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Your new favorite potluck side dish or weeknight dinner — with just 15 minutes of prep! Loaded with bacon and beef in a sweet and tangy sauce, these cowboy baked beans are a quick, easy, crowd-pleasing addition to any meal.

Overhead shot of a pan of cowboy beans.
Table of Contents
  1. What are cowboy baked beans?
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Cowboy Baked Beans
  4. Preparation and Storage Tips
  5. Recipe Variations
  6. Tips for the Best Cowboy Baked Beans Recipe
  7. Cowboy Baked Beans Recipe

Cowboy baked beans are the must-make dish of the season! The casserole is hearty enough to serve as a main entrée for supper with a side of cornbread or biscuits, and equally delicious as a side dish when paired with grilled burgers, fried chicken, bbq, and hot dogs. “Bake” them in the oven or in the Crock Pot!

What are cowboy baked beans?

These aren’t just any baked beans! The ultimate cowboy baked beans are heartier and more flavorful than your average can of baked beans — thanks to plenty of ground beef, bacon, and veggies. The sauce is both sweet and savory, thanks to brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, and vinegar.

Most importantly, perhaps, this easy baked beans recipe comes together with very little prep time. After about 15 minutes of hands-on effort, you’ll have a delicious casserole ready to pop into the oven or slow cooker!

Process shot showing how to make cowboy baked beans.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need for a dish of cowboy beans. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground beef: gives the beans a heartier texture and flavor, making them satisfying enough to serve as a dinner entree. You can sub with ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or ground sausage if you like.
  • Onion and green bell pepper: for savory flavor.
  • Canned pork and beans: starting with canned beans makes this recipe for cowboy baked beans quick and easy — no soaking or boiling required!
  • Ketchup: the sweet base of the sauce. Cut it with some barbecue sauce if you like a bolder, smokier taste.
  • Brown sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness with a hint of molasses flavor. I use light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar will also work — it just has a stronger flavor.
  • Apple cider vinegar and yellow mustard: add bright, tangy, acidic components to the sauce.
  • Worcestershire sauce: for a salty, umami flavor that works well with the beef. Sub with soy sauce if that’s all that you have.
  • Chili powder: for zesty flavor.
  • Bacon: a salty, smoky addition to the dish that pairs nicely with the sweet sauce.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
Adding bacon to the top of a dish of cowboy baked beans.

How to Make Cowboy Baked Beans

This easy cowboy baked beans recipe comes together with minimal hands-on effort. The oven (or the slow cooker!) does the rest of the work! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Brown the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper in a Dutch oven or large skillet.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the bacon.
  • Transfer the beef and bean mixture to a casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle cooked, crumbled bacon on top.
  • Cover and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for 10 more minutes.
  • Let the dish stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Overhead shot of cowboy baked beans in a dish with a side of cornbread.

What to Serve with Cowboy Bake Beans

If offering the cowboy baked beans with ground beef as a main dish for dinner, pair them with a skillet of cornbread, a basket of buttermilk biscuits, or a pan of red rice. For extra veggies on the side, try coleslaw, Southern squash casserole, potato salad, or sweet and spicy collard greens.

The best ever cowboy baked beans are also a nice side dish when paired with any of these entrees:

Square overhead image of cowboy baked beans in a vintage enamelware pan.

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Make Ahead: assemble the casserole in advance, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking. When ready to bake, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. If the beans are still cold when you put them in the oven, you will likely need to increase the total baking time.
  • Storage: leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • How to Freeze: let the baked beans cool, then store in airtight containers or Ziploc freezer bags in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
  • How to Reheat: cover the dish and warm in a 350°F oven just until heated through, about 20-25 minutes. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes.

