Calico Cowboy Beans

Total Time

Prep: 30 min. Cook: 4 hours


8 servings

Updated: Aug. 25, 2023
This cowboy beans recipe is tradition when my girlfriends and I go up north for a girls' weekend. The husbands and kids are left at home, but the slow cooker comes with us! —Julie Butsch, Hartland, Wisconsin


  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 can (16 ounces) butter beans, drained
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pork and beans
  • 1 can (15-1/4 ounces) lima beans, rinsed and drained


  1. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, breaking meat into crumbles; drain.
  2. Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker. Combine the brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar and mustard; add to meat mixture. Stir in the beans. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or until heated through.
Cowboy Beans Tips

Can you use dried instead of canned beans to make cowboy beans?

You can used dried beans instead of canned, but the cook times will vary for the butter, kidney and lima beans. Canned beans are far more convenient, and there really is no substitute for the can of pork and beans—its sauce contributes to the overall recipe’s finished taste. If you still want to go the dried bean route, a handy rule of thumb is that dried beans roughly double in volume when cooked. So for each can of beans you’re looking to replace, you would start with just less than 1 cup of dried beans. And remember, you can quick-soak dried beans to avoid waiting overnight.

What else can you add to cowboy beans?

Crumbled cooked bacon, barbecue sauce and spices such as smoked paprika, sweet paprika, garlic powder, black pepper or onion powder. You might prefer molasses in place of some of the brown sugar. Check out our best baked bean recipes for more ideas.

Can you freeze cowboy beans?

Yes. Cool completely, then freeze in covered containers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then gently reheat in a microwave or on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally (our definitive guide explains how long you can freeze food). For more easy dinner ideas, check out these slow-cooker beef recipes.

Christine Rukavena, Taste of Home Senior Book Editor

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 340 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated fat), 35mg cholesterol, 691mg sodium, 54g carbohydrate (23g sugars, 12g fiber), 21g protein.