Smokey Baked Yellow Eye Beans with Bourbon

by Mary on August 10, 2014


smokey baked yellow eye beans with bourbon

Smokey baked yellow eye beans with bourbon

Wow have I had a learning curve on these, four tries to get what I wanted! I had baked beans in childhood but had never made them as an adult until now. On my first try I did not pre-cook the beans before baking them– mistake! My next problem was lima beans. They have a bad rep. I wanted that to be a myth, but two attempts, first with regular lima beans and then with fancy heirloom Christmas Limas, gave me beans that were somehow both tough and mushy at the same time.

On my third try I was taking no chances with the beans. I used yellow eye beans, said to be the bean of choice in northern New England for making baked beans and to be especially tender and thin-skinned. They lived up to their rep: after their overnight soak they were  more softened than the usual beans, and the final result was soft with good texture. I went through the 2# bag that I bought and just ordered a larger quantity.

dry yellow eye beans

dry yellow eye beans

After my first two test batches, both very sweet and tomato-ey, I realized that I wanted something more like my mother’s baked beans and gave her a call. She told me that she had used caramelized onions, mustard, and molasses in hers. I asked whether she used blackstrap molasses. That’s what I’d been using, and my beans were a little harsh.

I’d read on Chowhound that blackstrap molasses was really too strong and a milder dark molasses was the way to go. Mom confirmed that she used a dark molasses that was not blackstrap.  It took me a couple of stores to find it, but I got unsulphured sweet molasses for a mere two dollars and change– nice to get a special ingredient and have it be inexpensive.

Well! I was getting somewhere! On the fourth try I got the spicing about where I wanted it: smokey and flavorful, though vegetarian and low in saturated fat. Smoked paprika and liquid smoke give smokiness, and next time I plan to try using smoked salt too. A touch of tomato paste adds just a little tomato flavor and the bourbon, along with the molasses, gives it some really deep notes.

These aren’t hard, but between cooking the beans and baking them they do take time, so they’re for a day you’ll be hanging around at home. Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Baked Beans
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 5
  • 1# dry yellow-eyed beans or small white beans
  • 1½ cups of bean cooking water or water
  • 1 yellow onion, about 10 oz., or 2 cups finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup unsulphured sweet molasses
  • 2 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. cinnnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp. freshly ground pepper (several grinds of)
  • ⅓ cup bourbon
  1. Soak beans in a large, ovenproof pot with ample water overnight (or use quick soak method-- bring to a boil, turn off heat, let sit for an hour).
  2. Drain, replace water, bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour until soft.
  3. Chop onions.
  4. Saute onions about fifteen minutes in olive oil until partly caramelized (clear, softened, and beginning to brown).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Mix other ingredients in a large bowl.
  7. Add ingredients and water to the pot of beans.
  8. Adjust spices to taste.
  9. Place pot of beans, covered, in oven for 1 hour (pot must be ovenproof).
  10. After an hour, remove lid from pot. Continue baking until excess water has evaporated and the beans have a dark, caramelized top layer. For me this was about 45 minutes. I did not need to add water during this time, but you may. Check the beans to make sure they don't dry out.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Millie August 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I am happy you found the combination you were looking for.


mary August 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Thanks, Mom!


Angie August 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm

It looks very delicious and packed with flavours.
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mary August 11, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Thanks Angie!


Katherine August 10, 2014 at 11:00 pm

These look amazing! It’s so tough when recipes take multiple tries to get it right, but those are always the best ones! This is the perfect dish to eat as it starts to get crisp in the fall 🙂
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mary August 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Katherine! It is hard when it takes so many tries, but it’s great to have the recipe at the end, and you’re right, they are often the ones that become standards in our household.


Heather August 11, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Sounds like my type of flavor combination – YUMMY!!
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mary August 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Heather!


Wendy August 11, 2014 at 11:57 pm

These sound good…but my family loves the bacon I put in mine!
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mary August 12, 2014 at 5:38 am

Yes I’m sure that bacon is the easy way to make them tasty. We all make our own choices of what we are willing to eat just for the taste.


GiGi Eats August 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm

I wish I could eat beans, because I REALLY DO like them. I only eat black eyed peas on New Years Day – for good luck purposes… But my stomach, yeah cannot handle the beans! 🙁
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mary August 12, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I think if you are not used to them starting with a really small quantity and working your way up is key. There are other tricks, like using a small amount of baking soda in the soaking water, and other ideas that you can find online. Or there is always Beano….


sippitysup August 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Give Lima Beans another try. They can be so luscious. As you say maybe bacon?? GREG


mary August 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Thanks Greg, do you have any particular tips for the limas? I did an overnight soak and cooked them like any other bean.


Mireya August 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Hi Mary,
I haven’t been around because I took the summer off and I’m just getting started blogging again. Hope your summer has been going well. I like beans but most of those that I have tasted are too sweet. Your recipe base sounds very good so I might give it a try but I’ll start with just a tablespoon or two of the molasses.
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mary September 6, 2014 at 5:13 am

I’ve taken a very long break from my blog, too! It’s time for me to put some energy in now, though. See what you think, I didn’t find this too sweet at all especially with the bourbon in there.


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