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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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
- Main Course: These baked beans can easily stand alone like a chili served with cornbread or homemade biscuits, and topped with things like sour cream, fritos or tortilla chips, shredded cheese or chopped onions.
- Side Dish: Cowboy Beans make a great hearty side and go really well with Baked Ham, Pulled Pork Sliders, Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken or Grilled Steak. Or serve as part of your holiday feast alongside Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, Roasted Red Potatoes or Creamy Cornbread Casserole.
- Appetizer: Never thought to use Cowboy Beans as a dip? Think again! They are delicious as a dip, serve with tortilla chips next to other favorites like Chicken Crack Dip or Spinach Artichoke Dip. Deviled Eggs or Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels are also great options.
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:
Beef & Bacon Baked Beans (aka Cowboy Beans)
- 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
- 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.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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!
Love the feedback Preston! Thanks for stopping by.
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.
Love your feedback Linda! Thanks for sharing.
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!
Love the feedback Deb! Thanks for stopping by.
This was the bomb, I’m going to try adding some sausage and hamburger next time, and a little more smoke
Nice! Thanks for stopping by Jim.
What would be the recipe if I use a #10 can of van kamps ????
hi Fred, you can use the slider bar for the servings to adjust the amount.
I know you said you pour the juice and all the beans from the baked beans into the pot, but would you do the same with the black and white beans I’m going to add also?
Any other beans should be drained.
as of now have not made them ut I love beans so hope to try them. when you say any kind of beans what kind or type do you .Ean? what kind do you use. please reply to email I am ase iir and get confused. thankyou
You can use any variety of canned beans.
I am looking for a western bean recipe, but my husband doesn’t like sweet beans! I see that these beans have brown sugar in them…would it be OK to leave it out? Can you taste sweetness in this recipe?
The brown sugar can be left out. It may have a slightly heavy tomato taste, but will be fine.
I tried this recipe for a family gathering and everyone went back for seconds. My host asked if I would leave the leftovers for him. These beans are delicious and I have been asked to prepare them again for the hosts birthday party. Only change is I used a different BBQ sauce, Show-Me Bar-B-Q Sauce.
Fantastic feedback Charlotte! Thanks for stopping by.
This is my first attempt at Cowboy beans and the recipe is spot on. My family said not to change a thing. The one thing I would do differently is to start the bacon before adding the beef and onion. I found the “undercooked” (according to me) bacon off putting. I ended up fishing out the bacon and crisping it up in the microwave. That was marginally successful. Next time I’ll cook the bacon, rendering most of the fat, and crisp it up just a bit. I’ll add it back in when I add the beans.
Fantastic feedback Deb! Thanks for stopping by.
Has anyone ever tried this recipe and small pieces of potatos?
Do you mean adding potato to the mix? If you cook them separately that could work. I think it would be delicious stuffed into baked potatoes.
Absolutely, perfect. This is the recipe I was hoping to find. Seriously, thank you. I would not change a thing!
You are so welcome Trish. Thanks for stopping by.
I used my crockpot and cooked on low for 7 hours-delicious! My guests loved it!
Nice! Thanks for stopping by Kathryn.
This recipe is awesome. It’s 7am on a Saturday morning and I’m up making them for a friend that has requested me to make them for his granddaughters birthday party today. Love love love this recipe!!!
Thank you for sharing the love Tammy.
I made this a few months ago for a church dinner, and they LOVED IT! I’ve just made it for another church dinner this weekend, along with a corn salad, stuffed eggs, crescent rolls, and orange fluff. One lady was very happy to hear that I’m bringing it again.
I use Bush’s Original Baked Beans, Colgin Mesquite Liquid Smoke, & Bullseye BBQ sauce.
Thank you so much for such a fantastic recipe!
You are so welcome Carolyn! Thank you for the awesome feedback.
My Dad absolutely LOVES this recipe, and I make it for him all the time. This is BY FAR the best version.
Thank you Sandy!
My family loves this recipe!
Can I freeze half this ?
Yes! These beans will freeze beautifully for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge then heat on the stove.
Can anyone tell me how many servings this makes?
It makes a generous amount, at least 8 servings.
Well now I know what I’m making for the block party. Thanks, Kristin!
Nice! Thanks for stopping by Natalie.
Found this recipe last year and thought I would give it a try. Now my mom ask me to make them for every holiday event. Everyone loves them!!!
Hi Pamela, So happy that you and your family loved this recipe! thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your positive feedback.
These were perfect!! My boyfriends mother cooks EVERYTHING from scratch…(even noodles!!) So cooking for him can be a daunting task trying to compete with mamas cooking! He loves baked beans and anything with a lot of meat and BBQ really…and this got 5 stars from him. He begs me to make these for him regularly, and raves to everyone about how good of a cook his girlfriend is. So thank you for this great recipe!! It will come in handy around the holidays as well! Just a note: the ONLY changes I made were another 15 oz can of beans (i used light and dark kidney) and to my dismay I cant find your recommended brand of pork n beans, so I have to use Campbell’s brand instead.
Hi Amanda! Thank you so mush for sharing your positive experience.
how many servings does this make?
I just made these and they are so good!
I baked them in the oven for 1 hour in my cast iron Dutch oven. Yummm
Hi! I’m cooking your cowboy beans. Is the pound of diced bacon raw or cooked when u put it in the oil with the raw ground beef to brown?