You can freeze leftover baked beans, and they freeze perfectly well.
That’s true for both the simple version of the recipe where there are only beans and tomato sauce, and those slightly more sophisticated options with sausage or meat.
And it works for both homemade baked beans and the ones you buy in the supermarket.
Leftover baked beans can sit in the fridge for only so long. And if you can’t or don’t want to eat the rest anytime soon, the refrigerator isn’t an option.
That’s when freezing comes in handy. If you haven’t frozen baked beans yet, this article is for you.
Can You Freeze Baked Beans?
The short answer is: yes, you can. The beans and the meat that usually accompanies them freeze just fine. The same goes for the sauce that binds it all together.
But before you go all gung-ho about freezing this dish, let’s talk when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t.
Baked beans in cans and jars you buy in the supermarket have quite a long shelf life, usually longer than a year. That means there’s plenty of time to get to that container, and no reason to even think about freezing at this point. And as you probably know, food products in unopened cans and jars tend to last for weeks (if not months) past their dates.
But once you crack the container open, or make your baked beans from scratch, things change. The dish keeps in the fridge for only a couple of days, so it’s either eat it now or freeze for a later date.
Long story short, in most cases, it only makes sense to freeze leftover baked beans.
How To Freeze Baked Beans
The process is as simple as it gets. Grab a freezer container or bag (or a couple if you have a load of baked beans to freeze), and let’s get it done.
If you want the baked beans to defrost fairly quickly, use freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer.
- Let them cool down. If you just ate your baked beans for dinner, give the leftovers some time to cool down to room temperature. To speed things up, spread them on a plate instead of keeping them in the saucepan you used for cooking. Make sure this cooldown phase doesn’t last longer than an hour or so, for safety reasons.
- Portion the beans. If you have a big pot of beans that’s enough for a couple of meals, divide it into several, portion-sized freezer containers or bags. This way, you can thaw and reheat enough for a single meal. The better job you do of portioning the beans now, the easier it will be to cook them later on. Make sure to leave a bit of head-space, as the volume increases a bit when the beans freeze.
- Seal the containers or bags. If you’re using bags, remove as much air as you can before sealing. Label the containers with name and date if you like. I skip this part because I usually use all the foods that I freeze within a few weeks tops.
- Freeze everything. That’s it; put the containers or bags in the freezer, and you’re done.
That was a breeze, huh?
You can keep the baked beans in the freezer for at least a couple of months without significant quality loss. Over time (think months), the taste might slightly alter for the worse, but the beans should still turn out pretty good after thawing and cooking.
How To Defrost Baked Beans
Baked beans defrost slowly, so plan accordingly. And the bigger your container, the longer it takes to defrost.
Sure, you can defrost the dish in a saucepan on the stove, but that still takes anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes (depending on the amount) and requires you to watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.
That being said, here are your options for defrosting baked beans:
- Overnight in the fridge. The classic method of thawing any food. It works great, and it’s perfectly safe, but it also takes a lot of time. If you happen to have a big (larger than 16 oz or ~475 ml) container to thaw, it might take longer than 8 hours to thaw. All you need is some planning ahead, so you know when you should start defrosting the beans.
- Microwave. Once the big clump of beans starts to melt, microwave it in short (like 30 seconds) increments and flip it upside down often, so it defrosts more evenly. Remember to use the defrost option and add a bit of water when it’s starting to dry out. Cook the baked beans right after.
- On the stove. Put the beans in a saucepan on low heat, and let them slowly thaw. Flip and stir the dish often, so it doesn’t burn. Like with the microwave, add some water whenever needed and cook immediately after defrosting.
All in all, I think that defrosting in the refrigerator is the best option because it’s the only hands-off one. You just put the whole thing in the fridge and let the temperature do its job. The only downside is that you need to plan ahead.
The other options take much less time, but require you to watch the beans so they don’t dry out and burn. If you just want something to eat as much as possibly, they get the job done.
How To Reheat Baked Beans
Probably the best way to reheat baked beans is to do it the same way you usually cook the beans. Once the dish is properly defrosted, feel free to follow the same process you use for cooking the beans.
In case you’re wondering what options are available, here are some popular ones:
- Microwave. If you’re in a hurry and want to do other things as the beans warm up, there’s nothing better than the good old microwave. Once the beans are defrosted, reheating usually doesn’t require much oversight.
- In a saucepan. Probably the way most of us cook our baked beans. You can defrost then on the stove and simply continue cooking until they’re warm enough to eat. Have water on hand in case you need to add some to avoid burning.
- In the oven. Use a heatproof dish with a lid, so the beans don’t go completely dry. Don’t go overboard with the temperature: 360°F or 180°C for 10 to 15 minutes should be enough. The time depends on the dimensions of your dish and the volume of beans you reheat, so adjust accordingly.
That’s it. Now that your baked beans are nice and hot, it’s time to eat them the way you like them most. No matter if you like them on bread, over scrambled eggs on toast, or any other way, they should be pretty much as good as fresh.