Sweet, smoky, and salty come together for a satisfying meal.
If you love a good bean dish then no doubt you’ve tried an endless variety of chili and baked bean recipes. But, there’s an old Southwestern favorite that not many people know about called calico beans, so-named for the many different colors of beans used to create this hearty dish that resemble the colorful, small-pattern fabric that was so popular in the 1800s.
Another name for this recipe is cowboy beans since spiced beans were a staple of traditional ranch life when cowboys would herd the cows for months on end in remote, isolated areas. They had to eat at the chuck wagon every night, and so were limited on what food stores could last for the entire time. Beans always made the cut and were often served with beef or salt pork.
Now, using a slow cooker this old fashioned recipe is much easier to make than in the Old West, yet still delivers big on flavor.
To begin making this recipe you’ll need to brown some ground beef. After that it’s really a dump-and-go situation since you combine all the ingredients into the slow cooker and then leave it on low for 4-5 hours.
During the cooking process the flavors of garlic, brown sugar, onion, and mustard marry together for a sweet, yet complex, flavor. The addition of ketchup and apple cider vinegar bring some brightness and zing to the dish to balance out the sweetness.
For just a little heat there’s 1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes in there, too. If you like things spicier by all means add a little more chili flakes or even some rooster sauce to the pot.
The combination of all the different types of beans is where the name “calico” comes from and for this recipe there’s butter beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and navy beans altogether in the Crockpot.
You can mix up the types of beans used to create an even more colorful look with lima beans, black beans, or speckled beans as well. This would be a good way to use up a can of corn, too.
Once the beans, the spices, and the onions and beef have cooked together the smell of this dish will fill your kitchen with a mouthwatering scent. Serve these beans with a piece of bread or some cornbread for a taste of the cowboy life right in your own home.
Slow Cooker Calico Beans
15m prep time
5h cook time
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (16 oz) can butter beans, drained
- 1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (16 oz) can pork and beans
- 1 (16 oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the ground beef. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add beef and rest of ingredients to a slow cooker. Set to low and cook for 4-5 hours. Serve with bread, cornbread, or rice if desired.
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.