Boston Brown Bread

Do your best to find the rye flour. It adds a lot to the flavor of the finished bread.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • Butter for greasing loaf pans or coffee cans
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) rye flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) finely ground corn meal (must be finely ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup molasses (any kind)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • One metal 6-inch tall by 4-inch diameter coffee can, or a 4x8 loaf pan


1 Prepare for either stovetop or oven methods: You can either make the bread on the stovetop with a coffee can, or you can make it in the oven with a coffee can or loaf pan.

Stovetop: If you are using the stovetop method, set the steamer rack inside a tall stockpot and fill the pot with enough water to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of your coffee can. Turn the burner on to medium as you work.

Oven: If you are using the oven method, preheat the oven to 325°F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2 Grease pan: Grease a coffee can or small loaf pan with butter.

3 Mix dry ingredients:  In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, rye flour, corn meal, baking powder and soda, salt and allspice. Add the raisins if using.

4 Mix wet ingredients, combine with dry: In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla extract if using. Whisk in the molasses.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well with a spoon.

5 Pour batter into can or pan, cover with foil: Pour the batter into the coffee can or loaf pan taking care that the batter not reach higher than 2/3 up the sides of the container.

Cover the loaf pan or coffee can tightly with foil.


6 Prepare steam environment on stovetop or oven:

Stovetop: If you are using the stovetop method, set the can in the pot on the steamer rack. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to come up 1/3 of the way up the sides of your coffee can or loaf pan. Cover the pot and turn the heat to high.


Oven: If you are using the oven method, find a high-sided roasting pan that can hold the coffee can or loaf pan. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches one third up the side of the coffee can or loaf pan. Put the roasting pan into the 325°F oven.

7 Steam the bread: Steam the bread on the stovetop or in the oven for at least 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Check to see if the bread is done by inserting a toothpick into it. If the toothpick comes out clean, you're ready. If not, re-cover the pan and cook for up to another 45 minutes.

8 Allow bread to cool: Remove from the stovetop or oven and let cool for 10 minutes before putting on a rack. Let the bread cool for 1 hour before turning out of the container.

boston-brown-bread-method-3 boston-brown-bread-method-4

Slice and eat plain, or toast in a little butter in a frying pan.

Click on the comments you'd like to print with your recipe. Grayed out comments will not print.


  • Brae

    Being from Maine, B & M Boston Baked Beans have been made here for over a 100 years. Up until the 1970’s, this steamed brown bread was made in the kitchens of generations of my family. In the 70’s B &M put out their own canned brown bread which we all started to buy instead. Now I enjoy and treasure the act of making the brown bread recipe passed down over hundreds of years in my family. We never used raisins or vanilla though.

  • Janet

    I am 75 now, but when I was in upper grade school I remember my GreatGrandmother making a Graham flour & molasses bread in cans steamed in a kettle on top of her stove. I do not think she added any yeast, but it had raisins, I sure wish I had that recipe now!!!

    My mother would often make baked beans for Saturday evening, but she always used Great Northern beans, molasses and bacon. They were sweet, but oh so good.

  • Momo G

    I lived in the Boston area for 8 years and this is my favorite (probably only) recipe from that area, and I absolutely love it. I’m craving now; I always do in the winter! I now steam it in my Instant pot which takes less than an hour. I’ve never heard of it being fried. I typically slice it, wrap it in a dampened paper towel, microwave it for a few seconds, and serve it warm with plenty of butter. I have also steamed slices to warm them before microwaves became available. That shows my age! I’m going to introduce my 3 & 5 year old grandchildren to it this week. They beg to come to Momo’s house for “real” food and they love to watch me cook.

  • Maria Rubin

    I grew up in Massachusetts and made this yesterday with homemade Boston baked beans for a bunch of family and friends in Pittsburgh. Everyone loved it! I could have made 3 more cans of it and I bet there would be none left!

  • kim sayers

    we live with my grandparents until I was 14 and my grandfather was from Medford Mass( same as the Black Dahlia) by the way. his loving wife my Connecticut born grandmothe made Boston baked beans brown bread and hot dogs for him every Saturday night and that’s what we ate also of course. I never questioned it it’s just we ate every Saturday night. I’m going to try this wonderful sounding recipe although since we are vegan I will switch out the buttermilk for a plant-based milk. So happy to read all these comments and to know I wasn’t alone as a child with the family Saturday night menu LOL

  • BillP

    ‘Wait an hour’

    This is funny to me; no one waits 10 minutes, much less an HOUR… once the can is cool enough to handle without serious burns, run it under a cold tap, rotating as you do….if you greased your can properly, your loaf (log?) will firm up and contract enough to slide right out, ready to devour still hot!

    This one is a bit too “molasses-y” to what I’m used to, but still quite delicious! And at this ratio, should you want to use a coffee can, nowadays that cans are not remotely 16oz (more like 11.3oz) it fits perfectly. Will make again without adjustment.

