How to Cook Baked Beans From a Can

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Baked beans are a childhood classic. Few things spark memories of nostalgia like cooking baked beans over a fire with some hotdogs on a stick. A true staple of the pantry, I always try to have a can or two on hand for a quick side with barbecue and grilled meats. 

While the most common method of cooking baked beans is on the stove there are several ways to prep this perfect sweet and savory side dish. 

How to Cook Baked Beans From a Can

The most widely accepted way to cook baked beans is on the stovetop. There are two simple directions:

  1. Empty the can into a saucepan
  2. Heat until the beans are simmering

You might be asking, “why would anyone need more ways to cook baked beans?” I thought the same thing at first. 

A side of baked beans with garlic bread

In doing the research for this article, I started reading through all the instructions from different brands. What I was not expecting is that the microwave directions have become the preferred directions for cooking canned baked beans! The classic method I grew up with is now “stovetop” or “conventional”. 

Then, thinking back to my childhood camping trips and up through my college years and beyond, I realized there are actually so many other ways to cook baked beans! 

Here are 6 main ways you can cook baked beans from a can:

I already went over how to cook baked beans from a can in a saucepan, and I’ll cover a few of the other popular methods below.

Cooking Baked Beans From a Can in the Oven

To cook baked beans in the oven, keep the temperature around 275°C to 300°F. You need to keep in mind not overcooking or burning them. 

Sugar burns around 35°0F / 175°C and oven cooking is one of the driest forms of cooking you can do next to direct heat. Covering your beans will definitely help, but this will increase the cook time and potentially soften your beans to mush.   

  • Step 1: Set oven for 300°F 
  • Step 2: Add beans to a baking dish where they can sit about  ½ inch deep 
  • Step 3: Cook until sauce starts to bubble (about 10 minutes) 
Baked beans being cooked in pan

Cooking Canned Baked Beans in the Microwave

One of the modern wonders of the kitchen, the microwave cooks food by vibrating water molecules at high frequencies until they heat up. 

The microwave is a great method for cooking baked beans because they are in a sauce. The sauce will act as a great receptor for the microwaves as well as a conduction point for the heating of the beans. 

  • Step 1: Pour beans into a microwaveable safe container – depth does not matter much, but try not to go more than 2 inches deep as you could get larger pops and or bubbles 
  • Step 2: Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes
  • Step 3: Remove and serve 

Cooking Canned Baked Beans in the Crock Pot

While I love cooking fresh baked beans in a crock pot, I am not a fan of cooking canned baked beans in the crock pot. That said, crock pots (or slow cookers) are so synonymous with beans that I couldn’t leave this one out. 

The trick with a crock pot is to just heat the beans and whatever you do, do not open the lid and do not stir. The heating element on crock pots is very weak. Everytime you open it you allow the heat to escape which greatly increases cooking time (something dangerous for fragile canned beans).  

  • Step 1: Pour the beans into the crock pot 
  • Step 2: Cover and set on high 
  • Step 3: Beans are done when they are bubbling (this will depend on your crockpots size and wattage, but should be around 20-30 minutes). 

Is it Safe to Cook Baked Beans in the Can?

The safety of cooking food in its can depends entirely on the can being used. Most food in the US is stored in steel cans which could be heated with negligible amounts of chromium and nickel leaching into them. 

That said, many modern cans also have an epoxy lining in them which is a plastic that can not be heated or it will release BPA’s (very harmful chemicals). If your can has a white lining in it, that is epoxy and the can cannot be heated. 

Baked beans in a white bowl

If you can have no white lining that doesn’t mean it is totally safe. You’ll have to check with that specific manufacturer regarding the can type and if they use any other treatments.   

The Main Challenge with Cooking Canned Baked Beans 

There are 2 challenges when cooking canned baked beans

  • The beans are already cooked and are very fragile
  • The sugar in the sauce is prone to burning in high dry heat applications

Because the beans are in a liquid, surface area here makes a huge difference in heat tolerance. If you use a huge wide pan or dish in the oven your beans are much more prone to burning than if they are in a saucepan and 1 inch deep.

Beginner Side Dish Guide

How Do You Make Canned Baked Beans Taste Homemade?

To fancy up your canned baked beans, mix in fresh ingredients and limit cook time of the beans. Canned baked beans are already very soft, so too much cooking or stirring turns them to mush pretty fast. 

For example, let’s say you wanted to add bacon to your baked beans. You would cut and cook the bacon first. Save some of the fat, and pour the baked beans into the pan and bring that up to heat before adding the bacon back in. 

Other ingredients that can really mix up your baked beans are onions (fresh or sautéed), peppers, cumin, cilantro, or tomatoes. 

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.