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Calico Beans (Slow Cooker Recipe)

This Calico Beans Recipe is hearty and easily made in the crock pot for a satisfying meal that’s ready for you when you come home after a long day at work.

bowl of beans

Calico Beans

When the warm breeze starts blowing in, my mind starts thinking of backyard barbecues and all things grilled. And this calico bean recipe is rich, thick, and oh-so-hearty and pairs perfectly with those summertime eats!

Calico beans, also knowns as “cowboy beans” or “trucker beans” is a colorful dish full of canned pork and beans, kidney beans, butter beans, and ground beef, with everything smothered in a sweet and slightly tangy sauce. This is truly one tantalizing addictive dish!

And it’s the use of multiple different color beans that led to the name “calico beans” because this dish resembles the multi-colored fur of calico cats.

While traditionally served as a side dish, this calico beans recipe is so hearty and filling that it would be a delicious main course as well!

Simply scoop into a bowl, and treat as you would a chili, garnishing with your favorite chili toppings like sharp shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, and jalapeno slices!

But one thing is for sure, no matter how you enjoy – either as a side or main dish – you are going to be in for quite a tasty treat!

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labeled picture of ingredients

Ingredients Needed

Ground Beef – The beef adds a substantial heartiness and flavor to this dish so you want the best quality beef you can get it. And because this is a crock pot recipe everything will stay in the pot. I recommend using 90/10 or 85/15 lean beef.

You will be browning the ground beef before adding to the crockpot so you can drain off a little of the fat. This also works well with ground turkey or ground lamb!

Onion – A medium sized sweet onion is best.

Beans – This recipe uses canned pork & beans, kidney beans, and butter beans.

Ketchup – Feel free to use your favorite brand of ketchup.

Brown Sugar – Feel free to use light or dark brown sugar. I tend to prefer the sweeter tastes of light brown sugar but if you prefer the deeper, richer caramel flavors of dark, use that as well!

Vinegar – White vinegar helps cut through all the sweetness of this dish and also helps prevent the beans from becoming too mushy while cooking. Include Worcestershire sauce too.

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How to make Calico Beans in the Crock Pot

One: Brown your ground beef until no longer pink in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain if desired.

Two: To the pot of your slow cooker, add all of the ingredients. Stir to combine.

Three: Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Four: Serve warm with a sprinkle of fresh parsley if desired.

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

spoon holding calico beans

Can you freeze Calico Beans?

Sure can! This dish can be frozen for up to 3 months. Just be sure to store in a freezer safe, air tight container

When ready to enjoy, allow the Calico Beans to thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through.

How long can you keep them?

This Calico Bean Recipes can be made up to 3 days in advance and reheated when ready to enjoy.

How to store them

Store any leftover Calico Beans in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days.

When ready to enjoy, reheat in the microwave for 30-second intervals until warmed through or in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm.

bowl of beans

What beans are like butter beans?

Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are a perennial legume that offers a velvety texture with a strong nutty flavor when incorporated into dishes. If you are unable to locate butter beans, feel free to swap in the following for very similar tastes and textures:

  • Navy Beans
  • Fava Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • White Kidney Beans

Additional Ingredients

  • liquid smoke (for a smoky flavor)
  • lima beans (if you want to switch up the beans)
  • sausage (if want to use pork instead of beef)
  • mustard (for extra tanginess)
  • molasses (out of brown sugar, use this in stead)
  • bbq sauce (for an extra kick)
  • bacon (because, everyone needs bacon!)
bowl of calico beans

Can I make these in the oven or on the stove top?

This Calico Beans Recipes is so versatile and can also be made either in the oven or on the stove top.

To make Calico Beans in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until no longer pink; drain well and transfer to a 2-quart casserole or baking dish.
  2. Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, Worcestershire, ketchup, and vinegar. Mix well, cover with foil, and bake until heated through, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Enjoy!

To make Calico Beans on the stove top:

  1. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, cook ground beef until no longer pink; drain well.
  2. Add onion, all beans, brown sugar, Worcestershire, ketchup, and vinegar. Mix well and bring to a simmer and continue to cook until heat through, occasionally stirring, approximately 20 minutes. When warmed through, serve and enjoy!

Can I use dried beans?

You certainly can use dried beans; however, you’ll need to add in the extra step of cooking before adding.

If using dried beans, be sure to cook the beans separately, according to their size, in a large pot of water, simmering them until tender. When soft, drain, and they’re ready to use!

And if you’re unsure of many cups of dried beans you’ll need for this Calico Beans recipe, here are some useful tips:

  • A heaping 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) can of cooked beans (109 ounces)

Tips for No Leftovers

  • Don’t want ketchup? Try BBQ sauce instead.
  • Try breakfast sausage or a smoked sausage instead of the ground beef.
  • Not a fan of kidney beans? Substitute cannellini beans, black beans, navy beans, or pinto beans instead.
  • Spice it up with pickled jalapenos.
  • Use a liner in your crock pot for easier clean up.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

scoop of beans with text "crock pot calico beans"

This Calico Beans Recipe is easy to make, budget-friendly with ground beef and canned beans feeds a crowd, and is a perfect freezer-friendly meal!

pot of beans with a spoon

Calico Beans {Crock Pot}

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

This Calico Beans Recipe is hearty and easily made in the crock pot for a satisfying meal that's ready for you when you come home after a long day at work.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • half a large onion (diced)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pork & beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can large butter beans (drained)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • ½ cup water


  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat brown and cook your ground beef. Drain off the fat if desired.
  2. To a slow cooker bowl, add the cooked ground beef, diced onion, pork and beans, drained kidney and butter beans, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, vinegar and water.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, stirring once.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy warm!


    *If you love this recipe as much as I do, please leave me a comment and rate it 5 stars. Thank you!

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    This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy here.

    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 cup
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 365Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 484mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 5gSugar: 30gProtein: 21g

    This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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