  • Terry Hallahan

    Just made this for first time. I used a 4×8 foil pan in the oven, used raisins but not vanilla, did use rye flour as well. It came out fantastic. I am from New England, brown bread was eaten on a regular basis. We are having it today with and ham and homemade baked beans-Durgin Park recipe.

  • Ginger Britten

    I first remember having BBB when I was about 10 years old. We lived in Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. My mom was not from New England. She grew up in Honolulu, HI. She used to buy the canned bread in the store. We would have it sliced, toasted, or not, smothered with cream cheese. We didn’t eat it with a meal, just as a snack. This makes me want to buy a couple of cans and cream cheese. I can taste it now. Yummmm.

  • Dotty clements

    From Portland Maine but retired in AZ
    People think this is a crazy meal!!
    Exactly our Saturday night meal every week
    And salt pork in the Boston baked beans
    Good memories

  • Linda

    My Mom served brown bread with what she called “hard sauce”, and our family loved it.

    • heath

      Yes, hard sauce was always a favorite.

  • Sonya

    If using stovetop method, how long should it cook?

  • Ginnievere

    In the oven steaming right now. I used oval roasting pans with covers…wasn’t sure if I needed to but did since stove top says to cover…
    As kids brought up as strictest Proper Bostonians we often had skirt steak, pork chops or ham instead of hot dogs, but always beans and brown bread for Saturday Night “suppah” As leftover bread was often a treat in our TV character lunch boxes with cream cheese spread between two halves of a slice. Nice finish to a warm thermos full of soup or stew.

  • Gail McG

    Save a few cans from canned veggies (2c. size). I use those, greased, to make brown bread. I steam them in a pot; but in the summer, they go out on the porch, in my crockpot.

    • Robin

      Gail – how long did it take in the crockpot? I would prefer to make it that way rather than stovetop or my oven. We used to eat this as kids too, with hotdogs and beans or sometimes with sauerkraut and kielbasa. We spread cream cheese on ours too. I think we ate it because my parents did as kids and they were from Canada. So it might not just be a Boston thing.

      • Donna

        My parents were Canadian French – this was our dinner every Sat. W a pot of Tea. So good

  • Muriel

    Am I the only person that thought the bread was a wee bit too salty? I think I will try again, but with only half the salt.

  • Melodie

    I am originally from the east coast but now live in Mississippi. The only time we ever had brown bread was on Thanksgiving and Christmas just warm with butter.

  • Pete

    I grew up in Cincinnati but went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester Mass. in the 1960’s. The College dining hall was not a cafeteria; there was only one selection at each meal. Boston brown bread, baked beans and hot dogs were a staple on Saturday or Sunday nights. I still miss it.

  • C. J. Catskills

    Pressure Cooker Brown Bread – This reply is about 4 years late, but yes, it works! Brown Bread lovers of the world, rejoice! There are lots of posts out there about it now. Also, for those who don’t want to buy a 1 lb. coffee can just for the can, sells stainless steel “Boston Brown Bread Pans” for a little under $6. I also use if for baking small round yeast breads for egg sandwhiches.

    You can also safely use straight-sided 1 pint Ball/Kerr jelly jars or 1 1/2 pint (harder to find) canning jars in the pressure cooker but you need to reduce the cooking time. When they are done, just pop lids on them and tuck them into the freezer. They store much better that way than plastic bags.

    To pressure cook your can of BBB, fill the can as directed, cover the top with foil, tie it with twine, put it on a trivet, fill with water at least 2/3rds of the way up the side and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Use the rapid release method. Remove from the pressure cooker immediately, test for doneness, place on a rack and remove the foil hat. Allow to air dry for 15-20minutes and remove from the can. You may want to dry the top in the oven for a few minutes. I don’t bother. If it isn’t quite done, stick it back into the steamer, bring the pressure back up, cook for another 5-10 minutes and test again. Some sites suggest first simmering the bread for 15-20 minutes with the top on but not locked, and then cooking under pressure for 40 minutes. (This is similar to a method used for English steamed puddings). I haven’t tried that method.

    • Elise

      Thank you so much for sharing these tips C.J.!

  • Marlynn Haslund

    My Mom used to make Brown Bread in a coffee tin! Hard to do in a K-cup! We put cream cheese on it. Yum!

  • Barbara Brouillard

    Hi, I’m from MInnesota and my great aunt would make brown bread for our New Year’s Day celebration. I would like to try this for New Year’s this year but won’t have room in the oven for it and everything else I will be making. I no longer have a stove pot that would be big enough to try the stove top method. I have a large crockpot…. do you think it might work in that? Would I need a rack of sorts to set the cans or loaf pan on, or could I put them directly into the water since the crock pot itself might serve as a barrier to direct heat? Anxiously awaiting your reply…

    • Elise

      Hi Barbara, since I’ve never attempted to make this in a crockpot, I’m hesitant to give you advice regarding attempting it. I will note that it can take a while for water to heat up in a crockpot, so you might want to put a kettle on and pour boiling water into the crockpot and then try this on high.

