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16 Creative Uses For Canned Baked Beans

partially open bean can
partially open bean can - Gordonbellphotography/Getty Images

Canned baked beans are a convenient and customizable ingredient that can be found in nearly everyone's pantry. Despite their humble appearance in a can, they're incredibly versatile and make a fun and healthy addition to a plethora of different recipes. From sweet desserts to savory stews, baked beans deliver a punch of rich, smokey flavor that pairs perfectly with a wide array of meals. They can blend seamlessly and without detection in sweets and baked goods (perfect for vegetable-abstaining kids) or, use them in soups and stews as a thickener while adding a substantial amount of protein and notes of barbeque flavor. The consistency of baked beans makes them an excellent base for dips and sauces of all kinds. Their natural sweetness makes them perfect for salad dressings, adding depth of flavor to an otherwise overly acidic vinaigrette.

You likely think of a classic summer side dish when you think of canned baked beans, but the truth is that they act as a canvas upon which you can unleash your culinary creativity. There's never a dull moment in the kitchen while working with this unassuming yet impressive ingredient. The possibilities are endless, and you'll discover new flavors and dishes to savor with every culinary experiment.

Read more: The 20 Best Olive Oils For Cooking

Baked Beans Make A Savory, Vegetarian Pizza Topping

cheese pizza on wooden plate
cheese pizza on wooden plate - Максим Крысанов/Getty Images

Baked beans may not be the most traditional topping for pizza, but once you discover the harmonious blend of flavors that the beans create when combined with creamy cheese and tangy tomato sauce, you'll wonder why you hadn't tried this unique combo long ago. The hint of smoky richness from the beans provides just enough unique flavor to not overpower the tomato sauce. It's no secret that beans and cheese are a match made in heaven and a mild cheese like mozzarella pairs flawlessly with savory baked beans.

The versatility of baked beans shines when using them as a pizza topping. They can be spread evenly across the surface of a traditional pie, with a touch of the juice from the can mixed into the marinara sauce for a subtle barbeque flavor. You can also pair the beans with complementary pizza ingredients, like smoky bacon or sweet fried onions.

In the United States, canned baked beans on pizza are virtually unheard of, but in England, it's a fan favorite. The pizza topping became so popular that Heinz recently created a frozen variety of the cult-classic pie. They introduced it on Instagram by saying: "Move over pepperoni, there's a new pizza topping in town." It might be best to take the advice of Heinz and expand your pizza palate to include these saucy, golden gems.

Use Puréed Beans When Baking Homemade Brownies

Assorted chocolate brownies
Assorted chocolate brownies - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

You likely don't think of the canned baked beans that have been sitting untouched in your pantry when you're preparing to whip up a delicious chocolate dessert. It's time to shake up those tried-and-true baking methods because those unused beans can give your sweet treat a boost of fiber and nutrients. Simply blend your beans with a splash of water using a traditional or immersion blender, then substitute half of the fat in your brownie recipe with the bean concoction. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of oil, try using half a cup of oil and half a cup of creamy baked beans. This quick swap gives your brownies added nutrients with a lower fat content, and their dark color ensures that the beans go unnoticed in your dessert.

If you found that the 50/50 bean-to-fat ratio took your brownies down a dry and depressing path, feel free to play around with the ratios. Every recipe is different, with some requiring more fat content than others. Once you find a recipe that allows you to include a hearty dose of baked beans, you can feel good about indulging in a second or third round of your mouthwatering, homemade treat.

Add Pineapple To Baked Beans For A Sweet Kick

diced pineapple in bowl
diced pineapple in bowl - Jonathandowney/Getty Images

The addition of pineapple makes for a fun and innovative twist on the most popular side dish at any summer get-together. Tropical flavors don't often combine with smokey seasonings, but when they do, it's proof that opposites attract. The richness of the baked beans makes the pineapple pop with flavor, and the vibrant color of the pineapple chunks nestled in the warm brown of the beans gives your dish a curious appeal. The congruent balance generated by this sweet-and-savory duo is unparalleled. You best double or triple the recipe when cooking for a crowd because this side dish is the life of the party.

