Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans Recipe

Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans made with dry pinto beans are sure to be a hit at your next potluck or backyard barbecue get-together.
I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We had a lovely weekend away at my father-in-law's cabin---it was very relaxing. Now we're home in the real world where there is laundry to fold, floors to mop, and dinner to prepare.

Although summer is prime grilling time, I really like to plug in the slow cooker for hassle-free side dishes on the nights we grill. 

I made cowboy beans last week, and although we ended up eating them as a main course, they would taste fantastic alongside a barbecued burger, steak, or chicken leg.

We don't have a fancy tent-trailer thing for camping, but if we did, we'd definitely bring the slow cooker along the way Mir does for a lovely pot of beans at the end of a packed day of hiking and fishing.

(UPDATE: we ended up getting one!! :-) !! )

The difference between Cowboy Beans and a traditional chili is the twangy flavor that comes from the Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. 

The more you add, the twangier it becomes. mmm.

The Ingredients.
serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey (optional)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins, made in the USA is gluten free)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel, or traditional chopped tomatoes, your choice
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
7 cups water
sliced jalapenos, optional

The Directions.

Serves 8-10 as a side dish, or 5 as a main course. Sort pinto beans, and soak overnight in lots of fresh water. 

If you live in a climate where the house gets terribly hot overnight, put the beans in the refrigerator to soak to keep icky bacteria from accumulating.

In the morning, drain your beans, and pick out any that have split open, or look discolored and shrively.

Pour into a 6 quart slow cooker. Brown hamburger and onion on the stove, and drain fat. While the meat is cooking, add the rest of the ingredients into your slow cooker. 

Start with 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Add the meat, and top with 7 cups of fresh water. Stir to combine. 

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for about 6. My beans took 6 hours on high to tenderize, and then they sat on warm for another 3 hours. 

We're at sea level. If you live in a higher altitude, your beans will take longer to soften.

Taste the beans. If you'd like your beans to have more of a tang, add some more Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. 

Top with sliced jalapeƱos, if desired.

Cowboy Beans in the Slow Cooker -- a smoky, slightly spicy, tangy and delicious bean dish that is hearty enough for a main course, but could also be a side dish at a potluck.

The Verdict.

We all liked these beans a lot. I did add a bit more Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, and the tang was pleasantly pronounced. 

I also liked how the Worcestershire sauce added a dark color to the broth. The kids doctored their bowls with lots of shredded cheese and sour cream. 

I had a bowl for lunch the next day alongside an In N' Out cheeseburger

It was a wonderful meal.

I get a kick at how the white dots on pinto beans completely disappear after cooking. You can't even find one!

if you'd like some more slow cooker side dishes for your next cookout:

corn on the cob
creamed corn
baked potatoes
sweet potatoes with chili, cumin, and lime
Boston baked beans

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at August 05, 2017

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What they say about this article

  1. Stephanie, I was going to ask you if you had ever posted about camping with a crock pot. It's so handy! I bought a small "travel" one and love it because:
    - Hearty meals always taste better outdoors
    - Hot appetizers like Rotelle dip are great after the beach and the ingredients don't have to be kept in the cooler
    - Bacon can stay warm in a foil packet in the crock pot while you cook the eggs and Texas toast
    - Most crock pot recipes are one-pot, which equals less clean up!

  2. Anonymous7/06/2009

    That looks mighty tasty. Looking forward to trying it!

  3. Yum! I think this will be a winner for us, considering I want to get a spoon and take a bite out of the photo.

    I think that's also a sign I also didn't eat enough for lunch.

  4. Anonymous7/06/2009

    Looks yummy! I can't wait for your book!

  5. I know I would love this, but hubby not so much. He's just not into beans much. (Chili only, and traditional chili at that.) But, I can make this for the support group and they'll love it!

    With the mention of camping, I'd like to mention that this and other crockpot recipes would be great as entries for this month's Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free--Make Me A Happy Camper!, which I'm hosting this month. Come one, come all! :-)

    So glad you had a great 4th! We went to our mtn property with our son and all his friends. It was a great time.


  6. Stephanie.....the recipe sounds and looks yummy. Would this work using canned pinto beans? If so how many cans? Thanks in advance for the help.


  7. Sandee7/06/2009

    I am reliving a year ago. I made the crock pot cheesecake for July 4th and just finished up the last piece tonight. YUM! The only thing I changed is the addition of fresh lemon zest.

    My daughter in law will be here for a 10 day visit later this week. She wants to see how to make this so we are doing it together on Friday!

  8. Looks fantastic! I have never used dry beans before, but I think I am going to try this recipe. Thanks!

  9. Anonymous7/07/2009


  10. Hi Barb,

    yup, you can use canned beans. Use 3 cans, drained or with the goop, your choice, but no water. They won't take long----you're really only heating through, although there is no harm to keep it on warm for as long as you'd like.

    xox steph

    Sandee, I'm so glad the cheesecake worked out well for you! It was one of our absolute favorites. mmm.

