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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.