Along with taste and appearance, the pineapple's texture is another valuable asset in baked beans. When diced into chunks, it creates soft and fragrant bursts of juicy flavor. If you'd rather go the subtle route, try mincing a small amount of the pineapple to incorporate into the beans, along with a splash of pineapple juice. The tropical flavor still shines through, but the smoky allure of the beans stands front and center.

Use Baked Beans And Coleslaw As A Burger Topping

burger on grill
burger on grill - Ersagun Celebi/Getty Images

Step up your burger game with a dynamic combination that delivers an exciting blend of flavor and texture – baked beans and coleslaw. This unexpected pairing creates the perfect summertime indulgence. Picture this: a perfectly grilled burger patty nestled between a warm and toasty brioche bun crowned with a generous scoop of two of the best backyard party side dishes. The beans add a rich depth that complements the char of the burger, while the coleslaw contributes the perfect amount of tang and creaminess.

When it comes to 'slaw, not just any old recipe will do. It's best to avoid store-bought coleslaw and make a batch at home. Typically, coleslaw prepared in-store uses less-than-fresh produce and hastily made dressing. To make this cool, crunchy classic stand out, it needs fresh, crisp cabbage and a delicious homemade dressing.

Baked beans straight from the can will do in a pinch to top a burger. But, to take your bean game to the next level, consider adding a touch of tangy honey mustard sauce. The delightful tang of mustard complements the elements in the coleslaw dressing, elevating your burger experience to a whole new realm of zesty, creamy perfection.

Include Sliced Sausage For A Cajun-Style Dinner

bowl beans sausage
bowl beans sausage - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Imagine a simmering pot of beans brimming with the robust seasonings of New Orleans. To get the flavors of Louisiana in the comfort of your home, all you need is a can of baked beans, some savory sausage, and a simple blend of Cajun spices. Whether served as a zesty side dish alongside spicy seafood or enjoyed as the main course, this concoction promises to transport you straight to the vibrant streets of the Big Easy.

For a close-to-authentic experience, try using your canned baked beans with some Southern andouille sausage. With its rich blend of spices, the andouille sausage transforms the humble beans from a simple, smokey side dish to a meal full of complex flavors. Each slice of this Cajun delicacy releases a burst of smokiness, perfectly complementing the saucy texture of the beans. Finally, boost the flavor of the canned beans with the aforementioned blend of spices and viola! The dish becomes a harmonious marriage of heat and heartiness to pay homage to Louisiana's rich culinary heritage.

Turn Your Beans Into The Perfect Winter Meal

spoon in ham bean soup
spoon in ham bean soup - Ezume Images/Shutterstock

As the temperature drops and the air becomes crisp and cool, that can only mean one thing: It's soup season. There's nothing better to warm you up from the inside out than a steamy bowl of savory goodness as the snow falls and the cold wind howls. But transforming simple, canned baked beans into a satisfying, cozy dish fit for a meal is no small feat. It requires the king of soup ingredients to take your dinner from basic and standard to rich and complex: ham.

Combined with nutritious and filling beans, ham and bean soup is a simple wintertime staple. You only need diced cooked ham, canned baked beans, and potatoes. Russets are some of the best potatoes for a chunky soup because they stay firm and stand out among the juicy meat cubes. Let your ingredients simmer on low for seven hours, enjoying the savory aromas. Once the flavors have intertwined, it's ready to serve. If your dish seems a little watery, try adding gelatin. The gelatin won't affect the taste of your broth the way flour tends to. Instead, you're left with a thick base nestled with chunks of indulgent ingredients. Enjoy your home-cooked soup with some crusty sourdough to ensure it qualifies under dinner status.

Used Baked Beans In A Cheesy Au Gratin

toasty cheese in white dish
toasty cheese in white dish - Esin Deniz/Shutterstock

Infuse a can of baked beans with a rustic yet sophisticated flair by giving it an au gratin makeover, resulting in a decadent and cheesy dinner. But what makes a meal "au gratin"? The idea is simple: Cheese makes everything better. The culinary technique au gratin originated in France and literally translates to "with gratings."When a dish is prepared au gratin, it typically involves topping the main ingredient with a layer of breadcrumbs, cheese, or a combination of the two.