  11. That actually sounds amazing, I have actually just started a blog on how I became a chef and my story has just begun. Id love for you to check it out.

  12. Hi Stephanie
    I plan to make this & have all the ingredients except for the apple cider vinegar (& a green capsicum instead of red but I don't think this will really matter all that much!). Could you suggest anything in place of the apple cider vinegar?

    I have my pinto beans all soaked & ready to go.

    I love your blog by the way :)


  13. Hi Janine, any vinegar you have in the house will probably work just fine. The vinegar provides the tang.


  14. We had this tonight and it was really yummy. Both kids and the husband ate it up. I made it as written but my Rotel had a touch of lime juice and cilantro which gave it a really yummy twist. I've got a conatiner for the freezer and plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for another easy and tasty recipe.

  15. Mary Kay7/11/2009

    You are fabulous! I just found your website and am just THRILLED!!

    Can not wait to get your book!

    All the best,

    Mary Kay

  16. Mmmm, I love watching your blog for what's cooking in that crock pot of yours, and this sounds really, really good! Karen

  17. I will just have to explore your blog in more depth. Beginning August 5, I will be hosting Crock Pot Wednesday on and would love to hear what you have to say and to join us in the fun. When I cook pinto beans in my slow cooker, I only wash and inspect them. I do not soak them overnight - or for any time - I just put them in the cooker, cover with plenty of water - no salt at this time - may add ham seasoning or not - and then cook them all day. We have come to love the intensity of the flavor. It's really amazing how different they are when prepared this way. I wait until shortly before serving to season with salt and pepper. Sometimes I will add onion, celery, garlic, etc. earlier in the day, but usually not. We like them as is served with cornbread. Sorry to make such a long comment. I enjoyed your blog.

  18. Chantel7/11/2009

    I made these (not in the crock, but followed the ingredients) and my husband LOVED it. Thought they were the best beans, ever! Thanks!

  19. We're going on vacation next month, and I was wondering, what crockpot meals do you make on vacation?

    We're going to Disney World and we want to have a meal when we get back to the time share. Any suggestions would be wonderful.

  20. oooh, I want to go! I usually make our family favorites when we go away, because I know the kids will eat the food.
    taco soup
    beef stew
    "lazy cooking" hunk of meat with jar of pasta sauce, serve over pasta
    pots of beans to put into tortillas

    I like having leftovers for lunch, and we always bring tortillas for quesadillas and have cereal and yogurt for breakfast. For the park, we fill a backpack with granola bars, string cheese, and trail mix. And then for fun, I surprise the kids with fruit by the foot----the obnoxiously colored kind that leave their tongues blue for hours. ;-)

    xoxo steph

  21. I have been checking out your blog for a some time now and actually tried one of your recipes a while back. You have some great, creative ideas. I may have to modify some of the recipes for myself pretty soon since I will be having weight loss surgery next week, but a lot of your recipes serve as a great protein base. Thanks for sharing your ideas.


  22. Reminded me so much of the beans we had while camping.
    With the economy what it is, this pot was fabulous! Single person here, and ate for TWO WEEKS on this one pot. And all for around $10.

    This is one more reason I've pre-ordered your book. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  23. I can't wait to try this. It looks delicious!


  24. I think you've sold me on the book. My son is allergic to dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, and sesame... that pretty much means no eating out (but extra justification to spend on more kitchen gadgets!). In the sumer, we grill a lot, but I'm thinking I am going to need a new toy in the kitchen to keep life interesting this winter, and a crockpot (with your book) sounds perfect. I'm off to see if you've posted any recommendations for what kind to buy.

  25. These beans are great. I have been looking for a great slow cook bean recipe and this is the best by far. Thank you!

  26. Anonymous9/08/2009

    Made 'em. Loved 'em! I used the larger amount of Worcestershire and vinegar. It was more like chili than we were anticipating but we really liked the result!

  27. I'm going to ask my hubby to make this tonight. Normally, I'm the cook, but I'm currently on bedrest due to some complications :/... I have a feeling your blog is definitely gonna come in handy... with a hubby in law school and family states away, AND celiac disease, it's gonna be an interesting journey... but it certainly looks like we'll be well-fed; I've got a ton of your recipes bookmarked :).

  28. Just tossed these in the crockpot a minute ago. We had a small bag of frozen corn, so I put that in too. Can't wait for dinner tonight.

  29. Anonymous10/10/2016

    Folks don't use 7 cups of water unless you want chili soup. 3 would be more than enough. I tried it both ways and even at 3 cups of water you are still going to get a thin chili. It is ok in that it is healthy but diffinately not my favorite. I'd try adding kidney beans and black beans and a medium onion instead of a small one. I fixed it up later by adding organic salsa and some Frank's hot sauce.

  30. Anonymous10/10/2016

    My previous comment about drastically reducing the amount of water by 4 cups is spot on and makes this recipe a more flavorful dish. I have cooked professionally for over 35 years and would say that this is a decent recipe for anytime of the year.
    Thank you