Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans

Love baked beans and chili? Then you’ll love these slow cooker cowboy beans! This hearty mixture of beans, beef, and bacon gets slow cooked to perfection and is a welcome addition to take along to any tailgate, party or picnic.

slow cooker cowboy beans in white bowls on a yellow polka dotted cloth napkin

In a family of hungry growing boys, I look for lots of hearty- but yummy- recipes.

My friends, these slow cooker cowboy beans check those boxes.

They will stick to your ribs and are full of tangy barbecue like flavor.

slow cooker cowboy beans in the bowl of crcokpot on a white wooden table

What Are Cowboy Beans?

Cowboy beans are a cross between baked beans and chili.

They tended to be called ‘cowboy’ because of the pinto beans used. The ‘traditional’ beans preferred by cowboys.

Sometimes, you’ll hear them called calico beans because this dish is a patchwork of different beans and meats the way a calico cat is a patchwork of different colors.

Occasionally, they are also referred to as chuck wagon beans.

slow cooker cowboy beans in the bowl of crcokpot on a white wooden table

How to Make

To make this hearty recipe, start by chopping up bacon and frying it in a large nonstick skillet until it is crisp.

When the bacon has gotten nice and crispy, add the ground beef and diced onion to the same skillet and brown the beef.

Use a spatula to break up the beef as you brown it.

Once the beef is cooked, drain the mixture of any extra grease.

Then pour the meat and onion mix into the bottom of the crock pot.

Now pour the undrained pork and beans into the slow cooker followed by the all the other drained and rinsed beans.

In a small bowl whisk together the sugars, ketchup, vinegar and mustard. Pour this over the meat and beans in the slow cooker.

Season everything with salt and pepper to taste and then cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Once the time is up, give everything a stir and then serve. Enjoy!

slow cooker cowboy beans in the bowl of crcokpot on a white wooden table

How to Make on the Stove Top

You don’t need to use your slow cooker to make this recipe.

The slow cooker just makes it very easy and portable so it’s perfect to take a long to parties.

If you don’t have time to slow cook these calico beans, you can make them on the stove.

To make this on the stove, cook the bacon, the onion and the beef as described above.

Once you drain the extra grease, instead of pouring this into a slow cooker pour it into a large soup pot. Add the undrained pork and beans, and the other drained beans.

Then whisk the sauce together as described above and pour it into the soup pot.

Give everything a stir and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Let it simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

slow cooker cowboy beans in white bowls on a yellow polka dotted cloth napkin

Variations

Feel free to adjust this recipe as needed to suit your family’s tastes. Some of my favorite adjustments include:

  • adding diced green peppers with the onions and beef for an extra shot of veggies
  • switching up the beans to use what you have on hand

I find pinto and black beans both make good substitutions for kidney and great northern beans.

Storing Leftovers

This recipe serves a big crowd of people or will feed a smaller family several meals so plan on having leftovers.

To store leftovers, you can pop the covered slow cooker insert right into your fridge to make it easy to reheat in your slow cooker.

You could also dole it out into smaller covered containers.

Either way, the leftovers should stay stay good for about 4 days.

slow cooker cowboy beans in white bowls on a yellow polka dotted cloth napkin

Tips and Tricks

  • You can make these calico beans the day you intend to serve them or a day ahead of time.
  • If making them ahead of time, be aware the sauce may thicken. You might want to thin it out as you reheat by stirring in a little water or beef stock.
  • Don’t skip draining the meat mixture! It will be too greasy if not drained.

How to Serve

These beans are super versatile.

They make a delicious side dish for a barbecue or a hearty main dish.

If you serve it as a main dish, my family loves pairing it with freshly baked cornbread.

It’s also delicious topped with crunchy tortilla chips or Fritos, or even topped with sour cream and cheese.

Other Bean Recipes You Might Enjoy

These slow cooker cowboy beans are a delicious addition to any occasion. Make them for your next party or picnic and watch them disappear.

Looking for other bean recipes? Try these:

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slow cooker cowboy beans in white bowls on a yellow polka dotted cloth napkin

Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans

Love baked beans and chili? Then you'll love these slow cooker cowboy beans! This hearty mixture of beans, beef, and bacon gets slow cooked to perfection and is a welcome addition to take along to any tailgate, party or picnic.
4.67 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Beans, Dinner, Side, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 232kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 5 strips bacon chopped
  • 3 small white onions diced
  • 3 15 oz cans dark red kidney beans drained & rinsed
  • 2 15 oz cans great northern beans drained & rinsed
  • 2 15 oz cans lima/butter beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 53 oz can pork and beans NOT drained
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add the bacon to a large non-stick skillet, and fry until crispy- stirring as needed.
  • Add the ground beef & diced onion to the skillet. Cook until the ground beef is browning, breaking/crumbling up as it cooks.
  • Drain the mixture of any excess grease, and add the prepared beef mixture to the bowl of your slow cooker.
  • Pour the (undrained) pork & beans into the bowl of your slow cooker, then add the other beans that have all been drained & rinsed.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, ketchup, vinegar, & mustard until smooth. Stir this into the beef and bean mixture until evenly incorporated.
  • Season with salt & pepper, to taste.
  • Cover and cook the beans on low for 4-5 hours.
  • Stir, serve, & enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 232kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 159mg | Potassium: 280mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 26IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 2mg

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