Calico Beans

This vintage Calico Beans recipe is a must-make for everything from summer picnics to cool winter evenings. Serve as a main dish or a side dish.

Table of Contents
  1. About this Calico Beans Recipe:
  2. What kind of beans are in Calico Beans?
  3. How to Make Calico Beans
  4. Oven Method
  5. Slow Cooker Method
  6. Stovetop Method
  7. What to Serve with Calico Beans
  8. Calico Beans Recipe Recipe

I was looking for new picnic recipes in my grandma’s old church cookbook and came across this recipe for Calico Beans. In researching why they are called “Calico Beans” (which really just relates to colorful beans like a colorful calico cat), I found that these are also sometimes called Cowboy Beans. This type of recipe is popular in all areas of the United States, but is often considered a Southwestern dish.

Loaded with 3 types of beans, ground beef, bacon and a sweet & tangy sauce, your family will love this addition to reunions, picnics, potlucks and weeknight dinners.

closeup of calico beans in a pan

About this Calico Beans Recipe:

  • Flavor: This is one of the most savory dishes I’ve had. The beef and bacon paired with the sweet & tangy rich sauce. It’s amazing.
  • Texture: Calico beans are obviously loaded with texture and there’s really no way of getting around it. The soft, creamy beans do pair so well with the chunks of ground beef and bacon. Although there are onions, they are hardly noticable.

What kind of beans are in Calico Beans?

There are three types of beans in this dish: kidney beans, lima beans and pork and beans. You’ll drain the first two types, but leave the juice of the pork and beans to be mixed in with the other sauce ingredients.

Some cowboy beans recipes also call for pinto beans or butter beans. Great northern beans are a good option as well.

How to Make Calico Beans

There are 3 ways to bake calico beans: the oven, the slow cooker and the stovetop. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but you’ll prepare the beans the same no matter which method you choose.

  • In a skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef along with the bacon and onion. Cook and stir until the beef and bacon are fully cooked. Then drain off any fat.
browned beef and bacon in a saucepan
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt and ketchup. Set aside.
sauce for calico beans in a glass bowl
  • In a large dutch oven or oven safe casserole dish, add the drained lima beans, rinsed and drained kidney beans and then add the whole can of pork and beans, juice and all.
3 types of beans in a dutch oven
  • Add the beef/bacon mixture and then add the sauce. Mix well until it is all combined.
uncooked calico beans in a baking dish

Oven Method

To make the beans in the oven, preheat the oven to 300ºF. Cover the beans (if you don’t have a lid that works, use aluminum foil), then bake for 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.

Slow Cooker Method

To make slow cooker calico beans, add the mixed bean mixture to a slow cooker and cover. Then set to low and cook for 4-6 hours. Cook on high for 2-4 hours.

Stovetop Method

To make calico beans on the stovetop, add all of the beans to a large saucepan, pot or dutch oven. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 25 minutes or until heated through. Stir often so that they do not burn.

What to Serve with Calico Beans

This can be served as a main dish with a piece of crust bread on the side, but you can also serve it as a side dish. I serve with Greek chicken and poppy seed pasta salad.

closeup of calico beans in a dish
closeup of calico beans in a dish

Calico Beans Recipe

4.75 from 8 votes
This vintage Calico Beans recipe is a must-make for everything from summer picnics to cool winter evenings. Serve as a main dish or a side dish.
Servings 10
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces bacon 4 slices
  • 2/3 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 100 grams
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar 31 grams
  • 1 tablespoon mustard 15 grams
  • 1 teaspoon salt 5 grams
  • 1/2 cup ketchup 4 ounces
  • 15 ounces lima beans 1 can, drained
  • 15.5 ounces kidney beans 1 can, rinsed and drained
  • 28 ounces pork and beans with juice

Instructions
 

  • In a skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef along with the bacon and onion. Cook and stir until the beef and bacon are fully cooked. Then drain off any fat.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt and ketchup. Set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven or oven safe casserole dish, add the drained lima beans, rinsed and drained kidney beans and then add the whole can of pork and beans, juice and all.
  • Add the beef/bacon mixture and then add the sauce. Mix well until it is all combined.
  • Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
  • Cover the beans (if you don't have a lid that works, use aluminum foil), then bake for 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.
  • Serve warm.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Notes

Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the recipe making about 10 cups, with 1 serving being 1 cup. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 797mg | Potassium: 884mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 67IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 5mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 358
Keyword baked beans, ground beef recipe, picnic food

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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