Smoky barbecue baked bean casserole


You guys? Sometimes, I get these weird, uber specific cravings.

For a while in college, it was buffalo sauce—the stuff had to be on everything. Rice, chickpeas, eggs, oatmeal…yeah, that was definitely the birth of my savory oatmeal obsession.

Another time, it was that fake berry flavor found in Cap’n Crunch Berries, which I think stemmed from the fact that my dollar store shampoo smelled just like them. And the strawberry fro-yo in the university cafeteria must have contained that same mysterious berry chemical, because that shit was Crunch Berries in pure ice cream form. Fact: I once skipped class just to sit around and devour multiple bowls of chemically flavored cafeteria frozen yogurt with a friend.

Lately, my obsession has been barbecue sauce. I am completely serious in saying that I could eat it with a spoon and not think twice. But the main problem with this (apart from the fact that nobody wants to go to dinner with me) is that barbecue sauce is typically packed with weird chemicals—high fructose corn syrup, anyone?—and buckets of refined sugar (read your labels, guys!)

So when Susan of The Fat Free Vegan Kitchen fame shared her naturally-sweetened, nutrient-dense makeover of the stuff, I could not have been more excited. And you probably aren’t shocked to learn that the girl who skipped class in college to gorge on dessert is the same girl who licked the blender after pouring her fresh-made barbecue sauce into this casserole. No shame here.

Smoky barbecue baked bean casserole
Enthusiastically adapted from The Fat Free Vegan Kitchen 
Makes 1 thin 9”x13” casserole; for thicker servings, use a 7”x11” dish

Olive oil or cooking spray
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large apple chopped
3 15-oz cans beans of choice, rinsed (I used black, kidney and chickpeas)

1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 medjool dates or 1/4 c any other dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Liquid Smoke
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, lightly coating with cooking spray or oil. Add the onion and saute about 3 minutes or until just softening. Add the bell pepper and minced garlic, then saute another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apple and saute for another minute, then stir in the beans and remove from heat.

Combine tomato sauce, dates and all remaining ingredients in a blender. Blend at a high speed until dates are completely smooth. Without eating too much of it from a spoon, pour sauce into the onion and beans. Stir the mixture well, then spoon into a lightly greased 9”x13” baking dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Be so, so happy.