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A perfect dish .. Basic Cowboy Beans

Updated on July 9, 2011

In these tough economic times everyone is looking at ways to save money. Thankfully with just a little planning, saving money on your food budget is pretty easy. Switching to less meat and more vegetables will not only save you money at the checkout but is good for your health. Beans are high in protein, high in fiber and filling and best of all it is cheap. Bean based meals are also a fantastic alternative to your regular meat and potato meal. I know it sounds like a good idea, but really, how many bean based meals can you make for your meat loving families before they stage an all out riot. Well here is one recipe that will satisfy even the pickiest carnivore. An added bonus is that this is one of those dishes that can be thrown in a crock pot and added to for busy weekends when you don't have time to cook. It also works great for potlucks and goes great with any Bar-b-Que.

Basic Cowboy Beans

This is one of those great old-time recipes that can be adapted to include just about any leftover in the refrigerator so use this recipe alone or as a handy way to use up that half an onion or left over burger.

When my children were little I made it almost weekly simply as a way to clean out the refrigerator and free up my weekends. It is a great recipe for busy families on the go because you can throw it in the crock pot and let everyone eat at will. If the pot starts to get a little low just throw in a few more cans of beans or a handful of meat and your are good to go.

Start with an assortment of beans. Either one or more in any combination will work great of:

  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Black Beans
  • Black eyed peas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Chili Beans

Canned or dry work just as well. If you are looking to really save money the dry beans is your best bet but canned beans are much faster. I have even bought regular baked beans or chilets on sale and added it to this recipe to add a little more flavor.

Next add your meats if you so choose. This recipe doesn't need meat but if your family complains about meatless meals a little for taste will go a long way to quell the complaints. Once again choose one cup or more in any combination of:

  • bacon
  • chopped ham
  • hamburger
  • leftover roast beef, pork chops, or whatever else is left in the refrigerator

* For a completely meatless meal you may also choose to use flavored TVP or Tofu

Add a half cup or more in any combination of :

  • chopped onion
  • chopped green peppers
  • chopped red peppers ( a package of stir-fry pepper mix works great for these first three ingredients)
  • One or two chopped tomatoes
  • garlic

Now for our seasonings:

  • A tsp of liquid smoke
  • A tsp of soy sauce
  • A tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tbsp of flour to thicke

* if you like sweeter beans you may also add some brown sugar

* leftover rice may also be added .

Stir the entire mixture together and either put in a crockpot on high for 2 hours or low for 4 or 5 hours or bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour. This dish can also be made on the stove although it will be much more flavorful in a crock pot or in the oven.

This dish is one of those perfect simple dishes that can be easily adapted to the tastes of your family, simply add to or leave out ingredients at will. It is also a great dish in which to sneak in a cup of blended up vegetables in order to thicken the mix and add more vegetables to your families diet. I used this dish a lot when we were first starting to become vegetarian. It was filling and with just enough meat in it that they did not miss it. It also helped my family of eight make it through some tough economic times. Today it is still a family favorite and staple at summertime family picnics.


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    • wendi_w profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you fucsia, I don't usually publish recipes but lately family members have been wanting me to write them down.

    • fucsia profile image


      7 years ago

      Beans are not only cheap but also rich in nutrient and very tasty! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • wendi_w profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Jaye it is such a great recipe and works in so many ways. I love the fact that it is one of those recipes that you can just keep adding ingredients to stretch it.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Yummy! This recipe will be copied and used to change up my basic baked beans recipe (sans meat, as I don't eat it). I cook like you and your grandmother--not much measuring. After a while, this type of cook learns to estimate the right amount quite well.

      I've always done the "mix and match" type of cooking. When my children were growing up, I used a basic casserole recipe for which I could mix and match the main ingredients to make a one-pan dish that seemed very different from the one we'd had for dinner the previous night. Very handy when you're feeding growing youngsters.

      Thanks for the recipe. The photo with the cornbread (one of my fave breads) made my mouth water. I think I'll try this for tonight's dinner...since I'm thinking about it anyway!


    • wendi_w profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      It may very well be! This recipe is so adaptable you can do just about do anything with it. I wasn't sure about posting it because of that I learned to cook from my grandmother and we didn't do a lot of measuring. But it is the way I cook and everyone loves it. Recipes like this are the best though and the idea of mixing and matching is a lost art.

    • Kingsthorpedavid profile image


      7 years ago from Toowoomba Queensland Australia

      Thanks for this informative blog.

      Some good ideas here for cooking in a Camp Oven over real coals. I add Maple Syrup and Molasses from a Canadian recipe cookbook - "OH, CANADA!". Would that make it Canadian Cowboy Beans?

      David - Queensland Australia

    • wendi_w profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      It really is and so easy. It is one of those recipes that can be extended and played with to include what ever is leftover around the house. We used to eat it all the time and my kids still love it. Have a loaf of hearty whole wheat bread or make up some cornbread and it is the perfect meal! In fact I made some today, that was my inspiration for the piece.

    • BJC profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      Oh, yes, this sounds YUMMY! I like to use my crockpot and I try to use leftovers for something useful!


    • wendi_w profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you,the base recipe was my grandmothers and over the years we have changed it a little here and there. I now make it for my granddaughters. No family picnic seems complete with out it.

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Great recipe for a little grandson! :)


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