Learn how to make the most delicious Instant Pot Cowboy Beans! This easy pressure cooker recipe is hearty and filling, perfect for summer cookouts or as a winter warmer.
Loaded with three types of beans, ground beef, bacon, onions and bell peppers, this tangy and sweet Southwestern classic is a family favorite. Perfect for holiday gatherings, potlucks, and barbecue parties; it is a must for game day.
These Instant Pot cowboy beans are loaded with ground beef and bacon cooked in a sweet, tangy and smoky sauce. This homemade recipe gets rave reviews from everyone that tries them!
Using the Instant Pot to make cowboy beans is very convenient and fast. You can brown the onions, peppers, ground beef and bacon right in the pot, then add all the beans and sauce ingredients and have the whole dish ready in about 30 minutes.
Wrap the whole inner pot with some foil or Clingwrap and take directly to the barbecue party or store it in the fridge if made ahead of time.
Cowboy beans (also known as chuckwagon beans or calico beans, there are a few variations out there) are a baked bean dish popular in the southwestern United States.
It consists of beans and ground beef cooked in a tangy, sweet, barbecue flavored sauce. It’s like baked beans with that extra punch of flavors and the additional nutrients.
The dish usually features pinto or black-eyed beans but also some white beans and ready-made baked beans. The sauce is flavored with onion and garlic powders, ketchup or/and barbecue sauce, and mustard and will often have onions and bell peppers for a southwestern twist. Some variations will also feature bacon.
Often referred to as cowboy baked beans, this dish is typically served at parties, potlucks and BBQs. It can be enjoyed as a main dish or as a side to grilled meat and burgers, scooped into a hot dog or sandwich, or served with some bread or buns for soaking up all that sauce.
And don’t forget some veggies! Serve a side of collard greens or steamed broccoli for added color and vitamins or pair the beans with some refreshing, crunchy coleslaw.
The ingredients for this homemade cowboy beans recipe are simple and easy to get:
- Beans – There are three kinds of beans in this dish: red or pinto beans, white beans or black-eyed peas and baked beans (tomato sauce based ones). This recipe uses all canned beans! There are some recipes that use uncooked beans, which they usually cook first. Strain the unflavored beans but keep the baked beans sauce.
- Ground beef– We recommend using lean ground beef for this recipe, about 90-95% meat. You can also use ground pork, chicken or turkey if you don’t eat beef.
- Bacon – This is optional and not all recipes use bacon but it adds a lot of flavor. Some will use ham hock or shredded brisket. Diced streaky or Canadian bacon can be used.
- Onions & bell peppers – being a southwestern recipe, these two vegetables usually make an appearance in stewed and braised dishes. Adds a little hidden veg!
- Sauce ingredients – there are many variations of what to flavor the sauce of cowboy beans so this is our version. Garlic and onion powder, paprika and a little cayenne or red chili for heat, plus mustard and good barbecue sauce.
- Many recipes call for brown sugar which we included in this picture but it can be omitted depending on how sweet the BBQ sauce is. We’ve made it once in the past, when adding the sugar resulted in beans that were a little too sweet and it was because of the BBQ sauce we used. Another time we used more savory sauce and the added sugar was spot on! So, this really depends on your preference for sweetness.
You will find the full recipe with ingredients and nutritional breakdown in the recipe card below. Here are some handy step-by-step photos of how to make homemade Cowboy beans in the Instant Pot. You can use a 6-quart or 8-quart Instant Pot.
Prep. Chop and dice all the ingredients before you start cooking. Strain the canned beans (not the baked beans though). Get the spices and seasoning ready.
PRESSURE COOKING THE BEANS
Step 1. Press the Saute function key on the Instant Pot (press it more than once to cycle to More mode, which is hotter) and add the oil and bacon. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times until browned and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and set it aside in a bowl.
Step 2. Add onions, bell peppers and ground beef and cook for 4-5 minutes to brown off.
Step 3. Add the stock and stir scraping the bottom with a spatula to remove any stuck bits. This is important because if there is anything burnt stuck on the bottom, you will get the Burn signal.
Step 4. Add the remaining ingredients except for the barbecue sauce. Add half of the cooked bacon back to the pot and reserve the rest. Stir through and then spread the BBQ sauce over the top but don’t mix through. This (again) will prevent the possible Burn error.
Step 5. Secure and lock the lid. Set to Pressure Cook for 5 minutes on HIGH pressure. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure and then the timer will start. Once done, let the Instant Pot stand undisturbed for about 5 minutes and then use the quick release to let off the remaining pressure.
AFTER PRESSURE COOKING THE BEANS
Step 6. Open the lid and stir the beans.
Step 6. Press the Saute function again on the More setting. Cook the beans for 5-7 minutes to reduce the liquid in the sauce by about a third. Make sure tostir frequently.
Step 7. Top with the reserved cooked bacon and serve with a side of grated cheese.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH COWBOY BEANS
Cowboy beans can be served as a main dish or a side. Its smoky, tangy and sweet flavors go with many other foods and can be paired with savory and slightly sweet dishes.
