Pull out your slow cookers, friends! These Calico Beans are some of the best baked beans out there. If you haven't heard of this recipe, think mixed baked beans with ground beef, barbecue sauce and spices, and know that this may be your new potluck recipe for life!
I use my slow cooker two times of the year: once when the weather gets chilly, because I love to stay home and smell something cook slowly on the counter. Then, I use it again in the summer when I need to bring a dish to a potluck or have an easy dinner on the table while the kids stay outside late to play.
I'm committing to sharing slow cooker bean recipes here on this site so that we can enjoy them more! When the weather is hot, I make these Calico Beans because it's basically the best version of baked beans around. I mean, we love our Boston Baked Beans, but this recipe is different.
This crockpot calico beans recipe is different from regular baked beans in a few ways:
- Calico Beans is a mix of 3 different types of beans. We're using kidney beans, butter beans, and a can of pork and beans. If you loved my Butter Bean Hummus, you will love seeing these beans again here!
- These beans are much meatier than regular baked beans, since they contain ground beef.
- They're not actually baked--we're using the slow cooker!
These are the exact ingredients I use when making crockpot calico beans, but you can use different beans, if you like. You can customize this by using your favorite barbecue sauce. I'm a Texan, so I lean towards a sweet tomato-based barbecue sauce. I have a feeling that a mustardy Carolina sauce would be great here, as well.
The large white beans you see in the photos are canned butter beans. Here is a simple butter beans recipe if you want to enjoy them on their own. I happen to think they look so eye-catching in this baked Calico beans recipe!
- Ground Beef. One pound of lean (93%) ground beef. This is what makes this baked beans recipe different than most. We're using ground beef and bacon, which makes these beans so hearty and meaty.
- Bacon. Just a half a pound of raw bacon, cut into 1" pieces, also called lardons.
- Onion. One large onion diced finely.
- Kidney Beans. One 15-ounce can kidney beans, either light or dark, your choice! Don't miss all of my kidney bean recipes here.
- Butter Beans. One 15-ounce can of butter beans, drained and rinsed.
- Pork and Beans. We need two 16-ounce cans of pork and beans. Most baked beans recipes start with this ingredient, and that's because it's a delicious base! Speaking of, I have a homemade pork and beans recipe here.
- Brown Sugar. Every baked bean recipe needs some sweetness, and we always reach for brown sugar because molasses is such a classic ingredient with beans.
- Barbecue Sauce. Grab your favorite bottle of barbecue sauce and measure out ¼ cup.
- Seasoned Salt. If you've never had seasoned salt, it's a mix of salt with other spices, like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and celery salt. In its absence, use regular salt and a pinch of paprika.
- Black Pepper.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Anytime we cook a recipe for a long time in the slow cooker, it's a great idea to give it a splash of vinegar to wake it up. Apple cider vinegar is my go-to, but rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar works, too.
How to Make Calico Beans in the Crockpot
This recipe is set up to have the ground beef and bacon sauteed in a large skillet on the stove before the rest of the ingredients appear. Searing off these ingredients makes this crockpot recipe come together in a more delicious way. Don't miss my Crockpot Ham and Beans, if you love slow cooker bean recipes!
If your crockpot allows you to saute, hooray! If not, saute the ground beef and bacon in a large skillet while stirring frequently for about 10-12 minutes. The beef should be completely done and the bacon should have rendered most of its fat.
Next, drain the meat and add it to the bottom of your slow cooker. Using a slotted spoon to move it from the skillet to the crockpot works great here. (If you sautéed the meat directly in the crockpot, use a paper towel to blot and absorb most of the oil). Add the diced onion, drained kidney beans, drained butter beans and undrained pork and beans.
Stir in the brown sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper and vinegar. Place the lid on the crockpot, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
Before serving, give everything a stir and taste before adding more salt or vinegar.
I want you to customize this recipe as much as you like! The meat, the type of beans, and even the sauces can be to your liking.
- Meat - Use ground beef, ground turkey or even ground chicken. I have also used Impossible meat here! Pick your favorite bacon: I like a thick-sliced black pepper-crusted, but select half a pound of your favorite bacon.
- Beans - We're using kidney beans, butter beans, and pork and beans today, but you can use pink beans, red beans, regular white beans, or anything you prefer.
- Barbecue Sauce - The type of barbecue sauce really determines the overall flavor of the beans. Use a Texas-style barbecue sauce (tomato-based with molasses) or a Carolina-inspired one (tangy and mustard-based), or anything you prefer.
We're using our slow cookers today, and I really encourage you to have a crockpot that allows you to saute directly in the pot. This saves you one pan to wash!
If not, just having a slow cooker with a timer is fine, too!
Please be sure to use a modern slow cooker that ensures food is kept at a safe temperature.
If you bring this pot of Calico Beans to a potluck or outdoor picnic, keep it plugged in using the WARM setting on your crockpot. Do not leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods. Even if you re-heat and reboil, it's still not safe.
Yes, I love taking my crockpot calico beans and freezing them flat in individual bags so that they can be enjoyed at a later date. Scoop 2 cups into a quart-sized bag, seal and lay flat. Freeze flat, and then once frozen, stack and store for up to 3 months. Before eating, defrost in the fridge overnight, or place in saute pan and heat on LOW until ready.
More Favorites from Bean Recipes
- 1 pound lean 93% ground beef
- ½ pound bacon, diced
- 1 large onion, small-diced
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can butter beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 16-ounce cans pork and beans, undrained
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1. In a large cast iron skillet, brown the ground beef and bacon over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 10-12 minutes. The beef should be completely done and the bacon should have rendered most of its fat while cooking.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat mixture to the bottom of a 6-quart (8 quart is fine too) slow cooker. Try to drain almost all of the fat before moving the meat to the slow cooker. If you sauteed the meat directly in the crockpot, use a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
3. Add the diced onion, drained kidney beans, drained butter beans, and the 2 cans of pork and beans with all of their juices.
4. Stir in the brown sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper and vinegar. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours (or LOW for 8), and stir before tasting for seasoning.
Serve with cornbread or biscuits.
Meat - You can use ground beef, ground turkey or even ground chicken. I have also used Impossible meat here!
Beans - This recipe calls for a mix of kidney beans, butter beans, and pork and beans today, but you can use pink beans, red beans, regular white beans, or anything you prefer.
Barbecue Sauce - Use your favorite barbecue sauce. A sweeter one will make the beans sweeter, a vinegar-based barbecue sauce will make them tangier.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 617Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 1557mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 14gSugar: 20gProtein: 40g