Settlers Beans – This recipe uses a flavorful base and a secret sauce to make them the BEST baked beans ever! (Gluten free, dairy free)
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…
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!)
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.
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:
- Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- Rainbow Fruit Salad with Citrus Dressing
- Fresh Corn Salad with Avocado and Tomato
Recipe adapted from our friends Tim and Casey. Originally posted Dec 2011. Recipe, post, and photos updated May 2019.