June 29, 2017

Cowboy calico beans

Pot of Cowboy Calico Beans.

Four types of beans come together with ground beef and bacon in a sweet and tangy sauce for a crowd-pleasing summer cookout side dish.  

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This is an over-the-top bean recipe for your next cookout. It's over-the-top because it contains not only four different types of beans, but also beef and bacon. These beans are a hearty, sweet, stick-to-your-ribs side dish that feeds a crowd and is always a win! 

This is a terrific dish to bring to a cookout or summer picnic/potluck because it makes a lot and you can keep it warm in your slow cooker. 

Note that in this recipe I use four types of beans - navy, pinto, red, and butter (or large Lima) beans. I like this combination for the contrasts in colors, textures, and shapes. 

However, if you can't find one, or don't like one, you can use other varieties. I just suggest to use different colors and sizes for the best results. 

Dark or light red kidney beans, cannelloni beans, and Great northern beans would all work well in this recipe.

Cowboy calico beans with ground beef and bacon in a Dutch Oven.

There are a lot of different versions of these types of bean dishes with many different names, but I like the name cowboy beans or cowboy calico beans as they remind me of something one would eat while sitting around a campfire. 

These beans go perfectly with barbecue chicken, grilled pork, burgers, hot dogs (pro-tip: spoon some on top of your hot dog with a bit of yellow mustard), and more!  

Bring these to your next cookout this summer or make a batch when you are hosting a summer party. Cook them in a large pot and then transfer them to a slow cooker on low or warm to stay hot.

Yield: 12-16
Author: Amy (Savory Moments)
Cowboy Calico Beans

Cowboy Calico Beans

Four types of beans come together with ground beef and bacon in a sweet and tangy sauce for a crowd-pleasing summer cookout side dish.


  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 (15.5 oz) cans of navy beans
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of pinto beans
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of red beans
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of butter (large lima) beans
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and set on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain the bacon fat from the pot, leaving about 1 tablespoon.
  2. Add the ground beef, onion, garlic powder, and a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, breaking apart the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is cooked through. Drain the fat from the pot and return the ground beef mixture. Stir in the ketchup through molasses.
  3. Add the beans to the pot, including the liquid from 1 can and draining the rest. Stir carefully. Let the mixture heat through, stirring often (carefully so as to not mush up too many beans). Crumble the bacon and return it to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust the other sauce ingredients as needed, too.
  4. Serve immediately, or transfer to a slow cooker on low to keep warm until serving. You can also prepare a day ahead of time and then warm them up and place in a slow cooker on low or warm until serving.
  5. If you find your beans are too dry, add a little water as needed.


Feel free to add hot sauce to taste at the end of cooking for a spicier dish.

Did you make this recipe?
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I hope you give these cowboy calico beans a try! Let me know in the comments below. 

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Dutch oven full of finished cowboy beans.

This post was originally posted in 2017 and has been updated most recently in 2023 with a recipe card, new text, and more to improve reader experience.

Check out these other summer cookout side dish recipes: 

Broccoli Stem Slaw w/ Cranberries

Creamy Carrot, Raisin, & Pineapple Salad

Green Bean & Red Potato Salad

Dill Pickle Potato Salad 


  1. Bacon and beans are amazing together! This looks soul comforting and delicious, Amy.

  2. I absolutely love cowboy beans - but I have to say that my recipe is completely different! I'll need to remember this and give your version a try.

  3. what a fun side dish! growing up i honestly wasn't a fan of baked beans but i need to try a homemade version...and yours look great (though i guess i don't know if they qualify as baked beans...ha!).

  4. I love these beans....we add beer and call them drunken beans.

  5. Wow, that is a hearty dish. I could make a meal of just these beans.

  6. Yum! I have eaten similar beans, but never made them myself. I'll definitely try them. They look so hearty and filling! P~

  7. I love any kind of pasta salad as a side dish. There are so many different kinds of pasta salad it can make it hard to choose.

  8. I am sure the addition of bacon makes these perfect! I did not have the same thought as you when I read the term cowboy beans, but I do love what you named them :)

  9. These beans look delicious. Love the flavors. :)

  10. These definitely sound like a win-win! love a good cookout and this mix of beef and beans sounds delicious. A perfect cowboy dinner along with some good BBQ chicken and corn on the cob! And the bacon is a great bonus :D

  11. Do u mean Dijon mustard when u say grainy mustard or another kind?

    1. in mine i use powdered mustard

    2. I mean whole grainy mustard, which is sometimes labeled as whole grain Dijon.

  12. if you wash the beans off and add a tsp or 2 to the pot it eliminates the gas issue.i also put a can of coke or dr.pepper,and powdered mustard.also carmelize the onions

    1. powdered ginger for the gas issue

  13. They’re cooking right now. Can’t wait! My husband loves beans. They’ll be the main dish in our house.

  14. This recipe looked interesting and I was not disappointed. I love this! Makes a big batch, but so delicious!

  15. My family loves these! We eat it as a meal with corn bread. Soo good!


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