Smoked beans

Finally it’s warm enough to use the smoker and the grill. We make these beans often when we smoke something like chicken thighs, pork shoulder, ribs, or brisket. We first ate beans made this way at Perry Foster’s BBQ spot in Georgia, sadly now shuttered. The building looked unassuming inside and out, but the painted slogan on the front window made me smile – “Catering coast to coast.” On the walls were pictures signed by celebrities like Hank Williams, Jr. and others who had hired Foster to cater big events. The ribs and sausage were excellent, as expected, but beans weren’t on our radar. The owner himself told us we should get some of those so we did. I went home and immediately set about trying to replicate those magic beans. Setting the pan under the meat so all the fat drips down into the beans is the secret to making them lip-smackers, but they can also be baked in the oven and served alongside grilled meat of any kind. I haven’t tried cooking them on a grill but am guessing that would be tasty too.

Soak one pound of dried beans overnight in enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. In the morning drain them and cook according to package directions, or use an instant pot. When using the instant pot, I use up to 6 cups of vegetable stock with 1 pound of soaked, drained beans. Put all the drained beans in the pot, add enough water or stock to cover them by about 2 inches, and cook under pressure for 15 minutes. Let steam release naturally, drain (save the cooking liquid to add to soup!) and add the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before cooking to intensify the flavor.  You can bake them in the oven or place the pan under whatever meat is cooking in your smoker and let them smoke for 2-3 hours.

There are many kinds of dried beans that will work. Check out for their huge selection and recommendations, but most groceries carry navy, pinto, and mayocoba beans. I prefer mayocoba beans. The kind and age of the beans will determine the amount of time needed to cook them as soft as you’d like. Don’t worry if they still have a little bite. Cooking them in the sauce will soften them more.

Make the sauces anytime, but try to mix them up at least a day before making the beans to allow time for all the flavors to blend. They will keep in the refrigerator for months and there will be more than enough for the beans. Blended together and spiked with a little maple syrup they are perfect for this recipe. To bake these in an oven instead of a smoker, use a teaspoon of liquid smoke to fake it. Leftovers are even better in a day or two.

– Joan, 24 April 2020


Smoked or baked beans

Tomato based BBQ sauce

  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon Colman’s dry English mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Whisk all together and store in refrigerator. Makes about 5 cups.

Mustard based BBQ sauce

  • 1/2-3/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mild hot sauce, such as Frank’s Buffalo Sauce

Start with 1/2 cup mustard and whisk all ingredients together. A handheld blender is helpful to get the mustard completely mixed in. Taste and add more mustard as desired. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 2-2½ cups.


  • 1 pound dried navy, pinto, or mayocoba beans, soaked overnight, drained and cooked till soft
  • 8 pieces bacon, cooked till crisp and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped and sautéed (about 1 cup)
  • 1½ cups tomato based BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 cup mustard based BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke, optional if baking in oven

If using an instant pot, place all of the soaked beans in the pot and add enough water or stock to cover them by 2 inches (about 6 cups). Cover and cook under pressure for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then drain. You should have about 6 cups of beans.

bacon&onionsWhile beans are cooking, fry bacon until crispy. Use 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon fat to sauté onions until translucent.

Mix together the cooked beans, chopped bacon, sautéed onions, BBQ sauces, and maple syrup. Pour all into a pan about 9″x13″ with 2″ tall sides and refrigerate overnight or for several hours to allow flavors to blend.

Cook in smoker on a rack under meat, 2-3 hours at 225°F. If using an oven instead, bake at 350°F for 1 hour.


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