Cowboy Baked Beans
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Welcome to the best Cowboy Baked Beans! This simple potluck dish is big and hearty, and makes a perfect side for backyard barbecues. A sweet and savory dish full of beef, bacon, and beans, simmered in a velvety sauce!
Life is more fun with potlucks, don’t you think? For some other potluck recipes, try my Summer Pasta Salad, a blog-fav Crunchy Asian Cabbage Salad, Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad, and this Healthy Broccoli Salad!
Best Cowboy Beans
Did you grow up eating baked beans like we did? It seemed like every gathering included some sort of beans to accompany the best Creamy Potato Salad and big juicy burgers. (How about Juicy Lucy Burgers or Pimento Cheese Burgers?) We normally ate doctored up Bush’s beans (the best brand, in my opinion) but also were occasionally treated to the deluxe version that included beef and bacon!
It’s funny that you normally see this potluck dish as a side dish because it really COULD be a main! It’s full of proteins – beef, bacon, and beans – but I’m not going to argue. I’ll eat it as a side OR a main, no problem!
Let’s talk about some great mains to pair with this side dish (MAIN DISH)!
- Bacon – I normally use a thick cut of bacon and cook it in the oven.
- Ground Beef – Use any type of ground beef you prefer here. I normally do NOT strain the grease off (cuz you know, cowboys and cowgirls!).
- Fresh Veggies – Onion, Jalapeno, and Garlic add nice flavor that shouldn’t be skipped.
- Beans – I prefer Bush’s Original Baked Beans for these, plus either pinto or a white bean (like cannelloni). You can use whatever mix you prefer.
- Brown Sugar – You definitely want to add sweetness to these, and brown sugar is my favorite.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Or use another version.
- Worcestershire Sauce – Adds incredible flavor.
- S&P – Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
How to make the best Cowboy Baked Beans
Cook the bacon. I prefer to cook the bacon in the oven. Spread some foil over a baking sheet, and add a rack to it. Then spread out the bacon and bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
Cook the beef. In a large stock pot, combine the ground beef, onions, and jalapeños – and cook until the beef is browned. Add salt, pepper, and garlic – and stir for another 30 seconds or so.
Add remaining ingredients. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pot – the beans, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.
Simmer. Place the pot in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. You can also transfer the beans into a large casserole dish to bake, or even use a crock pot.
PRO-TIP: These beans can be prepped a day or so in advance of your dinner/event, and simply cooked in the oven or a crock pot. Just add some time for them to be heated through completely – probably closer to an hour.
- Make it lighter. You CAN decrease the amount of sugar and ketchup in this recipe. The taste will change, however.
- Use more sweetener. Like an even sweeter bean recipe, Add more brown sugar and ketchup. You can even add some barbecue sauce, if desired.
- Add other beans. The sky is the limit with the type of beans you use in these beans. Choose what you love. I prefer to always use SOME of the Bush’s Original Baked Beans, fyi.
- Decrease meat. You can definitely add half of the ground beef and bacon for a less hardy version.
- Add pulled pork. You can use leftover Smoked Pork Butt and add it to the beans in place of the ground beef and/or bacon. So good!
Why are they called cowboy beans?
Let’s talk about the cowboys/girls we all know – Davy Crockett, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Butch Cassidy, and Jesse James. Let’s imagine how it was in their day when they were out on their horses or horse-drawn carriages with a pot and a few cans of beans. That’s what they ate (I think!) because they were cheap, lasted forever, provided protein, and were filling. Love me some Cowboy Beans too, and I’m definitely NOT a cowgirl!
Storing and Reheating
- Refrigerator – Leftover beans can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Reheating can be done in the microwave, stovetop, or oven. These are super adjustable!
- Freezer – These can be frozen in airtight freezer bags for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, and then reheat in microwave, stovetop or oven.
Kitchen Tools Used: (affiliate links)
Cowboy Baked Beans
- 1 pound bacon – cooked and crumbled
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 2 medium jalapenos – seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic – minced
- 45 oz. Bush's Baked Beans – Original Seyle
- 30 oz. pinto beans – or another type of bean
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
- Cook the bacon and crumble. I prefer to bake it in the oven.
- In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add ground beef, onions, and jalapeno. Cook until beef is browned. Add minced garlic, salt, and pepper – and cook for another minute or so.
- Add remaining ingredients – the crumbled bacon, both kinds of beans, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
- Transfer the beans to a preheated 350 degree oven (I use a dutch oven, but you could transfer the beans to a casserole dish.) and cook until hot and bubbly, approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
Great for a big group outing, easy to make and a favorite side to pair alongside main courses from the grill!
So glad you liked it, Josh! 🙂