Baked beans are tasty, quick to whip up, and easy to make, and if you are anything like me, you love it as a main course or a side. Sometimes the sauce can be too thin or watery, especially if you cook the beans and add some liquid. No one enjoys watered-down beans, so how do you thicken your baked beans?
There are several ways to thicken baked beans, like cooking down the sauce, making a slurry using cornstarch or flour, and using additional ingredients such as chopped or pureed vegetables, tomato paste, salsa, ketchup, and instant mash or soup. Mashing some beans also works as a thickener.
Some brands of canned baked beans come with a thinner sauce, and sometimes it gets watery if you add liquid when cooking it. Homemade baked beans can quickly end up with too much liquid if you don’t use the correct quantities. Fixing watery baked beans is not difficult and does not take long. There are methods you can use to thicken baked beans.
The Best Methods To Thicken Baked Beans
The quickest, easiest, and best way to thicken baked beans is by either reducing the liquid by cooking it down or mashing some of the beans. That way, you don’t compromise or add different flavors. Depending on what you make or eat with the baked beans, you can add thickening agents like cornstarch or flour.
Additional ways to thicken baked beans are using different ingredients such as vegetables, instant mash, instant soup, tomato paste, salsa, or even ketchup. You want to ensure that you use each method correctly, or else you could end up with a compromised flavor or a mushy mess. Let’s discuss the tips to thicken baked beans below.
Tip #1: Cook Down The Liquid
A great way to thicken your baked beans is by using the reduction method. That means you will cook the baked beans for a longer time on slow, simmering it until some of the water evaporates. The liquid will thicken, and the flavor will intensify that way. If there is a large quantity of excess liquid, you could start boiling until it significantly reduces. Then lower the heat down to simmer to prevent burning.
Overcooking the beans can make them mushy or stick them to the pot’s bottom. To avoid that, you can separate the beans from the liquid and keep the beans aside in another bowl. Cook down the sauce as much as you need to, and then add the beans for a short simmer until you are satisfied with the consistency.
The liquid reduction method is simple, easy, and does not compromise or change the flavor of your baked beans. It does not require any additional ingredients and keeps your baked beans traditional.
Tip #2: Mash A Portion Of The Beans
Here is a method to thicken your baked beans, especially when using the canned product. Remember that this technique will also reduce the number of beans in your dish, so use more if needed.
To thicken baked beans using the mashing technique, you want to remove a few spoons of the beans into a mixing bowl. Use a potato masher tool or fork to mash the beans. If you would prefer it completely smooth, use a blender. A fork will work well if you don’t mind them being slightly chunky. Once you mash it to your desired consistency, you can toss them back and stir them in.
This technique is best if there is only a little extra liquid or your sauce is slightly runnier than you would prefer. It is also excellent if you prefer to avoid the reduction method and prevent your beans from getting soft and mushy. You could do it just before serving if you notice that you need to thicken your baked beans a little.
Tip #3: Make A Slurry
Adding a slurry is one of the most common techniques people use to thicken sauces, including soups and baked beans. It is a method I often use myself when I want a quick fix. It can compromise flavor, but only slightly depending on how much you need. For a little bit of extra liquid, it’s usually fine.
How to make a slurry:
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1-2 teaspoons of water.
- Stir it well, ensuring there are no lumps.
- Add it to your baked beans while stirring the pot.
- Allow your baked beans to simmer for a few minutes.
- The liquid will thicken as it simmers.
- Repeat the process if necessary, keeping quantities in mind. Too much cornstarch, and you will need to thin it down again. Start with a little first and add more as you need.
You can also use flour instead of cornstarch which works the same; however, flour needs to be cooked to prevent a bitter, powdery taste. You can either simmer the baked beans for a longer time or remove the beans and cook the flour into the liquid first if you are afraid the beans might turn mushy.
Tip #4: Add Instant Mash
Instant mash is a fun way to thicken your baked beans. It can change the flavor, and you especially want to be mindful of saltiness. It works the same as a slurry, so 1-2 tablespoons with some water should do the trick. You can add more as needed. Instant mash powder is unlikely to lump once you add it to hot liquid and stir, but because of the beans, you should probably make a slurry first to be safe.
