Once you've tried these homemade healthy baked beans, you'll struggle to go back to canned baked beans. They have a delicious savoury note, and are much more satisfying than their shop-bought alternative. And whilst there are health benefits in canned baked beans, the extra veggies in this recipe makes them even better for you.
Health benefits of baked beans
Beans are incredibly good for you. They are packed with fibre which can help to maintain your blood sugar levels and increase healthy gut bacteria. Beans are also high in important nutrients including B vitamins and a number of key minerals including iron and magnesium. They are also a good source of plant protein. You can read more about the health benefits of beans here.
However, many canned baked beans are also high in sugar and salt - with a dessertspoon of sugar and 20% of your recommended salt intake per serving. These healthy baked beans are much lower in sugar and salt, with zero additives.
You'll need cooked white beans for this recipe. Traditional recipes would have been simmered for hours with the beans in the sauce, but here to save time, we're going to make a thick rich sauce on the stovetop and add the cooked beans at the end.
Baked beans are usually made with haricot beans (also known as navy beans), but you could replace them with cannellini beans or something similar if you prefer.
If you consume beans regularly, then it's definitely worth batch cooking a whole bag of dried beans and freezing them. Freeze beans in pots or bags in portions of about 250/300 grams to make them easy to use. Cooking your own beans means that you'll be eating less salt, and it is much cheaper. I usually cook beans in the slow cooker - of course they do take a few hours to cook, but they don't need any attention. Beans are thought to be easier to digest if you soak them before cooking, and they'll also cook more quickly. But it's not essential with white beans. If you do cook up a whole batch of beans, you might also like to try this vegetarian lasagne recipe which uses white beans.
You can certainly make this healthy baked beans recipe using a can of cooked white beans if you prefer. You'll still get lots of health benefits, with less sugar and other additives.
The tomato sauce
The sauce for this recipe is definitely a step up from the slightly gloopy sauce in a can of baked beans. It's rich and flavoursome, and can turn your beans into a delicious meal. It contains carrots and onion for sweetness, and some celery for a savoury note. But it still has the overwhelmingly rich taste of tomato. This recipe uses tomato puree rather than canned tomatoes as it adds more depth of flavour and less acidity. I also add a teaspoon of honey in this recipe to add slightly more sweetness, but feel free to omit it if you prefer. Garlic and Worcestershire sauce add seasoning, and you can add salt and pepper to taste.
You can also add herbs and spices to your homemade baked beans. Basil, thyme and bay leaves all work well. Or try spicy beans with some added turmeric, cumin and curry powder or smoked paprika.
How to make healthy baked beans
This homemade baked beans recipe is very easy.
You'll need to saute the vegetables for a few minutes first to get a good colour. This browning process will help to add further depth of flavour to the sauce.
Start by frying the onions in the olive oil over a medium high heat for 5 minutes.
Then add the carrot, celery and garlic and continue to fry for another 5 minutes. Some of the vegetables should start to turn brown, but don't let them get too dark as they could taste bitter.
Then add the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, honey and 300 ml of boiling water. Simmer very gently for 30 minutes. The vegetables will be soft and the flavours of the sauce will intensify as it reduces down.
Blend the mixture to a smooth texture with a hand blender. You'll probably need to add the remaining 50 ml of water depending on how much it has reduced down - adjust the thickness to suit by adding more or less water.
Add the cooked beans and stir to mix. Voila!
What to eat with baked beans?
These homemade baked beans are delicious served with baked sweet potatoes. For non-vegetarians, they also make a great healthy side dish to serve with sausages, cold meat or an omelette. And of course you can't go wrong with the classic combinations of beans on toast, beans and rice or egg and beans!
Healthy baked beans will reheat well, and can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. They also freeze well.
Frequently asked questions
Baked beans are usually made with haricot or navy beans. However, use whichever white bean you prefer. For this recipe, you'll need the beans to be cooked, so either use canned haricot beans, or precook them yourself.
Yes. Beans for canning are blanched and sealed in the can with water (or water and salt.) They are then cooked at high pressure. Canned beans can be eaten without any further cooking.
Beans are very nutritious, and contain both fibre and protein which will keep you feeling full. They are also very low in fat which means that they are relatively low in calories. So yes, assuming that you eat them as part of a healthy diet, baked beans can be good for weight loss.
Other vegetarian side dishes you might like
You might also like to read this post with lots of other ideas for easy, healthy lunches.
Healthy Baked Beans
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, or ½ large peeled and finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot thinly sliced
- ½ stick celery thinly sliced
- 1 small clove garlic peeled and very finely chopped or crushed
- 2 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 350 ml water
- 300 g cooked haricot beans or use a drained 400 g can
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium high heat, and add the onion. Fry for 5 mins until starting to turn golden. Add the garlic, carrot and celery, and fry for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, honey and 300 ml of water and simmer gently on a low heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Puree with an hand blender until completely smooth. Add the remaining 50 ml water if necessary to get the desired consistency. Add the cooked haricot beans.
- Note that some brands of Worcestershire sauce do contain gluten, so please check if necessary.
- For spicy baked beans, you could also add ground cumin, turmeric and curry powder. Or a little smoked paprika will give a hint of BBQ flavour.
Please note nutritional information is for guidance only