The history of baked beans in Britain

Pallets with tins of baked beans in a supermarket

What is it with baked beans in Britain? There is hardly a British pub or café that doesn’t have them on the menu. Go to a large supermarket and you will see that cans of baked beans don’t sit on shelves – they sit on pallets so they can be restocked more quickly. They are even popular with the royal family.

However, baked beans are not traditionally British. They were first introduced in 1901 by an American man, Henry Heinz, owner of the Heinz food company. In 1905, Mr Heinz started to advertise his baked beans as the perfect pre-cooked meal at the end of a long day in a factory. They were instantly popular. Despite their American origin, baked beans are not as popular there. In fact, nowhere likes them as much as the UK – British people eat more baked beans than the rest of the world put together.

Baked beans get their name because the raw haricot beans are baked in tomato sauce while inside the can. Originally the recipe included small pieces of pork, however during World War 2, they became vegetarian because of meat rationing. They have stayed like this ever since.

Most people eat them at least once a week, usually as a quick evening meal, but they are also popular for breakfast and lunch. If you want to try baked beans, British-style, heat them in a pan and serve them on top of a slice of hot buttered toast –maybe with some grated Cheddar cheese on top. Delicious.

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