Baked beans are an affordable and delicious staple in many UK households, with millions of tins sold each year. Recent years have seen baked bean pizzas, baked bean crisps, and the (albeit more niche) baked bean tequila shot - proving we'll incorporate beans into our diets by any means possible.
While we are clearly obsessed with this beloved comfort food, many would argue there's not much that can beat a generous serving of beans on toast. This classic dish feels like home, stirring childhood memories of inhaling the dish in record time and inevitably spilling bean juice down your jumper in the process.
For decades, baked beans have offered a quick and relatively healthy meal option which can be tucked away in the cupboard for months at a time. They can be eaten on their own, on toast or a jacket potato, or as a side with a main meal - baked beans really can do it all.
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As they are a fixture of most UK households, we decided to put several supermarkets' offerings to the test, and it was no easy task. I tried nine tins of baked beans over the course of several days, which had an impressive combined weight of more than 2.4kg.
Quick disclaimer - I opted for small tins wherever possible, to avoid turning into a baked bean myself. I sampled tins from Heinz, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Co-op, Asda, Asda Just Essentials, Branston, HP, and Aldi - here's what I thought.
£0.35 for 220g.
Starting with Tesco, these beans had a decent texture and weren't soft or soggy. The tomato sauce tasted like pepper and onion - and a quick check revealed capsicum extract and onion as two of the main ingredients.
Personally, I prefer my beans to have a stronger tomato flavour, but they were still quite tasty. They didn't blow my mind and make me realise what I've been missing all these years, but the flavour was decent and the small tin would make for handy lunch.
£1 for 200g.
Heinz's "beanz" was the most expensive of the options I tried. Priced at £1 for a small 200g tin, I expected big things from the brand, which is perhaps best known for its baked beans, alongside its tomato ketchup.
The Heinz beans were quite tart in taste, which I really enjoyed. They had the familiar tanginess that I associate with beans, without being too sour.
I was surprised that the beans themselves were quite soft, even before cooking. Personally, I prefer a more solid bean to avoid the catastrophic bean mush when cooking, so these were a little on the soft side for me.
Despite the texture, I was impressed with the flavour of the sauce. The biggest disappointment here was the price, as there are many cheaper options on the market which match Heinz when it comes to flavour.
£0.21 for 200g
Sainsbury's was one of the cheapest options but sadly had everything I dislike in a baked bean. I found the sauce was watery and sweet, with no detectable tomato flavour.
The beans were among the smallest I tried, and whilst the texture was ok, it left me feeling underwhelmed. They may be a hit for those who prefer their baked beans a little sweeter, but for me the thin, sugary sauce didn't hit the spot.
£0.38 for 210g.
The mini tin from Co-op reminded me that not only are beans affordable, they're relatively healthy (when consumed in moderation, and not by the kilogram.) The packaging advertises that the beans count as one of your recommended five daily portions of fruit and veg.
Unfortunately, Co-op's beans didn't quite hit the mark for me. Once again, I found the texture a little soft and the sauce quite runny - a theme which appeared among many of the cheaper supermarket own-brand versions.
Despite losing points on the texture, the taste was pleasant and fairly middle-of-the road. Overall, a decent option if you're looking to save cash on named brands.
£0.40 for 210g.
The "tasty tomato sauce" which coasted Asda's baked beans was surprising for all the wrong reasons. I was optimistic for this one but unfortunately I found they were coated in the familiar, somewhat artificial, sauce usually found in a tin of spaghetti hoops.
The hoops and/or loops connoisseurs amongst you will know the sweet, bright orange sauce which usually coats the tinned pasta. To my horror, it appears Asda have chosen the same, or a similar recipe for their beans.
I feel strongly that baked beans and spaghetti hoops are very different, and so their sauces should be formulated accordingly. For me, this was the worst flavour of the lot.
£0.27 for 410g.
With food prices rising and many households looking for ways to save cash, Asda's affordable Just Essentials range has proven a hit with customers in recent months. It was the cheapest of all the options I tried, and sadly the taste reflected that.
The texture wasn't too bad compared to the more expensive versions, but I found they lacked flavour. Having said that, if you're someone who doesn't like strong flavours, or if you plan to serve the beans with cheese or heavy seasoning, these are a great option.
As you would expect, this budget friendly option isn't packed with flavour, but does tick a lot of boxes when it comes to texture. If I was looking for beans to add to a dish, I would happily pick up one of these thanks to the impressively low price.
£0.70 for 220g.
By the time it came to sampling Branston's beans, I was hesitant to believe their promise of "rich, thick, tomatoey sauce". Having been naïve with rival brands, I sheepishly tucked into Branston's version and was met with what I had been waiting for.
In my opinion, they delivered on each count - the beans were tangy, salty, and had a great texture. There was no sign of a watery sauce, just a tin of great tasting beans.
Established in 1922, it may well have taken Branston 100 years to crack the art of the perfect tin of baked beans, but I think they've done it. I accept the rich flavour may not be for everyone but this was by far my favourite of the lot.
The only fault I could find was the price, as it was one of the most expensive options on the list. However, on balance, I think it's work paying a little extra for the delicious flavour.
£1 for 415g.
HP is perhaps one of the lesser-known brands when it comes to baked beans, so I didn't have any expectations when it came to trying them. A bit of research afterwards revealed HP is owned by Heinz, but I wasn't able to tell this based on the flavour.
The HP beans had a distinctive tangy flavour which I quite enjoyed, thanks to the vinegar in the recipe. The flavour wasn't overwhelming and to me tasted much more like my idea of a classic baked bean, rather than the sweeter versions I had tried.
On balance, I preferred HP's flavour over Heinz's more recognisable version. The taste was decent, but at £1 a tin it is one of the pricier options, and I'd be tempted to opt for a cheaper supermarket version such as Tesco, which was fairly equally matched on flavour.
£0.45 for 410g.
Last on the list is Aldi. This supermarket has long been known as the enemy of the so-called "brand snobs" but over the years has managed to convert some shoppers thanks to its low prices.
At 45p per tin, Aldi is certainly maintaining its reputation for affordability when it comes to beans. Another tin, another promise of "rich tomato sauce", this time, I felt this was partly true.
The sauce tasted of tomato, which is always a good start. It was yet again a little watery for me, but not the thinnest sauce I'd seen during the course of the taste test.
The texture was one of the best of the bunch, with good solid beans which were not at all mushy. Overall, the Aldi beans had a tasty, non artificial flavour, and were well-priced.
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