How Beans On Toast Became An English Breakfast Staple

Beans on toast is a dish as emblematic of British culture as the Beatles and the Royal Family. A staple of a classic English breakfast, beans on (a slice of whole-wheat, typically) has been long-engrained in the culture and cuisine across the pond. Though a carb- and protein-loaded English Breakfast has been powering British folks through their mornings for centuries, it was just under 100 years ago that beans on toast first joined the spread. The inception of this English breakfast cornerstone was the doing of the Heinz company — a brand tactic to push its canned baked beans.

While the dish was created as a public relations push, it turns out that Heinz was really onto something. Its appeal is in its cheap ingredients, effortless assembly, and reliably delicious taste. Although it's a relatively recent entrant to morning meals, one bite is all it takes to understand why it became a staple in such short order.

Beans on toast was the product of a marketing plan

The recipe for beans on toast is exactly as it sounds: baked beans spread on a slice of toasted bread. The American food company Heinz is very transparent about the fact that it published the recipe in 1927 to sell more beans, and it adamantly pushed the recipe during World War II. 

With all the other food products in the company's arsenal, including the ubiquitous Heinz Ketchup, it is curious that beans would be at the top of its PR priorities. Heinz popularized beans on toast as a wartime response. The company halted ketchup production due to the rationing of tomatoes in the United Kingdom. The same issue held for other Heinz products with a limited amount of input ingredients. Beans, however, were not considered an essential item and were thus exempt from rationing, meaning that Heinz was determined to make the cheap protein source its new cash cow.

Where the beans on toast dish stands today

Canned baked beans were born and bred in the United States, but thanks to the slim pickings brought on by the war and the clever marketing tactics of Heinz, they quickly became a delicacy in the United Kingdom. Beyond beans on toast, there are many creative uses for canned baked beans that the British have come to appreciate. In fact, beans on toast have become such an icon of British culture that an entire museum in Wales, United Kingdom was dedicated to baked beans; The Baked Beans Museum of Excellence was a hot tourist stop in Port Talbot for almost 15 years. Additionally, a Heinz Beanz Muzeum pop-up exhibit opened in London in 2019, playing on the product's special place in the hearts of Brits.

In English Breakfast spreads, baked beans on toast accompany bacon, eggs, sausage, grilled tomatoes, and more. For some, beans on toast is the star of the show, while others believe it is a blasphemous intruder of a traditional breakfast platter. Nonetheless, beans on toast is now an integral part of an English Breakfast.