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of turning on the oven, prepare the cowboy beans in the slow cooker. I’ve included the Crock Pot directions in the notes below.
  • Swap out the ground beef and use ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or ground sausage.
  • If you can’t find canned pork and beans, use cans of baked beans instead.
  • Replace some of the ketchup with bbq sauce if you like a bolder, smokier flavor.
  • Add garlic or garlic powder to the mixture for even more savory flavor.
  • Instead of bacon, give the dish a smoky flavor with the addition of smoked sausage.
  • Swap out the Worcestershire sauce and use soy sauce instead.
  • To serve a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the beans in a 1-quart dish.
Square close up shot of a pan of cowboy baked beans with bacon on top

Tips for the Best Cowboy Baked Beans Recipe

  • This dish serves about 6-8 people as a side dish, or about 4 people as a main dish entree. If you’re feeding a larger group, double all of the ingredients and bake the beans in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. It’s perfect for summer cookouts!
  • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
  • The total cooking time may vary. For really soft, broken-down beans or a thicker sauce, you might like to leave the dish in the oven a little bit longer.
  • The beans and sauce will continue to thicken as they cool, so don’t worry if it looks a little bit soupy when it first comes out of the oven.
Overhead shot of a spoon in a dish of cowboy baked beans.

More Bean Recipes to Try

Square overhead image of cowboy baked beans in a vintage enamelware pan.

Cowboy Baked Beans

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8 people (as a side dish)
Calories 396 kcal
Serve these easy cowboy baked beans as a side dish at your next cookout, or as a dinner entrée with a side of cornbread!

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2 – 3 -quart baking dish; set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, onion, and bell pepper; cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain off excess grease. Stir in pork and beans, ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.
    Process shot showing how to make cowboy baked beans.
  • Transfer the beef and beans to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle bacon on top. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover; continue baking for 10 more minutes.
    Adding bacon to the top of a dish of cowboy baked beans.
  • Let the dish rest for 10 minutes, then serve!
    Overhead shot of a pan of cowboy beans.

Notes

  • Alternate slow cooker method: Brown the beef and vegetables on the stovetop, as instructed. Simmer with the other ingredients for 5 minutes, and then transfer the mixture to a Crock Pot. Do not add the bacon yet. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1-2 hours or on LOW for 3-4 hours. Remove the cover during the final 30 minutes, sprinkle the bacon on top, and continue cooking without the lid to allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
  • This dish serves about 6-8 people as a side dish, or about 4 people as a main dish entree. If you’re feeding a larger group, double all of the ingredients and bake the beans in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish.
    The total cooking time may vary. For really soft, broken-down beans or a thicker sauce, you might like to leave the dish in the oven a little bit longer.
  • The beans and sauce will continue to thicken as they cool, so don’t worry if it looks a little bit soupy when it first comes out of the oven.
  • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the recipeCalories: 396kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 19gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 1187mgPotassium: 713mgFiber: 7gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 258IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 95mgIron: 4mg
Keyword: cowboy baked beans, cowboy baked beans with ground beef, cowboy beans
Course: Dinner, Side
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in May, 2018. It was updated in April, 2023.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

    1. Hi, Gail! I haven’t actually tried freezing the leftovers myself, but I think that should work just fine! 🙂

  1. 5 stars
    I made these last week for the first time and everyone LOVED THEM! I did add a green pepper coz I like ’em like that. Will make again.

  2. wonderful especially from a non baked beans person. I had these at a family barbecue and loved them . I them made them at home. Now it is a favorite dish at home and at my church pot luck. Yum

    1. Hey, Fred! If you’re serving them as a side dish, they’re filling and 1/2 cup is a standard serving size on most cans of store-bought baked beans. That said, I offer the information so that you know how much the recipe yields and you can adjust your serving sizes according to how much you enjoy. No judgment if you want more! 🙂

  3. I was wondering can u use baked beans in a can and omit the pork and beans brown sugar ketchup apple cider vinegar yellow mustard and salt cuz if I’m correct the pork and beans ketchup brown sugar apple cider vinegar yellow mustard and salt makes them into baked beans so could you take and just do the half pound ground beef the six slices of bacon The Onion and baked beans and omit the pork and beans ketchup brown sugar vinegar yellow mustard and salt would that be possible thank you for your time please get back to me ASAP Jay

    1. Hi, Jay! You can sub canned baked beans for the canned pork and beans, but I’d still use the other ingredients as well so that the dish works. If you prefer to try it with your suggested changes, that may work too. It will just be a different dish with a different taste. Let me know if you give it a shot!