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Settlers Beans (BEST Baked Beans Ever!)

Settlers Beans – This recipe uses a flavorful base and a secret sauce to make them the BEST baked beans ever! (Gluten free, dairy free)

Two white bowls of Settlers Beans (Settlers Baked Beans) from One Lovely Life

I love making friends with people who love cooking. Not only do we have endless foods and restaurants to discuss and cookware to fawn over at length (why hello, Le Cruset Dutch ovens), I get all kinds of new recipes to try!

Several years ago, we had the pleasure of meeting our friends Tim and Casey. Tim and Casey are both incredible home chefs, and Tim has blown our mind with several of his grilling recipes over the years. It was at their house I first tried Settlers Beans and basically my life has never been the same.

We’ve adapted their recipes a bit over the years, but it is a truth universally acknowledged, dear reader, that any time someone says the words “start with a half pound of bacon,” pretty much whatever follows is sure to be delicious.

This recipe for the BEST baked beans of your life certainly doesn’t disappoint. And I forever have Tim and Casey to thank for it!

Here’s what you need for our settlers beans recipe…

Spoon stirring pot of Settlers Baked Beans from One Lovely Life

What are Settlers Beans?

Settlers Beans (sometimes called Setters Baked Beans or “Old Settlers Beans”) are basically THE BEST baked beans on the planet. They’re named for settlers crossing the plains, and they’ve got such a DELICIOUS blend of flavors. Sometimes, Settlers Beans recipes will include ground beef to make them a meal themselves, but I prefer serving them as a fantastic side dish.

Made from a delicious base of bacon, onion, and three types of beans, they’re pulled together with an easy-to-make sauce that puts them over the top. The end result is smoky, sweet, tangy, and lightly peppery. It’s the perfect combination for barbecues, potlucks, picnics, family reunions, and summer cooking. (They taste even better the next day!)

Overhead view of Settlers Baked Beans in a white cast iron pan, being stirred with a red spoon.

What’s In Settler’s Beans?

I don’t for a minute claim this is a health food recipe, but it is SO delicious, they’re worth enjoying! Here’s what’s in ’em…

  • BACON. Yep! Start with 8oz of bacon. I prefer uncured bacon, since it’s nitrate free. Pederson’s makes a no sugar added variety that’s really good, otherwise Applegate and Coleman’s both make great uncured bacons with great ingredient lists.
  • ONION. I actually grate or puree my onion most of the time, which helps it melt into the sauce texturally. That’s easier for my kids to eat, but we also love it with diced onion. You do you!
  • THREE KINDS OF BEANS. I love the blend of beans in this recipe–kidney beans, butter beans, and Great Northern beans. Kidney give great color. Butter beans are a bit unexpected and live up to their name texturally (yum!). And Great Northern beans provide a nice neutral filler that looks and tastes great. (Can’t find them? Substitute navy or white kidney beans.)
  • THE BEST HOMEMADE SAUCE. This and the bacon make these the best baked beans ever. I mix together ketchup, barbecue sauce, some brown or coconut sugar, mustard, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and some black pepper for a sweet, tangy, smoky, finger-licking sauce you’ll have to try REALLY hard not to keep tasting.
Close up view of spoon stirring a pot of Settlers Beans from One Lovely Life

Tips & Tricks for Perfect Settlers Beans: 

THE BEST TOOL FOR THE JOB: I love a Dutch oven, since they’re both oven and stovetop safe. That way I can just pop the settlers beans right into the oven after prepping them. This one isn’t too expensive compared to some of the fancier models. This is another more affordable one that comes highly recommended (I have a skillet by them and like it). If you don’t have one, just pour the beans into a 9×13″ (3 qt.) dish and cover with foil before baking.

GLUTEN FREE? READ THIS! For a gluten free version, be sure your bacon, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce are all gluten free.

LOWERING THE SUGAR. I’ve already reduced the sugar in this recipe from the original settlers beans recipe (which called for 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup white sugar), but you can always start with less and add it, to taste. Also, I look for ketchups and barbecues sauces that don’t use high fructose corn syrup. On that note…

KETCHUP & BBQ SAUCE SUGGESTIONS. I recommend looking for ketchup and barbecue sauce that uses natural sweeteners or at least actual sugar instead of corn syrup. (Organic options often contain lower sugar.) Or, you can choose honey-sweetened ketchup, and a BBQ sauce like Stubb’s. Tessamae’s makes date-sweetened ketchup and barbecue sauce if you want to be 100% naturally sweetened. Primal Kitchen is another naturally sweetened brand.

More Barbecue Side Dish Faves to Love:

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Two white bowls of Settlers Beans (Settlers Baked Beans) from One Lovely Life

Settlers Beans


  • Author: Emily from One Lovely Life, adapted from our friends Tim and Casey
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: About 6 cups 1x

Description

Settlers Beans – This recipe uses a flavorful base and a secret sauce to make them the BEST baked beans ever! (Gluten free, dairy free)


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 oz. bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, grated or diced,*
  • 1 (14.5oz) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5oz) can Great Northern or navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard (or 1/2 Tbsp dry mustard powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce*
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
  • salt, as needed (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot, cook your bacon over medium heat until crispy and browned. Remove cooked bacon and set aside.
  3. Drain all but about 2 Tbsp bacon grease from the pan.
  4. Add onion to the Dutch oven and sauté 4-5 minutes over medium heat, or until onion is slightly softened.
  5. Add kidney beans, butter beans, and Great Northern beans to the pan.
  6. Add brown sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.
  7. Return bacon to the pan and stir until the whole mixture is well combined. Taste and play with the amounts of sauce ingredients as desired. (Too tangy? Add more sugar. Needs more zip? Add more pepper, etc.)
  8. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.
  9. (Note: If you don’t have an oven-proof pot, you can pour it into a casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake it in the oven as directed)

Notes

*I love grating or even pureeing our onion because it just melts into the beans (which my kids prefer). That said, it’s awesome with diced onion. You do you!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven
  • Cuisine: American, Southern

Keywords: baked beans, settlers beans, homemade baked beans

Recipe adapted from our friends Tim and Casey. Originally posted Dec 2011. Recipe, post, and photos updated May 2019.

10 Comments

    1. Made them, LOOOOOOOOVED them, sharing them on the blog soon! 🙂 Oh and your oh-so-incredible Butterscotch Cookies are being shared tomorrow!!!! {squeeee!}
      Hugs, T

  1. Made these for the 4th of July and they were a big hit! Made extra sauce( my family likes saucey beans) They came out perfect. Loved the 3 different types of beans. Also they weren’t as heavy as most baked beans recipes which call for crazy amounts of bacon and sugar. Will be my new go to recipe. Yummy 😋

  2. I made this, yummy flavor, but the beans got harder in the process. They were already cooked beans that were in the can ( I use them for other recipes and they always remain soft), so do you know what happened? Or can I still do something to make them softer after everything is put together?

    1. I’m sorry that happened! I’ve never noticed that problem before. Out of curiosity, do you know if the beans you used have stabilizers in them? Or do you remember if you rinsed them?

      I’m so sorry that they were tough. That’s no fun at all!

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