  • Jim K

    Brown bread was available in stores and restaurants all over New England when I was growing up, but it is hard to find now. It was a delight to find it served fresh baked at Saltwater Farm in Rockport, MAine… worth a stop if you travel down east ;-)

  • Will Jones

    I am from Central MA, and brown bread was a Saturday night staple along with hot dogs, and homemade beans. No better cold weather supper. I am now, living in Las Vegas, and there is only 1 store in town where I have found B&M brown bread. I have it often, smothered in butter, and remember those cold days and nights back in MA.

    • Jeffrey John Kleinknecht

      I am a transplanted New Englander,also living in Las Vegas.
      What store carries Brown bread…I have not even seen B&M beans!

  • Diane Cirelli

    I grew up in Central Massachusetts. My grandmother made both breads and I loved them both. The B&M Boston Brown Bread that you can purchase in a can isn’t a bad representation of traditional Brown Bread. My grandmother’s Anadama bread recipe is a traditional yeast bread that must be kneaded. DELICIOUS!
    Boston Brown Bread is not the same thing as Anadama Bread. Similar ingredients but totally different texture. Anadama Bread is milder in flavor and its texture should be more like traditional bread. Brown Bread should be more like a dessert bread in texture. Similar to banana bread or date nut bread texture.

  • Sherri Torres

    I am originally from New England (MA, RI and ME) and my mother used to make this bread every Saturday along with a dutch oven full of Boston baked beans with salt pork and YES the steamed hot dogs, my father would only let us eat our hot dogs steamed with steamed rolls because any other way according to him was an abomination. LOL! I loved my mothers molasses and raisin brown bread.

  • ken rigby

    I’m a Canadian Maritimer and grew up on New Brunswick brown bread. I may be bias but I prefer our recipe by substituting whole wheat for the rye.

  • Christine

    Poached egg on toasted brown bread with a side of baked beans is the best breakfast! Lifelong New Englander! (Go Sox!!)

  • Barbara

    I learned to make this when I lived in the Boston area for 8 years. I made it, along with traditional Boston Baked Beans last week, and I now have 2 pounds of beans in the oven in my big cast iron Dutch oven, and I’ll make more brown bread this afternoon. I used to steam a couple of slices on top of a pot of boiling water and top them with butter, but it is much simpler to slightly dampen a paper towel to wrap the bread in and just microwave for about 15 seconds, then top liberally with real butter. It is the perfect accompaniment for my molasses baked beans. I no longer have coffee cans, so I usually use two mini loaf pans, but the raisins are bad about sinking. I’m going to chop them finely, dust them with flour, and pour the batter into wide-mouth pint canning jars to see if that works better for the raisins.

  • Mel

    Don’t forgot the Coleslaw with your Saturday night meal :)

  • Patti

    I would love to make this recipe, but I would need to make it gluten-free. I wonder if Josefina was able to tweak it and if so, whether she would post what modifications she made.

    • Barbara

      I’m afraid you are out of luck on this one. Three of the four flours used in this bread contain gluten. Look for a molasses cake recipe somewhere that will let you use the substitutes.

  • Richard Thompson

    I’m an ex-patriot New Englander living in Oakland, California. I just love this stuff!! I found your site while waiting for two loaves to finish steaming in my kitchen. I’ve been able to find canned bread at my local Safeway grocery store once in a while. But there is nothing like homemade!

  • Susan

    My Mom used to make baked beans and brown bread every Saturday and serve them with franks. What memories. I am sure that she always used a pressure cooker and passed away before passing on the recipe. I don’t own a pressure cooker so I am delighted to find out that I don’t need one. I am off to the store to buy a can of coffee :)

  • KelliSue

    We had B&M brown bread with raisins (from a can) for late Sunday lunch, served with homemade baked beans with an abundance of sauteed onions and bacon in it, naturally. My family was fascinated by the circle bread that came from a can, and gobbled it up, spread with butter. This sent me searching for a recipe and I landed here so I can do a repeat at some point. Thanks for posting this.
    P.S. we’re in Upstate NY and found the Brown bread in a can at Walmart -so I think it’s gone mainstream.

  • Betty

    Wow, been decades since I’ve had BBB. I was so thrilled to have the recipe, I bought canned coffee and dumped the coffee just so I could have the can! The recipe is spot on, easy to follow and makes the most wonderful loaf. My husband had never had this bread, but was quick to comment that the loaf would not last long. Thanks for providing me with something I am hoping so make over and over again. Maybe next time I’ll add some tart dried cherries (instead of raisins) and pecans?

