Baked beans in bedsits…

As threatened – the post on baked beans.

Baked beans on toast are the perennial stand-by for impoverished students in bedsits, low-income earners in bedsits, no-income earners in bedsits, schoolkids, vegetarians and vegans. Or used to be in my younger days. I suppose Pot Noodles took over long ago as easier to not cook.

I was surprised therefore, when browsing another blog, to discover this is not a worldwide-known fact. Other Brits may be similarly surprised – link here.

Baked beans, as we all know, are full of protein (the beans), a tasty sauce, and the toast provides carbs. Beans plus carbs = a good thing, unless you are a paleo primal screaming person, in which case, I really don’t want to hear your view as I have read up on it and written about it here.

For those who can’t afford £42 for fillet steak, a tin of beans and a couple of slices of toast does the job. Incidentally, in the supermarket yesterday I was amazed to watch the woman behind me buy up nearly the equivalent of 14 chickens.

Chicken breasts (in packs of three) were £4 a pack, but buy three for £10. So I watched her pile up one set of three packs, then another three, then another three. A grand total of 27 chicken breasts. A large family I thought. Or a large freezer. Or maybe they just like chicken breasts. Pork chops apparently cost nearly £6 for two. Equally amazing. Don’t knock the humble baked bean, although I don’t suppose small tins are 19 pence these days.

I didn’t eat them very much at home as a kid. They didn’t really fit with my mother’s weekly Corden Bleu Cookery magazines (4/6 each) promoting rich and delicious French cooking. So when we had baked beans on toast for tea, they came laced with butter, cream, and tomato puree. Have to say they were very nice and I would have been happy to have eaten them more often. They were awful at school, thin and watery, for which I blame my mother’s rich French additions at home.

By the time I had become an impoverished student I was no longer interested in tins of baked beans. They had the dreaded S word as one of their major ingredients. I was on a big anti-sugar campaign (still am), so beans were a no-no. Anyway, they weren’t proper food, because they weren’t meat.

How things turn full circle! Moving forward to my vegetarian days, I did find some decent tins of sugar-free beans, Whole Earth, I suspect. Hardly cheap, but at least sugar-free. When I had time, I cooked beans and made the sauce, if not, I bought the tins.

So reading the baked bean post on the blog linked to above, I had a huge urge for baked beans on toast.


Beans, usually haricot (navy in North America I think you call them), but any beans will do. I used pinto, as I was out of haricot.

Tomato sauce – olive oil, onion, garlic, mixed herbs, tomatoes, veg stock, soya milk, vinagre de Jerez, soya sauce (tamari). Tin of toms works instead of fresh.


Soak beans overnight. Cook following day in pressure cooker for 25-30 mins depending on beans and pressure cooker.

Cook onion and garlic, add tomatoes, herbs and stock. When cooked, and cool, zap. At this point I added the tamari sauce, milk, and vinegar. Add beans to finished sauce and warm up to put on toast.

Tomato sauce
Adding pinto beans to sauce

Optional extras
This is the difficult one. You need to decide what you want your sauce to taste like. I added a Thai green chilli which made it pretty hot, suited us, but may not be to everyone’s taste. Ginger, mustard, apple cider vinegar are other popular additions. Worcestershire sauce if you use that (and can find one free of anchovies and sugar) if you don’t like tamari. I did ponder coriander – I didn’t want it to taste curried, but I do want a slightly spicy taste, so that may be for next time.

If you want to serve it with greens to salve your conscience, then I would be going for parsley without a doubt, and maybe a dark green leaf salad, eg rocket (aragula), and spinach leaves.

Thanks to The Vegan Kat for her excellent series of interesting breakfast posts throughout February, I guess I just qualify for Hot Breakfast Month, pipping in on the 29th with this one.

(Note to self. Do wash out pans before taking photos, and then put ingredients back in, so that everything looks immaculate).

54 comments on “Baked beans in bedsits…

  1. I adore baked beans, and have for years :-) even now it conjours up memories of sitting in front of the tv on a sat night, dad watching the tele printer announcing the football results, me waiting for the lone ranger to come on, with a dish of beans and a slice of toast on my knee( only night I didn’t have to sit at the table).
    Never thought about preparing my own though, they’ve always come out of a well known blue can :-)


    • I do think the well-known blue can ones are pretty good, even better with my mother’s artery-clogging additions. I also discovered they were 75p in Coviran today when I wandered up earlier. Next time I go to Morries I shall see how much they charge. Not too much inflation over the years methinks. At least they are still less than a quid. I don’t think I ever saw the Lone Ranger. Saturday was Dr Who night :) Why was the slice of toast on your knee? Did it not fall off? ;)


  2. I too like/love baked bean but unlike you never have made my own :( – guess I should try re finances!
    I do add them to stews, but prefer them on whole wheat toast, with Worcester Sauce!


    • Only way to make it cost effective is to do loads and freeze them though (our freezer doesn’t work :D), but at least there are two of us to eat them. Well, three of us I suppose.

      Checked out Morries prices here and they were 50 something and 60 something for the smaller tins. Baked beans price sleuth me today. I don’t think that will leave you penniless. Don’t worry about making your own.

      I think bb are awful in stews although love Spanish style meals with beans, ie not Heinz! But yes, wholewheat or brown or something like that is def the best.


  3. Enjoyable post. Growing up as a Beatles fan, everything British was awesome. So I learned of the baked beans on toast delicacy early on in life but I never tried the dish. Your recipe sounds and looks good. “Used” dishes show that you really did prepare the dish and will eat the food and it was not done just for show. Reality counts.


