Cowboy Baked Beans With Ground Beef are the heartiest baked beans you’ll ever have, and whether you serve them as a side dish at a potluck or as a main dish for an easy weeknight dinner, they’re sure to disappear fast.
If you’re looking for a hearty and delicious dish to add to your dinner table, these satisfying cowboy baked beans are perfect. This one-pot recipe is packed with protein and flavor, making it a favorite of both kids and adults alike.
A can of baked beans alone is pretty ho-hum, so we give them an upgrade with ground beef, savory onion, and smoky bacon. To jazz up the sauce, Heinz chili sauce does the trick—along with a little extra brown sugar to bring that signature sweet-and-savory flavor we all love in baked beans.
Cowboy baked beans with ground beef is ideal for potlucks since it feeds a crowd, and it’s also right at home at summer cookouts. It’s versatile enough to go from meaty side dish to main event. Any way you serve this recipe, it’s going to be a hit!
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- Easy to make – Cowboy baked beans don’t require any fancy, hard-to-find ingredients, and the entire dish can be made in one skillet for easy clean up.
- Protein packed – Baked beans with bacon and ground beef provide a generous amount of protein per serving, leaving you full and satisfied.
- Makes a LOT – Whether you’re hosting a dinner get-together or just hanging out with friends, cowboy baked beans will be the hit of the party—and there’s plenty for everyone since this recipe makes a big batch!
- Sweet and savory – The best baked bean recipes have just the right balance of sweet and savory flavors and these cowboy baked beans deliver! Plus, the Heinz chili sauce adds just enough kick to make things interesting.
What are Cowboy Baked Beans?
Cowboy baked beans (sometimes simply known as cowboy beans) are a classic American side dish made with beans, bacon, ground beef, and a sweet and savory sauce reminiscent of barbecue sauce. It’s easy to make and incredibly flavorful and hearty.
This BBQ Baked Beans recipe with ground beef is as simple as promised! Just a handful of ingredients for a family friendly meal.
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use for how to make Cowboy Baked Beans to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Bacon – You’ll start by cooking the bacon, which means you’ll be able to brown the beef in the bacon fat, infusing it with smoky flavor.
- Lean ground beef – I like to use lean ground beef for this recipe, as it leaves less grease to drain off.
- Onion – I use a yellow onion, but white or red are fine if that’s what you have on hand.
- Canned baked beans – Heinz baked beans or any variety you like.
- Heinz chili – This amps up the flavor in our sauce. Note that Heinz chili sauce is not the same as Asian chili sauce. If you use Asian chili sauce, your cowboy baked beans will not have the same flavor and be quite spicy! *If you can’t find the chili sauce, you can substitute ketchup.
- Brown sugar – Either dark or light brown work; dark brown has a stronger molasses flavor.
- Parsley – An optional garnish.
Make sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full quantities and ingredients list.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Use ground turkey – For a lighter version of cowboy baked beans, you can substitute the ground beef for ground turkey.
- Add a kick of heat – If you want to add some heat to these beans, simply stir in some diced jalapeños, red pepper flakes, or cayenne. You can also garnish the finished dish with pickled or candied jalapeños.
- Top with cheese – To give your cowboy baked beans with ground beef a cheesy twist, top with shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese. Kind of like a baked bean casserole!
- Add a green pepper – A diced green bell pepper is a delicious addition to baked beans with ground beef. Add the pepper to the skillet with the onion.
Recipe Step by Step
I am going to highlight a few key steps in the recipe here, but make sure to jump down to the recipe card for comprehensive instructions on how to make cowboy baked beans with ground beef.
- Step 1 – Cook the ground beef and onion in the bacon grease.
- Step 2 – Add the beans, brown sugar, and chili sauce.
- Step 3 – Stir, then bake in the oven.
- Step 4 – Garnish with parsley if desired and serve.
- Fully cook the bacon – Make sure to cook the bacon until it’s crisp before moving onto the next step of the recipe.
- Swap in ketchup – If you don’t have or can’t find Heinz chili sauce, substitute ketchup. For a kick you can add cayenne or hot sauce in addition to the ketchup.
- Want to make cowboy beans as a main dish? – Serve it up chili style, allowing everyone to add garnishes like shredded cheese and sliced green onions.
- Make them less sweet – For beans that are more savory than sweet, adjust the amount of sugar.
