Very tasty bean dish: Gina Mae's Baked Beans


I'll hold my hand up to any higher being listening and swear I HATED baked beans up until I hit 65. That's years, not speed limit.

During my childhood Campbell's baked beans were served during Poor Week. (Dad got paid every two weeks and Week 1 menu was always better than Week 2. Don't even get me started on the final meal BEFORE payday: pasta fagioli (burnt onions, tomato paste, macaroni shells and kidney beans...ugh, I just had a gag reflex.)

Anyway my mom managed to burn the onions she'd (attempt to) saute to supplement the canned bean. Somehow--I don't know how--but she managed to burn them every time. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Statistically, that is an amazing feat. And then she would STILL add the can of beans with its single square of greasy, queasy fatty bacon to those charred burnt, black bites of onion. I guess that blob of bacon was how they legally justified the pork in "pork and beans."

So, can see why they never worked for me after that.

Anyway, I finally had good baked beans at our local (state-wide winner) BBQ spot. Then I had good baked beans at Twelve Bones, an Asheville BBQ spot that former President Obama stopped at TWICE.

I've seen the error of my ways.

And to that end, I've made this dish three times already. I got used to having beans with breakfast when I spent a month in England and have been enjoying it for breakfast with egg, toast and avocado.

The recipe is for a dinner side and serves 8. I reduce the quantities and make it with either one 16-ounce can or one 22 ounce.
Also, I made it the first time as specified with ground beef and wasn't crazy about that. The last two times I've used Johnson's standard breakfast sausage links, cut into small discs. Also, I don't bother with the bake-off so I can't attest to that final aspect.

Note: These are SWEET. But also bitey from the vinegar and pepper.

3 slices bacon
1 lb 85% ground beef
3/4 C finely chopped Vidalia onion (* I used a regular onion)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 C barbeque sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray's original) (*this is what I used)
1/4 C light brown sugar
2 TBL apple cider vinegar
1 TBL smoked paprika (* I used regular)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 (22 oz) cans baked beans (such as Bush's bourbon and brown sugar)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bacon slices in a single layer in a 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium-low, flipping occasionally, until browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; reserve drippings in skillet.

  2. Increase heat under skillet to medium, and add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is crumbly and just browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Push beef to one side of skillet; tilt skillet to let drippings drain to empty side. Using paper towels, carefully soak up drippings; discard.

  3. Return skillet to heat over medium, and add onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add barbecue sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, paprika, and cinnamon; stir until well combined. Stir in baked beans, and bring mixture to a simmer over medium, stirring often. Pour mixture into a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.

  4. Bake beans, uncovered, in preheated oven until bubbling in center, about 50 minutes. Crumble bacon evenly over top, and bake 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead​

Beans can be made up to 3 days in advance, covered, and stored in refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before reheating.
Originally appeared: Food & Wine, June 2021
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My mother's baked beans were always SO good. And it was from her that I learned that canned beans are not really "done" coming from the can--they need more cooking--as the recipe above does, I sometimes make BBQ baked beans--BBQ meaning adding pulled pork to the beans and using some BBQ sauce in Mom's recipe.
Her recipe requires no added operations. Beans, yellow mustard, a good amount of chopped onion, ketchup, a good amount of brown sugar. Mix all in a baking dish and bake at 300* for an hour and a half. We were never bacon on the top people either.
This does so remind me of going home for lunch to find that my mom had done baked beans (everything from scratch, including the dry beans, as scratch was all we had in the old bottles of this and that) and Boston brown bread. Maybe she thought the two should go together; they did. I should have taken the old bean pot when the house closed up.