When using instant mash, you want to stick to the plain, original flavor unless you want the additional flavoring that comes in the mash powder. The flavored ones are great to spruce up a can of baked beans. It will thicken the sauce and improve the overall taste. It will also make the baked beans slightly more filling.
Tip #5: Add Instant Soup
Powdered soup is another fantastic and innovative method to thicken your baked beans. It works the same way instant mash does, but with the soup powder, you definitely want to make a slurry first because lumps are inevitable. I once tried adding the powder directly and sadly spoilt my entire pot of food.
When you add the mixture to your baked beans, ensure that you stir simultaneously to incorporate it and then let it simmer so the flavors can marry. A vegetable instant soup would work best unless you cook your beans with meat – beef soup would also work.
You want to avoid adding any salt if you know that in case of needing a thickener, you will use instant soup. Soup powders contain a significant amount of salt; the more you need, the saltier your baked beans will be.
Tip #6: Mix In Pureed Vegetables
Adding pureed vegetables to your baked beans thickens the liquid and adds healthy nutrition to the dish. I enjoy this technique to get vegetables into my kids, who love baked beans but gag at the word vegetables. They never know it’s in there and always enjoy the meal because it is flavorful, hearty, and filling.
You can use any veggies you prefer, such as carrots, broccoli, celery, or even boiled potatoes. Blend them with a bit of water to get a smooth paste before you stir it into the baked beans. It is best to allow the combination to simmer for a good while, so the flavors incorporate. That way, the taste of the veggies is not prominent.
Tip #7: Cook In Chopped Vegetables
Pureed vegetables to thicken baked beans is an excellent method to hide the veggies or keep the baked beans texture as traditional as possible. On the other hand, chopped veggies are another one of my favorite ways to thicken baked beans and make a warm, hearty, filling dish (similar to thickening gumbo or tomato soup!)
When I run out of meal ideas, I toss a can of baked beans into a pot, and a protein source like fillet steak strips, ground beef, or cut up sausage into a pot, add some spices, a little liquid for it to cook and call it a day. It is delicious and served over some rice. The dish often gets too thin, and we love a thick sauce, especially over rice. That is where chopped vegetables come in handy.
You could also toss in a cup of frozen mix veg. I personally love cubing some carrots, potatoes, and butternut and adding that to the pot. It absorbs the excess liquid as it cooks, thickens the sauce, releases flavor into the dish, and makes a deliciously filling main course. The chopped vegetable work so well to thicken up the baked beans that I often find myself adding a little extra water.
Tip #8: Add Tomato Paste Or Ketchup
Tomato paste or ketchup is another way to thicken your baked beans and is an effortless method. I recommend using ketchup to slightly reduce a can of baked beans that come in a tomato sauce because you wouldn’t need too much. Remember that ketchup will sweeten your dish, and if you don’t like that, you want to add only a little.
Tomato paste is an excellent option to stick to the tomato base. It is a thick puree consistency, and a couple of tablespoons will thicken your baked beans right up. Tomato paste can often taste slightly bitter or sour, so you may need to adjust the flavor with some spices.
Staying in the line of tomatoes, you could add a can of crushed tomatoes, whole-peeled, or a can of tomato puree. You can liquidize any tomato pieces if you want them smooth, and you do not have to use a whole can. Adjust the quantity to your discretion. You may also need to adjust the taste, but it will do the job and thicken your baked beans.
Tip #9: Mix In Some Salsa
Salsa is an easy, quick, and fun option to thicken your baked beans. You could use ready-made salsa or make some at home. Mix it with your baked beans, and you will have a delicious, saucy dish to serve hot or cold. I love mixing some baked beans and salsa to make a fun dip for tortilla chips or even for veggie taco nights.
Salsa contains pieces of onions, tomatoes, and a couple of other ingredients like peppers, jalapenos, etc. Salsa to thicken baked beans is similar to the chopped veggie method; however, here, you get more of a dip consistency, which is super versatile.
Baked beans make for a hearty side dish at a BBQ or just a regular dinner with the family. If you are new to making baked beans and they are getting too runny, definitely use one of the 9 methods we’ve just discussed to thicken them! A good, thick sauce with baked beans is essential for the best texture and flavor!