  • Sherree

    Brown bread, baked beans, RED hot dogs (is this in Maine only?) and don’t forget the cole slaw! Leftover brown bread is excellent toasted with peanut butter. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Christina

    I grew up in Danvers, MA and like the rest of us from the area Saturday nite was always Memere’s home baked beans with hot dogs and brown bread.When we were kids it got to be the same boring old Saturday night supper. I haven’t had brown bread in years and I’m so excited to see this recipe. I’m on a mission to find a coffee can. It just wouldn’t be the same for me in a loaf pan. I can smell it frying in butter now.

  • loreengale

    I grew up in Minnesota where it’s very much meat-and-potatoes country (especially on the farm), but somehow I still managed to discover that wonderful B&M canned brown bread (guess I was just more adventurous than the rest of my Scandinavian relatives). And I somehow intuitively knew to have it with beanies and wienies! Some commenters here had never heard of bread in a can, but one of the earliest things I baked after I got married was fruitcake baked in a can–made for gift giving. I used some kind of a mix, but then loaded it up with the candied fruit and lots of nuts so that it was more fruit and nuts than cake. As I recall (since that was about 45 years ago), it just baked in the oven and after it cooled, you used a can opener on the bottom of the can and pushed your little fruitcake out, then wrapped it in foil or plastic wrap with ribbons and stuff and a gift card. Thinking back, I just realized that nobody ever told me they were good–lol (I thought they were!). But when you’re young and poor, what a great, inexpensive gift.

  • Amanda Donovan

    hi! i actually live in ipswich, too! best place on earth! your mother and i are lucky to call this beautiful spot home.

    i love my brown bread warm from the can with baked beans and brown mustard, and toasted the next morning with cream cheese for breakfast. definitely with raisins. mmmmm toasts so well……. thank you! for a group of left coasters, you all sure do new england food pretty well! thanks again!

    You’re welcome! And while I may live on the Left Coast, I am not from the Left Coast… ;-) ~Hank

  • Patricia Leder

    Hey there! My mom made brown bread now and again when we were growing up. . . and she was from Portland, OR. . . born and raised. . . .and always served with thick baked beans and bacon. . . If you don’t have a steamer platform for the bottom of your pan, you can use the platform from the pressure cooker (not canner, but cooker). . . .or, as I do when I’m canning small batches of jam, etc., I put 4 or 5 table knives criss-crossed in the bottom of the kettle to hold the small jars off the bottom. . . old knives work best. . . don’t use good silver, of course. . .and I’ve baked my wheat bread in cans for years. . .use a 40 oz. juice can or a large peach can and it works great. . . .DON’T USE A CAN WITH THE WHITE PAINT INSIDE, THOUGH. . . not a good idea at all . . . Patricia

  • Jay

    I’m curious:

    Let’s say that I was planning to make your Boston Baked Beans recipe in a crock pot. Is there any reason why I couldn’t make up this Brown Bread batter, put it in a ramekin (or a couple smaller cans) and then put it down into the beans to cook concurrently for the last 2-3 hours? If you timed it right, you’d have beans and bread done at the same time, in one cooking vessel. Doable?

    I have no idea. Sounds theoretically plausible. Definitely let us know if it works, because that would be a great time-saver! ~Hank

  • DV

    I grew up in NJ, too and my mom would buy it just like CJ, and we’d just slather butter on it after it came out of the oven. We usually ate it with pork chops.

  • charlotte

    I’m a Californian who moved to Boston in the early 60s, where I had my first brown bread from a can and loved it. Back home and married to a Bostonian, B & M canned brown bread (without raisins, now harder to find) is always a pantry staple. I never thought of making my own, but now I’m ready (and funnily enough I baked a lot of bread). So the beans are as I type cooking in the oven in my favorite Italian ceramic bean pot. Tomorrow, the steamed bread. I can hardly wait!

  • Margaret

    I grew up in Idaho and my mother made this often. I’ve been thinking of resurrecting that practice but stall out on the tin can issue. Although I love the idea of using a coffee can–and would far prefer it to a glass baking pan, for shape purposes–I wonder about the metal content of the can. Recalling the fate of the Mad Hatter, might it be fine for transporting coffee but less fine for baking? Have you investigated this issue?

    Coffee cans are steel, not tin. No mercury involved. ~Hank

  • Mary K.Hernley

    I want to try this bread. When you bake it on top of the stove,how high do you turn the burner and how long do you steam it?

    Just high enough to keep steam coming off the water, and for between 2 1/2 and 3 hours. ~Hank

  • Adele Maestranzi

    Boy, lots of us New Englanders out there that grew up eating B&M Beans and Brown Bread! True comfort food for us. I haven’t had brown bread in years, but now I want to try it again. I grew up in Southie, too, and if it were Friday, the beans were served with fishcakes. I guess mom didn’t think about the salt pork in the beans; so if I end up in hell, it’s her fault!

