Slow Cooker Calico Beans

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From cowboys to kiddos, everyone goes crazy for Slow Cooker Calico Beans. Loaded with beef and bacon, they’re great for cookouts, parties, and easy meals!

Slow cooker calico beans in a white serving dish.


Oh, this recipe! Sort of a chili, kind of baked beans, maybe a sloppy Joe, but always completely delicious. It’s just the kind of thing to make when the weather takes a chilly turn and you’re hungry for something that really sticks to the ribs.

Calico Beans can also go by the name Cowboy Beans, probably because this meaty one-pot meal was a campfire favorite under the starry skies for generations. And if you haven’t tried it before, you’re in for quite a treat.

What are Calico Beans?

Just like a calico cat with so many colors, “calico” just refers to the hodge-podge of beans used in the recipe: pork and beans, kidney beans, and butter beans. The beans are all cooked with bacon and ground beef in a tangy, sweet sauce.

By the way, you don’t have to use those exact beans, strictly speaking. Some people swear by lima beans, while others simply must have pintos. And black beans are always good too.

In other words, pick an assortment of beans that you like and put them together in the crockpot. They’ll be great, no matter what you use.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for calico beans in various bowls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Other optional ingredients in Calico Beans:

  • Molasses. Some people love the richness that the molasses provides, but this recipe already includes molasses in the form of brown sugar.
  • Liquid smoke. A tiny bit of liquid smoke gives a nice smokiness to the beans. Try it!
  • Pork sausage. Some cooks love using pork sausage in Calico Beans in place of ground beef.
  • Lima beans. Canned lima beans are super tasty, too. Any bean is a good bean.
  • BBQ sauce. Switch out the ketchup (or part of the ketchup) for your best barbecue sauce.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and bacon; drain well and transfer to the slow cooker.
Slow cooker calico beans ingredients in a black slow cooker and in various bowls.
  1. Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard.
Slow cooker calico beans ingredients in a black slow cooker and in various bowls.
  1. Mix well, cover, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Season to taste with salt (I like 1 teaspoon).
Slow cooker calico beans in a black slow cooker with a wooden spoon.

How to make oven-baked Calico Beans:

  1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Cook the bacon and beef together in the bottom of a large Dutch oven, cast iron casserole, or other stove-to-oven safe cookware, as long as it has a lid.
  2. Drain off the fat and add the remaining ingredients and cover, Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until piping hot.
Slow cooker calico beans in a white stone bowl with wooden spoon.

Calico Beans with dried beans:

It’s always super economical to use dried beans in recipes, especially when you’re cooking for large groups. It’s a little extra work to cook the beans, but your whole recipe ends up costing just a few dollars.

  1. Cook the beans separately, according to size (larger beans may take longer) in a large pot of unsalted water, simmering until tender. Then drain them and they’re ready to go.
  2. Or, cook the dried beans cook in mere minutes in an Instant Pot (Even though it’s a fabulous appliance, it’s not recommended to make Calico Beans in the Instant Pot using cooked, canned beans. You run the risk of overcooking the canned beans in the electric pressure cooker).

How many dried beans do you need for Calico Beans? Here’s some tips:

  • A rounded ½ cup of dried beans = 1 (15-ounce) can of beans
  • 1 ½ cups of cooked beans, drained = 1 (15-ounce) can of beans
  • 1 ½ pounds dried beans = 1 (#10) can of cooked beans (109 ounces)

How to serve Calico Beans:

These beans are divine all on their own in a bowl, as a main course. You can treat them like chili and load them up with all your favorite chili toppings:

  • Diced jalapeno
  • Chopped raw onions
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • Crunchy corn chips

Or serve them as a filling and hearty side dish alongside Barbecue Chicken, roasted Greek Potatoes, and the Best Macaroni Salad at your next shindig under the starry skies.

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Slow cooker calico beans in a white serving dish.

Slow Cooker Calico Beans

From cowboys to kiddos, everyone goes crazy for Slow Cooker Calico Beans. Loaded with beef and bacon, they're great for a cookouts, parties, and easy meals!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 12 servings (¾ cup each)
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 259
4.99 from 209 votes




To make Calico Beans in a slow cooker:

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and bacon; drain well and transfer to the slow cooker.
  • Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. Mix well, cover, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Season to taste with salt (I like 1 teaspoon).

To make Calico Beans in the oven:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and bacon; drain well and transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.
  • Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. Mix well, cover, and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season to taste with salt (I like 1 teaspoon).

To make Calico Beans on the stove:

  • In a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and bacon; drain well.
  • Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. Bring to a simmer and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt (I like 1 teaspoon).

Recipe Video


Any other canned bean can be substituted for the butter beans (Cannelini, great northern, pinto, more kidney, etc.).


