As far as I’m concerned, baked beans are the perfect comfort food. And yes, I would include baked beans of any stripe in that statement. But I really only have eyes for beans and molasses. It’s what I was raised on, after all. And yes, I’m sure BBQ baked beans have garnered more fans than my old-fashioned beans ever could. But for my money, it’s all about tender beans stewed in sweet yet deep molasses laced with salty bits of pork. And no, it doesn’t matter what cut of pork. Ham hock, bacon, or yes even hot dogs. I don’t discriminate, no salty/sweet fiend would. Today’s Butternut Baked Beans feature everything I love about the classic with the added sweetness and texture of silky butternut squash.
The meals I enjoy most are the ones I tend to eat in my pajamas. Basically, I love any food that isn’t company food. Sure, I enjoy a fancy meal every now and then and a holiday table is not without its charms. But there is something about huddling over a messy and humble dish that I simply cannot deny. Beans, along with noodle soups, are probably my favorite version of this type of meal. They are best consumed smashed into a piece of toast either alone or with someone you know exceptionally well.
Now, I realize these Butternut Baked Beans aren’t going to win you over with their looks alone. These beans are pretty much a food stylist’s worst nightmare. But this negative is actually a positive. I style food for a living and I still thought these beans were worthy enough for the blog. I spent an inordinate amount of time styling a dish that will never be beautiful because I love this recipe so damn much. And part of the reason I love it so hard is the way it comes together.
You, of course, know that I do not make express meals. I mean, I have a few quick cooks but they are simply that way by nature. The Pasta Alle Vongole I posted earlier this week is a stunning example of that. But what I do post quite a bit of is lengthy, hands-off dishes. These Butternut Baked Beans are a prime example. These babies take about 30 minutes to assemble but 5 hours to cook. And what do you do in those 5 hours? Whatever the hell you want. You could do your laundry, paint your nails, write the next great American novel…if you’re in America, whatever your heart desires. The beans don’t need you. They know exactly what to do.
These Butternut Baked Beans kick off with a little aromatherapy also known as frying bacon. Once the bacon is crisp and draining elsewhere, add a diced onion to the pan and saute until just translucent. We are building the flavor base for our beans, so give those onions ample time to sweat it out. And once you’ve got those bacony onions where you want them, all your active work is essentially done.
Once the onions are well-acquainted with the bacon fat, it’s pretty much a dump-and-go sort of situation. Pile in the beans, squash, molasses, mustard, and half of the bacon. I like to reserve some of the bacon for garnishing purposes but I will admit, it’s risky. You could easily eat the remaining bacon bits at some point during the bean’s 5-hour cook time. So, consider your level of willpower and decide if you can handle residual bacon just lying around. If you can’t, just throw all of the bacon into the braiser and call it a day.
When the entire cast is in the pot, simply cover everything with recently boiled water or hot chicken, pork, or beef stock. Cover the beans and pop the pot into a low oven. And then, you’re free to go about your life. I do like to check in on the beans every hour or so. It gives me the opportunity to taste and adjust the seasonings as the beans are cooking, which I think results in a more well-rounded, better developed flavor.
These check-ins also afford me the opportunity to add a little bit more liquid if I find the pot is starting to run dry. The best part about this recipe is you can control the consistency of your finished beans based on how much liquid you decide to add. I like my beans thick, so I added no additional water. But if you’re looking for something a little saucier, you could always stir in an extra cup of water here and there as the beans cook.
Now, you might be wondering why I chose to add butternut squash to this classic. Well, beans and molasses in its more traditional state does call for a fair amount of sugar. Yes, most recipes ask you to add sugar to molasses. And while I am no health nut, I do like to limit my sugar intake somewhat. Luckily, butternut squash has a lovely natural sweetness and as the squash cooks over the course of 5 hours, it more or less melts into a gorgeous silky sauce. It’s makes for such a delightful texture and gives the finished dish the perfect amount of sweetness.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Butternut Baked Beans with Molasses and Bacon. Cozy, comforting, and stick-to-your-ribs, this is a dish that will see you through the winter. Plus, it makes your house smell amazing.
Butternut Baked Beans with Molasses and Bacon
- Large Braiser or Dutch Oven
- 2 cups dried white kidney beans
- 6 strips thick-cut bacon coarsely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, deseeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup fancy molasses
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- pomegranate arils for serving
- fresh parsley coarsely chopped, for serving
- Place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with cold water. Set the beans aside to soak for 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans and set them aside.2 cups dried white kidney beans
- When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300°F
- Place a large braiser or dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until the bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pot and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Set the bacon aside to drain. Add the onion to the pan along with a sprinkle of salt and saute until just translucent.6 strips thick-cut bacon, 1 large yellow onion
- Add the beans, squash, molasses, vinegar, mustard, and half of the bacon to the onions. Cover with boiling water. Add enough to fully immerse the ingredients. Give the mixture a stir and place the cover on the pot.1 small butternut squash, ½ cup fancy molasses, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- Transfer to the pot to the oven and let cook for 5 hours. Check in every hour or so to taste and season with salt if required. If the beans are starting to look dry, add a little more water.
- Once the 5 hours have passed, take the beans out of the oven. The squash should have melted into a silky sauce. Spoon the beans into bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon, pomegranate arils, and fresh parsely. Serve immediately.pomegranate arils, fresh parsley