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Best Calico Bean Recipes

Best Calico Bean Recipes

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Calico Bean Shopping Tips

Legumes are high in a number of nutrients, especially protein and fiber – filling you up with relatively few calories.

Calico Bean Cooking Tips

Beans are done when they can be easily mashed with a fork – make sure to test a few in case they have not cooked evenly.

Calico Baked Beans With Hamburger and Bacon

Calico Baked Beans with hamburger and bacon is the perfect recipe for a crowd. It is a must at all of our family gatherings!

My mom got this recipe from my aunt and we grew up calling it PA Beans because she lives in Pennsylvania. The original recipe use to be printed on the back of the can of Rebar Butter Beans can. I don’t believe you can buy that brand any longer or at least not around here.

If you are looking for a more traditional baked bean recipe try this one!

Recipe Summary

  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 16 ounce can pork and beans in tomato sauce, undrained
  • 1 16 ounce can lima beans or a 15-1/2-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-16 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

In a large skillet, cook beef, bacon and onion, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain off the fat.

In a 3-quart casserole, combine the three beans, brown sugar, the water, ketchup, vinegar and mustard. Stir in meat mixture until well combined.

Bake, covered in a 350° oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until heated through.

Best Calico Bean Recipes - Recipes

It’s hard to believe, but the summer is almost over. Soon, the long hot days will give way to the crispness of autumn. The leaves will begin to change, combines and grain carts will rumble back to life to start another harvest, and my Huskers and Packers will finally be back on the field.

For a number of reasons, fall and football always seem to remind me of family and food. I love this time of year and thought I would share one of my favorite family get together/tailgating recipes.

This recipe for calico beans was passed down from my grandma and has been a longtime favorite of our family. One of my favorite things about this dish is how it goes with just about anything. From family potlucks to holiday meals to tailgates, this dish is a proven hit that people will ask you to bring back again.

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and from my family to yours, have an amazing fall.

Instant Pot Calico Beans Recipe

This calico beans recipe was a household favorite growing up. My aunt Pam got everyone hooked with her original recipe, but then after losing the recipe card my mom made a version of her own.

Calico beans get their name from the mixture of colors of all the different types of beans used that represents a multicolored, calico cat. It is very similar to a chilli, though it has more beans in it than most traditional chillies do.

Traditionally made by hydrating dried beans (which takes at least 4 hours or can be done overnight), this calico beans recipe can also be made super quick with the use of canned beans. I’ll give the measurements for both below, so feel free to use whichever method you prefer.

My mom still makes this calico beans recipe on the stovetop (using canned beans) but since I’m obsessed with my instant pot, I’ve converted her version into an instant pot calico beans recipe.

The instant pot will both sauté the beef and slow cook these beans so you’re not washing multiple pots at the end of the day. This hearty meal is ready in about 1 hour yet it tastes like they were slow cooked all day.

What to serve with Calico Beans

My favorite thing to serve with calico beans is a generous portion of bread – whether you go for real bread or a low carb bread (although there is nothing low carb about a bowl full of beans!)

Calico beans can be served as a main or as a side dish, so if you need even more to serve alongside it here are some suggestions:

  • Side salad
  • Sauteed or grilled veggies
    • Asparagus
    • Peppers
    • Zucchini

    Can I freeze Calico beans?

    Yes! To freeze, portion the calico beans mixture into 2 cup servings and lay flat to freeze. This recipe can be frozen for up to 3 months without any texture loss.

    To cook, let the beans thaw out completely and then reheat low and slow. If the beans get overheated, they can split and experience a texture loss.

    Watch this quick recipe video first (the quality isn’t the best, sorry!) and then scroll down below to grab our free printable recipe card. Be sure to grab the card that corresponds with either canned or dried beans, whichever you plan to cook with.

    Ingredients for Calico Beans

    • Olive oil
    • Onion, chopped
    • Garlic, sliced
    • Ground beef
    • Ham, chopped
    • Pinto beans, canned or dried
    • Northern beans, canned or dried
    • Black beans, canned or dried
    • Brown sugar
    • Molasses
    • Ketchup or tomato paste
    • Yellow mustard
    • Butter
    • Chili powder, or to taste
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Corn starch, optional
    • Water, optional

    Tip: dried beans need to be soaked for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight. They may also require an increase in cooking time of up to two hours.

    Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful:

    • Instant pot
    • Measuring cups and spoons
    • Sharp kitchen knife
    • Cutting board

    How to Make Instant Pot Beans

    Set the Instant Pot to saute. Drizzle with olive oil.

