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27 March 2019

This cowboy beans recipe takes beans to a whole new level with ground beef, bacon and a tangy mixture of sauces and seasonings. Easy to make, infinitely satisfying, perfect for anywhere from dinner to cookouts to parties. Here is how you make it.

Cowboy beans is a popular dish in the southwestern U.S. At its core, it is a collection of beans and ground meat in a tangy, sweet bbq-like sauce. Ground beef and pinto beans are traditionally used, though the recipe has certain variations with other meats and beans. It is quite adaptable.

I enjoy making a version with ground beef and bacon, and a mixture of beans, which you’ll see below.

About Cowboy Beans

In texture and appearance, it’s very much like a pot of chili, being primarily a big pot of beans and meat with sauce. Flavor-wise, I’d almost call it a BBQ Chili because of the tangy sauce and overall ingredients.

It goes by other names, like Campfire Beans, Texas Cowboy Beans or Chuck Wagon Beans.

Cowboy beans are quite hearty and filling. Total comfort food. It’s a great side dish to pass around your backyard barbecue or summer cookout.

Personally, we think it is hugely delicious. It’s easy to spice up with other peppers and seasonings, too.

Let’s talk about how we make it!

Cowboy Beans being served on a spoon

Cowboy Beans Ingredients

  • ½ pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (or use a bell pepper for a milder version)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef (80-20) – You can use other ground meats as well, such as ground sausage, ground pork, or even ground turkey. Or, use a combination of meats. It’s GREAT with Mexican chorizo.
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce (use your favorite)
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can butter beans (drained)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can pork and beans
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • FOR SERVING: Shredded cheese, if desired

Cowboy Beans Recipe Directions

First, heat a large pan or pot to medium heat. A Dutch oven is good for this.

Cook the bacon in the pan about 5 minutes, or until it becomes nice and crispy.

Cooking bacon

Remove and drain on a paper towel. Remove any excess grease.

Next, add the chopped onion and peppers. Cook them down 5 minutes to soften.

Add the ground beef and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook it down about 5 minutes to brown it all over, stirring.

Cooking down the ground beef with onions and peppers

Stir in the garlic and cook another minute, until you can smell that gorgeous garlic.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the bbq sauce, ketchup, mustard, molasses, vinegar, brown sugar, chili powder, and salt and pepper into the mix.

Adding the sauces and seasonings to the pan

Next, add all of the beans. If you’d like a kicked up version, stir in some hot sauce as well.

Adding the beans to the pan

Stir it all together, like so.

Stirring up the variety of beans

Set it into the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from heat. Looks great, doesn’t it?

Cowboy Beans, just finished cooking

Top with cheese, if desired, or enjoy it as it! Serve with extra hot sauce!

BOOM! DONE! It is an easy recipe for sure.

About the Sauce

The sauce used in Cowboy Beans is really a mixture of different condiments. When people talk about the recipe being old fashioned or authentic, it’s hard to believe because those ingredients wouldn’t have been available at the time.

Most cowboy beans recipes have been adapted to current ingredients available. It’s delicious regardless. No complaints from me. I’m definitely a fan.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is a baked version, though you can make it either as a stew in a large pot or Dutch oven, or in a slow cooker or crock pot. Either way will offer great results.

In the Dutch oven, rather than baking it, simply simmer it on the stove top with the mostly covering it. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring every so often, until it thickens and the flavors develop.

For the slow cooker or crock pot cowboy beans, transfer all of the ingredients to the slow cooker after you’ve cooked down the vegetables and ground meat. Cook on low for 4 hours, until the flavors develop.

Slow cooker or crock pot version. Yes.

Cowboy Beans on a spoon

Recipe Variations on Cowboy Beans

Most recipes call for ground beef, though you can (and should!) incorporate other meats. Consider ground turkey for a lighter version. Italian sausage or brats (ground pork) work great here.

Try adding in sliced hot dogs. I love it with Mexican chorizo. Use a combination of meats for your preferred flavor.

You can also change up the beans. Pinto beans are normally used, but use a mix of different beans for variety. Some options include:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Baked beans
  • White beans
  • Lima beans
  • Butter beans

The list goes on.

Try making a smoked version in your smoker. Smoked Cowboy Beans! Yes! Or use liquid smoke for a smokey flavor.

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Cowboy Beans, ready to serve

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Cowboy Beans Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 15 mins
Total Time
1 hr 25 mins
 
Cowboy beans takes beans to a whole new level with ground beef, bacon and a tangy mixture of sauces and seasonings. Easy to make, infinitely satisfying, perfect for anywhere from dinner to cookouts to parties. Here is the recipe.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, recipe, southwest, spicy
Servings: 12
Calories: 358 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
Ingredients
  • ½ pound bacon chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers chopped (or use a bell pepper for a milder version)
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef 80-20
  • ¼ cup bbq sauce use your favorite
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 16 ounce cans kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 16 ounce can butter beans (drained)
  • 1 16 ounce can pork and beans
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • FOR SERVING: Shredded cheese if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat a large pan or pot to medium heat. A Dutch oven is good for this.
  2. Cook the bacon in the pan about 5 minutes, or until it becomes nice and crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Remove any excess grease.
  3. Next, add the chopped onion and peppers. Cook them down 5 minutes to soften.
  4. Add the ground beef and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook it down about 5 minutes to brown it all over, stirring.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute, until you can smell that gorgeous garlic.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Stir the bbq sauce, ketchup, mustard, molasses, vinegar, brown sugar, chili powder, and salt and pepper into the mix.
  8. Stir in all of the beans. If you’d like a kicked up version, stir in some hot sauce as well.
  9. Set it into the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  10. Remove from heat. Top with cheese, if desired, or enjoy it as it! Serve with extra hot sauce!
Recipe Notes

Heat Factor: Mild.

Nutrition Facts
Cowboy Beans Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 358 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 25%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 41mg 14%
Sodium 776mg 32%
Potassium 660mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 37g 12%
Dietary Fiber 8g 32%
Sugars 11g
Protein 17g 34%
Vitamin A 5.4%
Vitamin C 6.5%
Calcium 7.8%
Iron 19.6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Cowboy Beans Recipe - This cowboy beans recipe is next level with ground beef, bacon and a tangy mixture of sauces and seasonings. Perfect for dinner, cookouts and parties. #SideDish #SouthwestCuisine

2 comments

  1. HELLO MIKE, THIS IS A FANTASTIC RECIPE,BUNDLES OF FLAVOUR. THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT IT HAS BECOME ALMOST AN ADDICTION ESPECIALLY FOR BREAKFAST WITH A COUPLE OF EGGS, YUMMY YUMMY I GOT LOVE IN MY TUMMY.
    CHEERS ADRIAAN, FROM SUNNY NEW ZEALAND.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Cheers, Adriaan! I appreciate it. Yes, quite addictive, and tasty!

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