It’s only autumn, and already I’ve caught the casserole bug. A few years ago, my grandmother gave me a copy of her church’s spiral-bound cookbook, a compilation of all the favorite recipes of the nearby farmers and homemakers. These books are incredible — I have been known to sit and read them aloud for sheer entertainment.

Standard fare in these Iowa cookbooks includes at least twelve varieties of salad, differentiated by color, that contain nothing but Jello, cool whip, and a canned vegetable that corresponds to whatever radioactive color the gelatin is. Most dishes contain, on average, 4 different kinds of dairy products and 3 different kinds of dead animal. It’s Atkins’ worst nightmare and most ambitious dream all at once. Sometimes I hear people talking about how wild it is to veganize foods like pigs in a blanket or meatloaf, and all I can do is grimace and shake my head and think about how the contents of these cookbooks would blow their minds.

Apparently this next recipe was an invention of my father’s, but it’s a pretty standard idea, and my grandmother makes something similar. Be forewarned: Boston Baked Beans these are not. I’ve always been repulsed by that sickly-sweet dish. This was my favorite bean dish as a child, and I think it gives a pretty good idea of where I hail from culinarily. Here’s my vegan rendition that tastes shockingly similar to the original. It’s thick and warm and protein-laden, and would be a good side at a potluck with some biscuits, or making over a fire while camping out and doing Haywire Mac sing-a-longs, whichever you prefer.


5.0 from 3 reviews
Rancho Beans
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1½ c tvp, hydrated with 2 c boiling water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 c cooked navy, kidney or pinto beans
  • ¼ c bacon bits (check to make sure these are vegan, but they usually are)
  • ½ c crushed tomatoes
  • 1 c barbecue sauce
  • 3 oz vegan cheddar cheese, thinly sliced (I like Vegan Gourmet)
  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Saute onions in oil.
  3. Add TVP to onions, seasoning with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and paprika.
  4. Saute until lightly browned.
  5. Transfer to a 1½ qt casserole dish.
  6. Add beans, tomato, bacon bits, barbecue sauce, and slices of cheddar.
  7. Stir everything together.
  8. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove lid and return to oven for 15 minutes more to thicken everything up.
  10. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy.