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My Favorite Picnic Beans Perfect for Your Labor Day Barbecue

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Are you planning a cookout or barbecue this Labor Day weekend? We love serving baked beans at our barbecues. My recipe for baked beans is to die for. If you make it, I recommend using Bush’s® Best “Original Baked Beans”.

I grew up as a “taste tester”. My father founded a small family-owned grocery store chain, Steele’s Markets. He was a perfectionist and quite picky about the products he sold, insisting on stocking only the freshest perishables and best brand names. When it came to canned goods, Dad would bring home different brands of the same item. He’d open up the cans and set the contents on a plate or in a bowl. Labels were, of course, hidden. We tasted each sample and voted on which one had the best flavor and texture. Some things stick with you. I am still blind taste testing different brands today.

My blind taste test of baked beans picked Bush’s Best “Original Baked Beans” as the BEST. Bush’s has been canning “Original Baked Beans” since 1969. They based their recipe on Kathleen Bush’s secret recipe. They use tender navy beans, and the sauce is slightly sweet with a smoky bacon flavor. Kathleen created a good recipe, but I think my sauce makes Bush’s beans even better.

My Favorite Picnic Beans Makes 12 to 18 servings

½ pound bacon 2 tablespoons pan drippings 1 ½ cups yellow onion, diced 1 tablespoon minced garlic ½ cup ketchup ¼ cup dark molasses ¼ cup yellow mustard ¼ cup bourbon 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons Worcestershire® sauce 3 to 4 dashes Tabasco® sauce 2 cans (28-ounces) Bush’s® Best “Original Baked Beans” Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, fry bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon slices and transfer to paper towels to drain. When cooled, crumble bacon and set aside.

Drain off excess pan drippings, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ketchup, molasses, mustard, bourbon, brown sugar, Worcestershire® and Tabasco® sauces and mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer sauce for 5 minutes. If you don’t use Bush’s beans, rinse and drain baked beans. If you use Bush’s, don’t rinse and drain them. Put them into a 2-quart ovenproof casserole. Add the sauce and crumbled bacon to the casserole. Stir to combine thoroughly. Bake beans for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve warm.

Carol Ann

Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at and explore her website,

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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