- As a main dish. Cowboy baked beans are like a thick stew and work well with something bready. Whether you serve a loaf of sourdough, soft dinner rolls or make buttermilk cornbread, you can dip your bread in the steaming hot bowl of beans, soak up all the goodness, and enjoy a hearty meal. A grilled cheese sandwich is fantastic with cowboy beans.
- Alternatively, you can serve them over rice, pasta noodles, grits or with stuffed baked potatoes.
- As a side dish. It can be served on a plate along with grilled meat, burgers, or poultry; scooped into a hot dog or added to a pulled pork sandwich (or used as a sandwich filling), or dished up with fried eggs and bacon for hearty breakfast or brunch. Try making baked eggs and beans like this recipe from The Posh Journal (picture below).
- Don’t forget some veggies! Serve a side of collard greens or steamed broccoli for added color and vitamins or pair the beans with some refreshing, crunchy coleslaw.
- Make ahead and store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freeze in a sealed container for up to 3 months. Great dish for freezing!
- Reheat on the stove if chilled, or defrost overnight in the fridge and then reheat.
MORE INSTANT POT BEAN RECIPES
- Instant Pot White Beans With Rosemary & Garlic
- Instant Pot Bean Soup (Only 5 Ingredients)
- Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta & Bean Soup)
- The Best Instant Pot Bean & Legume Recipes
- Want more Instant Pot side dishes? Try this recipe for Creamed Corn, this recipe for Loaded Mashed Potatoes (With Or Without Oven!, or this Instant Pot Southwest Rice (Served Five Ways).
Instant Pot Cowboy Beans Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 8–10 1x
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
These Instant Pot cowboy beans (also known as chuckwagon beans or calico beans) are loaded with ground beef and bacon cooked in a sweet, tangy and smoky sauce. This homemade recipe gets rave reviews from everyone that tries them! Perfect side dish for holiday gatherings, potlucks, and parties, and it is a must for game day.
- 1 cup diced bacon
- 1 tablespoon oil (e.g. olive oil)
- 1 pound / 450 g ground beef (90-95% lean)
- 1 medium onion, diced (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili or cayenne pepper
- 1–2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional, depending on the sweetness of the BBQ sauce)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 can red or pinto beans (14-15 oz)
- 1 can white beans or black-eyed peas (14-15 oz)
- 1 can tomato-based baked beans (14-15 oz)
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- Press the Saute function key on Instant Pot (press more than once to cycle to More mode) and add the oil and bacon. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times until browned and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and set it aside in a bowl.
- Add onions, bell peppers and ground beef and cook for 4-5 minutes to brown off.
- Add the stock and stir scraping up the bottom with a spatula to remove any stuck bits. This is important because if there is anything burnt stuck on the bottom, you will get the Burn signal.
- Add the remaining ingredients except for the barbecue sauce. Add half of the cooked bacon back to the pot and reserve the rest. Stir through and then spread the BBQ sauce over the top but don’t mix through. This (again) will prevent the possible Burn error.
- Secure and lock the lid. Set to Pressure Cook for 5 minutes on HIGH pressure. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure and then the timer will start. Once done, let the Instant Pot stand undisturbed for about 5 minutes and then use the quick release to let off the remaining pressure.
- Open the lid and stir the beans. Saute on More for 5-7 minutes to reduce the sauce by about a third.
- Top with the reserved cooked bacon and serve with a side of grated cheese.
Saute time: 15 minutes (before and after pressure cooking) | Coming to pressure: 10 minutes | Pressure cooking time: 5 minutes | Release: Natural release 5 minutes followed by quick release | Total cooking time: 35 minutes
- Serving Size: A heaping pile, recipe made with no added sugar
- Calories: 338
- Sugar: 19.7 g
- Sodium: 756.4 mg
- Fat: 9.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 44.7 g
- Fiber: 7.4 g
- Protein: 20.5 g
- Cholesterol: 40.1 mg
Keywords: Calico Beans, Chuckwagon Beans, Baked Beans, Instant Pot bean recipes, barbecue beans, side dishes
DRAINED beans, or not ? ( they are quite tasty ! )
Strain the unflavored beans but keep the baked beans sauce.
I love this stuff! I used bison instead of beef and added a tsp of diced jalapeño…its even better the next day on toast! Definitely 10/10!
Thanks, Kate. Would love to try it with bison for sure. Love it on toast as well 🙂
I live in MA. and our Market Basket store is where I found dried beans called COWBOY BEANS!! They’re made by the
Hurst Co. When I can’t find them at the store, I’ve ordered 4 pkg. at a time from Amazon but that was a bit pricey.
I sent a letter to Hurst and said, “I know it’s ‘just a bean’ but these are really good!’ Now I’m spoiled.
We don’t use any of the sweetening agents in our baked beans, but change out the taste to more of a Tex-Mex. I bake a whole ancho chili into it or some jalapeno (with onions, sweet peppers and bacon)