    Once the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.

    Add the ground beef and brown completely, about 5 minutes.

    Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.

    Set instant pot to slow cook for 30 minutes and cover.

    After 30 minutes, set instant pot to saute setting. Uncover.

    In a small bowl, mix together the corn starch and water to form a slurry.

    Stir cornstarch slurry into instant pot.

    Let cook until bubbling, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.

    Set to and hold on keep warm until ready serve.

    Pin this Instant Pot Calico Beans Recipe – and don’t forget to scroll down to grab your free printable recipe!

    Grab this recipe card if you want to make this recipe with canned beans:

    • Cook bacon until crispy, then lay on paper towels to drain.
    • Cook ground beef in bacon grease until brown. Drain and return to pan.
    • Stir in baked beans, pork & beans, lima beans, kidney beans, and cooked bacon.
    • Stir in brown sugar, ketchup, dried minced onion, and mustard.
    • Transfer to a baking dish and bake until hot!

    Yes! Prepare the recipe up until the point of baking. Then cover and refrigerate up to a day in advance before baking and serving.

    Hot Calico Beans

    No matter the event, this recipe is requested. It can become a bit of a drag being expected to bring the same thing every time, so be warned! The best part is that this recipe is not difficult at all. These hot calico beans or cowboy beans as some people call them are a unique twist on plain old baked beans.

    It is incredibly versatile in that you can either bake it in the oven or prepare it in the crockpot.

    This is our take on baked beans, but it isn’t just any baked bean recipe! It has three different types of beans and is loaded with ground beef and bacon. My mom cuts the amount of sugar that she uses. I keep mine as the recipe calls for. Like I said, this recipe is forgiving.

    To be honest, in my opinion the most cumbersome part of this recipe is browning the meat and the bacon.

    But peep this beautiful bacon cooking in my cast iron pan.

    Next brown your ground beef and add the onion in to soften.

    Now, everything else is down hill. Mix all the ingredients together and your hardest part is deciding if you are going to cook it on the stove or in the crockpot.

    Calico Beans Recipe

    This Calico Beans recipe is perfect for juggling all your other to-dos. Your oven takes care of cooking a hearty, flavor-packed meal while you tackle that neglected pile of laundry (or dive into your DVR queue). Pin it to your CASSEROLE BOARD to save for later! Be Sure To Follow Gonna Want Seconds on Pinterest

    This Calico Beans recipe is perfect for juggling all your other to-dos. Your oven takes care of cooking a hearty, flavor-packed meal while you tackle that neglected pile of laundry (or dive into your DVR queue).

    Pin it to your CASSEROLE BOARD to save for later!

    If you’ve ever seen a calico cat or wrapped up in a calico quilt, you know exactly what’s coming when I say “Calico Beans.”

    This is my grandma’s Calico Beans recipe, one she used to make when she needed a hearty, easy supper that’s straight up good, old-fashioned comfort food. A little cornbread on the side, and we’d all go to bed in a happy, food-induced coma.

    The dish gets its name from the variety of colorful beans used in it, mottled a bit from marrying in the oven, with a perfectly dialed in a sweet and savory sauce.

    It’s definitely more visually appealing than a traditional pot of baked beans and has a substantial meaty component to make it a perfect, one-dish meal.

    Baked beans are an inexpensive and versatile side dish you’ll find on the menu of your favorite barbecue restaurant or on the table at your next backyard cookout. But forget the memories you have of mediocre, monochromatic beans with little afterthoughts of pork chunks or green peppers floating in thin, overly sweet sauce.

    This Calico Beans recipe is loaded with onions, beef and bacon, and a thick flavorful sauce that will warm you up just like that cozy quilt!

    The first step is browning bacon, a little departure from traditional baked beans with whole strips of bacon on top that are supposed to crisp in the oven. The quick Southern-style baked beans (not calico beans) Pioneer Woman bakes uses this method, and so does Paula Deen’s version.

    In my experience, those strips usually don’t cook well, though, even after spending close to an hour in the oven. Some spots are crispy, for sure, but others are burned or still a little undercooked.

    By frying the bacon first, you end up with crunchy, salty, smoky bits throughout the beans. Make sure you keep the rendered bacon grease in the fridge (you can also strain it and freeze it in ice cube trays), so you’ll have this tasty seasoning on hand for other dishes like this one.

    Next, you’ll brown some ground beef and onions to add to your casserole dish with the beans.

