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Mom’s Calico Beans – Three Cooking Methods

Tasty and healthy Calico Beans just like mom used to make! But um, with way less sugar and more healthy ingredients. You’ll be the hit of the next BBQ or picnic with this hearty side. Use your crockpot, Instant Pot, or bake this comfort food dish in the oven.

Three bowls of calico beans on a wooden board with spoons and a green cloth

My mom had three dishes that she was asked to make and bring to events. Nordy Bars when a dessert was needed, green bean casserole at Thanksgiving and Christmas (all the nopes), and “Barb’s Beans”.

Barb’s Beans were a mix of hamburger, spices, and beans all put together in her old crockpot. A crockpot so ancient that it made my firefighter husband nervous any time it was being used. I mean, I think it has a cloth cord.

Truth be told I was never a huge fan of the beans. They were overly sweet and didn’t have much texture to them.

When my mom passed away, I spent some time in her old avocado green Tupperware recipe box. I found out that the beans were actually my grandma’s recipe, and they had 1 cup of brown sugar in there! That explains the dessert bean flavor vibe they were always giving off to me.

I have remade the recipe to my own tastes and preferences. Gone are the canned beans (though details below will also note canned bean instructions if that is what you want to use) and allllllllll that sugar. In their place are real food ingredients. And bacon. All the bacon. But…actually a lot less bacon and meat than was originally called for.

The result is still a giant bowl full of comfort and happiness that tastes like childhood BBQs.

What Ingredients Are In Calico Beans?

bowls of ingredients for calico beans

Beans! I know, right? Shocking.

Kidney, navy, and lima beans are all used in calico beans. Do you get sketched out by the idea of lima beans? Call them butter beans instead and it sounds much better. Cause they are the same damn thing.

Butter beans are lima beans with a better marketing department.

My grandma’s recipe called for a can of pork and beans. I went ahead and skipped that and did my own thing. #rebel.

Well-behaved women rarely make history.

You also have bacon, hamburger (or sausage which is what I used), onion, molasses, tomato paste (not the 1 cup of ketchup my grandma’s recipe called for), apple cider vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire, chicken stock (related: make your own chicken stock), honey, and smoked paprika. Of course, there is smoked paprika.

Many calico bean recipes don’t have a lot of broth in them. This one has more liquid than a traditional recipe because that is how my mom and grandma made them. If you want something a bit thicker, reduce the stock to 1 cup.

Let’s Talk Beans:

If you don’t want to use canned beans, here are three different ways to make your own at home.

Pro Tip: If you find yourself using beans in many recipes, make a big batch and freeze them in pint wide-mouth mason jars. Leave 1 inch of headspace (space between the top of the food and the top of the jar) to allow for the beans to expand while freezing. One pint of beans equals one can of store-bought beans. Boom. Now you’re a frugal and healthy food genius.

Unless noted below (Instant Pot) you will want to soak your beans in water for 12-24 hours prior to cooking them. Also, the measurements for all three types of beans is 3/4 cup dried (EACH kind of bean) and you’ll want to use 10 cups of water (TOTAL).

Slow Cooker:

  • Place beans in the crock and cover with water.
  • Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8.

Instant Pot:

No need to soak your beans my friends!  

  • Place the beans in the pot and cover with water.
  • Secure the lid, flip the vent to “sealing”>manual>high pressure>20 minutes.
  • Allow for a 20-minute natural release and then do a quick release (vent to “venting”) if there is still any pressure in the pot.

Stove Top:

  • Place beans in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Reduce the temp to low and cover the pot with a lid half-way allowing half of the beans to be exposed.
  • Cook for 1 hour and test for doneness.

Here’s How to Make It:

Instant Pot and the oven method are below in the printable recipe card.