Calories: 259kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 13gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 496mgPotassium: 276mgFiber: 1gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 84IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Recipe Rating

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  1. My 6 quart crock pot was about half full so it looked like I could double the recipe. Has anyone tried? I had a package of meatloaf mix ( ground beef, veal, pork) and used it. I accidentally bought no sugar Heinz ketchup so I used that. I used only 1/2 cup brown sugar. It turned out delicious. My crock pot, set on high for two hours, more than heated it through so for my crock pot, I would check at 1.5 hours when it is set on high.5 stars

    1. Hi Jody, thank you so much for your comment! I haven’t tried to double it myself in the slow cooker, sorry! Two other readers wrote they were going to try, but they didn’t write back to say how it went. I’m so glad you loved it! Take care! – Meggan

  2. I don’t see vinegar in the ingredients listed on the recipe card. Perhaps adds cover it but I don’t think so. It could make the recipe confusing. Great recipe though. I add liquid smoke and sometimes add some chili powder or a chopped jalapeño for a little heat.

    1. Hi Janice, sorry for the confusion! It’s 2 teaspoons white vinegar, it’s listed after the ketchup. Your additions sound delicious! – Meggan

    1. Hi Dale, I haven’t tried it with 15 bean mix. I would caution substituting a mix with dry kidney beans because they contain phytohemagglutinin, a type of lectin that is very toxic at high levels. To substitute dried kidney beans in recipes, you MUST pre-soak dried kidney beans AND hold them at boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 10 minutes. This means you should never cook kidney beans in a slow cooker. You won’t know for sure if the slow cooker reached 212 degrees and held it for 10 minutes. Better to be safe than sorry! So in this case, I would suggest cooking the bean mix according to the package directions, then drain and rinse them, and then proceed with the recipe. Please ket me know if you have any more questions! – Meggan

    1. Hi Maty Jo! I haven’t tried it myself, but I don’t see why not! Sounds delicious! – Meggan

  3. This looks delicious but it says “Kindey” beans on the picture instead of “Kidney” beans. Just a little typo but I thought I’d tell you!

    1. Hi Carla, here’s some tips:
      A rounded ½ cup of dried beans = 1 (15-ounce) can of beans
      1 ½ cups of cooked beans, drained = 1 (15-ounce) can of beans
      1 ½ pounds dried beans = 1 (#10) can of cooked beans (109 ounces)

  4. What is the vinegar for. Can I make this without the vinegar or can I make everything and add vinegar later

    1. Hi Lisa, the vinegar gives the beans a needed acid component. I haven’t tested it without the vinegar or adding it later. I would worry the flavor would not meld in if everything is not cooked together. I think it would be fine to leave it out, but it may taste sweeter. – Meggan

  5. My dad use to make calico beans years ago. My family loves them. Thanks fir the recipe so I knew what quantities to use. He always added a little liquid smoke to his. Love that you share your thoughts on alternatives. A lot of people won’t step away from the recipe. Keep up the good work.5 stars

  6. I’m making calico beans in slow cooker. There is no taste to this. What can I do to make it taste good & make it thicker. Thank you

    1. Hi Lisa, are you saying that you can’t taste the beans or that you don’t like the taste? I’m not sure how to help that. Sorry! – Meggan

    1. Hi Lisa, you can adjust the serving sizes on the recipe card to get the quantities you need. Hope this helps! – Meggan

    1. Hi Marie, I don’t see why not! I haven’t tried it but it sounds delicious. Hope you enjoy. – Meggan

  7. What is the serving size? I need this for my food diary.
    A delicious recipe that was a hit for a family football party.5 stars

    1. Hi Rochelle! I’m glad it was a hit! One serving is 3/4 cup. I’m going to update the recipe card. Thank you for pointing it out! – Meggan

  8. Thank you so much for the slide bar on the calico bean recipe! You saved me from a mistake that could have stressed my day of a party for 50 people. You sure saved me. Thank you soooooo much,I’ll be back to look at Culinary Hill again.
    Sincerely Sharon Bland

  9. Ten stars! Soo good. Everyone loved it and am making again today. A double batch! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. 😊5 stars

    1. Hi Debby! I used a 6 quart slow cooker but it wasn’t full so you can get away with a smaller size if need be. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  10. Are you able can these beans for later. Just wondering because I’m the only one in the house that eats beans and I would prefer to make these and be able to can them maybe in a pressure canner and jars for later. If anybody can tell me if you can do that I would appreciate it. Because this looks delicious

    1. Hi Emma! Thanks for your question! We are not experts at canning but I looked in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This recipe falls under “low acid foods” so you would have to use a pressure canner. I saw they have a chili recipe in the book, but they don’t add the beans to the jars; they stir in cooked or canned beans when reheating the chili to serve it. I think your best bet is to find a recipe that was designed for canning and has been tested for safety. I could give you their instructions for the chili, but I really don’t know if it would work and I don’t want to give you bad advice or harm you in any way. I’m sorry about that! Thank you! -Meggan

