Low Fat, Vegetarian, Rich, AND Delicious? Baked Beans!

by Patricia Eddy on November 9, 2008

I make no apologies for this next statement. I. Love. Meat. I’ve always loved meat. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, buffalo, bison… Not only do I love meat, but we eat a fair amount of it since my wonderful husband is diabetic and needs a fair amount of protein at each meal. However, one of the ways to reduce your impact on the environment is to reduce your meat consumption. Grass fed beef can actually give back to the environment by allowing the soil to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but even with that, there is still some methane production to deal with.

One of the suggestions I took away from the evening with Michael Pollan the other week was that we should try to have one meatless meal a week (I’d go as far as a meatless day for me, though the husband still needs some sort of meat or fish with at least one meal).

So when we found a recipe for baked beans that used (of all things) BEER, we decided to give it a try. I was skeptical all the way up to the first bite. After that, I was hooked. I will never make baked beans from a can ever again. We picked up some great cranberry beans from our friends at Alm Hill Gardens/Growing Washington.


  • 2 cups cranberry beans (or pinto beans)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp Chardonnay Mustard from Sea Breeze Farms
  • 2 dried hot peppers
  • 3 cups beer*
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit*
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt

Soak your beans overnight in water. (I’ve heard anecdotal reports that changing the water frequently will help reduce gas after eating, but your mileage may vary.)

Dice the onion and saute in a Dutch oven with the olive oil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the honey (or molasses or agave nectar), the mustard, dried peppers, the beer, the dried fruit, and the CIMG3261 broth. Bring to a simmer on the stove and then cover and bake at 350 for anywhere from 1.5-2.5 hours. Start checking the beans for doneness after about an hour and a half. If the beans are done before the liquid has reduced sufficiently, move the Dutch oven to the stovetop and bring to a boil uncovered, stirring regularly, until the liquid has the right consistency.

Season with some smoked paprika and maybe some salt. Serve with some crusty bread.

Patricia’s Notes: When choosing your beer, go with some sort of berry or fruit beer. We used an Elderberry beer and dried peaches. However the original recipe suggested making sure your beer and your dried fruit “went together”. So dried raspberries with raspberry beer. Dried peaches with a peach beer, etc. This isn’t a requirement as we found out, but next time we might try to follow this suggestion. We did end up using chicken broth, so our version wasn’t completely vegetarian, but that’s just because I had fresh chicken broth in the fridge and decided to use it up. The original recipe called for molasses, but we used honey to keep it more local.

When the beans were cooking, they smelled WONDERFUL. I used to make baked beans with half a pound of bacon and these beans smelled almost exactly the same. They were rich, thick, and almost pasty (I cooked mine just a tiny bit too long). They reheated very well for lunches for the rest of the week as well.

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