  • questor

    B&M still makes the canned brown bread. I have had it several times. I think they have one or two other canned bread flavors, also, but this is the one I usually see in supermarkets. It’s okay, but I prefer sandwich breads that are not sweet. I do like cake breads as a snack sometimes, though. Apple, pumpkin, and carrot cake types, without icing are the ones I go for the most. The brown bread is too sweet for sandwiches, but not sweet enough for a snack type cake bread, to suit me.

  • Barb

    Brown bread out of the can or homemade we always had it in winter in upstate NY made into sandwiches with cream cheese, hazelnuts chopped fine, mixed with melted butter and onion and pickle relish and a dash of worsteshire sauce, sounds crazy but makes great tea sandwiches. Great when we were camping in the Adirondacks as well, my mom and grandmother made it or bought B&M at the store ,havent seen it in a while though, thanks for the recipe

  • Charla

    Growing up in Southern California in the early 50’s I remember many meals of B&M Brown Bread, franks and B&M Beans. No idea where my mom came up with the menu as she was from Illinois. When I had my own family it was a camping staple.

  • Jackie Van Zanten Richardson

    I grew up in Alaska and we had Boston Brown Bread bought from the store frequently. I still buy it on occasion (even have a can sitting in the pantry right now). It is always slathered with cream cheese in our house.

  • Bruce

    Well both the Baked Beans and the Brown Bread was a HUGE hit with everyone last night. I used a loaf pan for the bread in a large pot on the stove, but next time I will use the coffee tin, the pot I had to use to accommodate the loaf pan was way to big for the job (I cook 5 gallons of BBQ sauce in it at a time and use it regularly)
    I think I may increase the clove a little next time.
    Awesome stuff you guys,
    Thank you

  • Tina

    My family is from a little coal mining town in Washington state, and growing up – my grandma use to make this. We were dirt-floor-poor, and I always associate it with those economic times as later, she never made it.
    We always had it just with a smear of fresh butter, day two toasted with a smear of fresh butter.

    She never referred to it as Boston Brown Bread though, just coffee can bread. I’ve searched for the recipe for ages, thank you for sharing it (and giving it a proper name for me!!).

  • Paul

    In order to cut down on cooking time, could one use a pressure cooker? If so, at what pressure, how long and are there any differences in the recipe to make it work? I’m willing to experiment.

    Sorry, no idea. Let us know how it goes. ~Hank

  • Anita

    Oh the memories! I loved the B&M Brown Bread in the can as a kid, and even as a young adult in the Bay Area of California in the 50’s and 60’s. It was usually heated with butter or cream cheese – what a treat. My mouth is watering. Wonder if I can find it anymore? Not sure where my parents picked up on this, as they were from the Calgary area.

  • Shelly

    I grew up in Reno, NV and ate this bread growing up and my parents were both Californians, so I have no idea how I was lucky enough to be introduced to it. I always thought it was so cool that the bread came in a can. Can’t wait to try the recipe.

  • michele

    Brown bread is excellent with a good smear of cream cheese too! Its a must try if you have not yet done so! I too live in new england….Acushnet,MA

  • mantha

    You eat brown bread with beans and franks (“beanies and wienies”) where I come from. I’m a Providence girl that’s been in New York for 25 years, and have not tasted brown bread in all that time. We had ours from a can when I was young — spice flavored, with raisins — never occurred to me that ordinary mortals could make it. Must try it. Along with white chowder and hermit bar cookies, this is the soul food of Southern New England.

  • Sylvia M. Nightingale

    We have always had Boston brown bread and we love it. I often varied it by using different fruits and it was always great. I used the 15 oz veg-fruit cans and they work fine. My mom always used the cans for baking quick breads, too. made a nice presentation.
    You mentioned traditional pumpernickle. Do you have a good recipe for it? I have looked a lot, and tried some, but there is not much available. Also is there a pumpernickle flour?
    thanks alot for the recipes. Love ’em.
    Sylvia Nightingale

  • Rich

    Sounds great! When steaming, do you cover the pot? Or just let the steam escape around the coffee can?

    Yep, you cover the pot. ~Hank

  • Lynn

    I grew up in NJ as well – we’d have brown bread occasionally when visiting my grandmother. She would serve it warm with a thick smear of cream cheese. I’ve been dying for a good recipe- I’ll definitely make this!

  • Kay Fowler Schweers

    Seventy years ago in Boston, our brown bread came from a can. We ate it with a “schmeer” of cream cheese. The bread alsos had nuts, as I remember. When we moved in 1945 to the remote hills of Virginia, the baked beans every Saturday night came with us, but the brown bread got harder to find. I still fry my hotdogs, and my children/grandchildren love them that way. Did anyone else eat the beans warmed over with scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast??

