warm spicy kick.
  • Relish: A spoonful of relish on the side adds a tangy contrast and a bit of crunch to the meal.
  • Sauerkraut: I enjoy the unexpected tang and texture sauerkraut brings to the dish. It’s especially good with a German twist on the recipe.
  • Ketchup: Sometimes, I’ll drizzle a little ketchup on top for that added sweetness and tomato flavor which many people find irresistible.
  • Toppings: I love getting creative with toppings. Anything from crispy onions to fresh herbs can elevate the beans to the next level.

Creative Toppings

When I’m looking to jazz up a classic dish of baked beans, I opt for a range of toppings that add texture and flavor. Here’s a friendly guide to sprinkle a little extra magic on top:

  • Cheese: A sprinkle of shredded cheddar or a dusting of grated Parmesan can add a rich, creamy element.
  • Herbs: Chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or chives give a burst of freshness.
  • Onions: Crispy fried onions or a spoonful of caramelized onions bring a delightful sweetness and crunch.
  • Bacon: Bits of crisp bacon offer a smoky, savory edge that’s irresistibly good.
Topping Texture Flavor Note
Cheese Creamy Rich
Fresh Herbs Crisp Fresh
Onions Crunchy/Sweet Sweet/Savory
Bacon Crispy Smoky
  • Spicy Kick: I sometimes like to add chopped jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce for those who enjoy a spicy kick.
  • Croutons: For an added crunch, garlic croutons are my go-to.

Whether I’m serving baked beans at a barbecue or as a cozy side dish, these toppings never fail to elevate the meal. I make sure to keep the toppings complementary to the main ingredients so every bite is a harmonic blend of flavors.

Hosting with Baked Beans

When I host gatherings, baked beans are my go-to side dish because they’re a hearty favorite that pairs well with a variety of main dishes.

Potluck Favorites

In my experience, baked beans are the quintessential potluck favorite. They’re incredibly easy to make in large batches and even easier to transport. Here’s a list of dishes that I find complement baked beans perfectly and are always a hit:

  • BBQ Ribs: Rich and tender, they add a burst of flavor to the meal
  • Pulled Pork: Slow-cooked and juicy, it’s ideal for its savory taste that melts in your mouth
  • Grilled Chicken: Seasoned with smoked paprika, it adds a smoky depth to the sweet beans
  • Cornbread: Its slightly sweet flavor balances the savory notes of the beans

Feeding a Crowd

Baked beans are one of my secret weapons for feeding a large crowd. They’re budget-friendly and can be spruced up with little effort. To up the ante and keep my guests satisfied, I ensure the baked beans are not just a side afterthought but an integral part of the meal.

  • Entree Pairing: I often opt for grilled meats as the main entree to complement the creamy texture of the beans.
  • Flavor Enhancement: A pinch of smoked paprika can elevate the dish, giving it a smoky undertone that mingles well with the sweetness of the beans.
  • Texture Contrast: Serving something with a crunch, like a fresh salad, offers a textural diversity that guests appreciate.

By considering these pairings and the size of the crowd, I find that hosting with baked beans allows for a stress-free and delicious mealtime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some popular meats to pair with baked beans?

I love combining sweet and savory flavors, so pairing baked beans with smoky meats is a no-brainer. Juicy hamburgers or grilled hot dogs perfectly complement the sweetness of baked beans.

Can you suggest some vegetarian options to serve with baked beans?

Certainly! A medley of roasted root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes pairs delightfully with baked beans. For those seeking a simpler option, a fresh green salad can balance out the richness of the beans.

How can I make a healthy meal with baked beans?

To keep things healthy, I accompany baked beans with a side of steamed vegetables or a quinoa salad. Including a lean protein source like grilled chicken breast can round out a nutritious and satisfying meal.

What are some good dinner dishes that include baked beans?

Baked beans can be more than just a side dish! I sometimes include them in a hearty chili or use them to top a savory shepherd’s pie. They add depth and richness to any dinner dish.

Could you recommend some breakfast ideas featuring baked beans?

For breakfast, baked beans go great on toast, especially with a poached egg on top. They’re also a staple in a traditional English breakfast, accompanying sausages, bacon, and eggs.

What are some common breads that complement baked beans well?

Cornbread is a classic with baked beans. The slight sweetness and fluffy texture of cornbread make it a comforting choice. Crusty bread rolls can also soak up the sauce, adding a pleasant chew to your meal.


I’ve explored a variety of delicious pairings that enhance the sweet and savory taste of baked beans. From the hearty texture of slow-cooked Texas Pulled Pork to the freshness of a crisp salad, each pairing enriches the dining experience. Let’s not forget those BBQ sandwiches that are a go-to for many bean lovers.

Remember, the best pairings are the ones that you enjoy the most. Trust your palate and have fun mixing and matching dishes to create a memorable meal where baked beans shine as a beloved classic.

Whether it’s a family dinner or a large gathering, these combinations are sure to satisfy a range of taste preferences. Happy eating!

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