Texas-Style Baked Beans

Make this barbecue staple from scratch.

Texas-Style Baked Beans
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Loren Wood; Prop Styling: Christine Keely
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
Servings:
8

Baked beans are a staple side dish of any big barbecue—it doesn't feel proper without this quintessential, meaty side. And for campfire cookouts, what could be more iconic than a steaming pot of saucy beans hanging over the open flames?

But while it's easy to heat up a can of generic store-bought sweet and tangy baked beans, it's actually a lot less work than you'd think to whip up your own from nearly scratch. After all, if you want your barbecue to stand out, go big. Texas big. With Texas-Style Baked Beans.

What Are Texas-Style Baked Beans?

Texas-style baked beans aren't your typical store-bought, molasses-spiked white navy beans. Those are Boston baked beans. Nor are they maple-sweetened, a broader New England style, or saccharine with brown sugar and corn syrup. And the meatless ones in a thin, tomato-based sauce? That's British.

Rather, Texas beans are usually homemade, savory, smoky, hearty, a little bit (or a lotta bit, depending on the cook!) spicy and made with pinto beans. They incorporate salty pork and lace it with sweetness to take the edge off any heat.

And they're not like other more well-known styles of beans from that region. For example, the Texas beans in this recipe aren't to be confused with Ranch-style or cowboy/chuckwagon beans. The former is a distinct brand name and swims in a pool of chili gravy and doesn't usually include meat or sugars. The latter incorporates ground beef and a sweeter, thick base.

Ingredients for Texas-Style Baked Beans

Bacon
The deep, salty flavors of good bacon provide the backbone of the recipe, its drippings adding body to the vegetables sautéed in it and deepening overall richness of the dish. Try thick-cut types for robust pieces in the beans, and nitrate-free varieties, which use celery juice as a preservative, if you already eat a lot of cured meats.

Aromatics
Cooking onions, peppers, and garlic into the bacon fat helps to open up the flavors and fragrances of these seasoning veggies, and infuses the pork flavor into the chopped pieces. You'll want to use the red bell pepper for its natural sweetness, and fresh jalapeños give the dish heat. Just be careful with the seeds—that's where all the spice is.

Beer
The addition of a dark lager beer, such as the Modelo Negra recommended in this recipe, also add more depth, contributing earthiness as a contrast from the snappy peppers.

Pinto Beans
This particular type of bean is the signature of baked bean dishes from the state of Texas. Dry, they're speckled and cute, shaped like kidney beans but smaller. Canned—like what's called for in this recipe—they're light brown, easy to work with, creamy, and on the nutty side.

If you can't find canned pintos, feel free to use dry ones, but make sure to account for the extra time. You'll need to soak them for 6 to 12 hours, then cook them for 40 minutes to two and half hours before you can use them in this recipe. If you can't find pinto beans at all, you can use kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, or great northern beans if you must.

Barbecue Sauce
Using pre-made bottled or jarred barbecue sauce helps to significantly cut down on time, effort, and ingredient costs. The brand you choose sets the foundational flavor and balance of the dish, so go with your favorite!

Light Brown Sugar
Barbecue sauce tends to be sweet already, but this addition gives you the opportunity to enhance that aspect more. Light brown sugar takes on its color from the remaining molasses in it, giving it a warmer, again earthier flavor that lends itself well to beans.

Worcestershire Sauce
This fermented English condiment contributes a nice kick of umami and slight tartness to any dish. It's a common addition to chili-flavored dishes, but those with allergies should be aware that it does contain fish (anchovies, typically) and alliums.

Seasonings
Chili powder is one of the key ingredients that makes Texas-style baked beans so dramatically different from its northern counterparts. Two teaspoons of this spice blend across the five cans of beans is good for measured, smoky heat, but you can of course up the ante if you taste as you go. If you don't have chili powder or don't like a lot of spice, you can swap in sweeter, milder paprika with a little cumin. Add in cayenne if you don't want to give up the heat. For a little more smokiness, powdered chipotle pepper can be a fun way to turn it up. And you need salt because … well, we always need salt!

How to Make Texas-Style Baked Beans

As promised, making Texas-style baked beans is easy. For this recipe, all you need is your oven and stovetop; one very large skillet (preferably with higher rims to contain the beer and beans) or wide Dutch oven; a two-quart baking dish and a piece of aluminum foil big enough to cover it; and some paper towels to absorb excess drippings from the bacon.

After preheating the oven, you'll first cook the bacon to render the fat so that you can use those drippings for cooking the vegetables. Then in goes the beer, the beans, the barbecue sauce, and all of the other ingredients on the list. It only needs to get to a simmer before you transfer it to a baking dish to bake for a total of 35 to 40 minutes.

How to Serve Texas-Style Baked Beans

Texas-style baked beans are a great dish to par-cook. One option is to precook the bacon only and simply assemble the rest of the ingredients.

You can also follow the recipe up until the baking portion and have it ready in your casserole dish to toss in the oven the day of your barbecue. This way, it'll be served hot, bubbly, and fresh off a first cook.

