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.

MY OTHER RECIPES

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

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. Hi there, glad to come across this recipe, sounds great!
    But, just a heads-up, this is not vegan because worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it.
    (http://www.leaperrins.com/products/the-original-worcestershire-sauce/nutrition.aspx)

    I am still going to try it, just going to leave out the worcestershire sauce :)

  2. These look delicious, but simply not adding salt, bacon or “stinky spices” doesn’t make these “healthy”.. There is a TON OF SUGAR in this recipe! Between the maple syrup, brown sugar, BBQ sauce, and molasses, it looks like there is a cup of sugar in each serving!

  3. I feel like I can smell them cooking just by reading this! Can’t wait to try them, do you think leftovers would be ok to freeze?

  4. Delicious! I had to modify the recipe a bit (because I of course didn’t look at how MUCH bourbon or maple syrup I had sitting around before starting them) – so I made it with 1/2 cup bourbon, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 cup honey. I didn’t need to simmer them with the lid off for more than an hour, but they turned out quite yummy! Thanks for the recipe!

    • It’s such a flexible recipe and glad they came out great for you with the changes you made. I’ve made these many ways with a little dab extra of this, a little less of that, etc. and they always turn out fine :)

  5. I made this yesterday and my husband, son and I had a little side dish of this. So my son says, “I don’t really like it too much.” I look at him, still spooning mouthfuls, and ask him why. “Not sure, it’s a little sweet.” So I say, “You don’t need to eat it, honey, just leave it, you tried it and that’s all that matters.” I look up after finishing my bowl and he’s still shoveling it in! “I can’t stop eating this,” he says.”But I thought you didn’t like it?” “I don’t, not really, but I can’t stop eating it!!!!” So take from this what you will, but I suspect he’s going to be eating this for a snack and his dinner tonight as will my husband and I ;)

    • I love the story. It’s always people who ‘don’t like beans’ or don’t like xyz who end up loving said item when it’s made in a great way :) Glad you guys are all pleased!

  6. These are currently crocking I have probably two more hours to wait! it’s too tempting to want to sneak a taste- it smells insane!

  7. would I be able to use canned beans instead of dry? Thanks – it looks yummy and can’t wait to try it!

    • Maybe, not sure…but you’ll have to make lots of adjustments with timing since the beans are already cooked and you don’t want them to become overcooked to the point of mush. The amount of liquid called for in the recipe banks on the fact that the beans are in the slow cooker for at least 8 hours. With canned beans, if you did that, you’d have mush.

  8. Hey-O! I cook and manage a Pittsburgh bar and grill (the Brillobox) that specializes in both vegan and vegetarian food; I actually clicked on this link because last night I made up a recipe for maple bourbon baked beans to offer as a new side to our sandwiches and entrees and thought “No way! There’s already a recipe for that?! Of course there is.” And although I will be sticking with my recipe, I did feel the need to let you all know one of our kitchen’s big vegan secrets- they make vegan Worcestershire sauce already! I forgot the brand name, but it is very inexpensive and we purchase it in quantity, because we use it in most everything. When I work next I will post the name on here. “qualite”, perhaps. But fear not, it is out there and it can be found for less than the liquid aminos!

  9. Hi, this looks SO amazing.  My husband loves baked beans and i’m trying to find a delicious vegan one and I think i may have it here.  My only question is can you use canned beans instead of dried?  Seems like a lot less work!

    thanks!
    Colleen

    • Canned beans being that they’re already cooked and usually mushier than homemade beans could fall apart in the simmering process where the liquid is reducing and the flavors are marrying. Not sure, haven’t tried though, so can’t speak for sure. It’s really not a big deal at all to make them as written, I promise!

  10. This recipe is so easy and the beans are great.  So many recipes list pork, onions etc that the flavor is off.  
    The flavors all meld together for a delightful side dish.  Thanks for sharing!

