I don’t order baked beans for breakfast anymore when I go out to eat.


As someone who would much rather not be cooking, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but it is because the smoky baked beans I make at home are better than any baked beans I have paid big bucks for at a cafe.

These homemade baked beans are, in my opinion, extra special because they have been cooked with a smoked ham hock.


A close up of a pot of smoky baked beans


Now, this shortcut-loving cook is going to shock you again, because this recipe does take a bit of time to come together, but when you have a lazy Sunday stretched out before you, it can be nice to have this brewing on the stove so that future you will thank you for all of the delicious breakfasts, brunches and breakfast-for-dinners you will be making.

Yeah, I realise the incongruence here – I am calling these ‘baked’ beans when they don’t involve any baking at all. These homemade baked beans are made entirely on the stove. But stovetop beans just doesn’t seem right…


What makes these smoky baked beans?

The way to get smoked baked beans without actually going through the smoking process is to use a smoked ham hock and some smoked paprika. Yes, it’s not technically going to give you that same smoked flavour from actual smoke, but it is much less fiddly than using a smoking machine (who just has one of those casually in their kitchen equipment BTW?) or lighting a backyard fire.


A plate with a piece of toast topped with smoky baked beans and a poached egg. There is a cup of coffee, espresso pot, eggs and tea towel in the background


How to store these smoky baked beans.

These baked beans will keep in the fridge if you plan on eating them over a couple of days. I like to portion them out into individual serves and then store the containers in the freezer to have on hand for a quick meal. They keep really well frozen.

To reheat them, pop the frozen baked beans out of the container (a bit like a giant ice cube!) into a saucepan, apply gentle heat to thaw, and then bring it up slowly to a boil. You may need to add a little bit of water if you notice the beans are catching in the saucepan.

Or you can defrost the beans first and then heat them on the stove or microwave.


Can you do a vegetarian version of these smoky baked beans?

Yes! One of my amazing followers Allison, shared that they made this recipe a delicious vegetarian version by:

  • Removing the ham hock (and Steps 1 and 2 of the recipe)
  • Swapping the 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce for 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • Swapping the 1 cup of reserved ham hock cooking water for 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • Adding 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke in Step 5 of the recipe

And if you serve the beans without the poached eggs, it is also vegan friendly.


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A close up of a pot of smoky baked beans

Smoky Baked Beans (That Are Better Than Your Local Cafes)

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  • Author: Nina Mills
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Category: Basics


This easy recipe for smoky baked beans is one you can make at home that will rival those you pay big bucks for at your local cafe.



1 medium sized smoked ham hock with skin removed (mine was originally 700g before the skin was removed)

2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (use navy beans if you can find them!)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 cup reserved cooking liquid from ham hock

2 400g cans diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Smoked paprika (optional)


Poached eggs, crusty toast and freshly ground black pepper to serve


  1. Place ham hock in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat pulls away from the bone without too much resistance/doesn’t have too much sinew. (You may need to top the water up to keep the ham hock submerged)
  2. Remove the ham hock and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the beans.
  3. Heat olive oil in the same saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until softened and translucent – you don’t want golden onion and garlic here. If your pan is too dry, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid.
  4. While the onion and garlic are cooking, shred the meat from the ham hock.
  5. Add drained beans, shredded meat, tomatoes, remaining reserved liquid, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and mustard and smoked paprika if using (I suggest starting with half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and see how you like it) to the onions and garlic in the saucepan.
  6. Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour until the sauce has thickened and the onions are fully cooked and have made friends with the tomatoes (you don’t want that undercooked tomato and onion flavour)
  7. Season to taste with salt before serving. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.
  8. For a true cafe experience, serve with crusty toast and a poached egg (see notes).


For out of this world crusty toast, cut your loaf of bread into thick slices and brush each slice with a little olive oil and some rubbed garlic and grill on both sides using a griddle pan.

You will still have heaps of cooking liquid leftover after cooking the ham. Strain and store in an airtight container to use as stock for a soup.

You can split the prep and cooking of this dish over two days by cooking and shredding the ham hock meat one day and making the beans the next.

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A plate with a piece of toast topped with smoky baked beans and a poached egg. There is a cup of coffee, espresso pot, eggs and tea towel in the background

Originally published May 2013.