Usually, we see potatoes get the au gratin treatment, but that doesn't mean this technique won't take your beans to cheesy new heights. To prepare baked beans au gratin, craft a silky sauce using a medley of cheeses — think sharp cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyère — for a nuanced and rich flavor profile. Layer your canned baked beans and cheese sauce in a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and bake. The result? A luxuriously rich and velvety meal, smokey in profile and showcasing the unexpected harmony in this unconventional pairing. This au gratin spin on baked beans proves that cheese has the power to transform even the most humble ingredients into elevated levels of luxury.

Create A Thai-BBQ Side Dish

bowl and bottle sriracha
bowl and bottle sriracha - Martiapunts/Getty Images

For those of us who enjoy a nice kick of heat now and then, sriracha is no stranger. Packed with garlicky spice, sriracha is a sweet and fiery sauce that hails from Thailand and can be used on a wide variety of foods, from savory to sweet. Typically, baked beans take on a smokey, rich taste reminiscent of barbeque sauce. You wouldn't think that sweet, garlicky heat deserves a spot in a smokey American side dish, but sriracha is the perfect secret ingredient to change your canned baked beans forever.

When mixing sriracha and canned baked beans, keep in mind that less is often more. This condiment's unique, spicy sweetness can overpower the other flavors in a dish. So, if you want your beans to retain some of their trademark sweet-mesquite smokiness, a tablespoon of sriracha per can will suffice. The classic rooster-clad bottle always does the trick, but you can make a homemade sriracha sauce if you feel like getting creative with your beans.

Combine Baked Beans And Macaroni Salad

macaroni salad close up
macaroni salad close up - Caelmi/Getty Images

Two classic summertime favorites combine to create an unparalleled marriage of creaminess. Mayo-rich macaroni salad and juicy golden beans are the ultimate summer side dish combo. The tender noodles blended with fresh veggies and bright, crisp seasonings are a contrast to savory canned baked beans, which add more heft and chew to pasta salad. The harmony of flavors and textures pops with vibrancy.

Like coleslaw, store-bought macaroni salad cannot hold a candle to the homemade stuff. It all comes down to high-quality mayo, the freshest vegetables and alliums, and — most importantly — the best vinegar for extra tangy macaroni salad: apple cider vinegar. When paired with canned baked beans, tang, smoke, and heat converge to create a captivating conversation starter. It's carb-loaded as well and capable of filling large groups for less. So the next time you're asked to bring a side dish to a summertime shindig, make a bold statement with this delicious, decadent duo.

Mix With Gochujang An Umami-Packed Appetizer

bowl gochujang peppers spices
bowl gochujang peppers spices - Nungning20/Getty Images

Gochujang is a red chili paste that is considered one of the backbone ingredients of Korean cuisine. This unassuming ingredient is made from glutinous rice and fermented soybeans and has a long history in Korea. Gochujang is sweet, salty, tingling, and packed with a rich essence that adds an incredible depth of flavor. You can often find gochujang in marinades for Korean barbeque, sauces, dips, and soup bases. The chili paste can find a home among various flavor profiles, living up to its legendary past.

When given a twist of Korean flare, a can of baked beans is reinvented into a dish packed with layers of spice and umami. With one simple ingredient, your beans are upgraded to a new dimension of sweet and spicy. A touch of gochujang in your dull can of beans gives them the allure of a cozy, made-from-scratch meal. A dash of sweetness and a punch of heat bring out the canned beans' seasonings rather than overpower them, adding complexity to an otherwise simple side dish.

Make A BBQ Swap For Cowboy Beans

cowboy beans cast iron pan
cowboy beans cast iron pan - Alleko/Getty Images

Cowboy beans are a robust plate with roots deep in the American Southwest. It's a staple food in Texas guaranteed to please the palette of every bean and chili lover. Cowboy beans share similarities with chili, both dishes being versatile and with a degree of interpretation. The primary distinction lies in their foundation: Chili centers around meat (typically ground beef or pork) with the occasional addition of beans, whereas cowboy beans ensure that the beans take center stage and the meat is more of a side character.