Slow Cooker:

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the ground sausage or hamburger on medium heat until done.
  2. Remove from pan and place in the slow cooker. Drain any grease.
  3. Cook the bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove from pan and place in the slow cooker. Drain all but 1 tsp grease.
  4. Cook the onions on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Place in slow cooker.Process shots for making calico beans
  5. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine.Steps for making calico beans
  6. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or 3-4 on low.Process shots for making calico beans

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes:

  • Need to make more or less of the recipe? Click and slide the “servings” number on the recipe card and the ingredients will adjust as needed. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
  • If you make the beans ahead of time store them in the fridge if they’ll need to sit out longer than a few hours.
  • Beans made ahead of time may seem like they’re so soft when you add them with the rest of the ingredients. It’s going to be fine and you won’t crush them. They’re hearty little fart bombs.
  • Want to make this vegetarian? Leave out the sausage/burger, bacon, Worcestershire, and chicken stock. Replace with veggie stock and increase each type of bean by 2 tbsp.
  • Want to make this vegan? Leave out the sausage/burger, bacon, Worcestershire, chicken stock, and honey. Replace with veggie stock and brown sugar (related: try homemade brown sugar).Two bowls of calico beans on a wooden board

More Rockin BBQ Sides:

Making this recipe or others?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #sustainablecooks. I can't wait to see your take on it!

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5 from 1 vote
Mom's Calico Beans
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

Tasty and healthy Calico Beans just like mom used to make! But um, with way less sugar and more healthy ingredients. 

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: BBQ or potluck side dish, Calico beans, crockpot baked beans
Servings: 15
Calories: 143 kcal
Author: Sarah Cook - Sustainable Cooks
Ingredients
  • 2 cups navy beans cooked
  • 2 cups kidney beans cooked
  • 2 cups butter (lima) beans cooked
  • 4 strips bacon diced
  • 1/4 lb ground sausage or hamburger
  • 1/2 cup onion diced
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 21 oz chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Instructions
Slow Cooker:
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the ground sausage or hamburger on medium heat until done.

  2. Remove from pan and place in the slow cooker. Drain any grease.

  3. Cook the bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove from pan and place in the slow cooker. Drain all but 1 tsp grease.

  4. Cook the onions on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Place in slow cooker.

  5. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

  6. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or 3-4 on low.

Oven:
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the ground sausage or hamburger on medium heat until done.

  2. Remove from pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Drain any grease.

  3. Cook the bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove from pan and place in the bowl. Drain all but 1 tsp grease.

  4. Cook the onions on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Place in bowl.

  5. Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.

  6. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Instant Pot:
  1. Turn the Instant Pot to Saute and add the ground sausage. Cook until done.

  2. Remove from Instant Pot and set aside. Drain any grease.

  3. Cook the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and place with the sausage. Drain all but 1 tsp grease.

  4. Cook the onions on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Place in bowl.

  5. Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.

  6. Cook on saute for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Recipe Notes

If you want to use canned beans use 1 15 oz can for each type of bean.

 

If you make the beans ahead of time store them in the fridge if they'll need to sit out longer than a few hours.

 

Technically you could cook the bacon and ground sausage/beef together, but I find the bacon doesn't get crispy enough when doing it like that.

 

Beans made ahead of time may seem like they're so soft when you add them with the rest of the ingredients. It's going to be fine and you won't crush them. They're hearty little fart bombs.

 

Want to make this vegetarian? Leave out the sausage/burger, bacon, Worcestershire, and chicken stock. Replace with veggie stock and increase each type of bean by 2 tbsp.

 

To make it vegan, also leave out the brown sugar.

Nutrition Facts
Mom's Calico Beans
Amount Per Serving
Calories 143 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 255mg 11%
Potassium 405mg 12%
Total Carbohydrates 19g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 11g
Protein 5g 10%
Vitamin A 4.2%
Vitamin C 3.9%
Calcium 3%
Iron 8.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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A tasty and healthy calico bean recipe just like mom used to make! You'll be the hit of the next BBQ or picnic with this hearty side. Use your crockpot, Instant Pot, or bake this comfort food dish in the oven. #sustainablecooks #calicobeans #bakedbeans #cowboybeans #beans #sidedish #easyrecipes

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4 comments on “Mom’s Calico Beans – Three Cooking Methods”

  1. I know this question is off topic, but do you not like green bean casserole?!

    • I find it reeeeeeevolting! I hate overcooked green beans and it has a bunch of mayo in it right? Or maybe cream of mushroom soup? I know I hate it because of the sauce so it is one of those two.

      But the fried onions? I’ll eat the shit out of them.

  2. Made these last weekend when my folks were in town – Dad was in charge of groceries, so we added extra bacon! 🙂 The beans were freaking delicious, and even better as leftovers. We had some for breakfast the next morning – breakfast of champions.

    • So glad you liked them Sydnie, and it is hard to argue with extra bacon.

      Did you eat them on toast for breakfast? I know that is a thing but something I haven’t ever tried.