Slow cooked homeamde ‘baked’ beans recipe

At this time of year, our thoughts collectively reflect on the gluttony of the Christmas period; so much recipe and food writing at this time of year implores us to drop the dress sizes we’ve (so hideously, like the awful, unrestrained plebians we are) piled on, by detoxing/cutting out/practically starving ourselves back in to the svelte creatures we weren’t pre-Christmas. To these writers/articles I say, “shut up.”

A recipe post is no place for me to espouse my thoughts on faddy, cut-out diets (seriously you just need to eat less/move more – but that’s a rant for another day…); but I will ask you, how sustainable is something when you starve your body of essential nutrients? Even if for a relatively small period of time?

…anyway, before I get started… This recipe represents my approach to post-Christmas food; focussing on being healthy and restrained, whilst still being big on flavour, comfort and most essentially – including the essentials of a healthy diet.

This recipe won’t make you lose 7lbs in a week, but it will nourish you and when conjoiuned with other healthy recipes and a bit more movement (even ten minutes pace around the block), will help you  lose your Christmas belly sustainably; without turning you in to a sugar craving, secretly binging, demented, calorie counting, label checking grump.

With this recipe you don’t need to cut everything out of your diet – especially taste!

NB I have used dried beans in this recipe – it is always imperative that you prepare dried beans according to the packet instructions and never add them to recipes dried. Some beans, especially kidney beans, can be very dangerous if not prepared properly. You can use canned beans, but it does make for a more mushy consistency.

Slow cooked ‘baked’ BBQ beans

Serves 10 as a side/starter or 6 as a main – prep 15 min plus overnight soaking/boiling – cook time 7 hours (in slow cooker)


• 300g dried cannellini beans – prepared to the packet instructions (usually overnight soaking with 10 mins boiling, but please check)

• 300g dried kidney beans – prepared to the packet instructions

NB – you can substitute 4-5 x 400g cans of beans instead – just make sure you use ones that don’t have any extra sugar or salt. Feel free to use a mix of any beans, these are just ones I had in the house.

• 1 dried guajillo chilli – could use dried ancho or other dried, smokey chillies instead

• 100ml boiling water

• 2 x cans chopped or plum tomatoes – if using plum, make sure you break them up

• 1 tsp chipotle powder (can use 1 tsp chipotle paste instead)

• 1 tsp english mustard powder

• ¼ tsp cloves

• 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

• 1 tsp dried thyme

• 2 tblsp molasses sugar

• 1 tblsp treacle

• 1 tblsp red wine vinegar

• Good grinding of black pepper

• 6 bay leaves

• 1 x large onion, sliced fine

• 400g smoked bacon in one piece – cubed – or smoked belly pork (I just used the bacon) – you can leave this out if you are veggie

• Sea salt, to taste


1. Prepare the beans to the packet instructions – when they are ready, rinse them and set aside.

2. Toast the dried chilli in a dry frying pan for a minute or two, until just smoking, but not burning. Whilst it is toasting, boil a kettle.

3. When the chilli is toasted, take off the stalk and remove the seeds (or leave in if you want spicy beans!). Place the chilli in a small bowl (you may need to rip it in half) and add 100ml boiling water. Leave it to rehydrate for 10 mins, whilst you make the sauce for the beans and layer everything together.

4. In a bowl add all the ingredients together; bar the bay leaves, onion, bacon and salt. Mix until a smooth consistency.

5. In the bowl of your slow cooker, put a third of the cubed bacon (use the fattiest bits for the bottom layer), then follow with a third of the onion and two bay leaves. On top of this add a quarter of the beans.

Layer it up

6. Repeat the layers, finishing off with a layer of beans – make sure they are under the top of the pot.

7. Pour the water the chilli has been rehydrating in, into the reserved tomato mixture. Chop the rehydrated chilli as small as you can (treat it like chopping fresh herbs) and add to the tomato mixture – stir in.

8. On top of your layers, add the tomato mixture – using the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through the layers and help it seep through. If the tomato mixture comes to way below the level of the beans (more than 2cm), add a little water to the pot.

9. Put the lid on and put the slow cooker on the low setting, (I only have Low and High on mine). Cook for six hours and check the seasoning. Add sugar/salt/vinegar/spice to your own personal taste. For mine I added ½ tsp of salt and a capful of extra vinegar – but always taste before and after you do this.

10. At this point check to see how done your beans are – beans will cook quicker the fresher they are, however there is no way to tell how old the beans in the packs you buy from the shops are, so you need to check on this recipe from about hour six onwards. Mine ended up taking seven, but another time has taken as long as eight.

11. Serve with whole brown rice and some quick roasted tomatoes (recipe to follow). Or if you’re pushing the boat out, with a baked potato, sweet corn and sticky chipotle chicken (recipe to follow). Streamed broccoli also suits this very well.

Not the best looking dish, but one of the most tastiest!

Ps – these beans taste nicer the next day, great for a nutritious, tasty and filling lunch that will make you the envy of the whole office!

NB – I bought my chipotle powder and dried guajillo chilli from Spice Mountain at Borough Market, but they also trade online. Chipotle powder is an amazing spice cupboard addition, however you can used two dried chipotle (prep the same as the other dried chilli) or a tsp of chipotle paste (available from big supermarkets) instead.

NB – You don’t have to use guajillo chillies here, you could use ancho (available in the speciality section of big Tesco’s) or other dried, smoky, fruity chillies you come across. Vary the chillies for different flavours or add a selection of your favourite to vary the flavour to your liking. You can buy dried chillies online at Spice Mountain, Steenburgs and Cool Chile Co.