Whether they are Boston-baked, with navy beans, salt pork, ketchup, mustard and molasses; or Southern beans with barbecue sauce and smoked pork; or regional baked beans in any style, baked beans need bread for sopping up juices and something fresh and crunchy to contrast with the starchy and tender beans. Choose salads of all kinds for contrasts in temperature and texture and look to ethnic cuisines for other side dishes.
Fresh, Crunchy Salads
Cold salads with fresh ingredients and crisp textures give your palate welcome relief from soft and hot baked beans. If your beans are on the sweet side, made with brown sugar or molasses, keep your salad on a more savory or bitter side by adding fresh herbs, such as parsley or dill, or lettuce with slightly bitter overtones, such as chicory or romaine. For beans with less sugar, add fresh fruit, such as orange segments.
Some cuisines serve traditional side dishes with beans that you can duplicate with baked beans. For example, Mexican foods with cheese, lettuce and either flour or corn tortillas, pair well with baked pinto or black beans -- choose from enchiladas, chilies rellenos or tacos. For French-style Great Northern baked beans in a cassoulet, serve a crusty baguette and a salad with crisp, sliced fennel or bell peppers.
New England Traditions
A steamed rye bread made with molasses and sometimes raisins provides a traditional accompaniment for Boston baked beans, also called New England baked beans. But any kind of bread will do. Baked beans have a long history in New England as one of the mainstays of early Colonists that remain through the 21st century for church suppers. A typical church or community menu might include baked beans with sliced ham, coleslaw, brown bread and pie for dessert.
Chuckwagon or cowboy baked beans, simmered all day in the chuck wagon while cowboys drove cattle, and the baked bean tradition survived in ranch-style baked beans served at barbecues throughout the Southwest and Texas. Typically made from kidney or pinto beans, cowboy beans work well with biscuits, cornbread or corn chips on the side. Keep the casual feel of the menu, by serving sliced carrot sticks, bell pepper strips and beef jerky on the side.
- Saveur: Full of Beans
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Food Timeline: FAQs: 19th Century American Foodways
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images