    Unlike most recipes that only have three varieties, my recipe uses four different kinds of beans, each with a different color and slightly different texture: soft white butter beans and pale green limas that are both sweet and creamy, as well as deep red kidney beans and tan pork and beans that share a dense and smooth texture. Pork and beans are just navy beans, but they’re canned with tomato sauce and either small chunks of salted pork or pork fat for extra smoky flavor.

    I really play up the subtly sweet smokiness in this Calico Beans recipe by using both pork and beans and bacon, as well as a little liquid smoke.

    Some people are hesitant to cook with this mysterious ingredient, imagining some preservative-laden, artificially flavored liquid concocted in a lab. Believe it or not, it’s actually real smoke particles, trapped in a condenser then concentrated into a dark liquid that serves as a wonderful addition to savory meat dishes and cheese sauces you want to add a hint of smokiness too, including my grandmother’s Calico Beans (this is also one of the ingredients that make my recipe stand out from others like the calico beans Taste of Home makes).

    Other than liquid smoke, the seasoning for these Calico Beans consists of ingredients you’re likely to find in a good baked bean recipe: ketchup and brown sugar for sweetness, and mustard and vinegar to offset the sugar.

    I don’t make my Calico Beans with molasses because it makes them a little too sweet for my taste. I also use dry mustard instead of prepared, which has added spices and vinegar, so I get all the mustardy heat without turning the dish too much in the sour direction.

    The sweet/savory combination in my recipe is perfectly balanced to enhance all the hearty qualities of this dish without overpowering the beans and all the meaty goodness.

    Baking in the oven helps to marry the flavors, of course, but it also helps thicken the sauce.

    I usually bake mine close to an hour, but you can adjust that based on your own oven and preference for having extra sauce for dipping that cornbread in or a thicker, stick-to-your-ribs stew-like quality.

    This recipe can easily be doubled to make Calico Baked Beans for a crowd. Leftovers also freeze well, though you may find you need to add a teeny bit of water when you reheat them to compensate for the drying that happens naturally in the freezer.

    Beans are one of the most nutrient-rich things on the planet, packed with fiber, good-for-your-heart stuff, and complex, stomach-satisfying carbohydrates.

    You won’t need a nutritious reason to share these Calico Beans with your friends or family, but it’ll make you feel a little better about offering them another bowl!


    Meat – You can use ground beef in this recipe (which typically has 25% – 30% fat and tons of flavor) or stick with something leaner like ground sirloin or even ground turkey. For a little something special, use a suggestion I borrowed from a recipe for calico beans cowboy beans and substitute a ½ pound of ground sirloin and ½ pound of breakfast sausage for the full pound of ground beef.

    Vegetarian – So what if you love the idea of this recipe but want a calico bean no-meat version? No problem! Leave out the beef and bacon and experiment with different beans – garbanzos, for example. Black beans are great too just make sure you drain and rinse them first so the color doesn’t take over your whole dish. You can “beef” up vegetarian Calico Beans with some extra veggies too, like bell peppers, add in a 14 oz. can of fire-roasted tomatoes, and even use tofu crumbles or other plant-based meat substitutes.

    Slow Cooker – Are these calico beans crockpot friendly? Definitely! Avoid heating up your oven by putting all the prepared ingredients in your slow cooker and letting it go on high for about four hours.


    • 8 ounces bacon, about 10 to 12 slices
    • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (85 percent or better)
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
    • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
    • 2 (15-ounce) cans baked beans
    • 1 can lima beans or butter beans (drained)
    • 1 can kidney beans (drained)
    • 1/2 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce
    • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or white vinegar
    • Kosher salt (to taste)
    • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

    Calico Beans Yum

    • 8 ounces turkey bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • ½ cup chopped onion (or 4 Tablespoons minced onion)
    • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
    • 2 - 15 ounce cans baked beans (I use Eden Organics, full of healthy ingredients)
    • 1 - 15 ounce can kidney beans
    • ¾ cup ketchup (I recommend homemade ketchup or an organic variety that does not contain high fructose corn syrup)
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (I use either red wine or balsamic)
    1. In a skillet, brown bacon, ground beef, and onions together.
    2. Drain and dump into a crock pot.
    3. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until mixed.
    4. Cover and cook on low for six hours or on high for three hours.
    5. Or, skip the crock pot and bake this in a covered casserole dish at 350° for an hour.

    I know everyone is different when it comes to craving meat and high protein meals. Are you like me and feel like you could eat a half a cow sometimes? Or are you content with a small bowl of beans and the occasional peanut?