A warm sweatshirt, a smoky fire and a greasy burger.
That’s what pops into my head when I think of baked beans.
I associate baked beans with camping. Canned baked beans were a simple, crowd-pleasing food when the family headed into the wilderness. Or a half-bulldozed patch of woods converted into a campground.
Baked beans pair perfectly with a setting sun and a juicy burger around a campfire. All you needed to do was crack open the can and set it down on the grill alongside the hot dogs and burger patties. It was crude. But it worked.
I loved baked beans so much that I microwaved them for lunch when I had days off of school. They were an easy and tasty lunch.
How clueless I was to the healthfulness of food. No wonder I used to be obese.
All these experiences revolve around unhealthy food. Over-sweetened, over-salted and over-processed beans combined with “pork” to transform wholesome beans into questionable food. These sugar- and salt-laden beans complimented a cholesterol-filled burger patty. The burger was complete with sugary ketchup, salty pickles and refined wheat bun.
Despite their unhealthy past, baked beans aren’t doomed to be unhealthy. They’re beans for goodness sake! How unhealthy can they be?
Well, Van Camps, Heinz, and Bush’s have all explored how unhealthy beans can be.
Now I’m exploring the other side of the spectrum. How healthy can baked beans be?
Healthy Homemade Baked Beans
I’ve explored baked beans from scratch in the past with Classic Homemade Baked Beans and Beans Under Pressure. Yet none of them truly captured the taste, texture and comfort that baked beans have always held for me.
I revisited homemade baked beans when barley entered the picture.
On impulse one day, I added a few bags of pearled barley to my cart on safeway.com. One reason I added them was to increase the value of my cart. I often need to add more items to meet the minimum purchase requirement. Another reason was variety.
Though I’d eaten barley in the past, I didn’t know what to cook with it. I wasn’t even sure if I knew how to cook barley by itself. I had made one thing with barley: soup.
I knew I couldn’t cook a bunch of soups—how dull would that be? I decided to search Google for a recipe with barley. Lo and behold, Vegetarian Baked Beans with Barley came up.
I intended to follow the recipe… mostly. But once I started modifying the problematic parts to make it healthier, I couldn’t stop. My creativity took over.
More herbs and spices!
I changed a few ingredients. Then the possibilities and questions began flying through my head.
Why is there so much sugar? That’s not healthy….
Ketchup? Ew. I’m not adding that…
What if I added cinnamon to this…
Salt? There must be a better way to add flavor…
How old am I? Five? I can handle more than 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper…
After I made all my changes, I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste. Yes, I’m usually a master spice-combiner. On the other hand, I know every good chef still cooks a crap meal now and then.
Was this the time when simpler was best? I was about to find out.
I released the pressure when my timer went off and cracked the lid. It smelled perfect. The wonderful combination of ingredients assaulted my senses. I was taken back to my nostalgic memories of lazy summers camping in the woods.
I couldn’t wait to dig in.
The consistency, the texture, the color, smell and taste. It was all flawless. I was thrilled with my results. I couldn’t believe my recipe for homemade baked beans was this easy while still being healthy.
I couldn’t wait to share this recipe for vegetarian baked beans with all of you.
Enjoy homemade vegetarian baked beans without the added salt, sugar and bacon! These healthy, no-bake baked beans made from scratch are the best! This easy recipe will be your favorite side to pair with your best veggie burger for a long time.
Vegan and free of added oil, salt, sugar, soy, nuts and seeds
Reasons to love this recipe: perfectly sweet, no added salt, homemade, full of fiber
Serves 3-4 as main meal, 4-6 as side dish
- 1 c. dry pearled barley
- 4 c. water or vegetable stock
- 4 c. sprouted pinto beans*
- 1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 5 dates, chopped
- 1 tbsp. vinegar
- 3 small carrots, diced
- 2 tbsp. molasses
- 1 tbsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
Soak the pearled barley in 2 cups of water overnight. I find a large mason jar works best for this.
Chop the onion, carrots and dates. Add all the ingredients (including beans and barley) to a large pressure cooker. Mix to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Lock the lid.
Bring the pressure cooker to pressure. When pressure has been reached, turn down the heat to maintain pressure. Cook the beans and barley for 12 minutes.
Quick release the pressure cooker, then enjoy.
* 4 cups of sprouted pinto beans is approximately 1 1/2 cups of dry pinto beans