suggested video
suggested video

Cowboy Beans: a fantastic Southwestern side dish to serve at your next BBQ

Total time: 90 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 10 people
By Cookist



Ground beef
1 pound
Brown sugar
1/4 cup
medium yellow onion, diced
green bell pepper, diced
Garlic salt
1/2 tsp
Onion powder
1/2 tsp
bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 slices
baked beans
2 28-ounces cans
Barbecue sauce
1/2 cup
Dijon mustard
2 tbsp

Cowboy beans are an ultra-flavorful slow-cooked Southwestern side dish that is perfect for any occasion. It's a killer side dish to serve at a barbecue but is just as delicious with a hearty mid-week meal.

Cowboy beans are sweet, savory, and tangy, thanks to ingredients like ground beef, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, bacon, and mustard. The beans are tender, thick, and perfect for mopping up with a side of homemade biscuits. Serve these easy cowboy beans at your next barbecue or Southwestern-themed dinner for a side dish everyone will adore.

The curious name of this recipe is supposed to come from the fact that pioneers who traveled in the past needed to feed themselves with foods that were satiating and quick to make. Therefore, a bean-based dish was perfect since it was enough to cook them in water.

Cowboy Beans Ingredients

To make cowboy beans, you'll need a couple of cans of baked beans.

Ground beef will make the dish heartier, while onion and bell pepper, garlic salt, and onion powder bring loads of flavor.

Barbecue sauce and brown sugar add sweetness to the beans, while cooked bacon adds a delicious savory element.

A few tablespoons of Dijon mustard brings some tanginess that balances out the sweet-savory elements of the other ingredients to make a dish packed with nuance and flavor.


What are the Best Beans for Cowboy Beans?

This recipe calls for canned baked beans, which typically have seasonings and flavorings in them. A bonus to using baked beans is that you don't need to soak them overnight. Just drain them, and get cooking! Pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, and navy beans also work brilliantly in this recipe.

Can You Use Dry Beans?

You can absolutely use dry beans to make your cowboy beans. As mentioned above, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans are fabulous options.

If you use dry beans, make sure to soak them overnight in water with some salt or baking soda mixed in. The next day, drain and rinse the beans, then cook them according to the recipe.

How to Make Cowboy Beans

It's absurdly easy to make cowboy beans, which is a good thing considering they're so tasty, that you'll want to make them regularly! Start by heating your oven to 350F. Sauté the ground beef, onions, and bell pepper in a pan over medium heat. Season the beef and vegetables with onion powder and garlic salt.

Once the meat has browned, turn off the heat, and discard any excess fat in the pot. Stir the bacon, baked beans, sugar, barbecue sauce, and mustard into the beef mixture. Pop the lid on the pan and bake the beans for 60 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

Can You Make Cowboy Beans in a Slow Cooker?

You can totally make cowboy beans in a slow cooker. After sautéing the meat and veggies, stir in the remaining ingredients, then cook the beans on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Tips for Making Easy Cowboy Beans

Cowboy beans can be made up to 2 days in advance.

For heartier cowboy beans, add in chopped sausage or leftover hamburger. Ham hocks will add a smokier flavor.

Use ground pork, turkey, or chicken instead of beef for a tasty twist.

You can leave out the sugar to make your cowboy beans healthier.

Add vegetables like squash, sweet potato, broccoli, corn, or carrot to make your cowboy beans healthier.

Garnish your cowboy beans with some chopped green onions for extra crunch.

Use store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce.

Mix in a chili or some chili flakes if you enjoy spice.

For extra tanginess, stir in some apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or a dash of Worchestershire sauce.


What to Serve with Cowboy Beans

Cowboy beans are always a welcome addition at a barbecue. They're fantastic with the sweet-savory-smoky flavors of barbecue ribs, grilled sausages, grilled chicken, pork, and hamburgers. Serve them with other sides like cornbread or biscuits (for mopping up!), grilled veggies, and Caesar salads.

How to Store Cowboy Beans

Let the cowboy beans cool slightly, then transfer them to an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Can You Freeze Cowboy Beans?

Of course! Cowboy beans are a fantastic make-ahead recipe you can stash in your freezer to enjoy later. They'll keep for up to 6 months when stored in an airtight container.

More Recipes You'll Like


Preheat your oven to 350F.

Sauté the ground beef, onions, and bell pepper in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in onion powder and garlic salt.

Cook until the meat is browned. Pour off any excess fat.

Stir in the bacon and brown sugar.

Add the baked beans.

Pour in the barbecue sauce.

Stir in the mustard.

Mix well.

Put the lid and bake for 60 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!


No green bell peppers? Use yellow or red bell peppers instead.

Every dish has a story
Find out more on Cookist social networks
api url views