The Best Potluck Beans CrockPot Slow Cooker Recipe

These are my go-to potluck beans that make everyone in the entire world happy. :-) 

There's bacon and beef in here in the original recipe but I've made it OFTEN with turkey bacon and ground turkey and noone can tell the difference!

Potluck Beans from A Year of Slow Cooking. These are the BEST BEANS EVER. The recipe has bacon, brown sugar, liquid smoke, ground beef or turkey, and a few different kinds of beans. YUM.
Our wonderful neighbors, Sandy and Sherman, have been making this bean recipe for a good twenty years to take to family events and potlucks.

It's a lovely recipe.

I made it last week to bring to a potluck party up the street (Sandy and Sherman weren't at this particular get-together, but their daughter was!) and overheard many happy murmurs, and received lots of compliments.

This is evidently a bean dish for people who don't even like beans (which I can't imagine. I dream about beans.)

You've got to break out the skillet out for this recipe. I know. I'm sorry. It'll be okay, though. I promise.

How to Make Potluck Beans in the CrockPot Slow Cooker 

The Ingredients.
serves a lot. I'd guess 15-18 nice-sized servings.

Ingredients needed to make the world's best potluck beans. Super crazy good church bean recipe!
1 pound lean ground meat, browned and drained
1 pound smoked bacon, browned, drained, and diced
1 medium onion, diced and browned
1 cup ketchup (no need to brown!)
1/4 cup brown sugar (already brown!)
1 (30-ounce) can Pork n' Beans (I love products with the "n" instead of an &)
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can butter beans, drained and rinsed (they look like huge lima beans, and if they aren't in the bean section, try the canned veggie section)
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (yup, it's gluten free!)

The Directions.

Use a 6-quart or larger crockpot. This makes a lot.

In a large skillet, brown the hamburger, bacon, and onion. 

Since I love my Ninja an awful lot, I used that -- and used the Oven Setting -- if you keep the lid on, nothing splatters! YAY!

While the meats and onion are browning, add the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker. 

No need to really stir things up quite yet, or the beans will fall apart. 

Drain the meats well, and dump into the slow cooker. Use a large spoon to gingerly fold in the hot ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. 

Stir well and serve to your very best friends.

The Verdict.

I really liked these beans. And I mean I really, really, really, really liked these beans.


 I liked that they were comfort food, but didn't come across as just doctored up pork n' beans, which was my initial concern. 

I liked the meat in there, and when I make them again (which I WILL, and soon!), I might cut back a bit on the quantity of the meat---not because it was overwhelmingly meaty---but more because I don't think the flavor would be compromised and I could get away with it without notice. 

Kind of more like a challenge, I suppose.

All the kids at the party who tried the beans loved them, and my girls ate leftovers happily for lunch the next two days.

Thank you, Sandy and Sherman, for sharing your famous beans!

more great bean recipes you can take to a potluck:

Top 10 Slow Cooking Potluck Recipes (compilation)
lima bean casserole/cassoulet
sweet potato chili
traditional chili
taco soup
beans and weenies
boston baked beans
cowboy beans
baked beans with apple and jalapeno
honey lentils
salsa chicken and black bean soup

I can't even tell you how many times I've made these beans! Every time I bring them to a church potluck or barbecue the crockpot gets licked clean! Naturally gluten free these picnic beans are the best ever for the next time you have a backyard party or potluck event!

Do you love this article?

Please share it with your friends!

Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at March 25, 2010

Sign up for the A Year of Slow Cooking newsletter and get the Top Ten Reader Favorite Recipes sent directly to your inbox!

What they say about this article

  1. Oh, one of my favorite bean dishes. The sweetness of the ketchup mixes with the smokiness of the bacon and it is just an excellent dish. I always throw chopped onions in, because ... well, why not?

    I urge readers to try this because it really is more than the sum of it's flavors.

    The title on my recipe is "Texas Blow-Out" which I think is pretty apropos considering the bean quantities.

