Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

I love watching sports for lots of reasons, but I think the ritual of being a sports fan is my favorite part—to me, there is just something so inherently cozy about curling up to a hockey or football or basketball game on a Saturday night. And, of course, good cozy food goes hand-in-hand with that…and these slow cooker baked beans are one of my favorite game day foods.

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Why should I make these slow cooker baked beans?

Baked beans are easy and affordable to make for a large crowd of sports fans. They are comforting, cozy, and decadent (especially with all that bacon). And my favorite part—the slow cooker is absolutely the perfect tool for cooking baked beans. I mean, I’m a big believer that you can cook almost anything in a slow cooker (barbecue ribs, anyone?), but baked beans are a case where you really shouldn’t use anything but a slow cooker. It’s the right tool for the job.

What kind of beans do I need?

This recipe calls for Navy beans, but you could sub in other beans. If you choose to use kidney beans, make sure to bring them to a full, rolling boil on the stovetop for 10 minutes before adding them to the slow cooker. Most slow cookers do not get hot enough to safely cook kidney beans—they have a toxin in them that can make some folks feel pretty yucky if not cooked at high enough temps.

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Why are my beans still hard after slow cooking?

If you’ve ever tried to make baked beans (or any sort of sauce-based bean dish) using dried beans before, you may have run into the problem of your beans never getting soft, even if you pre-soaked them. When dried beans mix with acid, the cooking time is greatly increased. That means you want to skip adding any tomato-based products until your beans have been adequately softened. That’s why the recipe for these baked beans has you adding the acidic ingredients after a few hours of cooking. (Also, the older the beans, the longer it takes to soften them—beans over a year old might never soften.)

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

What should I serve with slow cooker baked beans?

When we’re making these baked beans for dinner, we serve them up with a batch of cornbread. Otherwise, we make these for a game day spread along with:

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Slow Cooker Bacon Brown Sugar Baked Beans are a cozy and decadent way to please a crowd on game day.


  • 1 pound navy beans
  • 1 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (use gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup molasses


  1. Soak the beans in water (the water should rise a few inches above the beans) overnight.
  2. Cook the bacon on the sauté setting of the slow cooker, or in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. Remove the bacon and set it aside.
  3. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic in the grease until soft, about 5-7 minutes. If you cooked them in a Dutch oven, transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker.
  4. Drain the beans. Add the beans and 3 cups of fresh water to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or until the beans are mostly tender.
  5. Whisk the brown sugar, barbecue sauce, vinegar, mustard, and molasses together in a small bowl. Stir into the beans. Add the bacon to the slow cooker.
  6. Cook an additional 1-2 hours on high, until the beans are thick and dark.


To make this recipe gluten-free, use a homemade gluten-free barbecue sauce or be sure to check the labels of commercial barbecue sauces—some are gluten-free, but many are not!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 723Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 2047mgCarbohydrates: 85gFiber: 9gSugar: 58gProtein: 33g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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    1. Hi Jennifer! We haven’t made these with canned beans, but it should totally work. You’ll probably need 3-4 cans of beans. You can skip all the steps for prepping and cooking the dried beans until tender because your canned beans are already cooked. You’ll still need to cook the bacon, then use the bacon grease to cook the onion, pepper, and garlic. Then drain and rinse your beans and pickup with step five in the recipe. You may need to make a few adjustments here and there, but that should get you close! Please let me know how it works out for you!

    1. I haven’t tried it, but I think it would work! You might need to add a little oil in step 3, if you don’t have enough fat in the pan for sauteeing.

  1. Amazing recipe! My 9 year old LOVES baked beans and I wanted to make them at home instead of serving him the gross canned version from the store. I’m an ingredient reader and opted to use 1/2 cup honey instead of brown sugar. My son says they are THE BEST baked beans he’s ever had, so sweet, and wants to eat them every day!!

  2. Hi, making these baked beans for first time, and wondering if you leave the liquid left over from the additional 3 cups water in the crockpot, or if you remove some of it before adding the sauce, bacon and sautéed veggies? Can’t wait till dinner!

  3. I haven’t made the beans yet, too hot right now. But I want to thank you for info on toxins in kidney beans. Twice I have been violently ill after eating chili w/ kidney beans. Could never understand why. Thanks!

  4. Made these beans for dinner tonight……totally yummy! Love the sweet and the tang! And BACON! Mine took a few more hours to cook….used couple year old Anasazi Beans…..but hey…it worked! He thinks I made enough for an army…..I/it did, but that is what my freezer is for! Will be pulling out a bag now and then and enjoying them with our meal thanks to you! Your crock pot is pretty darn nifty …..I fear my older than dirt one is never going to die!

  5. Love this time of year! Our Blackhawks play their first game of the season tonight. My son got me into hockey about 6 years ago. What an exciting sport! (altho I’m also into baseball right now too and our CUBS are still in the playoffs!)

  6. Can these be frozen. I would love to make this but there is only 2 of us. I know I can cut the recipe down, but I love having meals ready to go in the freezer

    1. Sure can! Just freeze in whatever containers you like, and then defrost and heat—no special instructions needed. 🙂

  7. Oh my gosh….it’s not even 8 am and I want those in a bowl in front of me right now!
    Also, your quote about hockey players from your husband’s hometown makes me think he’s from Thunder Bay.