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Cowboy Beans are a great side dish for potlucks, parties and barbecues. The addition of ground beef and bacon make these Baked Beans rich and meaty, and hearty enough to eat for dinner! Make them the traditional way in the oven, or use our optional slow cooker method.

Whether you’re making Crock Pot Cowboy Beans or baking them in the oven, these are some of the most delicious beans you’ve ever had. They are great for potlucks and we love to serve them with Cheesy Garlic Bread, and Green Jello Salad for dessert.

Hearty Baked Beans aka cowboy beans in a large soup pot.

The first time I tried Cowboy style baked beans at a potluck several years ago, I was immediately hooked.

The sauce is rich and flavorful, with a slight smokey quality thanks to the bacon and one of my favorite barbecue ingredients – Liquid Smoke. The beans are tender and just melt in your mouth. The beef and bacon make this dish extra meaty and hearty.

Ingredients for Cowboy Beans

  • Ground beef – I like to use lean ground beef, but any kind can be used. Just be sure to drain the grease before continuing with the recipe.
  • Bacon – The bacon adds a savory, smoky note that completely elevates the finished dish.
  • Onion – 1 small onion, diced fine.
  • Pork & Beans – Van Camp’s brand, specifically, is the only brand I use. Use the whole can, including the sauce.
  • Canned beans – I used a 3-bean blend but any 15-ounce can of beans will work, like kidney beans, butter beans or black beans.
  • Liquid Smoke – This liquid seasoning is made from condensing smoke from burning wood. It adds a smoky flavor without any smoke.
  • Barbecue Sauce – use your favorite bottled sauce or make some Homemade BBQ Sauce.
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic powder – or minced garlic. Add some chili powder or paprika for a little bit of heat.
Ingredients needed to make baked cowboy beans

How to Make Cowboy Beans

The recipe is simple but the result is a masterpiece of incredible flavor! It’s got a few types of beans, but you can use any type you like, really. It’s just the amount you’ll want to match.

Cowboy beans can be baked in the oven or cooked in your crockpot.

  1. Cook. Start by cooking ground beef, bacon and onion together in the a large pot or dutch oven on the stove. You’ll need to do this step whether you are baking of slow cooking.
  2. Bake. Add beans, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke to the cooked meat. Stir to combine, then slide it into a preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.

The one ingredient that’s a must is the Van Camp Pork and Beans. The others are just the varieties/brands that I had on hand. If you have a favorite bean, use it. Favorite barbecue sauce? Pour it on.

Baked Beans Mixed with brown sugar and barbecue sauce in a pot on the stove.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are they called Cowboy Beans?

Back in the days of chuck wagons and cowboys, beans were a popular dish because they were so cheap and you could make a ton. Dried beans could last practically forever, were full of protein and very filling.

What are the best beans to use for Cowboy Beans?

You’ll need about 45 ounces of beans. I use the large can of Van Camp’s Pork & Beans plus a 15-ounce can of whatever beans I have on hand (and I always have several varieties). You could also use a mixture of three, 5-ounce cans of beans. You can see in the photos I used a tri-blend of black beans, kidney beans and white beans.

Pork and Beans – this is a canned mixture of navy beans packed in tomato sauce and seasonings with small chunks of salt pork. It’s the base flavor for our Cowboy Beans, so it’s best not to replace these. Do not drain the liquid, just pour it all into the pot!
Black beans – I love the hearty, fiber-rich texture and flavor of black beans.They aren’t as common for baked beans, but they are a favorite of mine.
Kidney beans – Commonly used for bean soups, chili and baked beans.
White beans – These tend to be very soft in texture making them an ideal ingredient for baked beans.
Butter beans – Really just mature lima beans, these can also add a great texture to this recipe. They are a larger and lighter in color than navy beans or black beans so they add visual contrast as well.

Can you make Cowboy Beans in the slow cooker?

If you want to free up your oven, slow cooker cowboy beans are the way to go! Instead of baking in the oven, combine all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. Just be sure to cook the beef, bacon and onions on the stove first.

