Smoky-Sweet Baked Beans


A wholesome take on the potluck staple.

Southern Living Smoky-Sweet Baked Beans in a serving dish with grilled corn beside

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 40 mins

No Southern cookout is complete without baked beans, but if you're watching your sugar intake or just trying to eat healthier, this classic side dish can prove to be problematic.

That’s where this wholesome recipe comes in. By backing off a little bit on the salt and adding a surprising ingredient—grated sweet potato—we've managed to cut way back on the sugar and still deliver that summer potluck flavor you crave.


  • 3 slices center-cut bacon

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped sweet onion (from 1 medium onion)

  • 3 tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 1 cup grated peeled sweet potato (from 1 small sweet potato)

  • 1 (15-oz.) can no-salt-added tomato sauce

  • 4 tsp. Dijon mustard

  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika

  • 4 (15-oz.) cans no-salt-added navy beans, drained and rinsed

  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock

  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses

  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp. lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Place bacon in a large ovenproof saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook over medium, turning occasionally, until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; discard drippings in pan.

  2. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to pan. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons water at a time, as needed, if onion starts to stick to bottom of pan. Add sweet potato, and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring frequently, until sweet potato is softened, 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, mustard, paprika, and remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook over medium-high, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add beans, chicken stock, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and butter; stir until combined.

  3. Cover pan, and bake in preheated oven until beans are just starting to bubble around edges, about 35 minutes. Uncover, and bake until caramelized on top and around edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes; transfer to a serving dish, if desired. Crumble bacon, and sprinkle over beans. Store leftovers in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.

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