  11. I recently became vegan. We have the Norwegian version of “4th of July” tomorrow and I have been desperate to find a recipe for baked beans that will take me back to my southern roots. my husbands family has never had REAL baked beans, just the UK version, which is essentially just white beans in tomato sauce and sugar. ehhhhh. the second I clicked on this recipe, it was love at first sight! being vegan, I am absolutely no stranger to preparing dried beans so its not intimidating at all. the only adjustments I made were the brands of ingredients, based on what was available here (I’m using a hickory brown sugar BBQ sauce instead…OH MAN!). also, no small bottles of bourbon available here, and I don’t drink it nor did I want to spend around $60 for a big bottle, so I substituted jack Daniels (figured whiskey would be the best sub!) Also had to use blackstrap molasses since thats the only type available, i just cut the amount in half. and I’m also using a dutch oven and my oven instead because I don’t have a slow cooker yet :( the liquid form the beans was DIVINE and I could have just tipped it into a cup and chugged hehe I’m positive these will be a hit, and I just may not share ;) thank you so much!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! Great substitutions and swaps; the recipe is very forgiving and flexible and glad everything you used came out great and that liquid is totally chug-able, I agree!

  12. I fell in love with this recipe the minute I layed eyes on it. I am preparing to cook it tomorrow along with baby back, herbed potatoe and corn on the cob. Willlet you know how it turns out.

  13. Made these beans yesterday as a trial run for a grad /party reunion we’re having next weekend. I’m going to try again today as i was disappointed with the results.  I had a bad feeling early on as the smell was not ‘intoxicating ” as described.  I couldn’t get past the vinegar smell which was overwhelming and the end product was super sweet. I guess as mentioned, its just personal preferences.  I think ill add in a few savory flavors to balance out the super sweet ingredients . And the vinegar has to go .

    • Do what you think is best, of course! All brands of vinegars, BBQ sauces, personal preference for sweetness, the dry beans themselves, the maple syrup (real or imitation), etc…all play a part. You’re the first person though that has tried them and written to say they were too vinegary and too sweet so I’m thinking something happened along the way and things took a turn. That, or our ingredients used were quite different, or we have really different palates. But yes, play around with things and hope they turn out great for you!

  14. Loooooove making this recipe over here in England – after a holiday to America I really enjoy finding interesting takes on US classics and can’t wait to get cooking more of your recipes to take me back there! Gorgeous! Xxx

  15. thinking about trying this without a crockpot as I just gave mine to goodwill. Any suggestions for stovetop and baking method?

  16. These look fantastic, but one question. Everything refers to maple syrup, but your pic looks like you used pancake syrup (artificially maple flavored). Which is it? Obviously pancake syrup is tons cheaper, so I wanted to verify before I tried cutting that corner!

  17. These look amazing! I’m planning on making these tomorrow,however I cannot find a good bourbon around me that I will drink when not placing in a recipe. Sooo…is there any substitute I can use in place of the bourbon or can I just leave it out or would it make a huge difference? I have a bottle of jack D’s Tennessee honey in the freezer whether that might work or not…haha

    • I would use your Jack D then if you can’t find a bourbon you like. I definitely recommend using something along that flavor family rather than omitting because yes, it would be a fairly big difference in flavor. Enjoy!

  18. I have made baked beans twice and both times and the beans were not soft even though I followed directions. The second time the beans did cook for a full 18 hours.  Any suggestion? We love the taste, the sauce and smell are wonderful.

    Thanks

    • Slow cookers vary SO much in how hot they get and yours maybe just isn’t getting as hot as mine – that could be one issue. But ruling that out, since you’ve tried twice, I would simply cook the beans on the stovetop until they’re nearly done even though I say 80% in the recipe. I think getting them almost close to done will help you, THEN add the bourbon and all the other ingredients before you begin the 12 hour slow cook that way you know those beans are going to be soft since they started out nearly done. Just watch them so they don’t become mushy near the end. LMK how it goes trying it that way. Glad you love the taste, sauce, and smell!

  19. These were great! Made them for a bbq. I don’t like beans but will eat small amounts of these. We did vacuum seal a bunch and put them in the freezer so hopefully they’ll taste as great when they’re thawed.

  20. These are the best looking beans I have seen on the internet! Definitely going to make these soon!

  21. I have 2 crock pots.  A very large rectangular 7 qt and a small oval 2-3 qt.  Which do you suggest for making the beans?
    I look forward to trying out this recipe.  

  22. Morning Averie Sunshine,

    I am new to cooking & cooking with a slow cooker. Can you please tell me what size of slow cooker your recipe is written for. Then I will scale it up or down. I have a 7 quart cooker.

    Thank You in Advance.

  23. WOW WOW! Made this for my guy’s birthday dinner and what a hit!! Personally I don’t like baked beans and now I know why: I never had these before! I couldn’t find the Guy Fieri BBQ sauce you suggested, found some Bullseye “sticky and sweet” and pretty damn tasty! Thank you for this recipe – this has been added to our Must Eats List!

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