Gina Mae's Baked Beans  


Scholar Regina Bradley (nicknamed Gina Mae as a child) added a few special touches to her husband's baked beans recipe to make it her own. "A cookout's DNA is found in the sides and who made them. This task is not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned," wrote Bradley, in an essay for Food & Wine. "If your beans taste burnt or your potato salad has raisins or olives, we talking bad about you 'til your grandchildren hear about it." For this summer-perfect side, Bradley dresses up store-bought barbecue sauce with extra brown sugar; apple cider vinegar cuts through the smoky sweetness. For a thicker version of these saucy beans, bake them 10 to 15 minutes longer before topping with bacon. If Vidalia onions are unavailable, substitute any sweet yellow onion.

serving dish with baked beans
Photo: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 45 mins


  • 3 bacon slices

  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef

  • ¾ cup finely chopped Vidalia onion 

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbecue Sauce) 

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 (22-ounce) cans baked beans (such as Bush's Bourbon and Brown Sugar Grillin' Beans)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bacon slices in a single layer in a 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium-low, flipping occasionally, until browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; reserve drippings in skillet.

  2. Increase heat under skillet to medium, and add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is crumbly and just browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Push beef to one side of skillet; tilt skillet to let drippings drain to empty side. Using paper towels, carefully soak up drippings; discard.

  3. Return skillet to heat over medium, and add onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add barbecue sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, paprika, and cinnamon; stir until well combined. Stir in baked beans, and bring mixture to a simmer over medium, stirring often. Pour mixture into a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.

  4. Bake beans, uncovered, in preheated oven until bubbling in center, about 50 minutes. Crumble bacon evenly over top, and bake 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead

Beans can be made up to 3 days in advance, covered, and stored in refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before reheating.

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