Caramelized onions, blackstrap molasses and a touch of bourbon make these the best, knock-your-socks-off vegan baked beans on earth.
I know. Believe me, I know. I usually roll my eyes when I see a recipe title claiming to be the best ever anything. So as a rule, I usually don't do it. But today, you guys, these beans are so incredibly good. I'll make an exception.
Baked beans are baked beans. Growing up, my family usually took pity on me at barbecues and left out the bacon (or whatever meat usually goes in baked beans). I appreciate that, but the result was a whole lotta picnics with no options for me but baked beans. So up until now it's been a little challenging for me to get super enthused about them. But since barbecue season is right around the corner I thought I'd take to the kitchen and see what could happen with some whiskey and caramelized onions. These beans did the trick.
They're sweet, smokey, and packed with savory flavor. I was very excited about these baked beans.
Warning: they take a while. Even though I went with canned beans, between the onion caramelizing and bean baking, the time adds up. It's mostly hands off though, and it's so worth it.
Best Ever Vegan Baked Beans
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, sliced into thin strips
- ¼ cup bourbon whiskey
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. vegan Worchestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. prepared mustard
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. liquid smoke, optional
- ¼ to ½ cup maple syrup, see my note
- 2 (14 oz.) cans navy beans or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
Coat the bottom of a skillet (use a medium, oven-safe skillet if you've got one) with oil and place over medium-low heat. Add onion and toss a few times to coat. Allow to cook, flipping occasionally, until onion is very soft and caramelized, 30-40 minutes. Add garlic. Cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute more.
The whiskey goes in next, but before adding it, check to make sure the heat is still set at medium low. If there is any sizzling in the pan, lower the heat until it subsides. Alcohol vapors are flammable, and adding whiskey to a pan that's too hot could result in ignition. Keep a lid handy and use it to put out any flames. Now slowly begin adding the whiskey. Stir it in and raise the heat to medium to bring it to a simmer. Allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, paprika and liquid smoke together in a small bowl. Stir in ¼ cup maple syrup, taste test and add up to ¼ cup more. If you used a non oven-safe skillet to caramelize the onions, transfer them to an oven-safe dish (an 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish works). Otherwise, leave them in the oven-safe skillet. Add beans and maple syrup mixture. Stir a few times to mix everything up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and bake 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.
Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes. Serve.
I'll be totally honest here, I used ½ cup of maple syrup, and it was freaking delicious. I can see how that might be a bit much though, so if you object to overly sweet stuff (which I usually do myself), start with ¼ cup and add more as needed.