Baked beans are one of the best side dishes to accompany your BBQ spread.
They pair well with smoked meats, but one of the best things about baked beans with BBQ is how well they take on smoke.
In this recipe, I’ll walk you through how to make smoked baked beans, and how you can customize them to be as sweet, savory, or spicy as you like.
Smoked baked beans
Beans are a blank slate when it comes to flavor, and adding a layer of smoke only makes them better. If the smoker is already rolling with pork butt or brisket, why not let the beans cook low and slow as well?
These smoked baked beans get a subtle added layer of flavor that contrasts with the sweetness of the dish, but not enough to overpower or add an ashy taste.
Can you bake these beans in the oven? Sure, but you’ll miss out on the smokiness that takes the dish to another level. If you are stuck with just the oven, a little dash of liquid smoke wouldn’t go amiss.
Whether you have a pellet grill or a wood burner, these easy baked beans may steal the show at your next BBQ.
What are the best beans for baked beans?
Navy beans are commonly used in baked bean recipes, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with tradition.
Other beans that are good to use are great northern, kidney, butter, pinto or borlotti beans. You can even play with a combination of them for varied textures and flavors.
Keep in mind, different beans have different cooking times. A firm bean like kidney will hold up better over low and slow heat than those like pinto or butter beans which have a creamier texture.
Canned vs dried beans
You can use either canned or dried beans for this recipe. Canned beans are the quickest and most convenient.
If you have the time to soak your beans overnight and then cook them the next day it’s well worth the effort as the texture of dried beans is superior to canned and you can also control the amount of sodium that goes into them.
For this recipe I used two 16oz cans of navy beans.
How to make smoked baked beans
I’m going to share my baked beans recipe, and then give you options to personalize by ramping up the spice, sweetness, going vegeterian or doubling down on the meat!
I recommend using a cast iron pan like this Lodge cast iron 12″ skillet to cook your bacon and caramelize the onions, then throw in the rest of the ingredients and place the pan right on the smoker.
You can use a dutch oven or start in a cast iron skillet and transfer to a foil pan, but cast iron is both convenient and retains even heat throughout the cooking process.
1. Prep your ingredients while your smoker heats up
Start by getting your smoker ready to cook at 250°F. You don’t have to be super accurate, but if you cook much hotter you may need to add a little extra water to stop the beans from drying out.
Any type of smoke wood will work fine for beans.
While your smoker is coming up to temp, dice your onions and bacon and wash your beans.
2. Brown the bacon, onions & garlic
Get your cast iron skillet nice and hot and add the chopped bacon. Let the fat start to render out and stir occasionally.
Once the edges start to crisp up, add half a diced onion and two minced cloves of garlic to the pan. Stir to incorporate and evenly distribute the bacon fat.
Continue cooking until the bacon is crisp and the onions are tender and starting to caramelize.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients
Remove the skillet from the heat and add the beans, molasses, brown sugar, black pepper, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and water.
Stir all the ingredients together until they are well combined. The beans are now ready to transfer to the smoker.
If you are serving the beans with a main dish you can always let the bean mixture sit until you are ready to finish on the smoker.
4. Smoking the beans
Place the skillet with the bean mixture directly onto your smoker grates. Let the beans smoke until bubbly and syrupy, around 90 minutes.
If you like your beans with a thinner, runnier sauce, you can top with a little water at the 30 minute mark and stir. Keep an eye on the beans after an hour as the mixture can thicken up quickly.
Pull the beans off the smoker and let cool them for ten minutes or so. You now have a steaming hot pan of sweet, smokey baked beans ready to serve up with your main.
Ways to customize your baked beans
Now that we have the basic foundation for your easy smoked baked beans, let’s explore some fun additions to the recipe you can try out.
1. Place beans under the meat to catch drippings
If you already have meat cooking on the smoker, catching some of the drippings to add to the baked beans is a great option. It infuses a deep meaty flavor into the beans and supports the smokiness going into the dish.
You can either catch the fat in a separate container and stir into the beans, or place the skillet directly under any meat that’s already rendering fat.
Be sure not to add too much though as the smoked beans will then have a layer of fat sitting on the top. Roughly two tablespoons of drippings should do you right.
2. Sub the bacon for a vegeterian side
It’s not always about the meat here at Smoked BBQ Source, so here’s an option to make these smoked beans vegetarian friendly. Sub out the bacon and cook the onion and garlic in coconut or avocado oil. Add in some chopped green and red bell peppers and continue the recipe as normal.
The peppers maintain some of their crunch and add a mild flavor to the final product keeping this a filling vegetarian option.
3. Bulk the beans up with chopped brisket or pulled pork
Ok, back to the meat now. Smoked beans are a great vehicle for BBQ meats. Try adding in ⅔ cup of smoked protein and taste how great it makes the beans.
Rough chopped brisket, hand pulled pork or diced chicken work great in this recipe. The bean base acts as a sweet BBQ sauce for the meat and the meats carry their smoke flavor into the beans.
If you’re on Team Bacon, you can always add more: line the bottom of the skillet with three slices of thick bacon and top the beans with 4 slices more, one for every serve. Increase the temperature to 400°F for 10-15 minutes at the end of the cook to crisp up the bacon on top.
4. Experiment with different bean combinations
Switch up the texture of your dish by adding different types of beans as discussed earlier; pinto, kidney, great northern, borlotti, or butter beans. Just make sure your combinations have a similar cook time.
5. Ramp up the heat
For the masochists out there, try mixing in some raw hot peppers of choice. Add ⅓ cup of diced raw jalapenos or ¼ cup of habaneros. If that’s not hot enough for you, throw in a teaspoon of red pepper flakes – try Korean gochugaru.
You can use any hot pepper of choice just keep in mind your audience. If you have a high tolerance for spicy foods, then have it all.
6. Add a sweet touch
This one is great for those who love sweet and savory combinations. Sprinkle 1 tsp of brown sugar across the top of the smoked beans close to the end of the cooking time. Turn your temperature up to 400°F and keep a close eye on the sugar topping so it doesn’t burn.
You can even Brulee the sugar with a torch for a crunchy sweet topping.
More bbq side dish ideas
- Easy Smoked Mac And Cheese
- BBQ Corn Ribs
- Garlic and Rosemary Smoked Potatoes
- The Best Pasta Salad For BBQ
Smoked Baked Beans Recipe
Smoked Baked Beans
- 2 16oz can navy beans drained and rinsed (or 32oz dried beans, soaked overnight then drained and simmered till tender around 40 mins)
- 3 strips bacon diced
- ½ medium sweet onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tsp mustard prepared
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup molasses
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- Set up the smoker to 250F°.
- Preheat the skillet to medium heat on your stovetop.
- Add the bacon to the skillet and cook until it starts to brown.
- Add onion and garlic to the bacon and stir to coat in the rendered fat.
- Cook until the onions have softened then remove from the heat.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and stir to combine.
- Place the skillet on the smoker and cook for 2 hours. If the beans are starting to dry out add a little more water.
- Remove from the heat and serve while warm.