July 4th Sides: Mom’s Easy Healthy Baked Beans

Baked Beans / Gail Ingram Photography

As I think about American cuisine for the upcoming 4th of July holiday I can’t help but think of baked beans. To me, baked beans are every bit as American as apple pie and just one of those staple dishes you imagine eating right alongside the rest of the classic July 4th sides.

I love just about anything sweet and consequently I’ve always loved baked beans. But in the past when I looked up baked bean recipes online and in various cookbooks just about every single one I found called for massive amounts of sugar. I guess that’s why baked beans are so sweet, ha! But, even recipes for healthy baked beans call for way too much sugar… including the Mayo Clinic version which suggests ½ cup molasses AND 3 strips of bacon! Not sure when bacon made the list of healing foods Mayo Clinic endorses but that’s a topic for another day…

Anyway, my mom got the idea to give it a shot at developing her own recipe for healthy baked beans sans the bacon, ham and excess sugar. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really holding out high hopes that healthy baked beans would actually taste good if they didn’t have a lot of sugar. But my mom’s recipe just blows me away. It is incredibly delicious.


Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire….

Mom’s Healthy Baked Beans Secret Smokey Ingredient

The secret to my mom’s sensational healthy baked beans dish is the liquid smoke. I had never used or even heard of this stuff before but my mom apparently uses it all the time. Mom uses Colgin brand, which is made from all natural ingredients and also very inexpensive. This is not one of those crazy-to-find ingredients either, you can pick up Colgin liquid smoke in your regular supermarket. It is usually sold right next to the ketchup and other condiments.

Colgin natural ingredients include: Water, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Vinegar, Molasses, Caramel Color and Salt.

Also, since 1 teaspoon of Colgin has zero carbohydrates the sugar content must be extremely low … so I wouldn’t worry about the molasses in the ingredients.

Colgin liquid smoke simply gives an outdoor flavor with indoor ease. You will be amazed when you try it. Although mom used Colgin “Hickory Flavor” flavor it also comes in “Mesquite”, “Apple” and “Pecan” too. I have a suspicion the apple and pecan together might be over the top delish.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. Have a happy, healthy and delicious July 4th holiday. And, thank you mom =) xoxo



Serves: 8

  • 2 tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Vidalia onions, finely chopped
  • “Real Salt” or Himalayan salt, to taste
  • 2 small cans (8 ounces each) organic tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic Worcestershire sauce (such as Annies)
  • 4 tablespoons liquid smoke (such as Colgin brand “Hickory Flavor”)
  • ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1.       Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.       Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high; add the onions and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until onions caramelize. Season onions with salt to taste.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Transfer beans to a casserole dish.

3.       Bake beans for 50 minutes, or until thick.





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  1. You are welcome Kelly!

  2. Thank you for offering a healthy alternative that is diabetic friendly, made for our Memorial Day cookout!


  1. [...] all the slab bacon and brown sugar can make for a not-so-healthy side dish. Try this healthier version using “liquid smoke” flavor instead of bacon, and a drizzle of agave for sweetness instead of [...]

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