barbecue cowboy beans

cowboy beans 7

I feel like I should wait and do a comparison post with this recipe, because I have a friend who makes some seriously good cowboy beans. Hers are full of meat with a dominant sweet flavor. They’re always one of my favorite dishes on the potluck table.

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For my own version though, I wanted something lighter to serve as a side dish to barbecued ribs. When you’re spending hours cooking big slabs of meat, you don’t really need ground beef in your side dish. A few slices of bacon provide plenty of meaty depth, combined with sweet-bitter molasses and a slew of acidic ingredients like ketchup and beer.

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To be honest, I’m not sure what makes a pot of beans “cowboy” instead of just “baked.” A lot of recipes contain ground meat, but not all of them. This is the only one with spicy chiles. But honestly, I don’t much care. What matters most is that these are perfect along barbecued meat, and if I want a chile-less, meatier version, I can have that too.

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One year ago: Grilled Pita Breads
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Bagels
Three years ago: Amaretto Cheesecake
Four years ago: Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream

Printer Friendly Recipe
Barbecue Cowboy Beans (adapted from Something Edible)

Serves 6

If you don’t want to buy two kinds of beans, feel free to choose one or the other.

I didn’t use the liquid smoke because I didn’t have any, so I can’t attest to how it affects the beans. I doubt adding smoky flavor would be a bad thing though.

6 ounces (about 1 cup) dry pinto beans, rinsed and sorted
2 ounces (about ⅓ cup) dry kidney beans
6 slices (about 6 ounces) bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon allspice ground
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup beer
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chiles
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the beans and 1 teaspoon salt in a 5-quart Dutch oven; add enough water to cover the beans by 1½ inches. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 75 minutes, until the beans are tender. Drain the beans. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

2. Add the bacon to the now-empty Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until fat begins to render, 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, allspice, coriander, black pepper, and mustard; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot to release the browned bits. Add the tomatoes and chiles with their juice, the ketchup, molasses, cider vinegar, liquid smoke (if using), and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

3. Cover and transfer the beans to the oven. Bake for 4 hours. Serve.

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  1. oh those look yummy… starting a vacation today, will undoubtedly make these within the next week before its over. How’d the ribs turn out this time?

  2. bridget says:

    matt – These are the same ribs as in the spareribs post; it just took me a lot longer to get this recipe posted!

  3. I wondered if that might be the case 🙂 – if I get these in by the end of the week (looking like I will), I’ll let you know how they turned out. They look fantastic…

  4. okay, all done. well, sort of. I don’t have an honest-to-goodness dutch oven, so I used my calphalon (tri-ply) 7 quart with a lid on it. Turns out it doesn’t hold moisture as well as a dutch oven, so 3 hours into the 4 hour cooking session, I ran out of moisture, and dun started burning beans. Promptly removed from the oven, and salvaged most of the beans. The ones that made it (probably 70-80% of them) are amazing – I’m definitely making this again in the future. And fair warning to others – these have some kick to them 😀 – I loved it, but it caught a few other’s pallets by surprise. Now to keep them reasonably warm while the ribs finish… another half hour to an hour before they’re done. corn too.

    at least the watermelon is ready right now 🙂

    Anyhew, fantastic recipe, thanks for sharing. Next time I’ll add a little more liquid to account for not using a real dutch oven…

  5. bridget says:

    matt – I used a 5-quart Dutch oven, so it might also have been the increased surface area of the 7-quart that led to them drying out faster. Mine were a bit on the dry side too though, so maybe adding a half-cup or so of water before baking is in order. As for the spice, I think Ro-tel has hot and mild options; I used mild, but maybe you used hot? I don’t remember the being very spicy.

  6. not sure what did it, but there was a lot of kick there 🙂 – my can is already gone and away, so I can’t see if I had the hot ones or not. Regardless, it was tasty – and I’d make them the same level of spiciness again (if I knew how I did it :P), though I will try to avoid the burning part. Pan is a bit of a bugger to clean.

    Time to digest… and figure out what I should try next weekend 🙂

  7. This isn’t Gluten Free if it has beer in it.. What could be subsituted for beer?

  8. bridget says:

    Emma – That’s a good point. Can you get gluten-free beer? I live in a pretty small town with limited grocery options, and we can get it here. Otherwise, the recipe I adapted this from uses applesauce instead of beer.