Loaded with bacon and ground beef, these cowboy baked beans are smoky, sweet, and savory with a southwest flair.
A hearty meal like this is always hard to classify. Cowboy baked beans feature enough ingredients to be the main dish, but they also closely resemble my homemade baked beans, which is a hearty side dish. Not to mention, this popular dish is also a family favorite to serve at a potluck or a summer cookout. I guess that is exactly why I love cowboy beans, they are popular because they taste so dang good, and the dish is really versatile so it can be enjoyed many different ways.
What are Cowboy Baked Beans
Cowboy beans are the southwestern cousin of traditional baked beans. They take on a more distinct BBQ flavor and can be spiked with a little bit of heat to balance the sweetness. This recipe is also easily customizable to fit anyone's tastes.
Cowboy Beans Ingredients
- Dried navy beans - You can substitute your favorite type of beans, such as pinto beans or great northern beans.
- Lean ground beef - The addition of ground beef really makes this a hearty meal, but you can also try using breakfast sausage instead of beef, for a different twist.
- Yellow onion
- Poblano pepper - Add heat to your beans by using jalapenoes instead. If you are really heat sensitive, use a bell pepper instead.
- BBQ sauce - This tangy sauce is the primary flavoring agent. Some barbecue sauces are sweeter than others, if you buy a particularly sweet sauce you can cut back on the brown sugar called for in this recipe.
- Brown sugar
- Yellow mustard - You can substitute Dijon mustard, or brown mustard as well.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Liquid smoke - This can be omitted but it fortifies the smoky flavor of the bacon and barbeque sauce, not to mention replicating the flavor of cowboys cooking this dish in a cast iron skillet over an open fire.
Can I substitute Canned Beans?
This easy recipe calls for one pound of dry beans, which need to be cooked/soaked and softened prior to use, because they have the best texture. However, you can purchase canned beans instead. Two 15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed, should be perfect.
How to make it
Begin making this cowboy baked beans recipe by softening the beans. You can do this by either soaking them in water overnight or simmering them in a large pot of water on the stove top for up to two hours, until softened but still retaining some firmness.
Next, add your bacon and ground beef to a Dutch oven, pot, or large skillet (it is best to use a pot with a heavy bottom to prevent scoarching) of your choice and cook over medium heat until browned. Drain excess fat, reserving two tablespoons of the fat drippings in the pot. Add the chopped onion and peppers, and saute until tender.
When the beans have softened they can be added to the pot along with the sauteed vegetables, beef, bacon, and all remaining ingredients. Place the pot in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes to heat through. This can be served immediately, or made in advance and reheated later.
Tip: If you feel your beans are too thick, you can add a little fresh water to thin everything out.
Can I make Cowboy Beans in the Slow Cooker?
Yes, cowboy beans are easy to make in the slow cooker. It is easiest to make these beans in your crock pot if using canned beans rather than dried beans, but dried beans will work if soaked overnight. Simply saute the beef, bacon, onions, and peppers in a skillet and then combine all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it to high, and let it cook for a couple of hours until everything is heated through and tender.
How to store your Cowboy Baked Beans
This is a great recipe to make in advance because the flavors will continue to meld together and taste even better the next day. Simply store the baked beans in an airtight container in your refrigerator and enjoy within three days for best flavor. The leftovers can be reheated in the microwave in individual servings or added back to a pot on the stovetop to be heated through in larger quantities.
More Ground Beef Recipes
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Cowboy Baked Beans
- Add dried beans into a boiling pot of water and simmer until beans soften but are still firm. 1-2 hours. Alternatively, you can soak beans overnight instead.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- While beans simmer, add bacon and ground beef to a Dutch oven or large skillet and cook over medium heat, until beef has browned and bacon is crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon/beef drippings, add the onion and peppers to the skillet and saute until tender.
- Once beans have softened, drain from water and combine with all ingredients in an oven-safe pot or Dutch oven. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
- Place the beans in the oven on the center rack, uncovered, and bake for 30 minutes to heat through and thicken.
- Serve immediately, or keep warm in a slow cooker.
This recipe was originally published December 12, 2019 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.