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Skip cooking the bacon – To speed up the cooking time, you can use bacon bits or precooked bacon. You’ll need to add oil to the pan to cook the ground beef, though, since you won’t have the bacon drippings.
- Cut down on prep time – Buy diced onion at the grocery store to save yourself some prep time. Many grocery stores sell containers of diced onion in the produce section, or you can purchase what you need from the salad bar.
- Get a head start – For a meal prep option, follow all the steps of the recipe up until baking the beans in the oven. Cover your skillet with foil and refrigerate it for up to a day. You may need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Making this Baked Beans with ground beef recipe into a freezer meal is simple! Follow the steps below and you can store this recipe in the freezer for up to 6 months.
How to Freeze Cowboy Baked Beans
- Prepare the recipe up to the point of baking the beans.
- Transfer the mixture to a zip-top freezer bag.
- Let the baked beans with ground beef thaw in the refrigerator, then transfer them to a baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350ºF.
What to Serve with Cowboy Baked Beans
Since this protein based dinner has the delicious flavors of barbecue, it will pair well with many of your favorite BBQ main dishes.
Choose one or several of these side dishes to create a wholesome, well-rounded dinner. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Main Dish Ideas
- Loaded Steak Stuffed Baked Potatoes
- Crock Pot BBQ Chicken – 3 Ingredients!
- Homemade Shake and Bake Pork Chops
- BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
- Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
Side Dish Ideas
- Cornbread- Try my homemade buttermilk cornbread, or this very quick Mexican Cornbread
- Jiffy Corn Casserole
- Baked Potatoes
- House Salad
- Cilantro Lime Rice
Baked Beans with Ground Beef Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making this recipe, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well, and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
- in the freezer up to a month
Here are a few ways to repurpose those leftovers and give them a delicious makeover!
- Cowboy Baked Beans Baked Potatoes – Spoon cowboy baked beans over baked potatoes—or try Instant Pot Baked Potatoes.
- Baked Beans & Beef Burritos – Roll leftover baked beans in tortillas with rice and shredded cheese for easy baked beans and beef burritos.
- BBQ Beef & Bean Nachos – Make sheet pan nachos by emptying a bag of tortilla chips on a rimmed baking sheet; add leftover cowboy beans, along with shredded cheese and your favorite toppings. Bake at 400ºF until the cheese is melted and everything is toasty.
- Cowboy Baked Bean Rice Bowls – Add your baked beans to Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice or Easy Mexican Rice for a satisfying meal bowl.
What main dish goes well with beans?
Serve cowboy baked beans alongside Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken or Crockpot Steak Bites, ,Crock Pot BBQ Chicken, Zesty Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork, or even Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese for a complete meal.
What can I add to canned beans to make them taste better?
I like to taste the canned beans first, then decide what they need to take them to the next level. Try sautéing some onion and garlic in a pan before adding your canned beans to give them a savory flavor boost. You can also add minced jalapeños to spice things up, or try yellow mustard, ketchup, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, or molasses.
What beans are baked beans made from?
Baked beans are usually made with white beans—most commonly, navy beans. But if you’re making them from scratch, kidney beans, butter beans, pinto beans or even lima beans will work.
Should you rinse canned baked beans?
Unlike regular canned beans, which should usually be rinsed, you don’t want to rinse canned baked beans. Doing so will rinse away all their flavor! Even in a recipe like cowboy baked beans with ground beef where we add other flavorings, you still need the sauce from the can too.
More EASY Ground Beef Recipes
You can check out all of my easy beef recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Ground Beef Stir Fry with Zucchini and Peppers
- EASY Philly Cheesesteak Sliders (with Ground Beef)
- Baked Crispy Ground Beef Tacos
If you tried this Cowboy Baked Beans with Ground Beef Recipe or another recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!
- 8 ounces bacon
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 large onion, diced
- 32 ounces canned baked beans, (2 cans)
- 12 ounces Heinz chili sauce, 1 bottle
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 375˚F.
- In a large oven-safe skillet, cook the bacon over medium high heat. Flip occasionally until the bacon is crispy. Remove from the skillet to a paper towel lined plate.
- Add the ground beef and onion to the skillet with the bacon grease and cook until the beef is cooked through. Drain excess fat and liquid and return beef to the skillet
- Add the baked beans, chili sauce, and brown sugar to the skillet. Mix to combine. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it over the top.
- Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are bubbling. Optionally, garnish with chopped parsley before serving.Note: If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the beans to a casserole dish to bake in the oven.