  2. Well, disregard my stupid onion comment because I now see it in your original recipe. Heh, heh.

  3. Next time cook the bacon in the oven. I use a Papmered Chef bar pan (like a cookie sheet with sides) and the bacon comes out perfect! I've also sone ito n a jelly roll pan with foil to make clean up easier.

  4. My uncle makes a dish very similar to this - w/o the hamburger (I think - or maybe its just a little bit). I don't like beans, usually. But I devoured this dish! w/o the hamburger, I think his dish is a bit more like doctored up baked beans. I may need to try this recipe :)

    Do you have any non-bean lover suggestions for bean recipes? I do want to try to use them more because of their cost and being shelf-stable.

  5. You can also cook the bacon on a broiler pan using the broiler in the oven or a toaster oven.

  6. Anonymous3/25/2010

    Oh we make these beans too and they are yummy!!! Instead of the hamburger though we make it with hot sausage instead and it adds a little kick!! So yum!!

  7. I love to cook my bacon in the oven, no splattering and I can get behind anything that I don't have to watch closely. If you line your jelly roll pan with parchment or foil, then you can take off teh bacon, set the pan aside to cool and when it is you just peel off the liner and throw it away, then wipe off the pan. I cook mine anywhere from 325-425, depending on how much I want to babysit it, and how much of a hurry I am in. The other bonus of oven cooking is NO SPLATTER.

  8. This is alot like a recipe I use, but mine doesn't have the liquid smoke. I'll have to add that next time. Also, mine just uses bacon, but you fry the onion with it. I cut up the bacon with a scissors before I brown it, then you throw grease and all in with the beans. Wonderful flavor!

  9. I so love beans in the crock pot!! My favorite! It's crazy but I totally overeat when I make them though, I just love them. Guess what I am NOW just deciding to make for dinner! tee-hee

  10. Sounds really yummy and like you I can't believe anyone would not like beans... Have a great day!

  11. I don't mean to be a party pooper but the can says "Pork AND Beans" ...

  12. Someone in my Mother's group (goodness, 20 years ago) made something similar, but with cheese instead of the meat. I've made it with and without the bacon.
    It is a wonderful potluck dish.

  13. Anonymous3/25/2010

    Unless I need the grease for a recipe I always do bacon in the microwave on a plate between two paper towels. Much easier, no splattering at all.

  14. Kristin3/25/2010

    As I read the recipe my first words in my comment were going to be.."I encourage all readers to try these" and then I see Jen wrote the exact same thing! My husbands family has been making these for years, we say it is a Family secret recipe when anyone asks for it! Make a large crock of these and divide them up (if you have any left) into smaller portions to thaw for other meals as a side dish.

  15. Oh, Calico Beans! I don't make these anymore because beans are far to high in carbs. It was always a favorite.

  16. Oh, I have a recipe that is like this but has a pound of smoked sausage in it as well. It always gets rave reviews, and someone usually ends up asking for the recipe everytime I take it. Try the sausage in there with the bacon and hamburger sometime, you'll love it. All I do is boil it first to get some of the grease out, then slice into 1i nch slices!

  17. Apparently, everyone in the world knows the bacon/oven trick. Was going to enlighten you as to the magic, but I'm too late as usual. ;-) My added bit is to put the bacon on metal racks so it gets really crispy. It also makes your whole house smell like bacon but not like grease. Like if Yankee made a Bacon candle. (Wouldn't that be great?)

    I also save the few slices that won't fit on my half-sheet pan, chop them and freeze. You can put a handful in a bowl, nuke it for a bit, and have great bacon bits. I added some of those tonight to homemade mac-n-cheese with peas. Tasty.

  18. In April's All You Magazine they had a section about crock pots and they mentioned you and I got very excited for you and proclaimed to my husband...I read her blog!

  19. yum! I am definitely going to make this. I bet my son will love it and I have to start using the crockpot again anyway. My oven is broken. Swipe that. My oven is possessed! When I set it to 300, my thermometer goes off of the charts (over 550F) w/ no sign of slowing. Thanks for still posting recipes :).

  20. I have always loved this recipe, but Mr. GFE is not as enamored by beans as I am, so I haven't made it in years literally.


