Calico Beans

Calico Beans is a hearty dish made in a Crock pot with several cans of beans, bacon, ground beef, and brown sugar tomato sauce. It is very easy to put together dinner. This recipe doesn’t take a long time to prepare and you can keep this dish warm in a slow cooker.

overhead view of calico beans in a serving dish

Cowboy Calico Beans

It truly is a shame that beans get such a bad rap. Well-prepared bean dishes are nutritious, inexpensive, and, most of all, delicious. This Calico Beans recipe showcases a huge variety of beans in a sweet and tangy mild sauce that, when combined, delivers a one-of-a-kind taste. With the addition of bacon and ground beef, you can easily serve Calico Beans as a complete one-pot meal or pair it with your favorite starch for an even more satisfying supper.

The Beans Count!

Don’t even think about making this calico bean casserole using only two or three kinds of beans. It deserves much more variety than that! After all, its name comes from the mottled appearance of the calico cat. Although having different beans adds a wide range of colors and shapes to the dish, the diverse flavors and textures are most important.

This quick recipe uses canned beans to reduce prep time and to make it as easy as possible. Since fewer varieties of beans come in cans, your choices are more limited than using dried beans. Of course, you can always use any cooked beans you happen to have on hand as well.

There are four types of beans in the recipe, not including the beans used to make the baked beans and prepared three-bean salad. Depending on the brands of baked beans and three-bean salad you use, you may see a lot of overlap. Therefore, feel free to choose other varieties of beans if you prefer.

Meat Makes It a Meal

The ground beef and bacon turn this side dish into something that is hearty to serve as the main course. When selecting the meat for this recipe, look for something that brings a lot of flavor to the pot.

Buy thick-cut or, better yet, slab bacon and cut it into medium-sized chunks. Big pieces not only hold up to long and slow simmering but offer diners substantial bites of smoky goodness.

You don’t have to stick with ground beef. Pork, chicken, turkey, or wild game wouldn’t be out of place in this recipe. A particularly good substitution is Cajun-style bulk sausage meat for those who want an extra spicy kick.

Making This Calico Beans Recipe Range-Worthy

Calico baked beans are sometimes referred to as cowboy beans because they were a staple on long cattle drives. Since water was sometimes scarce on the plains, cooks started using leftover coffee to boil their beans. This waste-not-want-not approach not only solved the problem at hand but imparted a complex taste to the recipe.

You can recreate this flavor by using instant coffee. Add half the amount of instant coffee necessary to make one cup of coffee to the beans when they go into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Tips for Making, Serving, and Storing Calico Beans

  • Yes, you can freeze this calico bean recipe! Put leftover beans in a freezer-safe container. Make sure to leave a little extra room to allow for the food to expand when frozen. Don’t forget to label the container with the date. Beans should last for about three months.
  • Reheat the beans in the oven. Let the beans thaw in the fridge overnight. Put thawed beans in an oven-safe container, cover with aluminum foil and reheat in a 250-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
  • Don’t forget your favorite toppings and sides. Sprinkle on shredded cheese, chopped onions, pickled jalapeno slices, or sliced green onions. Serve with a piece of cornbread, collard greens, coleslaw, white rice, or corn on the cob.
  • Do you need to drain the beans first? No, you do not need to drain the beans first. The final beans are very thick, and you may want to add some additional water. I typically open a can of beans, and I look and see if the water in the can super starchy (the liquid will be cloudy), if yes, I drain. If not, I don’t drain the beans.

Check out our other fabulous bean dishes on YouTube!

Calico Beans Crockpot Recipe

A colorful medley of tasty beans is smothered in an easy, made-from-scratch BBQ-ish sauce and cooked to flavorful perfection in a crockpot.

I prefer to cook my beans in a crockpot, so they don’t burn. The texture seems to be better as well this way.

calico beans in a dish with a wooden spoon behind it

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Ground beef
  • Bacon
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Canned baked beans
  • Canned kidney beans
  • Canned pinto beans
  • Canned butter beans
  • Canned navy beans
  • Canned three bean salad
  • Brown sugar
  • Ketchup
  • Honey
  • White vinegar
  • Dry mustard
calico beans ingredients

How to Make Calico Beans

Calico beans don’t take much time to prep. They can also be made ahead of time and taste even better the next day. Pass me the hot sauce and a big plate of these beans!

