Low Sodium Baked Beans

If you are like me, baked beans are a staple during the summer. A pot luck simply wouldn’t be complete without sweet, velvety, scrumptious baked beans!

What is a baked bean lover to do if they need a low sodium diet? Never fear! My low sodium baked beans are SO easy and delicious, you won’t miss the canned stuff!

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How Much Sodium in Baked Beans

There is usually quite a bit of sodium in baked beans. The USDA estimates a 1/2 cup of baked beans has 435mg of sodium. (1) If they are made with meat, add an extra 100mg of sodium! (2)

WHOA! That is nearly a quarter of the sodium most of us need in an entire day in that measly 1/2 cup of baked beans. Yikes! The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day.

These low sodium baked beans only have 55mg sodium per 1/2 cup. This is nearly 90% less sodium than traditional baked beans.

Bar graph comparing sodium in The Kidney Dietitian's Low Sodium Baked Beans (55mg) to Traditional Baked Beans (720mg) per 1/2 cup serving

Why Low Sodium?

Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stoke. High blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney disease. A high sodium diet may also lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. (3)

A low sodium diet is especially important for people with kidney disease, kidney stones, hypertension, heart disease and liver disease.

Remember, the goal is NEVER to totally eliminate sodium from your diet. Instead, it is important to eat the right amount of sodium. Most of us are eating nearly 1,000mg more salt than we need. (4)

Sodium that is already in food, like canned baked beans, is where most of us are getting salt. Choosing low sodium baked beans can help you meet your sodium goals.

Ask your dietitian how much sodium is right for you!

Salty Baked Bean Ingredients

Most of the sodium in traditional baked beans comes from the sauce. The sauce is typically made from ketchup, barbecue sauce and other salty condiments. This adds up!

Many baked beans also have bacon or other smoked meat in them. This adds even more sodium!

To make my low sodium baked beans, I used low sodium ketchup and just a little barbecue sauce to keep the sodium down. I cut the barbecue sauce in half by using ingredients from my popular low sodium BBQ sauce recipe!

Don’t worry! You’ll still get a TON of flavor from all the spices!

Key Low Sodium Baked Beans Ingredients

Onion

Onion (and garlic!) tend to be a STAPLE in my low sodium cooking. An entire onion goes into these low sodium baked beans for extra flavor.

Great Northern Beans

I chose great northern beans for my low sodium baked beans. Navy or great northern beans are the classic choice.

You could also use pinto beans for this recipe – these are a lower oxalate bean, if you need a low oxalate diet.

Image of baked beans with key low sodium baked beans ingredients written around it: great northern beans, onion, apple cider vinegar, molasses & brown sugar, TONS of spices, BBQ sauce, liquid smoke, low sodium ketchup

Coffee

Yes! You read that correctly! Coffee adds some flavor depth and interest to these baked beans, without a bit of sodium!

Barbecue Sauce and Low Sodium Ketchup

For convenience sake, I did use some higher sodium condiments in our low sodium baked beans. Because some of the barbecue sauce is drained after cooking, I opted to use the “real” stuff.

The ketchup is added after cooking and is not drained off. So, I chose to use low sodium ketchup here. Traditional ketchup has around 170mg sodium per tablespoon. Most low sodium ketchup has closer to 60mg.

If you have kidney disease, look for a low sodium ketchup that does NOT use a potassium salt substitute. I love French’s Low Sodium Ketchup* and Kroger Brand Reduced Sodium & Sugar Ketchup.

Brown Sugar & Molasses

Low sodium baked beans need something for that classic sweetness. To help keep the added sugar down, I choose flavorful brown sugar and molasses. These sweeteners add a TON more flavor than white sugar, so I could get away with using less!

Liquid Smoke

If you love smokey flavor and haven’t tried liquid smoke, RUN to the grocery store to get some!

Liquid smoke is a WONDERFUL way to add a ton of flavor to foods that traditionally use salty smoked meat. Most have little to no sodium, and are free of phosphate additives. I love to use liquid smoke in things like baked beans (of course!), collard or mustard greens or on grilled meat.

I use Colgin Liquid Smoke* that has ZERO sodium. Stubb’s Hickory Liquid Smoke* only has 45mg sodium per teaspoon. You really don’t need to use very much of this pungent stuff!

Apple Cider Vinegar

Acid is magic in most low sodium recipes. I used slightly sweet apple cider vinegar for our low sodium baked beans. Add acid to your dish in the form of vinegar or lemon/lime juice to add a BURST of flavor.

Spices!

Key to any low sodium recipe, I there are a TON of spices in our low sodium baked beans. I used the spices from the low sodium BBQ sauce recipe!

Are Low Sodium Baked Beans Healthy?

Yes! Whereas most baked beans are PACKED with sodium and sugar, these baked beans only have 55mg sodium and 5g of added sugar per 1/2 cup serving.

Baked beans are a fantastic source of fiber and plant protein. A 1/2 cup has a whopping 7 grams of fiber! That is the equivalent of 2-3 apples!

PLUS, what is better than a healthy recipe that you just THROW in the slow cooker!? If you don’t have one already, I’ve had this 3 quart Crock Pot* for over a decade!

Nutrients of Concern for Kidney Health

Being The Kidney Dietitian, I have to address some common concerns about beans on a kidney-friendly diet.