  • Alice

    My mother used to make brown bread in a coffee can when I was a child and I just loved it! We are in Denver so I don’t know if that was an oddity or not but one way or the other it was fabulous! All we did was slice it and butter it. No frying and syrup and served it with whatever dinner we had that night. It was so good. Thx for sharing.

  • Kat

    Thanks for another awesome recipe! I recently tried (and loved) your anadama bread, so as soon as I saw this post I got out the mixing bowl. :) I used blackstrap molasses and substituted chopped dates for raisins, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. There was a little bit too much batter for my loaf pan, so I steamed the extra in a ramekin. Talk about delicious! Is it breakfast? Is it dessert? Is it good with a hunk of cheese? I haven’t fried it in butter yet, but I have a hard time believing it could be less than incredible. What other New Englandy delights can you share with us?

  • Cheryl A.

    Wow – this made me have a flashback. My Mom used to make this too for my brother and I and we would have it along side Franks and beans! Thank you so much for the recipe!! I have already forwarded to my Mom!!! :)

  • Sandy

    Native New Englander here, grew up with my grandmother living with us and she was from far northern Maine. Every Saturday she made homemade baked beans, hot dogs and either homemade dark rolls or brown bread. Butter and syrup are the way to go, and definitely fried in butter. AND it is fantastic for breakfast, fried in butter with a fried egg on top. Try it! It’s unbeatable. And yes, it did come in a can and is still available in New England; B&M still makes it and it’s with the baked beans.

  • lilbitandme

    It was a RARE treat to have at my house! My Mom was from Maine and Dad from NY….she would serve it “pushed” out of a soup can. I don’t know if she steamed it, or what, but we ate it with “Oleo” on top of it, and it was SO, SO good!!! Raisins and a wonderful sweet brown bread. Mostly she served it with Pork Chops….YUMMY!!

  • Alex

    Oh, this brings back memories! My mom used to make it and serve it with baked beans. Sometimes she would slice it thin, spread it with cream cheese and make little triangle sandwiches which were served for tea. The recipe originally came from mom’s mom from New Brunswick… it must have spread up and down the east coast.

  • Elizabeth Robertson

    You can use an upturned saucer or side plate on the bottom of you pan of water….I use the saucer when making an English steamed pudding….

  • Katie

    Another vote for cream cheese, but will try frying in butter (which somehow seems so novel). Also, have had some success steaming brown bread over a dutch oven in a Bundt-style pan. The tube pan hooks neatly and firmly over the edge of the dutch oven, and no need for steamer rack. I still cover in foil, (leaving the center poked open to add more water) and the cover with a lid. Shape is not necessarily traditional, but it works fine.

  • Maureen

    This does bring back memories. We had Boston brown bread on Sunday nights as part of a light supper. We would put butter or cream cheese on it. This was served with a plate of cold cuts, cheeses, sliced apples or pears.

  • Patty

    Having been born in Rhode Island, B & M was a staple when homemade wasn’t available. I always enjoyed it with a smear of cream cheese. I love the idea of frying it and pouring on the maple syrup.

  • MC

    Brown bread was such a staple in my family growing up in a semi-traditional New England family in Rhode Island. We usually had it on Saturdays with baked beans and franks (in RI, we usually used a local frankfurter called Saugys). I also used to just eat the brown bread on it’s own toasted with either butter or cream cheese on it.

  • Josefina

    Here in Iceland a lot of people make traditional ryebread in the hotsprings :-) but they usually make a huge dough and put it in many containers. Then it has to bake for 12 hours. Cheap and a bit exotic!

  • Sandra

    I remember having heated brown bread back in the 60’s in Vermont. It was usually served with beans and hotdogs. Did brown bread used to come in a can??

  • AG Wright

    Just a suggestion. My mom used to make a similar recipe and used canning screw rings in the bottom of the pot to keep the can or even jars off the bottom of the pot. Just drop several in till they cover the bottom.
    Maybe not as steady as other things but it will work.

    Great idea, thanks! ~Hank

  • Betty

    I remember Boston Brown Bread as a child, I believe my grandmother made it long ago. We ate it barely warm, with no toppings nor did we fry. It was just a treat. I am looking forward to making this recipe and using if for french toast, sounds marvelous! Thanks for the blast from the past!

  • Audrey

    A South African recipe uses golden syrup instead of molasses and has raisins, walnuts and dates. We usually ate it sliced with butter for tea.

  • RachaelRei

    This looks so delicious!!

    I’m not a huge fan of molasses though – would it be totally lacking if I left it out? or is there something I could sub?

    Sorry, but the flavor and color of this bread hinges on the molasses. You might substitute honey, but it will no longer be Boston brown bread. ~Hank

  • suz

    I grew up in California but my aunt always made this. We had beans and brown bread for Christmas Eve! I occasionally find the B&M canned version in some supermarkets. My aunt made it in the top of a double boiler. Love it!!!

