Baked Beans, Lightened Up

Always represented at picnics and barbecues, canned baked beans can be a deceivingly high-calorie side dish. Try making your own more flavorful (and lightened up) version.

Baked Beans with Ham in a clear glass baking dish

Photo by: Stephen Murello

Stephen Murello

While they're certainly convenient for summer cookouts and parties, canned baked beans can be a deceivingly high-calorie side dish.  Make your own flavorful, lightened up version with our recipes and tips.

Nutrition Facts

Canned baked beans are often made with a laundry list of preservatives and processed sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup and molasses are the four different sweeteners added to one of the most popular brands. One half cup of a typical canned brand has 160 calories and more than 15 percent of the daily recommendation for sodium. A small amount of pork fat is also often added, which makes them a no-no for vegetarians. Some homemade baked bean recipes can be even worse. Many call for as much as a half-pound of bacon or salt pork, which adds anywhere from 1000 to 1700 calories and up to 180 grams of pure fat to the recipe!

Less Salt and Sugar, More Flavor

All you need for tasty homemade baked beans are a few pantry staples. Start with canned beans like pinto or cannellini and rinse and drain them to remove up to 40 percent of the sodium. Combine in bowl with flavorings like ketchup, Dijon mustard and a little molasses, brown sugar or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake until bubbly.

To add even more pizzazz, stir in fresh rosemary or thyme. Or, instead of pork fat, mix 1 to 2 ounces of finely-chopped lean ham, bacon or pancetta before baking; it will distribute flavor throughout the beans without letting the calories skyrocket. For a vegetarian version with smoky flavor, add a sprinkle of smoked paprika or some spicy chipotle pepper.

Recipes to Try:

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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What's your secret to killer baked beans? Tell us in the comments below.

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