Baked beans in Britain are up there in the popularity stakes with the likes of puddings from Yorkshire, tea of an afternoon, or talking about the weather. They even rival Prince Harry in their efforts to be the tastiest thing in the UK.
But to the rest of the world, it’s just another one of those head-scratcher British food traditions that’s a bit weird.
So, a question that seems to need answering, especially for our overseas friends, is why we Brits actually eat baked beans.
Eating baked beans is so popular in the UK partly because of tradition, but also taste and sometimes convenience. Whether they’re eaten on toast or alongside some other classic British dish, baked beans are such a quintessential British food tradition starting over 100 years ago, we Brits just can’t get out of the habit of eating them.
Here we’ll look at some different ways our beloved baked beans can be eaten and hence why they’re adored so much in Blighty.
First, a quick rundown on what this canned phenomenon is all about.
What Are Baked Beans?
Baked beans are haricot beans in a tomato-based sauce, a traditional food staple eaten rather regularly in the UK. They come in two forms: commercially produced in a tin, which is most common, or homemade.
Despite the name, the famous tinned baked bean is not actually baked. A steaming process is used to cook the beans and sauce before being packaged and then reheated by the consumer, usually in a saucepan (although baking them in the oven is also an option).
So why are baked beans called baked beans? Honestly, we’re not even sure ourselves.
Putting homemade baked beans to one side for a jiffy, the best canned beans in the UK are widely considered to be those made by Heinz, with the likes of Branston bringing stiff competition.
Do All Brits Eat Baked Beans?
While we’d love to go along with the idea that all Brits eat baked beans, as with all these things, there’s people in the UK who love them and those not so fond. There’s not so much of a ‘love or hate’ thing going on as there is with Marmite though.
Why Do Brits Eat Baked Beans For Breakfast?
Brits eat baked beans for breakfast because it’s traditional in the UK, simple as that. Baked beans are an essential component of the Full English Breakfast, alongside sausages, bacon, eggs and all that goodness.
What Do Baked Beans Taste Like?
It’s actually quite difficult to say what baked beans from the tin taste like. Although we Brits enjoy them often, it should probably be remembered that they’re a commercial convenience food. Homemade baked beans will taste completely different to the tinned variety, mainly of a much more fresh tomato and bean flavour.
Why Do Brits Eat Baked Beans?
There’s a few main reasons that Brits eat baked beans:
Clearly the first reason being one of taste. If we’re being totally honest, it’s not necessarily the taste itself, but maybe more the familiarity of the taste (because of their popularity historically), that we love baked beans so much. Then again, the taste itself clearly has something to do with it.
While the distinctive taste of baked beans plays its part, you could say that tradition is also one of the main reasons we eat baked beans.
Wikipedia tells us that the beans used to make baked beans (haricot beans), actually have their origins in South America, coming over to Europe in the early 16th century.
Heinz themselves tell us that their beans were first sold in the UK in 1886 at Fortnum and Mason in London, and we’ve loved them ever since. Baked beans were even classed as an ‘essential food’ by The Ministry of Food during the Second World War.
Clearly we mainly advocate eating fresh, made-from-scratch food in the UK, but let’s be real, sometimes convenience wins. Rightly or wrongly, a tin of baked beans is often the answer in Britain when there’s a need for a quick snack, or full-blown meal. You’ll find a load of examples of how Brits eat baked beans below.
Heinz and the like would naturally want you to believe that Brits eat baked beans because they’re ultra healthy. In general terms, they’re not exactly the worst food around, but you can make your own mind up as to how healthy they actually are.
Here’s what Healthline says:
“Baked beans are high in protein, fiber, other nutrients, and beneficial plant compounds. They may improve gut health and cholesterol levels. Canned varieties are convenient but often high in added sugars, salt, additives, and BPA contaminants. Your healthiest option is to make them from scratch using dried beans.”
The odd tin of beans probably won’t do you any harm (allergies aside), although making homemade fresh baked beans will undoubtedly be healthier.
Another reason why Brits eat baked beans as much as they do is their versatility. It’s probably a stretch to say that baked beans go with everything, but here’s some common ways that baked beans in Britain are often enjoyed:
Baked Beans on Toast
We wouldn’t go as far to say that beans on toast is one of Britain’s best delicacies, but it certainly is a famous British dish enjoyed in all corners of the UK. For what it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in comfort value.
Full English Breakfast
It should really go without saying that baked beans need to be on a Full English Breakfast plate. Like scones and clotted cream, or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, baked beans go hand-in-hand with the classic Fry Up. Also great alongside just eggs and toast.
Sausage, Mash and Beans
One of Britain’s classic pub dishes, sausage and mash traditionally comes served with gravy and vegetables, but swapping out the later for a tin of baked beans is sometimes perfectly acceptable.
Jacket Potato and Beans
If there were a list of typical British lunches, the humble jacket potato accompanied by baked beans would surely be near the top.
Chips and Beans
Sometimes enjoyed as just a duo, although the combo of chips and beans really comes alive when dished up alongside thick cut ham, nice juicy sausages, or even a burger of some kind.
It’s no secret that adding grated cheddar cheese on top of some perfectly cooked baked beans creates a food sensation like no other. On toast or with a jacket potato probably being most popular.
‘Posh’ Baked Beans
Homemade baked beans (a.k.a. ‘posh’ baked beans) are frowned upon by some, in the same way canned baked beans are despised by others. Whatever your preference (you’re allowed to like both), cooking up some haricot beans in a fresh tomato sauce from scratch is always a great option too.
So there you have it, that’s why Brits eat baked beans; whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.