Baked beans are often served as a side dish. Several commercial varieties can be purchased at supermarkets. The flavor of baked beans from a can is often easy to improve and enhance by slow cooking and adding ingredients. Bacon can give baked beans from a can a better, more homemade taste, as can the use of onions, bell peppers, brown sugar, vinegar, and various sauces. Baked beans may be cooked on a stove top, simmered in a slow cooker, or baked in the oven.
Bacon can give canned baked beans a rich, smoky flavor. Thick-cut bacon is usually the best variety to use because it will not fall apart during simmering. The bacon should be pre-cooked until all of the fat is rendered, but the meat is not crispy. This soft bacon will cook further when it is simmered or baked with the beans. Several tablespoons of the bacon grease should be reserved for later use in this dish.
Adding vegetables to baked beans from a can typically gives this side dish depth of flavor and extra texture. For best results, the vegetables can be sauteed in the grease reserved from cooking the bacon. Vegetables that pair well with baked beans include onions and bell peppers. These should be chopped into small pieces before being cooked.
Canned baked beans are generally mild in flavor, with a slightly sweet taste. A variety of spices and seasonings can be used to give them a more interesting taste. Mustard powder can make the beans tangy, while chili powder may be used for a spicier dish. Many people add brown sugar to their baked beans to make them sweeter. For many people, this sweetness is a good contrast to the savory flavor of the bacon.
The addition of sauces can make baked beans from a can taste more like a homemade dish. Barbecue sauce is a popular option, although plain ketchup can also be used. For a Tex-Mex flavor, a jar of salsa could be mixed in. Care should be taken not to add to much extra liquid, however, as this can result in a dish that is soupy.
For the best results, the beans should be cooked slowly to combine all of the flavors. They may be cooked in a pot on a stove top, baked in a hot oven, or simmered in a slow cooker. The bacon can be left whole or can be cut into pieces, but it should be layered on top of the beans so it can become crispy while the dish cooks.