With the 4th of July coming up, I felt it was my duty to take one of my old favorite ridiculously easy recipes and make it much more complicated.
Well, that wasn’t exactly my thinking. I was pondering an update of this Hawaiian Baked Beans recipe to go with the Red Bean-Chipotle Burgers I made yesterday. As you can see from the recipe, it uses canned baked beans, which are full of sugar and salt, and I thought I could make some homemade baked beans that would be healthier and add pineapple to them. I planned to start with canned navy beans, so it would be a fairly quick recipe.
So I did what you do and sent my daughter to the grocery store. (At least that’s what I do, when she’s home from college and my husband’s at work; grocery shopping is not my thing.) She texted me to let me know that there were no canned navy beans on the shelves. I had her check several brands, but still no luck; people must be making a lot of baked beans! So I had her pick up some dried navy beans and began to rethink my plans.
This was going to have to be an Instant Pot recipe.
I know what some of you are thinking (I’ve got email to prove it): You don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t want one, and think I talk about it way too much. Some of you even suspect I’m on the Instant Pot payroll. I’m not. (They’d want me to work way harder than I want to.) I do get a commission if you buy one through my Amazon link, but that goes for any Amazon product I choose to link to. If you want one, you don’t have to buy through my link, though I appreciate those who do; you can sign up for Amazon Smile and help your favorite charity. That’s what I do.
Anyway, I needed to use the Instant Pot so that I could get the beans cooked in time to write this before you start your 4th of July preparations. You can use any type of pressure cooker you like, and those of you who are experienced in converting recipes can convert this to a stove-top recipe. You really don’t have to have an Instant Pot, but it sure makes this much quicker to make.
Hawaiian Baked Beans, Low-Sugar Style
If you take a look at most other baked bean recipes, you’ll notice that they contain some combination (or even all of) the following:
- maple syrup
- brown sugar
I didn’t want to use brown sugar so I’ve substituted dates. (If you’d rather use brown sugar, feel free to use it instead). And ketchup is another high-sugar ingredient, so I used tomato paste and a blend of seasonings to try to capture that ketchup taste. I did wind up adding a tablespoon of molasses because it really adds a depth of flavor I couldn’t quite achieve without it.
So how were they? Great! Even the daughter I sent to the store liked them, and she can be pretty picky about her beans.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, be sure to check out my Smoky Apple Baked Beans, which are made with canned beans and baked in the oven.
A Word About Pressure Cooking Beans
It’s almost impossible to give a pressure cooking time that works for everyone because there are so many variables that affect beans: your altitude, the hardness of your water, and the age of the beans themselves (you never know how long they’ve been sitting on the grocer’s shelf). The times below are what worked for me with freshly bought beans, neutral city water, at 328 feet elevation. My beans came out almost too soft, but if you are at a higher altitude, you may need to add extra time. Consult this chart for more info.
Hawaiian Baked Beans in the Instant Pot
Don't be scared by the long list of ingredients. Except for dates and smoked salt, you may have most of them in your pantry.
- 1 pound navy beans
- 1 medium onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 cups hot water , divided
- 1/3 cup chopped dates
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or gluten-free substitute)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper , optional
- 20 ounces crushed pineapple in own juice , drained and liquid reserved
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4-1 teaspoon smoked salt , to taste (or Liquid Smoke)
- salt and pepper , to taste
Rinse the beans and pick over them. Put them in the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker along with 6 cups water. Set cooker to cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Allow pressure to come down naturally for 20 minutes before releasing steam and opening pot. (See Notes below for other soaking options.)
Drain the beans and rinse the pot. Using the Sauté or Brown setting, begin heating the pot and add the onions. Cook until the onions begin to get some color to them, adding a splash of water every now and then to release stuck-on onions. When onions begin to brown, add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Put the chopped dates in a blender with 1 cup of the hot water. Blend until fairly smooth. Add to the onions and garlic, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits.
Add to the pot the drained beans, the second cup of hot water, maple syrup, soy sauce, mustard, salt, ginger, and black and red pepper. Seal the cooker and set it for 15 minutes at high pressure. When it's finished cooking, allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes before releasing steam and opening the pot.
Check the beans for doneness and liquid. If they are not all tender, close up the pot and give them more time (add liquid if they seem dry). Go through the same process of waiting for the pressure to come down naturally before opening the cooker.
When the beans are done, stir in the pineapple and all remaining ingredients. Switch pot to the lowest Sauté setting and cook until the beans have thickened, at least 10 minutes.
Check seasonings and add more pepper, syrup, salt, and smoked salt to taste. If the beans get too dry, add some of the reserved pineapple juice.
I found that doing a quick-soak in step 1 resulted in beans that were almost completely cooked. If you decide to soak your beans overnight instead of quick-soaking, you may need to start with 25 minutes, rather than 15. If you try to use unsoaked beans, you will need even more time and much more liquid (I don't recommend using unsoaked beans for this recipe.)