Crunchy Beans


This is a dish that I remember from living at home, but I didn’t know its origin. I just knew it wasn’t French! Out of the blue my sister recently asked me about crunchy beans, and I told her I was making them for the blog! With her being four years older, she had the distinct memory of how the very American recipe infiltrated our mother’s kitchen.

In my sister’s words: “In the early 60s, our family visited new friends Larry and Aimée, at their home for dinner. Crunchy Beans, all hot and bubbly from the oven, was served. Our mom was slightly insulted because, being French, she would never have served beans to guests.

She was very formal about those kinds of things and tended to judge accordingly. To her, a leg of lamb, one of several courses, would have been more appropriate. (She would even warm plates before serving food.) But, as it turned out, we loved the Crunchy Beans! It was an interesting and delicious combination of flavors that we were not used to, not to mention the catsup – quelle horreur! We acquired the recipe, and it became a family favorite.”

I found this photo from back then, my mother on the left with her poodle Minouche, Larry and Aimée (The Bean Cookers), and me with the long braids.

These beans are really easy to make, because you use canned pork and beans for the base. My husband, who grew up on such beans, recommends Van Camp’s brand.

Cooking beans from scratch is easy and economical, but there is something about this recipe that’s really fun. It’s also easy and good!

Crunchy Beans

3 – 15 ounce cans Van Camp’s pork and beans
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 celery ribs, finely chopped
2/3 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup bacon grease

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place all of the ingredients in a large Le Creuset or similar pot and bake for one hour.

They look like this when they’re done baking.

I served the crunchy beans with hot dogs!

And of course you can cut up the hot dogs and put them in the beans… but I wouldn’t.

But they’re definitely good with burgers and sausages.

64 thoughts on “Crunchy Beans

  1. I can remember serving a corn dish as part of the menu to a Dutch group and they kind of laughed saying “corn was only fed to the cows” in Holland! Luckily there was staff from my hubby’s company there too. Interesting to add celery and carrots – I sometimes add green peppers and always onions. Must try your version!

    • My hair was always close to my ankles when I was growing up, and it was to my knees in college. It’s hard to remember having that much hair!

    • Ha! Yeah, I used to have to tie them up when I bicycled. Thanks for the compliment. My girlfriend said, “I have a fall blanket and thermos you could use!” Glad I took her up on that!

  2. Wow, your hair was so long, Mimi! Crazy. So I’ve never heard of crunchy beans (I’m assuming the crunch comes from the carrots + celery?) However, this seems like one of those all-time favorite comfort food recipes. It’s the kind you curl up with on a cold day! And serving with hot dogs? Magnifique! (With all due respect to your mother there…haha.)

    • Ha! Yeah, she’s something! I still can hardly believe she “accepted” the recipe as her own, but glad she did. the beans are really good.

  3. Love when you share your family memories, Mimi! Fun recipe made even more fun by the story. And, by the way, Mark (older in sensibilities than in years) warms the plates for our dinner every day.

    • Wow. Are you serious? Amazing. I even have a copper thing with a handle that was for warming plates in the fireplace! It’s a really nice thing to do, warming plates, but I would just end up burning myself!!!

      • We used the stove for ages, and then a weird pad thing (which died quickly), till he decided to use the microwave and, voilà, warm plates every night. It might be killing us, though. Who knows?

  4. Good dish! We sometimes make baked beans using a similar recipe (no carrots, though, and I usually substitute BBQ sauce for the ketchup). My mom used to make a version of this, too — hers came from an older edition of _Joy of Cooking_ (it’s not in the current edition — I’ve looked). Fun memories — thanks.

    • Well that would be really good as well! I might at least try half and half next time. Depends on what else is being served.

  5. I can’t say I’ve ever had a recipe like this, but I definitely want to try it! I love the story behind it and it was fun seeing pictures of you and your family from back in time, love your braids! So cute!

    • Thanks. It’s pretty good! I like traditional Boston baked beans as well. When I was first married I tried every kind of baked bean recipe, since they were all new to me!

  6. You know what they say about beans- the musical fruit- the more you eat, the more you ….! Sounds like a great dish for the ol’ American Barbecue. I find that canned beans are a little on the ‘squishy” side, but adding the onions and carrots will indeed give the beans just the right amount of crunch. (BTW, I can’t believe how long your braids were)!

    • We have a lot of long hair in my family. My grandmother, when she married, her hair “puddled” on the ground. And she was 5’1” tall! Canned beans are soft, you’re definitely right about that.

    • They’re pretty good! In retrospect, I was really surprised my mother liked them, or at least pretended she didn’t!

  7. First, what a great family photo. Beautiful family. Your long braids are amazing!
    The recipe sounds delicious and I like the irony of how they became a family favorite after their inappropriateness of showing up at a dinner party. I’ll try these for sure. :-) ~Valentina

    • Yikes! I need to volunteer myself to culinary jail!!! Maybe I can try to get my husband to do that part…. 🤣🤣🤣

  8. I guess I’m like your mother. I still think of certain dishes being fit for company, others only for family, and only recently realized that not everyone thinks that way. When I recently posted a dish and commented that it was too “homey” to serve to company, I got a fair number of comments along the lines of any dish is fit for company if it tastes good.

    On the other hand, I do serve beans to company, in particular at cookouts where beans “all’ucceletto” make a fine side for grilled meats or my ever-popular bean and tuna salad. Both are fine company dishes in my book. I guess that shows how culture dependent the whole idea is…

    • Well as far as that goes, I think that’s all important as well. Except for really good friends, for whom I can put out chili and lasagna soup and they’re just happy to serve themselves from the stove and eat. Usually these are last minute get-together. I think casseroles are homey to most Americans, which they love, but i don’t make casseroles or eat them 😬 Even if they taste good !! And I am American! Although a make up of Italian and French, and yes, culture plays a role. But if this is old fashioned, I’m fine with it. Like men wearing tank tops on planes. Or wearing overalls and flip flops to a nice restaurant. Ew. I have a friend come and stay once a week when she comes into town for work, and we always have hors d’oeuvres, and I serve a nice dinner, with linens. It’s also about pride.And to be proud of what you serve, you have to love cooking. This would make a very interesting book!

  9. Oh my goodness, Mimi! Except for the celery and carrots this is so similar to my Dad’s Baked Beans! He always added a bit of mustard to the mix, too! I love these! He also always used VanCamps!

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