Barbecue and Molasses Flavoured Beans

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A foursquare meal favourite from the American South. Serve them with baked or barbecued ribs, a pork chop, with an egg and a rasher at breakfast or omit the bacon and eat with a baked potato for a vegetarian breakfast or lunch. Leftover beans can be reheated served on toast with sour cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. They taste even better the next day.


200g bacon lardons
1 medium onion (red or white), finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato purée
400g tin haricot or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons molasses, honey or maple syrup (see our tip here)
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or any mustard you have)
1 teaspoon cider or sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke (optional)


1. Fry the bacon lardons with the onion until the onion is soft and the bacon is crispy – the lardons will provide the oil. It takes about ten minutes over a low heat. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the beans and the rest of the ingredients, stir and add 100ml of water. Cook for 20-30 minutes over a medium heat. Stir during cooking especially near the end so the beans don’t catch in the pan. (If they do remove the beans to another clean pan and continue cooking.)

If you omit the bacon to make a vegetarian version of Southern Baked Beans, use a tablespoon of olive or rapeseed oil to fry the onion instead.

Molasses are more traditional than honey in Southern Baked Beans but it can be hard to find a good version. Don’t use blackstrap molasses, that’s the black sticky kind you find that looks like treacle. You need the lighter-coloured molasses. Use honey or maple syrup if you can’t find the correct one.

Oil the tablespoon before pouring the molasses or honey on to it, the syrup will slip off the spoon into the saucepan more easily.

A tablespoon holds 15ml, that’s 3 teaspoons. A dessertspoon is not a tablespoon! If you don’t have one just measure out 3 teaspoons for every tablespoon in a recipe.

Use any decent quality vinegar – it doesn’t have to be cider or sherry vinegar. Balsamic is good in this recipe too and adds a rich flavour and colour.

When you use tomato purée always fry it for a minute – it brings out the flavour and stops it tasting bitter. It is often used to add colour to a recipe so if that’s the case you can usually omit it if you don’t have it. You’ll usually know because the recipe will call for a small quantity of purée when it is being used to add colour, whereas in an Italian ragú where it may replace tomatoes, you may use a small tin.

This recipe has been triple-tested in the gréatfood test kitchen.

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