  • Cherita

    This “brown bread” looks a lot like the brown soda bread you’d get at an Irish restaurant. I know there were a lot of Irish immigrants in New England so I wonder if that’s where it started? Hmmm…either way this looks GREAT!!

  • gayle

    mmmm–my family is from South Boston-every Saturday night it was baked beans, boiled hot dogs and brown bread (fried in butter, of course). Thanks Hank for reminding me of a great family tradition. I used to think beans and franks were somehow linked to sunday morning mass–couldn’t go to church if you hadn’t had them.

  • April

    I grew up in Denver, but my father and grandmother were from Plymouth, MA. We had it with beans and franks, of course (Saturday night dinner, usually)! Warmed and slathered with butter – never thought of frying it though! We used the canned variety.

  • Kris

    I grew up in Minnesota, to parents who never lived anywhere else and we had this meal at least twice a month! The brown bread came in a can and was then steamed , sliced and drowned in butter! I made it for my kids but can’t find the canned kind anymore unless my sister sends it from Ill. Thanks so much for the recipe!!!

  • Mary C

    I’d really like to try this…anyone know what size coffee can to use? From the picture it looks like the smaller size.

    If “smaller size” means not the gigantic Yuba cans, then yes, smaller. I’ve only really seen two sizes of supermarket coffee – go for the one about 6 inches tall and about 4 inches wide. I use those cans that had Louisiana coffee-with-chicory in them. ~Hank

  • Katie

    Yummy! Mom used to pack it in our lunch boxes. With a schmeer of Philly. Boy, does that take me back.

  • Kate

    Oh man, I love brown bread and I haven’t had it in ages – even though I live in New England, it’s getting increasingly hard to find around here. Time I made my own!

    I’ve never had it with fried hot dogs, though…and I’ve never had it any way other than steamed, then loaded with butter! Hm. I have some beans left over…I think it’s time to try out this recipe and do some barbeque beans to go alongside!

  • Karen

    I am from Rowley, the teeny town next to Ipswich and you described the meal exactly. Always on Saturday night, hot dogs (no roll, natch) baked beans, and canned B&M brown bread, sliced and fried in butter. Sooooooo delicious. I still live in Mass, but I never see anyone eating brown bread anymore. I’ll have to try making it!

  • Dropd2

    This sounds delicious and reminds me of the steamed “puddings” the English make. I have a stoneware baking crock I use for baking sweet breads. Do you think that would work in place of the can? I’m not sure if you could use that to steam the bread.

    I don’t see why not – just don’t rest it directly on the bottom of the burner, if you use the stovetop method. ~Hank

  • James Cummings

    I have a baking insert for my slow cooker. This does Brown Bread very well, is energy efficient and doesn’t heat up the kitchen in the summer. Of course, if you’re going to bake beans, slowly in the oven, using a proper bean pot, then the bread can go in with them. I’ve always put the leftover bread in the toaster, but fried in butter sounds so much better. Adele Davis wrote about making it with yeast, but I’ve yet to try it this way.

  • GK

    Nice change of pace for bread. I will be making this, but definitely on my gas stove. I must point out that having one’s oven on for 2 hr 15 min for one small loaf is NOT ENERGY EFFICIENT, not a good use of time/energy vs.product produced.

    Then do it on the stovetop, then, GK – that’s why I gave two methods. ~Hank

  • amanda

    Mmmmm….this looks yummy. My dad makes lots of mini loaves of brown bread every year at Thanksgiving by using large veggie cans. As soon as they’ve cooled enough he puts them in the freezer and we have LOTS of brown bread. (Although usually I steal a couple loaves to take back to school with me!) Point being, it freezes and thaws ridiculously well!

  • Susan

    My Mother used to make Boston Brown Bread about once a month in the cooler months, usually when we had pork roast or chops or ham. I loved the dense texture and the deeply caramelized flavor the molassas lent to the bread. She made a cream cheese, date and walnut butter to spread on it. I always piled on the sauteed apples or applesauce she also served with the meal, too. I’ve never made it myself and have missed it when we’ve had ham, which is rare in my house. I’ll have to plan to make this when we have our Easter ham this year, even though it’s not something I remember eating in spring or summer. So good! Thanks, Hank.

  • Karen

    I am from Rowley, the teeny town next to Ipswich and you described the meal exactly. Always on Saturday night, hot dogs (no roll, natch) baked beans, and canned B&M brown bread, sliced and fried in butter. Sooooooo delicious. I still live in Mass, but I never see anyone eating brown bread anymore. I’ll have to try making it!

