Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans

I had a craving for baked beans that hit me like a ton of bricks over Memorial Day Weekend.

And these are the best beans that have ever passed my lips.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

I was walking around my San Diego neighborhood, and the smells from neighborhood cookouts were wafting through the air, music was playing, people were laughing with beer bottles clanking, and the early summer evenings that stay light until 8pm reminded me of my childhood summers.

Because I grew up in Minnesota, summer was painfully short and each day was cherished. It meant as much time outdoors as possible and cookouts and grilling were an integral part. The nice thing about grilling was that it kept the mosquitoes the size of golf balls somewhat at bay.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

MY OTHER RECIPES

Baked beans were always served at picnics and barbeques, and since I was never a meat eater, I made meals out of baked beans, corn on the cob, watermelon, and white grocery store-bakery sheet cakes. I’d like to get back to that diet, actually.

It’s funny how certain smells set off my cascade of memories, and I had to make baked beans. I had never made them before, but necessity was the mother of recipe development.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

This is an easy and nearly work-free recipe. The only caveat is that it takes forever. Like 16 hours or so, but it’s just waiting around, no active work. They don’t call it a slow cooker for nothing. Set it and forget it.

I kept the recipe vegan, and free from garlic, onions, or added salt. Most baked bean recipes start out with bacon, pork fat, stinky spices, and enough sodium to make me retain water until Christmas. No thanks. You won’t miss one ounce of flavor or pig fat.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

If you have another method for making beans, use it. Bean recipes are like chocolate chip cookie recipes. Everyone has one, everyone thinks their family recipe is the best, and why another recipe isn’t as good or isn’t the traditional way. I happen to love everything about these beans and wouldn’t change a thing.

After soaking the beans (overnight or for an hour, details in the recipe), and simmering them for about 45 minutes, the mostly-cooked beans go into a marinade that uses everything but the kitchen sink. Mix and match based on what you have.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) Recipe at averiecooks.com

The key elements include maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, molasses, vinegar, and Guy Fieri Bourbon Brown Sugar Sweet & Sticky BBQ Sauce. Since I was already using brown sugar and bourbon, and because his BBQ sauce had roughly half the sodium as any others I checked,  it was an easy choice, and I loved it. Highly recommended.

Bourbon is the other key ingredient and you’ll need a cup. As I poured 1 cup of Jim Beam into my Crock-Pot, it felt so wrong. But so right.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) Recipe at averiecooks.com

The finished beans do not taste like alcohol and all traces of alcohol are removed. There’s no way any traces survive 16 hours of simmering, and no one will get tipsy from beans. The bourbon adds wonderful richness and depth of flavor, and I can’t imagine the beans without it. Although I’m wondering how beans with tequila or scotch would be. I may have to find out.

If you have reasons to skip the bourbon, you may replace it with water; however, your beans won’t taste like mine and I loved everything about them.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

The beans simmer in their black hot tub for 12 to 16 hours. I set my slow-cooker to low and let them cook for 12 hours. I didn’t bother stirring them the entire 12 hours.

When I checked them, the marinade had reduced and thickened, but was no where thick enough. Still pretty liquidy and soupy.

So I set my Crock-Pot to high, took the lid off, and let them simmer on the hottest setting for 4 hours. Between the increased heat and the evaporation from having the lid off, they thickened up considerably and were ready. If you’re having soupy issues, remove the lid and crank up the heat. Because slow-cookers and their cooking temperatures vary greatly, tinker with the settings as you see fit.

The beans are done when they’re tender, the sauce has thickened and the flavor is rich and robust, the smell in your house is driving you nuts, and you just can’t take it any longer.

Before Simmering for 16 Hours

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) Recipe at averiecooks.com

16 Hours Later

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) Recipe at averiecooks.com

The beans are slightly sweet, with a touch of heat and tanginess. They’re tender, but not mushy.

The already robust flavors of molasses, maple, and bourbon become concentrated and are intense yet smooth. Although the sauce thickens, it’s still plentiful. I’m a sauce lover and made sure they stayed juicy and saucy.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

They’ll make a bean lover out of even those who say they “don’t like beans”. They’ve even begun to convert my husband, a lifelong bean hater.

In the meantime, I’ve never been so excited about beans in my life. It’s the little things.

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, GF) - The best baked beans and the easiest! Set it & forget it!

Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans (vegan, gluten-free)

These are the best baked beans I’ve ever had and the recipe is nearly work-free. If you’ve never made beans or made beans in a slow cooker, it’s so easy. You do have to have some patience, but the best things come to those who wait. The flavors of bourbon, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, BBQ sauce and more intensify and concentrate over time, and the resulting beans have incredible depth of flavor. They’re sweet with a bit of heat, robust yet smooth, and extremely satisfying.

Ingredients:

1 pound dry Great Northern beans (or navy beans)
1 cup bourbon
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup barbeque sauce
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup water
heaping 1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard (I used yellow, if using stoneground or dijon, consider using slightly less)
1/4 cup molasses (use mild/light/medium, not dark/robust/blackstrap)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (omit if keeping vegan, or substitute with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce)

Directions:

  1. Rinse and sort dry beans in a colander over the sink.
  2. Add beans to a large pot and cover with 8 cups water and let soak overnight (about 8 hours). OR to save time….
  3. …Use the 1 hour rapid soak method. Bring beans and 8 cups water to a boil. Allow beans to boil rapidly for 3 minutes, uncovered. Shut the heat off, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour.
  4. In either the overnight soak method or the 1 hour rapid soak method, drain soaking water and rinse beans well under running water in a colander over the sink.
  5. Return beans to pot, cover with 6 cups water, and allow to simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes, or until quite tender; cooked about 80% of the way. They’ll be transferred to a slow cooker where they’ll cook for 12+ hours so you don’t want them or need them to be totally done, but they shouldn’t be overly hard either (taste a few beans, you’ll know when you bite into them)
  6. While beans are simmering, combine all remaining ingredients in the slow cooker, and whisk to combine until smooth.
  7. After beans are done simmering, drain them, add them to the slow cooker, and stir.
  8. Cover and cook on low heat for about 12 hours (start checking at about 8 hours), or until beans are tender, the sauce has thickened and reduced dramatically, the flavor is concentrated and robust, and the smell in your house is intoxicating. If after 12 hours your sauce is still liquidy or on the soupy side, remove the lid, increase the heat to the highest setting, and cook uncovered until thickened to desired level (this took 4 hours for me; 12 hours covered on low and 4 hours uncovered on high, for 16 hours total). Note – Because slow-cookers and temperatures vary greatly, you can tinker with the temperature settings as you see fit. You could possibly cook on medium for 10 to 12 hours, or cook on high for 8 to 10 hours, or do a combination of settings until your sauce has thickened and beans are tender.
  9. Serve immediately. Beans will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, and taste better on days 2 and 3 as the flavor marry even more. I would anticipate finished beans could be frozen for up to 6 months, however I have not tested it. Take care all ingredients used are suitable for your dietary needs if keeping vegan and gluten-free, reading labels and selecting specific brands that meet your needs.

Recipe from Averie Cooks. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.

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Have you ever made baked beans?

Fan of beans, in general?

These beans were right up my alley because I especially love the flavors of brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, the tanginess of vinegar, and the sweet-with-heat. The depth of bourbon flavor just pushes them over the edge.

172 comments on “Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans”

  1. Baked beans do scream backyard cookout! I love the combo of bourbon, maple syrup and barbeque sauce . . . I bet these had some amazing flavor and I can see why you liked them so much.

  2. I like that it’s nearly work free, hahaha. I have the same thing with smells and tastes, it make s me think about past. I like it, don’t you?

  3. I’ve never made baked beans, but I’ve made BBQ sauce. My hubby is a big bourbon fan and I LOVE slow cooker recipes! The sauce ingredients look awesome–I want to make extra to reduce on the stove for dipping and pouring on other things too. My bananas should be ready by this weekend….so baked beans and banana bread are on the menu!

    • You’ve made bbq sauce? Wow that’s awesome! I’ve made mustard, tons of salad dressings but have never made mayo or bbq sauce. If you can make that, you can make these! The bourbon and molasses is just INCREDIBLE in them how it reduces. Based on what you told me, I bet your hubs will especially love them and that you’re into slow cooker recipes…perfect!

      Beans and banana bread. Your house is 1 week later mirroring what mine was like over Mem Day weekend!

  4. Averie, your baked beans look irresistible! I love how you used bourbon and maple syrup in yours along with the BBQ sauce. I use BBQ sauce in mine, but not bourbon. Fab idea! I do a beer reduction and some other ‘secret’ things. (Will be sharing recipe on the blog before the 4th of July.) I am going to try your recipe this summer because I simply must try baked beans with bourbon! Thanks for sharing! xo

  5. I never get to make baked beans in my house… no one likes them but me. I think I might be dining alone tonight

  6. You had me at maple and bourbon!! What a perfect summer side!

  7. I looooooooooooove baked beans so this post made my morning! Baked beans have such great childhood memories with the family at holidays, but now it means even greater times with close friends. This makes me want to bring a big dish of baked beans to a going away picnic this weekend. MMMMM! Great recipe, thanks for sharing.

  8. I do love baked beans but I’ve never made them myself! Thus far, I’ve left that up to my mom and grandma :) BUT, with a recipe like this, I think I’d like to give them a try. The maple and bourbon are probably my two fav ingredients here!

  9. I wish my family liked beans! I love them, but the are babies and dont! I know, crazy. Really these look incredible and i love that you made them vegan and friendly for everyone! Yay!

  10. i love making homemade beans…i made a huge batch for my kiddos birthday party last year…as with everything in my opinion there is something about homemade. i am pinning yours to make for the next party…and those cookout smells do make me think of baked beans. love the post.

  11. Baked beans are the perfect side for a summer barbecue. Definitely need to give this a try!

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  12. You have me craving baked beans now too. My mom has a famous recipe everyone loves but they have bacon, beef, and come from canned beans. It’s awesome you did these from dried beans. I bet all of the flavors are incredible!

  13. I’ve never made baked beans. I used to hate them as a kid to be honest – the canned stuff. Once my aunt wouldn’t let me eat anything else for dinner b/c I wouldn’t touch the beans. Really?? But I do love beans and imagine this tastes completely different than the cheapo canned stuff. And you might be the only person I know who could actually photograph beans and make them look amazing!

    • Thank you for the photography compliments. When I knew I had to photograph these things, I was worried…I was like OMG WHAT am I going to do. Trying to make beans look sexy and gorgeous is not like a piece of chocolate cake with dripping ganache :)

      And you would lloooooveeee these beans. The depth of flavor is just insane and I know you guys do tailgating and are into football and these would be perfect!

  14. I’m definitely in the “don’t like beans” camp, but this might convert me!

  15. These look so yummy and I sure wish I had a slow cooker so I could set it and forget it. I cooked beans for the first time yesterday after pre-soaking and it was easy but slightly fussy in that I had to stay in the house to check on them. However, the taste was unbelievable compared to canned beans. Totally worth it. I’ll have to try them this way!

    • Slow-cooker. Mine was cheap and on-sale from Target. I bought it about 3 yrs ago in the fall before football/tailgating season. Seriously go to your local thrift store, there will be TONS of them, a slow cooker graveyard, for a few bucks. Or just go to Target or similar or Amazon. 19.99 and totally worth it! Cannot believe you made beans YESTERDAY! What are the odds!

  16. No bacon or fat?! You crazy girl you ;) My mom would love this! I think she’s the only one in my entire family that loves baked beans.

  17. My mouth is watering right now!!! I love it when crockpot recipes fill up your house with amazing smells. When I use mine it also smells up my apartment building, my boyfriend knows he is in for a treat when he opens the main door on night when I cook :)

  18. I LOVE baked beans at bbqs!! These look too delish!

  19. I’ve loved baked beans forever and realized a few weeks ago when I saw them on a menu that I haven’t eaten or made them in AGES. I need to fix that quick. These look so crazy good, and I actually have Guy Fieri’s BBQ sauce in my fridge right now. YUM!

  20. I know that craving all too well.
    My hubby hates baked beans, I love them.
    And what I love, and it’s exactly what you did was make them nice and thick!
    Good job here Av!

  21. Gosh, do I love these! I could totally relate to your description of walking through your neighborhood over Memorial Day and just smelling the lovely aroma of local grilling and BBQ; we weren’t planning to cookout, but our salivating changed the plan. Looks great, Averie! And I always love it when you bust out a savory dish! :)

    • I actually broke out 2 savory dishes in May after I think…one all year? Lol Glad you can appreciate these and yes, walking around and smelling eveyrone’s grilled food (and I don’t even eat meat!) made me want to make these!

  22. These sound fantastic!! I love everything in these! And now I am officially hungry for lunch : )

  23. oh my gosh YUM! nothing says summer like baked beans!

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