UK/Ireland cooks- baked beans always from the tin?

(richard ) #1

I’ve been cooking a fair amount of beans recently, and the other day i made a batch of New England or Boston style baked beans (don’t throw beans at me, the differences or similarities between the two are beyond this California boy, and i couldn’t even find salt pork so i just used bacon…).

I didn’t really have anything in mind to go with them, and now they’re in my fridge i’m trying to figure out how to use them. Then it occurred to me that across the UK and Ireland, those cans of Heinz baked beans are used for a fry up. I know there’s a huuuge leap from the canned, tomatoey breakfast staple on one end and the iconic regional North American dish with deep roots on the other, but please bear with me:

I’m just curious if any cooks in the UK or Ireland ever bother to make baked beans from scratch to serve with a big fried breakfast, or is it just always, always the Heinz beans from the tin? Would it be WEIRD to make your own?

And maybe this isn’t even the right place, but the two things are remotely related, yes? The Heinz product is loosely based on the New England dish that then caught on across the Atlantic mostly as a breakfast food? History aside i guess my basic question is does anyone make their own beans in the UK or Ireland to eat for breakfast?

(Robin Joy) #2

There may be a very few Brits who regularly cook bb from scratch, but not many. More (me, for instance) may have tried a couple of times, but they just haven’t caught on as a popular dish in UK kitchens. Even a classic bean heavy cassoulet is a rarity.

There is, however, a low-level but persistent debate about which are the best tinned bb around. Branston gets my vote.

(John Hartley) #3

I’ve made Boston baked beans from scratch (once I think) but I’d never even consider doing that for breakfast. Opening a tin is the way to go. I’m not very good at cooking a full fry-up - I just find there’s too many elements for me to cope with. So, for my Sunday cooked breakfast, I tend to just cook maybe three elements. That’s likely to be beans on toast with mushrooms when I fancy something less meat heavy than the more usual “Full English”.

Beans are, I think, a relatively recent introduction to breakfast often replacing the traditional grilled tomato in cafe and restaurant breakfasts, as well as in home cooking. Now, I have to say, this is something I welcome as the traditional tomato is more often served barely warm let alone properly cooked and, these days, I usually ask for it to be left off. Whilst they were originally introduced to the UK in the very early 20th century, it was as a fairly upmarket food - part of the fascination we had with all things American in those times. By the second half of the century, the marketing was definitely as a children’s food - TV adverts from the 1960s were always of Mum dishing them up to her kids who had just got home from school and they were advertised with the slogan “Beanz Meanz Heinz”. I’d reckon it’s really only in the last 25 years or so that they’ve found their way onto the breakfast plate.

As for Robin’s bean debate, my normal supermarket (Sainsbury) used to do a "low sugar"own brand version which I found quite nice. They seem to have stopped recently (perhaps a temporary restocking of shelves for the Christmas season) so, last shopping trip, I bought Heinz - it’s not an improvement on the own brand, so will give Branston a try next time.

(Robin - speaking of cassoulet type dishes, Nigel Slater has a recipe for a sausage & bean hotpot in his “30 Minute Cook”, which I do every couple of months or so.)

(Denise) #4

FWIW, in Massachusetts where I’m from baked beans for Sunday breakfast are definitely an old-school item. I haven’t seen them offered at many places but when I have, it’s been in a traditional diner as a breakfast side dish. I ask if the beans have been prepared from scratch versus from a can and so far, they always have been. I imagine that’s due to tradition even if only traces of that tradition remain.


Thank you. You answered all the questions I had not yet asked!

I first encountered baked beans for breakfast on an early morning ferry between Wellington and Picton, New Zealand in the mid '80s. The dining hall offered baked beans, BB on toast, BB on spaghetti or BB on spaghetti atop toast. I am not a morning person and this was ungodly early in the morning. None of the options appealed to me. I asked for just toast. This was a difficult concept to convey. It started to feel a bit like this:

(John Hartley) #6

By the by, I’m having Heinz beans for dinner - along with sausages (organic, rare breed), mushrooms (also organic) and chips. That’s Brit chips, not Yank chips. Everything will just need a squirt or two of HP Brown Sauce. Mmmmmm.

(richard ) #7

I’m definitely having some sausages with my beans for dinner, with mustard. I overheard a Yorkshire woman trying to correct some Americans the other day on how to pronounce Yorkshire, and then Worcestershire, and that turned into an anecdote about a woman who carried HP brown sauce around in her purse (here in California, not in the UK)!

(richard ) #8

Years ago i was visiting a friend in Glasgow, and we were definitely on a budget. There was a local butcher that sold these thrifty and delicious breakfast kits which included small cans of beans. Well one day they were out and the guy suggested spaghettiOs as a substitute. Now i was used to the beans thing, but i was horrified by this suggestion. And when my friend readily assented, i had a “i thought I KNEW you” moment. I was never so happy in my life to see a can of beans as i was two days later when they had replenished their stock.

(John Hartley) #9

I certainly recall more than one thread on Chowhound which discussed condiments people take with them to restaurants.


I’m in the US, but recalled seeing this from serious eats, their recipes are rigorously tested so i trust them

And FYI I randomly saw those Heinz baked beans for sale at Target of all places (?!) usually they’re silly expensive elsewhere

(John Hartley) #11

FWIW, my usual supermarket (Sainsburys) has 415g tins of Heinz beans for £0.80. Robin’s Branston beans, 410g, are £0.75. And my preferred own brand, reduced sugar & salt, 400g, at £0.35.


Target sells them for under $3/can, i think the 15oz equivalent. Other markets i have seen them closer to $5! So silly, but many british imports are stupid expensive- especially the cadbury and milky chocolates which many americans get hooked on ;))


You can often get Heinz for about 50p a can if you get a 4 pack which are regularly on offer. I’m normally reaching to them for convenience so I’ve never even thought to make my own for breakfast or a quick lunch. Definitely agree that they’ve taken over in most cafes which is welcome when the alternative is a tasteless watery grilled tomato.

(John Hartley) #14

Lex - this is a pretty quick/easy sausage & bean hotpot:


The second recipe uses black pudding, since you know quite well French food, is it the similar or the same as the boudin noir (blood sausage) in France? Thx.

(John Hartley) #16

Quite similar and, certainly, if you were going to do that recipe you would use boudin noir (or any Spaniards amongst us could use morcilla, although that it lighter and usually a bit sweet).