My cowboy baked beans recipe is comfort food at its finest. Made with tender pinto beans, hearty bacon, and plenty of Mexican spices, you’ll want to go back for seconds!
Tex Mex cuisine holds a special place in my heart, and cowboy baked beans are one of my favorite recipes! It’s simple to throw together, can easily be made ahead, and is filled with flavor. Pinto beans are slow-cooked and then paired with satuéed bacon, onion, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and other spices and seasonings to bring you this versatile dish.
You can serve up this yummy dish for breakfast with a side of huevos rancheros, on its own as a light lunch, or with some shredded rotisserie chicken for dinner. No matter what time of day you decide to serve this dish, make sure to sprinkle some crumbled cotija cheese on top.
Sometimes referred to as calico beans, my cowboy baked beans are a fun take on traditional baked beans. The best part? The delicious aromas that will fill your home as they cook! Plus, you can make cowboy beans in a slow cooker OR your Instant Pot. This is the ultimate dish for all of your set-it-and-forget-it chefs.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Dried Pinto Beans – Make sure to opt for dried pinto varieties instead of those from a can. You’ll need to soak them overnight before you cook them — don’t skip this important step! Forgot, try my quick soak beans method here.
- Bacon – The bacon adds a smoky flavor that can’t be beat! Beans and bacon go together like peanut butter and jelly…but better.
- Onion – For more added flavor.
- Garlic – Paired with the onion, bacon, and beans, minced garlic adds a finishing touch to this dish.
- Jalapeño Peppers – It wouldn’t be a Tex Mex dish without a bit of spice! Feel free to play around with how much you add to your recipe. If you don’t like spicy foods, you can omit them.
- Salt & Cumin – These seasonings finish off the flavor profile of my cowboy baked beans perfectly.
HOW TO MAKE COWBOY BAKED BEANS
- Soak the Beans. You’ll remember that I mentioned not to skip this step. The night before you plan to make your own version of this dish, make sure to soak the pinto beans in water. This will make cooking them much easier. Don’t forget to sift through the beans to take out any debris.
- Cook the Beans. Add your soaked and drained beans to a slow cooker or an Instant Pot (I swear by mine!). Add 8 cups of water and cover. If using a slow cooker, cook for 6 hours on Low. For your IP, simply close the lid and set it to the “beans” setting to cook.
- Fry the Bacon. While your beans cook, fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add your onion, garlic, jalapeños, salt, and cumin. Stir everything together and cook until the onion has softened. Remove the mixture from heat and set it to the side.
- Mix and Serve. Once your beans are done, add in the rest of the cooked ingredients and stir. Serve in a bowl with a bit of cotija cheese sprinkled on top, as well as a few sliced jalapeños and cornbread or tortillas, and enjoy.
What Beans For Cowboy Beans?
I swear by using pinto beans for my cowboy baked beans recipe. If you can’t find any, you can also use black beans, butter beans, kidney beans, Great Northern, or navy beans. The key here is to always opt for dried varieties instead of canned ones!
Can You Freeze Cowboy Beans?
As mentioned, my take on baked beans can easily be made ahead! If you want to get ahead on meal prepping, you can easily freeze this dish so that you can enjoy it at a later date. After you’ve followed the recipe instructions, make sure to let your dish cool completely. Then, place it in an airtight, freezer-safe container. It will keep for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to serve, make sure to let your dish thaw in the fridge overnight. You can reheat it in the oven at 300 degrees F for about 35 minutes, or until warmed through.
Why Are They Called Cowboy Beans?
Cowboy beans are called such because cowboys often ate baked beans while on the road. This dish is packed with protein, is easy to prepare, and legumes have a very long shelf life. Plus, when made simply all you really need to make it is beans, water, and a few spices. All of these ingredients were easy to find and carry, so it’s no surprise that cowboys would indulge in this recipe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking July 2, 2018, has been updated with new content, photos and/or video in June, 2022.
Cowboy Baked Beans + Video
- 1 lb dried pinto beans (See Note 1)
- 4 slices bacon minced
- 1 onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 jalapeños seeded and diced
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Sort through the beans and remove any debris or stones. Rinse and in a large bowl cover with cold water and soak overnight.
- In a slow cooker or Instant Pot add the soaked and drained beans. Add 8 cups of fresh water. Cover, and for the slow cooker cook for 6 hours on low, or for the Instant Pot, close lid and cook using the Beans setting.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat fry the bacon for several minutes. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños salt and cumin. Stir to mix and cook until onion is softened. Set aside.
- When beans are cooked add the sautéed bacon chile mixture. Stir to mix in and serve as is, or with toppings like cheese of choice, slices of jalapeños and cornbread or warm tortillas.
- Feel free to substitute 48 oz or 6 cups cooked or canned pinto beans and then sauté bacon chile mixture and simply add to beans and heat through before serving.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.