  21. I make baked beans very similar to this. No meat, just bacon, sliced onions, pork N beans, kidney beans, lima beans, ketchup, dry mustard and garlic powder. My favorite way to cook them is in the slow cooker, however if you bake them in the oven they get thick and ooey gooey delicious!

  22. I have made this very casserole for least 30...we call it five been as there are TWO cans of pork and beans, one kidney, one butter and one pink beans, but everyting else is the same...its absolutely GREAT for potlucks, holidays, gatherings, what IS sweet, so offer some hot sauce on the side for others

  23. Anonymous3/26/2010

    Cooking bacon on a George Forman grill (or similar) will cut back on the greese splatter and will keep it flat! And the best part is that you can save the bacon greese for later!!

  24. Thanks for posting this - I've been looking for the recipe ever since I had this (with one change) at a squadron picnic at a base in Germany. The one change was that the gal who made it added chopped jalapenos.

  25. I have to agree with emil -- the can DOES say Pork AND Beans... ruined it for me! ;-)

  26. LOL! you're right. Now I'm kind of bummed. I wonder when they changed the label?


  27. I've been cooking with beans quite often lately - they have great nutrition and are so versatile. We always have leftovers too.

    Instead of store-bought ketchup I've been making my own in my CrockPot - no white sugar or high fructose corn syrup - my body doesn't like either.

    It's great to have a bean dish even for people that don't like beans. I've noticed that every time I post a bean recipe or one with a bean flour someone leaves a comment about refusing to use beans. I think it has to do with lack of fiber in our diets - once my fiber intake increased I had no problems with beans at all.

  28. Anonymous3/29/2010

    We call this Calico Beans, and it's so yummy!


  29. Anonymous3/29/2010

    I know the bacon cooking has been beat to death, but a trick I saw on TV was to start with the bacon (on a sheet pan, lined with foil, on racks...which have all been covered) in a cold oven and let it heat up to 400 or so and cook until the bacon is done (about 10 minutes once it's up to temp). By starting out cold, the fat slowly melts and drips off onto the relatively cool pan instead of spattering around in the oven. Watch it closely once it really starts cooking though because it goes from soggy to extra crispy surprisingly fast. I also love the comment about the bacon scented candle :-)

  30. I *greatly* appreciate the bacon-cooking tips.
    you are all wonderful.
    and should come over.

    with bacon.

  31. cbuffy3/30/2010

    Steph - you are HILARIOUS! I was SO wishing your ingredients list would continue to say..

    brown sugar (already brown)


    Can't wait to give this one a try. And I zillionth the bacon in the oven thing. It's terrific!

  32. bhwahahaa!! I *love* that! I'm going to add that line to the ingredient list now. I'm going to try and put it into the new book, too. thanks, cbuffy!
    xoxo steph

  33. AWESOME!

    I do love a great bean recipe. I have a similar recipe on my blog (, a small variation with ground sausage instead of beef.

    I think I'l make these for my next get together.

  34. Congrats! I saw your site mentioned in ALL YOU magazine! You're certainly my "go-to" spot for crock pot cooking! :)

  35. Anonymous3/31/2010

    Yummy looking. When I spiff up a can of regular baked beans I add French's mustard, onion & bacon and then just bake it. Turns out great.

    I'd do the same with this one - add a little mustard. Plus I might use Polish sausage instead of ground beef.

    Thanks - I'm using my crock much more frequently since I've found your blog.

  36. my cousin makes this recipe, but our family calls it "settlers beans" but regardless of the name, they are delicious! I was thinking just a couple of days ago, how I wished I had the recipe. thanks for posting the recipe, now I don't have to ask my cousin for it.

  37. My mom used to make this dish for company all the time. Glad to see it here and that you tried it in the slow cooker too--bonus!

  38. These sound fantastic!!

  39. Wow this one sure looks good. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Melissa R.4/06/2010

    I am cooking this just for my husband and myself so I halved the recipe and used a smaller (4.5 qt) cooker.