How to Serve

Cowboys Beans are very hearty and beefy. This is a great recipe for game day parties, dinner on a chilly night, or a hearty side dish for your holiday meal! It’s so flexible and it can be served in a variety of ways.

An overhead shot of a large white pot with baked beans, beef and bacon

Storage and Reheating

Storage: Leftover cowboy beans should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave for individual portions or the oven or stovetop for larger portions.

Freezer Storage: They can be frozen in a plastic freezer bag or storage container for up to 4 months. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

More ground beef recipes:

A close up of Beans

Beef & Bacon Baked Beans (aka Cowboy Beans)

4.59 from 115 votes
Cowboy Beans are a great side, main course or even appetizer. Made with beans, ground beef and bacon in a rich and flavorful sauce.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 12 servings


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound bacon diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 28 ounce can Van Kamps Pork & Beans Do not drain.
  • 15 ounce can beans any kind, or a blend. Drain and rinse.
  • 1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 18 ounce bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
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  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Heat a 5 quart dutch oven or other oven safe, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat for one minute. Add ground beef, bacon, garlic and onion. Stir, cooking until ground beef is no longer pink. Drain most of the liquid from the pan.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cover dutch oven and bake beans in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.
Keyword cowboy beans


Calories: 435kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 18gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 1095mgPotassium: 615mgFiber: 6gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 109IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer Kristin Maxwell of “Yellow Bliss Road” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. For accurate calorie counts and other nutritional values, we recommend running the ingredients through your preferred online nutritional calculator. Calories and other nutritional values can vary depending on which brands were used.

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. Steph says:

    Everyone who eats these beans love them. Making them again for a cookout tomorrow. We always use the smoker and omit the liquid smoke.

    1. Kristin says:

      Awesome feedback Steph! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Alan Holbrook says:

    The recipe looks very nice and I intend to try it. What would you think about adding a couple of tablespoons of molasses to the it?

    1. Kristin Maxwell says:

      hi Alan, I think it would be a nice flavor.

      1. Alan Holbrook says:

        Kristen, I actually made the cowboy beans yesterday and I totally forgot I was going to add the molasses, but the dish was wonderful without it. The recipe is a keeper, so next time I’ll try to remember to add the molasses.

  3. Riki says:

    I’m getting ready to put these on the smoker right now! I’m pretty excited!

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Let us know here in the comments how well it turned out, thanks for stopping by Riki.

      1. Riki says:

        Well since May 13th when I posted this, this is the third time I’ve made them in the smoker. This is definitely a keeper for a recipe! Thank you so much for sharing it!

        1. Kristin says:

          You are so welcome Riki! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Cheryl Belangee says:

    This is very good! I hate onions so I left them out, but it was really good. We just love beans, and this was yummy. Thank you.

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Cheryl! Awesome feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  5. Preston Dennis says:

    I made this as a side dish for Sunday dinner, but it could have been the main course. I added one more can of beans ( as we like beans ) and I used a no sugar added BBQ sauce. The flavor was tremendous. Everybody loved them! Will definitely be making them again!

    1. Kristin says:

      Love the feedback Preston! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Linda says:

    Recipe was well received at our weekly Pot Luck. In future, I would use less sugar or no sugar. It was too sweet for our tastes but the sweetness did balance out a bit better after baking time finished. The brands of beans and BBQ sauce used will also play into the amount of brown sugar needed.

    1. Kristin says:

      Love your feedback Linda! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Deb says:

    Love these beans! But definitely cook the bacon first. I ended up picking out bacon and putting it in the microwave. It was way too undercooked otherwise. Otherwise perfect!

    1. Kristin says:

      Love the feedback Deb! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Jim says:

    This was the bomb, I’m going to try adding some sausage and hamburger next time, and a little more smoke

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thanks for stopping by Jim.

  9. Fred says:

    What would be the recipe if I use a #10 can of van kamps ????

    1. Kristin Maxwell says:

      hi Fred, you can use the slider bar for the servings to adjust the amount.

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