  • Anonymous

    My Mother bought this at the store when I was a kid in California. We took it camping because it was easy to transport, wouldn’t crush or spoil. We didn’t fry it, that would have been great, we just ate it spread with butter. I like it spread with cream cheese…I haven’t been able to find this in years and will enjoy trying this. What a neat little gift it would make at Christmas for those who used to like eating it. Thank You

  • amy

    I can’t believe you’ve just printed this recipe- I’ve been thinking about making this bread (in a coffee can) for the past couple weeks. Must be the wintery weather… Thanks, can’t wait to try it. I’m glad I live close to King Arthur Flour to get the Rye Flour. Is there any substitution one can make for the Rye Flour? I’ve never seen it at my usual grocery store…

    You should be able to find it. Rye flour is not that unusual. But if you can’t, just use regular wheat flour. ~Hank

  • Meg

    My dad was a Mainer, so though I grew up in Wisconsin, we had lots of baked beans and brown bread. I used to make it, and still have the coffee cans. I think I’ll go see if they’re still usable, and make a batch. Thanks for the memories!

  • Betty

    Boston Brown Bread was a favorite of my childhood as well. I’m not sure how the recipe made its way to the Maritimes, but way back when, there was a signigicant commercial connection between ‘the Boston States,’ as they were called, and Saint John, NB.

    My recipe does not contain any spices, vanilla or raisins, and we always spread it with buter, but never fried it in butter. I dont recall the cornmeal being particularly fine. It was cooked in a coffee can or a lard pail, and cut with a string wrapped round the loaf and pulled tight. I have cooked it in apple juice cans, steaming them in a pot with water about 2/3 up the can.

    It’s a hit whenever I (rarely) make it, but few people have actually heard of it. Thanks for your recipe, and for the memories it brought up. I think I’ll make some for a weekend treat.

  • Katie

    My grandmother used to serve boston brown bread with beans and franks (hot dogs) when I was kid. I loved it! We would eat it warmed with butter spread on it. It’s definitely a New England thing, I grew up in Massachusetts. I tried to explain it to my husband who’s from Seattle and he didn’t understand the bread in a can concept. Thanks for posting this recipe, I’ll have to make it and show him how delicious brown bread is!

  • Johnny

    This sounds delicious. I must try.

    @GretchenJoanna – Is B&M the canned bread you were talking about? carries it in both plain and with raisins. At almost $3.00 a can in packs of six, it’s a bit expensive though.

    • Jean Clark

      B&M baked beans and brown bread are made in Portland, Maine. Nice to buy local for me! A coincidence, my daughter lives in Ipswich, MA.

  • JulieT

    In the picture it doesn’t look like a traditional steamer rack in the stovetop method. Mine has all these pieces that fold out then load broccoli and fold in to start steaming. This would never work with a can. Can I set the can directly in the middle of the stockpot? Just trying to figure this out. Thanks.

    I use a fold-out rack like you have when I am at home. I can remove the center of the rack so a can will sit on it. Not sure about setting the rack directly on the bottom, though – could get too hot. Try setting the can on something else so the bottom is not getting the direct heat from the burner. ~Hank

    • Janey

      To keep it from sitting directly on the bottom heat, put a small piece of cutlery on the bottom for the can to sit on. Or two pieces – for symmetry.

      P.S. You can send me a couple of slices as payment for this outstanding solution. lol

    • Glenn

      The “flowering” steamer basket can be used, too. Just turn it upside down. The weight of the can will hold it open.

    • SueAnn

      I have a metal canning jar funnel that I put in the pot and sat the loaf pan on top of. I didn’t have a can. But it worked great, just discolored the funnel.

  • Don

    While living in Stow MA we would buy the bread and serve it toasted with butter, again, alongside beans and franks on Saturday. I think B&M made both the bread and the beans for us. Glad to see I now have a source to try it on my own, though I am short a coffee can… I’ll have to improvise somehow :-)

  • CJ

    We used to get brown bread at the store–It came in a can, and we’d steam it. When it was hot out of the can we didn’t fry it in loads butter, just…ummm…spread it with loads of butter and ate it all moist and steamy. For the second eating, when it had lost some of its moistness, that’s when it was fried. In loads of butter.
    I never knew this was a totally local thing until I mentioned it in California, I must have spent half an hour trying to explain canned bread, and they still don’t get it. Of course going to the store and buying a can is out of the question, too, so now I’ll have to make this and show them! I bet it’s way better than the canned stuff anyway.

  • GretchenJoanna

    Oh! This brings back memories of the many years when Boston brown bread was one of the staples produced by my own kitchen. The whole family with five children loved it, but never heard of frying it in butter! We got our recipe from the Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook and the loaves came out just like in your picture bottom right. I always made 6 or 8 loaves and froze half of them; we ate at least one as soon as they came out of the cans, with butter spread on. When cool we ate it as is with butter or plain, or warmed in a toaster first. I long ago threw out my coffee can “equipment,” but your post is making me long for the taste of this bread again!