Image of low sodium baked beans with arrow "in the slow cooker"

Potassium

Historically, beans were ostracized for people with kidney disease because of potassium and phosphorus. But, we now know that plant protein foods, like beans, are actually much better for kidneys than animal protein! (5)

Not everyone with kidney disease needs a low potassium diet. In fact, a high potassium diet is good to help control blood pressure for many people with kidney disease.

We also think about phosphorus very differently . The phosphorus in plant foods, like beans, doesn’t get absorbed into our bodies. It is the phosphorus that is added to processed foods we need to look out for. Learn more about the new & improved low phosphorus diet for kidney disease!

Oxalate

Eeek! Beans for kidney stones!? YES!

Beans are also ostracized unnecessarily for kidney stones. Although they can be higher in oxalate, not all beans are. Plus, many people with kidney stones DO NOT need to be on a low oxalate diet. For most, a eating enough calcium is MUCH more important than stressing about oxalate. (6)

As always, nutrition for kidney stones is different for each person, depending on their 24-hour urine test results.

I help prevent kidney stones with this personalized approach in Kidney Stone Nutrition School!

Sugar

These low sodium baked beans have 5 grams of added sugar. This is less than half the added sugar in most baked beans.

You could reduce the sugar by leaving out the brown sugar and molasses. This would reduce the added sugar to 3 grams per 1/2 cup serving.

Store Bought Low Sodium Baked Beans

There are so many key ingredients in traditional baked beans that are VERY high sodium. It was hard to find a commercial low sodium baked bean option.

The best I could find was Bush’s 25% Less Sodium & Sugar Baked Beans*. A 1/2 cup still has 390mg of sodium. Honestly, you might as well make them at home! My low sodium baked beans have 85% less sodium than this!

Happy Eating!

Image of low sodium baked beans in orange crock
Print Recipe
3.50 from 2 votes

Low Sodium Baked Beans

Smokey, delicious low sodium baked beans!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time7 hours
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: low sodium baked beans
Servings: 12 1/2 cup
Calories: 191kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb great northern beans dried
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup low sodium ketchup
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar packed
  • 2 tbsp dark molasses
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Instructions

  • Combine onion and vegetable oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes, or until onion is soft.
  • Add cooked onions, beans, water, coffee, barbecue sauce and bay leaves to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook 7-9 hours on HIGH, until beans are very soft.
  • Drain cooked beans. Reserve 3/4 cup of cooking liquid. Return beans to slow cooker.
  • To beans, add reserved cooking liquid and remaining ingredients.
  • If beans have more liquid than you prefer, turn the slow cooker to HIGH and cook, uncovered 2-10 minutes until thickened.

Notes

Nutrition Facts (per 1/2 cup cooked beans): 191 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 55mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 5g added sugar, 10g protein, 108mg calcium, 684mg potassium, 124mg phosphorus, 79mg oxalate
 
Recipe adapted from Slow-Cooker Barbecued Baked Beans, America’s Test Kitchen.

16 thoughts on “Low Sodium Baked Beans”

  1. I like the beans, but not the horrendous sauces they come in cans. The real baked beams should be like the Greek or Italians do them, a pure tomato sauce with a good oil. I think that I will try to rinse the sauce out of commercial beans and recook quickly them in a simple tomato sauce with no sugar or salt but garlic and onion and a sprinkle of herbs. Alternatively just after rinsing them, just dress them with a olive oil ACV or lemon add some raw onion and whatever you wish (I like rinsed tuna and red peppers)
    is this wise or foolish?

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      I would just get canned beans that aren’t in sauce. I wouldn’t get any canned “baked” beans. Instead, just get canned pinto, navy (or whatever kind of beans you want) and make your own beans exactly as you suggested! This is a great way to control the sodium and make delicious beans the way you like!

  2. do the beans boil in the slow cooker on high? having had lectin poisoning twice, I’m really paranoid about cooking beans by any other method than boiling. But I love your ingredients list and it sounds so tasty. If they boil on high in the slow cooker I would be willing to try it but wondering if I can precook the beans by boiling then add the rest of the ingredients for maybe an hour in the oven? have you ever tried precooking the beans? thank you

    1. Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      Since the crockpot is on high, the liquid does come to a boil. This is very similar to cooking the beans in the oven.

  3. 2 stars
    To me it sounds like too much bother,and the pottasium content seems a bit on the high side,so I’ll choose not to have baked beans,their not part of my kidney diet.

  4. Patricia Farano

    5 stars
    My brother who is on dialysis is coming to visit, so I made a batch of these beans to test them out. I agree with the addition of the liquid smoke! I cooked, cooled/chilled and tasted the next day. The flavors blended well and the beans were very good. I didn’t undercook, but I ensured I didn’t overcook either, as mine will be frozen and reheated.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Yes! After you thaw them, they will be a little more mushy (which isn’t a terrible thing!). But if you prefer your baked beans being a little more formed, freezing will definitely mess with that. But if you don’t mind, freezing them is a great option!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      I’ve never tested that, so I can’t say for sure. BUT, everything I know about slow cooking tells me the cooking time should be the same! You could also freeze leftovers!

  5. Anyone worried about oxalates in beans could try cooking with blackeyed peas. Only 3mg oxalate per serving. And I can’t taste the difference. I use them because they are so easy to grow in my climate.

      1. I love snacks, popcorn & chips, what’s the best for ckd4? I’m eating Healthy Popminis & 50% less salt chips occasionally with a glass of white zinfandel.

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