I decided I would make baked beans for a BBQ at my MIL's this past weekend. I've never made baked beans but decided that it was time since I love them so much! I found a recipe for Southern Baked Beans (using Navy beans). It was from a food blog.

During the description/commentary of the dish the blogger said they could be made with dried beans but she uses canned to save time. The recipe only mentioned canned beans. I couldn't find anything to tell me the ratio canned:dried beans so I decide a 1:1 ratio would be good. After putting a 24oz bag of beans in a cake pan (the recipe called for 32oz canned beans), I decided that was A LOT of beans so didn't add the remaining 8oz. I rinsed them first then soaked them for 15-18 hours. I rinsed them again and put them in a pot with the rest of the ingredients.

The recipe said to bake them at 350 for about 40 minutes and they should be done. After an hour and a temperature increase to 400, the beans weren't anywhere close to being done. At this point I decided they were probably very old beans. :( I moved them to the stove after another 30 minutes. They boiled on the stove for another 1 1/2 hours and were still rock hard (I kept adding water so they wouldn't boil dry - and this was on medium to medium-low heat).

We left the beans at my MIL's and she cooked them "off and on" (her words) the next day and declared they were done. They are not done. :(

Now that they've been cooked then refrigerated then cooked then refrigerated again, can I attempt to salvage them? I've read that adding 1/8 tsp baking soda per cup of beans will soften them. Is it too late to try this - add the beans, more water, and a small amount of baking soda and cook them a little more? I've put so much effort into these stupid beans I can't just give up! LOL

  • 2
    Canned beans are already cooked ... dried beans can take an hour or more to cook, multiple hours if they're cooked in an acidic environment or if they're particularly old beans.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:03
  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand. Did you boil the soaked beans first before baking? If canned beans are the usual ingredient for your recipe, they are equivalent to boiled beans.
    – JasonTrue
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:05
  • If you have a slow cooker, I'd leave them in there all day (or overnight) on low, and see if they soften up. You could also try a low oven (200F to 250F, as low as yours will go) and just leaving them in there for a similar amount of time.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:05
  • @ JasonTrue - I soaked the beans for about 17 hours. Then I put them in a pot with the required ingredients and baked them for 1 1/2 hours. After that time, they were still like rocks so I started slow boiling them and they boiled for another 1 1/2 hours before I gave up for the night and turned them over to my MIL. I have no idea what she did the next day except that she "cooked them off and on."
    – Brooke
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:16
  • @ Joe - Thanks. I'll try the slow cooker. I'll put them on tomorrow morning before I leave for work. Hopefully that will help.
    – Brooke
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:18

4 Answers 4


Since it's hard to know the age of your beans, it's best to cook them before you start adding sauce ingredients. My approach is:

  • soak them about 20 hours. Depending on how much water they soak up you may add more halfway through - if you set them soaking in the early evening, check them in the morning
  • drain, rinse, and then boil for about two hours, checking to see if they are soft. If they're not soft, don't move on, keep them boiling (a low boil, but more than a simmer)
  • once they're soft, drain them, add the sauce and whatever else (onions, bits of ham) and put them in the oven. I typically give them an hour in there but at this point it's about reducing the sauce, getting the flavours to mingle and soak in, that sort of thing.

My beans come from the local farmer who supplies all my fresh vegetables, but I don't always use them all right away. This week I cooked some cranberry beans from the late summer of 2013. They were creamy and soft using this technique.

  • This right here. I had so many problems with underdone beans, and Kate's methodology is exactly what made my most recent try at it successful.
    – Sean Hart
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 19:35

The secret to cooking beans is to not add the sauce ingredients, especially the molasses, until the beans are totally cooked. Once the molasses is added the beans seem to no longer cook.

  • 2
    This is particularly true for molasses -- adding acid will prevent many starches from breaking down. (this is useful when making an Austrian potato salad, or when you want the onion to not completely dissolve into a sauce ... but it really sucks for beans)
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 15:29
  • 1
    I dunno — in more than 40 years of baking beans at least once a month, I've never not added everything at the beginning of the cooking, including an amount of molasses that some folks would say is excessive, and I've never had them not cook. It takes a long time (4-ish hours) at a low temp (250°F) after bringing them to just a good simmer on the stovetop, but it seems to be foolproof. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:00

This is most likely because the dehydrated beans you are using are old. It seems to be a growing problem to find fresh dehydrated beans in the US.

This would happen to my family all the time when we used to make slow cooked Red Beans and Rice. I thought it just needed to be either soaked or cooked longer.

  • 4
    I've taken to buying dried beans at a latin market, vs. a regular grocery store. The higher turn-over means that I have less of a chance of old bean problems, and they're significantly cheaper.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 17:40
  • @ Joe, that's a great idea. I will buy spices from the International section in the grocery store because they are usually cheaper for the same spice, but I never thought about going to a Latin market to get beans.
    – Brooke
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 21:25
  • @Brooke : prices on spices are dramatically better, too, but you often have to buy in larger quantity. They also tend to be sold in bags that might not be as air tight. (some brands are heavier w/ built in zip-tops, other I transfer to glass containers and/or share w/ friends.)
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 15:32

I rinse my beans in cold water to remove any bad seeds - so to speak. Next I soak them over night in my five quart dutch oven with plenty of water(About twelve hours). Next, I put them on the stove and bring them to a slow rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about two hours adding water as needed. For the final phase I add my secret family ingredients and move them into the oven. Set oven to 250 and bake (Covered) for eight hours. Remove lid and continue baking 1/2 hour to brown the top of the beans. Let your beans cool completely before canning (I use 1 quart plastic square tubs). Freeze your beans before serving as this helps further soften your beautiful new batch. Thaw, place in sauce pot and heat over med/low until bubbly hot and serve. This process has been handed down through my family since the mid 1800's. Take pride in your baked beans and ENJOY

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.