Grandma Sally’s legendary bean recipe! 

By: Jodie Shield, RD

Can you image a summer picnic without baked beans? It’s tradition at our family get togethers to serve Grandma Sally’s Ludington Beans. The first time I tasted her savory, slow-cooked beans, which are really called Old Settler Beans, was in Ludington, Michigan.  Ludington is famous for its Great Lakes car ferryboat (the Badger) and historic lighthouse, but as far as my kids are concerned, it’s the beans.  My husband’s family has a rustic, red log cabin there and when the Shield Clan visits, Grandma makes her beans. When I found out July was National Baked Bean month, I just knew I had to lighten up her recipe.  For starters, I nixed the cup of added sugar and added a little extra molasses.  To retain the rich, smokey flavor and trim greasy fat, I used turkey bacon. And, I browned a small amount of ground sirloin (95% lean) then drained any fat left in the pan.  I tossed all of the healthy beans and everything else into a slow cooker (you can also use a Dutch oven) and let them simmer for a couple of hours.  Whatever your family decides to call these delicious beans – Ludington or old settler, they are memorable!

 Ludington Baked Beans

Makes 10 servings

 Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 2 hours


  • ½ pound lean ground sirloin
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • ¼ pound turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can unsalted, red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can unsalted, navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can unsalted butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons molasses


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the lean ground beef and onion until beef is brown and onions are soft.  Drain and discard the fat.
  • Add the beef and onion mixture to a crock-pot along with the remaining ingredients.  Mix until everything is well combined.  Simmer in the crock-pot (low-heat) for about two hours.

Nutrition Information (per 3/4 cup serving): 242 calories, 16.5 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams dietary fiber, 265 milligrams sodium


Jodie Shield is a Registered Dietitian and author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens (EatRight Press, 2012).



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About Author


Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N. Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. Absolutely delicious! In my opinion, this recipe tastes even better than the original!

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