There are variations of cowboy bean recipes all over the Wild West, which is why it's such a creative way to play around with canned baked beans as an ingredient. For cowboy beans, you will use meat ingredients, ground beef or bacon, which provides a hearty undertone alongside your beans. However, since cowboy beans often incorporate a sweet and tangy blend of ketchup and barbecue sauce, you can leverage the flavors of canned baked beans as a natural swap. When it comes to cooking methods, opt for making cowboy beans in a slow cooker over a stock pot on the stove, which is how you'll get the flavors to blend together seamlessly.

Use Baked Beans For A Hearty Nacho Topping

loaded nachos close up
loaded nachos close up - Adshooter/Getty Images

Nachos are an iconic party food that leaves no stone unturned when the mission is to satisfy. You can top a massive bowl of crispy tortilla chips with everything from olives and jalapenos to ground beef and melty cheese, making it a snack that slaps away your hunger in the most enjoyable way. Nachos are often found sans beans, but when beans are included, it's typically the black or pinto variety. However, you can step your nacho game up by using canned baked beans instead. The soupy goodness of the beans makes a delectable sauce for all other ingredients to swim in while adding a touch of seasonings.

Since baked beans are wet, use extra crispy chips and fresh veggies diced small, keeping the wetter ingredients to the side for dipping. Drain some of the sauce in the can before you layer them on the chips to ensure your baked beans don't have your nachos in soggy, sloppy shambles. Save this leftover bean sauce and add a little to your salsa or guac to stretch out that smokey, barbeque flavor just a little bit farther.

Turn Them Into An Italian-American Fusion

Baked beans with pasta
Baked beans with pasta - DronG/Shutterstock

Baked beans usually stand out as an all-American classic, but considering their versatility, they can be conformed to fit any style of cuisine. Take Italian, for example. With a handful of simple ingredients, your measly canned baked beans elevate to Italian restaurant-level quality.

Giada De Laurentiis's baked bean recipe is chock-full of inventive Italian ingenuity. Although her recipe is from scratch, you can easily include her unique ingredients to use up that dusty can of baked beans you've been harboring in your pantry for way too long. Start by adding pancetta (Italian-style bacon), tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. The acidic vinegar and tomato sauce give your beans a sharp bite, while the savory meat adds heartiness and texture. Next, to balance out those acidic flavors, Giada De Laurentiis adds dark beer, molasses, and brown sugar. These ingredients create a dynamic layer of flavors while adding color. Together, they make something you can eat solo or serve overtop a good pasta.

Make Taco Filling Using Baked Beans

three beef cheese tacos
three beef cheese tacos - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

There's always plenty of room to play around with ingredients when making tacos. Whether you like a spicy taco loaded with crisp veggies or a hearty one filled with seasoned pork and beef, one thing stands true: Every taco needs a good base. Ground beef, in particular, emerges as an ideal base owing to its remarkable adaptability. Nearly every taco topping will feel right at home nestled on a pillowy mound of this steamy, succulent meat.

But if you're aiming to stretch that ground beef, infuse some extra smokiness, and use leftover canned beans, you're in luck. Start by adding flavor to your ground beef using a blend of spices or sauces to complement those in the baked beans. Then, toss in the beans and watch the magic happen. You'll want to simmer until some of the bean liquid is cooked off so as not to have too wet of a filling. Low and slow allows the two ingredients to blend seamlessly, creating a perfect taco base that embraces a variety of flavors and textures.

Experiment With A Full English Breakfast

close up full English breakfast
close up full English breakfast - Bhofack2/Getty Images

A full English breakfast is truly a sight to behold. The meal involves bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, and other optional additions to kick off any day with a bang. Luckily, the convenience of incorporating canned baked beans alleviates a fraction of the labor while contributing one of the meal's most essential ingredients.

There's often debate over what qualifies breakfast as full English, but one thing stands true: Beans must be present on your plate. It's often thought that the beans anchor the meal and, therefore, can never be excluded. Typically, a full English involves Heinz canned baked beans, but any brand will do in a pinch.

This breakfast boasts ample room for creative freedom (as long as the essentials are included), so feel free to play around using your favorite ingredients. For example, Irish soda bread makes a delicious substitute for regular toast, the biscuity flavor complementing the sweet undertones in your baked beans. Or, add a black or white pudding to your breakfast. This meaty addition gives your meal a boost of authenticity and adds some heartiness to fill you up and ensure you'll have plenty of energy to conquer the day.

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