    1. Hi Ann, yes! They can be made Thursday and refrigerated until Sunday! If they seem too thick, you can thin with hot water. Hope this helps! -Meggan

  11. I made this for a pot luck at my church and it was a BIG Hit!!! I didnt have any left to take home 🙁 LOL Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  12. Btw… Switch out the molasses for 1 1/2 cups brown sugar if you like.. works really well.. and don’t forget a cap full of liquid smoke!5 stars

  13. I literally stole this recipe from an 80 year old man in the 1980’s. It has been a family favorite for decades.. I recommend switching the butter beans for more kidney beans as some people don’t like the texture.5 stars

  14. Years ago when this recipe was really popular I made this. Shortly after I threw the recipe away due to, lets say issues. Of late I have been searching for it again and here it is. Woo, who here it is and for supper tonight. Thanks so much for your great work.5 stars

  15. Made the slow cooker calico beans yesterday. Two things I would do differently: Fry bacon separately from ground beef – I prefer crispy bacon. Sauté onion in bacon fat – onions were still crunchy even after 6 hours. But other than that it was a hit!5 stars

    1. Hi Sally! I’ve also thought about the bacon thing. It’s a good call, I’ll probably make the recipe again and change it to that. I also agree about the onions, but I guess I always kind of like the crunch. But yeah, again something to experiment with. You are also right about the prep time (3 for 3!), that should probably be at least 10 minutes, possibly 15. I’ll have to time it next time I make these. Thanks for your insights, they are appreciated! And will likely be incorporated. 🙂

    2. I should also say, there is no point in making a “dump and pour” slow cooker recipe if the results aren’t good. Sometimes I give in to the trends and move in that direction, but you have reminded me to just focus on the best food, even if it takes a little longer. Thanks.

  16. I remember eating this as a kid, but I have forgotten all about it!  Thanks for reminding me!  Don’t remember my mom making it in the slow cooker, so this is an awesome option!!5 stars

  17. Great easy meal suggestion! It reminds me of a dish my mom used to make for us every Halloween! (She was determined to get some protein in us before trick or treating! It worked! lol!) 5 stars

  18. I have made these for years and they are one of my favorites. I was wondering what you would think about putting chopped cabbage in with it?5 stars

    1. Hi Tim, I say why not! That sounds pretty good to me. Cabbage is a good choice because it won’t get too soggy (at least not right away). If you try it, please let me know. I’ll do the same!

  19. it’s a wonderful cold day fix along with some sweet cornbread and ice tea… we sub pork and beans with ranch style pintos with jalapenos.. adds just a tiny kick..5 stars

    1. Sounds delicious!!! I love the combination of sweet & spicy flavors, I’ll have to try that!

  20. I’ve never cooked beans in the slow cooker. . but I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m all about using my slow cooker in the fall and winter. . in fact, I’m slow cooking pork shoulder right now! Pinned!!5 stars

  21. This is slow cooker shortcut central! I love it! Canned pork and beans are horrendous in Australia but they are so good in the US! So I would never have created a recipe like this. Legendary! I am obsessed with my slow cooker! I might try this with just ordinary canned beans. I highly approve that you have used ketchup and vinegar – SO RIGHT. Gotta balance the sweet and sour!!5 stars

    1. How can you mess up canned pork and beans?! So sad! I remember when foreigners used to come to the US for Levi’s. Now they are probably coming for the pork and beans!

  22. Oh I need to try these beans! I LOVE baked beans and sloppy joes so you won me over by describing these beans as a cross between the two!5 stars

    1. Thanks Julie, how can you go wrong with a dish that puts those two together right?! 🙂

  23. Such a beautiful comfort dish ! Never tried Calico beans, but will definitely get a can of these. Slow cooker is the perfect option for cooking beans, as they normally ( especially not canned ones ) take a while to cook. Pinning!5 stars

    1. Thanks Janette, I definitely think so. And aren’t beans part of a traditional English fry-up? Because then you’re halfway there. 🙂 Although I might be hallucinating that bean/breakfast thing.

  24. These look incredible Meggan! This looks really similar to a recipe my uncle makes and I can attest that it is just FABULOUS! Pinned!5 stars

    1. Thank you Trish, there are tons of variations of these out there so it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve tried one. 🙂 Thanks for the pin!

  25. Make-ahead dishes are the best. This is real comfort food to me. I could devour that entire bowl in no time – I’d probably make a double batch since I can already tell how tasty they must be ;).5 stars

    1. Thank you Kathi! I seriously love these beans… I had them for breakfast this morning, even. 🙂 I heart leftovers!!!