    There doesn't seem to be much liquid in this dish - is it supposed to be like that?? If not, any suggestions on what liquids I should add that won't compromise the flavor too much?? Thanks!

  41. hi Melissa,
    no need to add any additional liquid. It will "magically" appear on it's own!


  42. The only thing I saw strange in your description is where you talk about leftovers. I made these beans for the first time for a family get-together and the people at the end of the line didn't get any!! They were gone in like 10 minutes. Better do a double batch next time! They were amazing.

  43. I also, like the rest of the world evidently, love the bacon in the oven trick! And I'm so glad I read these comments with the fabulous idea to use foil to line the pan, so cleanup is easier. ANYTHING to make cleanup easier makes me happy!

  44. Amanda4/20/2010

    Yum! These were delicious. I just used the beans we had in the pantry which were black beans, jalapeno pintos, and Bush's honey baked beans. I also used ground venison instead of beef but followed everything else. We had this for dinner with cornbread. Delicious!

  45. Anonymous4/20/2010

    Believe it or not my stepmom makes these beans without meat. She leaves out the bacon and uses TVP crumbles in place of the ground meat. You can barely taste a difference. I'm sharing this to confirm you theory that cutting down the meat would be OK.

  46. Anonymous4/21/2010

    You are so right about this recipe being for people who don't like beans (ie: my partner). He loved it! Normally he hates beans which is a problem for me because I love them!

    This was so delicious and I will be cooking it again soon *ahem* eating the leftovers right now for lunch...

    Stephanie - I just want to say thank you for your blog, I found it a week before my oven died completely, and you given me so much inspiration! I'll be slow cooking until we can afford to put a new oven in - thanks!! xx Kat (Australia)

  47. I am making this as we speak - can't WAIT to dig into it! But it does make an awful lot for my small family - I was wondering if you think it would freeze well and that way I don't have to half the recipe next time? Thanks, anyone!

  48. Hi Amanda,
    I hope you like them! Yes, these beans freeze and reheat wonderfully. Pull them out the night before and let them thaw in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or on the stove in a pot.
    The slow cooker isn't meant for re-heating.

    xoxo steph

  49. I first made these as the recipe indicated. Now I use the quantity of meat as stated and double the beans and 1.5 times the catsup, brown sugar, and smoke. Our family LOVES this! My son's Boy Scout Troop LOVES this!! We also make them in a dutch oven at campouts. Thank you!!

  50. Anonymous6/30/2010

    I had this at a pockluck 20 years ago, and still remember it! For those of you who cringed at pulling out the frying pan- just cook up twice the meat and put it in a ziplock (push out as much air as possible) in the freezer for next time!

  51. I have three boys and rarely do I make something for dinner that every one of them eats without complaint. Thankfully, they ALL loved these beans. My little one even cleaned his plate!

    I used some leftover taco meat (maybe 1/3 or 1/2 lb.), left out the bacon, and served this over brown rice. Hearty and delicious. Thanks!

  52. I can't wait to try this. We had something like this at a pot luck and I loved it!

  53. Anonymous10/19/2010

    I've just made a version of this here in Australia that skipped the canned pork and beans, and substituted smokey bbq sauce for the ketchup, brown sugar and liquid smoke, and it turned out wonderfully. Not too sweet either, which is what I was afraid of. I started at 3/4 cup bbq sauce though, and added a dollop more after mixing it in.

    I'll be making this again.

  54. Made these for the 4th - no leftovers! I added an additional can of kidney beans too!


  55. I made these for a fathers day cookout at my inlaws. EVERYONE loved them!!!! :) I added a can of Bushes baked beans into it. This is so easy to make and I have been told not to show up at any family gatherings without it. haha.

  56. I made this for family this weekend and it was a hit. Took a gamble and doubled all the beans except the kidneys--I tripled them:) It was an easy way to get even more out of the recipe.

  57. in case you still read comments on these old posts...I make these beans often. I use what ever kind of beans I have in my cupboards, and usually more like 4 or 5 cans! I have taken them to potlucks and always see people heading back for seconds. I freeze small portions and give to my dad, he loves them too!