You can also make the whole thing in advance and reheat it in the oven, fully covered with foil to protect the sugar in the Texas beans from scorching. However, microwaving a bean bake of this size is not recommended; it won't heat evenly and will inevitably spatter stickily.

Texas-style baked beans are most commonly served as a barbecue side dish, so pair it with the cuts of meat the Lone Star State is best known for: It goes exceedingly well with brisket, and its bacon elements make it a good accompaniment to pork dishes like ribs, sausage, and grilled chops. And of course, grilled chicken goes with anything, and burgers and hot dogs are best friends with saucy baked beans of any kind.

A big hunk of fresh cornbread turns this into a nice meat-free meal option if you omit the bacon crumbles and are not a strict vegetarian, as the drippings are still a meat product. Alternatively, you can just use oil to cook the vegetables—just be aware that you'll be sacrificing a significant characteristic flavor.

And if you have any left over, don't be afraid to riff off the British tradition of having baked beans on toast or with eggs. This recipe just gives it a Texas spin.

How to Store Texas-Style Baked Beans

Storing Texas-style baked beans is just like storing any other kind of baked beans. You'll want to wait for them to come to room temperature after baking, then put them in an airtight container (as opposed to a covered bowl) for further chilling in the refrigerator. They'll keep for 3 to 6 days like that.

You can reheat individual portions (not the whole baking dish!) in a microwave, loosely covered with a paper towel to absorb spatters, in short intervals to allow for stirring breaks and avoid explosions. You can also reheat them in a saucepan at low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning.

In both cases, adding a little water to the sauce wouldn't come amiss, as Texas-style and other kinds of baked beans have a tendency to dry out.

Can you freeze baked beans?

If you want to freeze them, do it right away. They store best the day they cook. To do so, wait for them to cool down, and scoop them into a freezer-safe bag or airtight, oven-safe container for a bigger batch you intend on using the oven to reheat. In either case, don't pack it tight. They need room to expand.

To reheat frozen Texas-style baked beans, defrost them first. The best method is to put the freezer bag in a bowl in the refrigerator to allow it to gradually warm up. If time is tight, you can use the microwave to defrost them, making sure to add that sprinkle of water to avoid dry-out.

For that larger casserole, after letting it defrost to avoid damage to your bakeware, preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 5 to 10 minutes.

FAQs

Can this recipe be doubled?

Yes, but you'll want to cook the recipe in two batches for the sake of your skillet! The original recipe already calls for five whole cans of pinto beans, so it's really just a matter of fit. You can, however, sauté the aromatics first, then divide them for the second batch to save a step. That way, you can pick up the recipe straight from when you'd add the beer and beans.

Can you use dried beans instead of canned?

Yes, but if you're short on time, you definitely want to go for the canned version. Dry pinto beans will require 6 to 12 hours of soaking, but no more than 24. The quality of the beans may also not be as consistent. Hard water can toughen the skins of them, and age can affect cook time by as much as an hour and a half, hence the 40 minutes to 2.5-hour range in cook time. To leave less to chance, it's best to use the canned ones.

Tips for Success

- If you don't like your beans too sweet, adjust the light brown sugar to taste or omit if the sauce you're starting with has enough.

- The recipe recommends Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbecue Sauce, but there are plenty of brands you can use if you're trying to cut back on high fructose corn syrup. Brands like Woodstock Foods and Annie's or recipes like Bone Suckin' Sauce Thicker Style might change the flavor a bit, but the general profile will still stand.

- While Modelo Negra—a Munich Dunkel- or Vienna-style lager—is suggested, you can also use any other type of dark Mexican beer, like Dos Equis Dark Lager or Bohemia.

- Prefer non-alcoholic beans? You can swap it for beef broth, mushroom stock, apple juice, apple cider, root beer, or cola measure for measure. You'll lose some depth and earthiness, but that's the unavoidable trade-off.

Editorial contributions by Su-Jit Lin.

Ingredients

  • 6 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1½ cups)

  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)

  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • ½ cup dark lager beer (such as Modelo Negra)

  • 5 (15-oz.) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed

  • ¾ cup barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbecue Sauce)

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings in skillet; reserve remaining drippings for another use. Increase heat to medium-high. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 6 minutes.

  2. Add beer, and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and salt. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high. Remove from heat, and transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

  3. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue to bake until bubbling around edges and hot, 15 to 20 minutes more. Top with cooked bacon crumbles.

Updated by
Su-Jit Lin
Su-Jit Lin

Su-Jit Lin has been working in the food industry since her childhood, having been raised in a commercial restaurant kitchen. Since then, she has written over 250 reference articles, taste tests, food reviews, essays, product reviews, lifestyle and culture stories, shopping guides, kitchen budgeting, kitchen tools and gadgets, and more. in addition to Allrecipes, her work can be found on The Spruce Eats, The Kitchn, Yummly, HuffPost, Eat This, Not That!, Simply Recipes, Well+Good, EatingWell, Thrillist, People, OpenTable, Al Jazeera, Longreads, AAA Magazine, and others. Her person, however, can be found traveling for food; working off the food at the gym or on some type of adventure; or writing about the intersection of all of the above and how it shapes our shared human experience.

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