    • Wish it was still awesome :( You know I’m anti-convenience food. Home-made is cheaper and fresher, tastier and sugar/salt free. But I remember you have a sweet tooth so maybe you should try the tinned beans ;)

      Perhaps I should go for reality TV?


      • It has lost its flare but we still enjoy our visits. Remember being able to walk up Downing Street to number 10. No gate at the end. Only one Bobby standing in front. “Those were the days my friend”. Certainly would not want to visit during the Olympics.

        We rarely eat in a restaurant anymore. Like you said, home-made is so much better. And my sweet tooth? A little organic brown sugar will do. (-:

        Your reality show would be a breath of fresh air. Only reality shows we watch are “The Amazing Race” because we can see more of the world and “Survivor” because our kids watch it and they like to discuss the weird contestants.


        • Yeah when I was a kid you could go right up there too. By the time I was working in the civil service and went to No 10 (ie inside) the street was blocked off. I had a govt pass so pretty easy to get in, probably not quite so easy these days. Beautiful inside too. The press office was downstairs through narrow passageways and very cluttered!

          My reality show would be so out of touch with today’s consumerist, superficial, grasping society that I would be thrown off my own show on the first episode!


  4. Thnx for the post. We love baked beans and have just finished a couple of week night dinners of mac cheese, beans & sausages with a little chilli, & peas. Your homemade beans would make it extra yummy. It wouldn’t be too hard to do a vege version.


  5. As a child I was never allowed baked beans, so beans on toast, beans on baked potato etc. were treats I didn’t discover until I was about 25 (OK they served baked beans at school but I never found out how they made them so foul).

    I like cannelli beans in a home made sauce of tinned tomatos and puree over the highly sweetened offerings from Tesco etc. I buy them tinned as to disorganised to remember to soak overnight.



  6. Thanks for sharing your baked beans recipe :) I will have to try making some myself and create an entirely homemade version of beans on toast. Thanks also for the link back to my blog. Glad you enjoyed the breakfast posts!


    • You’re more than welcome. Thank you for the inspiration for making me cook them, and then writing about them. I did find your initial post interesting putting the North American view which was why I thought it would be interesting to post a tradtiional Brit view of them too.


  7. I haven’t had tinned “baked” beans for a long time. They were a big part of my childhood, but we served them with the doughy white bread, un-toasted, but buttered. And of course, seeing as I write from Canada, we always added maple syrup. Perhaps it’s your post and the death of Monkee Davy Jones, my childhood crush, but I could use a plate of those beans today.


    • Far better with toast. Honest! I saw that about Davy Jones somewhere in surfing and wondered how old it was, obv not very. Used to walk from school to the bus station alternating between singing ‘hey hey we’re the monkees’ and ‘i’m a believer’. Just about to eat the last of the beans btw :D


  8. Am impressed, firstly by so many comments and more so by you making your own baked beans!
    I like them, they are a staple store cupboard item of mine, for a quick on toast lunch or to add to a casserole. Have ‘saved’ your recipe :)


  9. I love bean sandwiches! I have six siblings and Mum was a bit fed up of cooking so sometimes for lunch we’d get bean sandwiches… canned “baked” beans between two pieces of toast. For me, it’s comfort food. I thank you for reminding me, as I have to make some baked beans (from scratch, from dried beans with molasses and bacon and actually put into the oven) sometime soon!


  10. Here’s my baked bean recipe: Ingedients – 1 tin Heinz beans. Empty into microwaveable bowl. Cover. Microwave. Eat with toast.

    Yours looks a little too complicated for me :)

    I worry about when my youngest child becomes a student. He hates beans. Any suggestions for a cheap alternative?


    • Pasta? Easier than rice. Or really exciting potatoes. Those things that come out of the ground rather than from the freezer in plastic bags. You can bake them, chip them, boil them, fry them, well, the list is endless. He’ll survive for ten weeks without a protein overload. Salad would be good with any of those. Minimal cooking, pretty healthy, lacking protein, but not a major problem for the western world. Add cheese and egg.


  11. well I haven’t touched a baked bean for years. So you can imagine my shock at deciding to spend a pleasant Saturday afternoon, reading blogs and catching up with my favourites, to discover you had written a post about the humble baked bean. Mainly because HWMNBO, who is suffering the worst cold known to man…….(despite the fact I had a really bad chest infection from October to January – but I digress….), decided lunch today should consist of baked beans. I had to go out a buy a tin…..such was my dislike of them I never have them in the house. Also, school dinners three times a week featured baked beans of the watery variety…..hence my dislike. I will admit today’s tin was gloriously satisfying. Not the blue label Heinz but Branston Baked Beans in a brown tin…….and to add my to freakish common streak which has suddenly arisen from the depths of my character (must be all the death and destruction of recent weeks)………..I added HP brown sauce to them………lovely jubbley! Yours sounded great btw.


    • Well, like you, I have never bought the blue tins – only the sugar-free ones mentioned above. But as they are so easy to make, it is just as easy to do that. Note to self – put some beans on to soak. They are one of those very satisfying foods methinks, plus good at breakfast cos it avoids a greasy fry.


  12. I am a bean person and love them about any way one can fix them. I have never had them with that kind of sauce though. It sure looks and sounds good. Hugs


    • Thanks mumsy. The reason I ended up writing this post was because of reading an American post where the concept of baked beans (in tomato sauce) was a novelty. It is (or was) a staple food/meal in the UK. I do cook the other types too though, they are highly regarded in Spain due to being cheap, nutritious and filling.


  13. You know, baked beans on toast actually makes sense to me. It’s kind of like a sloppy Joe, but without the meat. And since I don’t eat meat anymore, this is a way for me to get my sloppy Joe fix!! I’m gonna try it. Celeste :)


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