Canadian Recipes Side Dish Vegetarian

Baked Beans in Tomato and Molasses

This traditional recipe of navy beans slowly simmered in a tomato-molasses sauce makes a perfect side for holiday meals and is a hit with vegetarians too.

Baked beans have been a popular side dish at large family get-togethers for generations.  This traditional recipe has been passed down from my grandpa. It’s not overly complicated to make but you will need to plan several hours in advance. This recipe is also a hit with the vegetarians in the family since it is high in protein, fiber and not to mention pretty filling too.

Bean prep

For this recipe we use dry navy beans, also known as white pea beans. Since these beans are not washed before packaging they may have picked up contaminants during storage and handling. Therefore, it is important to sort through them to remove any grit or discoloured beans, then give them a good rinse.

The key to perfect beans is to soak them overnight. This will cause them to swell a little while realeasing some of their starch. The befefit here is a reduced cooking time and easier digestion. The next morning, you will boil them for about an hour and a half until they are tender.  


With some substitutions and additions you can easily change up this recipe to suit your taste. By adding salt pork you’ll have the popular American version known as Boston baked beans. For barbecue baked beans, replace the chili sauce and ketchup with your favourite barbecue sauce. French Canadian Fèves au lard can be sweetened with either molasses or maple syrup and includes either lardon or bacon. However, the tomato based condiments are not normally used when making the maple version.

Baked Bean Ingredients
Baked Bean Ingredients

In search of molasses

Through travel, I have discovered that outside of the US and Canada, molasses is not so easy to find. In the UK you’ll find black treacle, which is synonymous with molasses but it’s not the same grade as the fancy molasses sold in North America. There are a variety of molasses products sold around the world and you may find this Reddit article helpful: UK/European equivalent of fancy molasses?

A few years back, I was traveling between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara with a Canadian expat. She was on a mission to find molasses somewhere in Mexico since she could not find it in grocery stores there. We found a traditional sugar refinery in rural Jalisco and were offered a private tour of the facility. We witnessed the sugar making process, from squeezing the juice from the sugar cane to the natural brown sugar final product. To our surprise, no one working there had heard of molasses. After describing what we were looking for, they offered us some warm liquid from half way through the production line.

A traditional sugar refinery in Jalisco, Mexico.

When we settled into our hotel later that evening we discovered that the liquid sugar had solidified in the bottle. So it turned out that we still hadn’t found the molasses we were looking for. What we used back home in Canada was known as fancy grade molasses. After doing a little research, I learned that there are various grades of molasses.

Molasses grades and characteristics
  • ‘A’ Molasses – is made from the first boil and is also known as first syrup or cane syrup. This is the fancy grade and the sweetest.
  • ‘B’ Molasses – is made from the second boil and is also known as second molasses. It tastes slightly bitter.
  • ‘C’ Molasses – is made from the third boil and is also known as blackstrap molasses. It has a robust bitter flavour and is promoted for its nutritional benefits.
Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Kevin Lamoureux
This traditional recipe can be baked or slowly simmered in a slow cooker.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs 30 mins
Soaking Time 8 hrs
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Canadian
Servings 8
Calories 91 kcal


  • 1 lb 16 oz. navy beans (white pea beans)
  • 2 quarts water
  • ¾ cup molasses fancy grade
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup chili sauce or barbecue sauce
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion 1 medium


  • Sort and rinse beans.
  • Pour beans and water into a large saucepan, cover and soak for about 8 hours.
  • After soaking, adjust water level to cover beans if required.
  • Bring beans to a boil then reduce and simmer for 1½ hours.
  • Stir occasionally, remove foam and add water if required to ensure beans are covered in water.
  • After beans are tender, drain them.
  • Add beans and all other ingredients to a slow cooker, oven roast pan or bean pot.
  • Add one cup of warm water to the measuring cup used for the molasses and ketchup. Stir to release the residual ingredients and add it to the bean pot.
  • SLOW COOKER METHOD: Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
  • OVEN METHOD: Cover and cook for 4-5 hours in an oven at 250°F.
  • Two hours before cooking is complete, remove 1 cup of the beans and mash them.
  • Stir mashed beans into the cooking pot and add a little water if bean mixture becomes dry.


If you prefer your baked beans a little less sweet, you can omit the brown sugar. If you prefer them sticky and mushy increase the baking time by an hour or two (slow cooker low setting).
Keyword baked beans, molasses, navy beans

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