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté ground beef, chopped bacon, chopped onion, and minced garlic until the ground beef has browned. Drain if desired.
    browned ground beef, bacon, and onions for calico beans
  2. Add all the beans to the crockpot.
  3. Add brown sugar, ketchup, honey, vinegar, and dry mustard to the crockpot. Stir well.
    calico beans ingredients in a crockpot
  4. Cook on low heat for 2 hours.

Recipe Tips and Variations

You can add Ranch Style Beans with jalapeno peppers for a nice kick of heat.

You can omit the ketchup and honey if desired.

You can substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef.

You can substitute chorizo for the ground beef. Just be sure to use fresh, raw chorizo (Mexican style).

calico beans in a serving dish and a wooden spoon

If you’ve tried this slow cooker calico beans recipe, please rate it below in the comments and let me know how it went – I love hearing from you!

Hungry for more bean recipes? Give these a try!

Favorite Crockpot Slow Cooker Recipes

Check out more of my easy recipes for dinner and the best Crockpot recipes here on CopyKat!

overhead view of calico beans in a serving dish

Calico Beans

These Calico beans a hearty enough to make a whole meal. 
4.67 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Beans, Calico Beans, Crockpot, One Pot Meals, Slow Cooker
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 647kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound bacon sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 14 ounces baked beans
  • 14 ounces kidney beans
  • 14 ounces pinto beans
  • 14 ounces butter beans
  • 14 ounces navy beans
  • 14 ounces three bean salad use half the juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Instructions

  • In a skillet over medium heat, sauté ground beef, chopped bacon, chopped onion, and minced garlic until the ground beef has browned. Drain if desired.
  • Add all the beans to the crockpot.
  • Add brown sugar, ketchup, honey, vinegar, and dry mustard to the crockpot. Stir well.
  • Cook on low heat for 2 hours.

Notes

Note: It is not necessary to drain the beans, you can choose to do so if you desire. 
Variations:
  • You can add Ranch Style Beans with jalapeno peppers this will add a nice bit of heat to the recipe.
  • You can omit the ketchup and honey if desire.
  • Switch the ground beef for Italian sausage.

Nutrition

Calories: 647kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 556mg | Potassium: 1446mg | Fiber: 23g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 85IU | Vitamin C: 5.4mg | Calcium: 147mg | Iron: 8mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Karen Pollard

    We love Calico Beans. This is my version.

    Crockpot Beans or Calico Beans

    Ingredients 1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced (I use about 1/2 cup of real bacon bits instead of frying bacon)
    1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
    1 cup chopped onion
    2 cans (28 ounces) pork and beans (undrained)
    1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    2 cans pinto beans (undrained)
    1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
    1 lb. pork sausage (I use turkey sausage)
    1 can (15-1/4 ounces) lima beans (undrained)
    1/2 cup barbecue sauce
    1/2 cup ketchup
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    4 Tbsp prepared mustard
    2 Tbsp molasses
    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce
    Directions 1. In a large skillet, cook bacon, sausage, beef and onion until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain.
    2. Transfer to a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish; add all of the beans and mix well.
    3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; stir into beef and bean mixture.
    4. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes; uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer.
    OR Put ingredients in a slow cooker for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours on high.

    • Stephanie Manley

      It’s not in my recipe, that was a random note about how folks cooked beans on the range. Want to try this recipe with coffee? I would add about 1/2 cup to it. I use coffee in my roasts and I really like it.

      • Colin

        Cool thanks 🙂 this looks tasty and I want to try it so I’ll give that a shot for sure. Love your recipes.

  2. Reno Dave

    4 stars
    Stephanie,
    Great comfort food recipe!! Tasty with endless combinations…
    A house keeping note: As written, I think you mean that the 3rd ingredient should read “1 cup chopped onion” and the 4th ingredient “3 teaspoons minced garlic.”
    Reno Dave

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