calico beans recipe

Hey there, fellow foodie! If you’re looking for a hearty and flavorful dish that’s perfect for potlucks or family gatherings, then you’re in the right place. Today, we’re gonna talk about one of my favorite recipes that never fails to impress anyone – calico beans.

Calico Beans Recipe

This wholesome dish is the ultimate comfort food that’s packed with protein and fiber, thanks to its combination of three different beans and ground beef. But what sets calico beans apart from other beef and bean recipes is its sweet and tangy sauce, which features an enticing blend of molasses, ketchup, and mustard. Trust me, your taste buds are in for a treat.

Delicious Calico Beans Recipe for Every Occasion

If you’re looking for a hearty and flavorful dish to serve on any occasion, calico beans is the perfect recipe to try. This classic Midwestern dish is made up of a variety of beans, ground beef, and bacon in a sweet and tangy sauce. It’s easy to make and can serve a crowd, making it an ideal option for potlucks or family gatherings. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at calico beans, including its ingredients, preparation and cooking time, and variations you can try.

What are Calico Beans?

As mentioned earlier, calico beans are a popular Midwestern dish that combines multiple varieties of beans with ground beef, bacon, and a sweet and tangy sauce. The name “calico” comes from the colorful variety of beans used in the dish, which includes kidney, lima, and pinto beans. In addition to the beans, the dish includes other essential ingredients such as onions, green peppers, and tomato sauce, which adds to its flavor and texture.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pork and beans, undrained

Preparation and Cooking Time

Preparing calico beans is relatively easy and takes about 15 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook. Follow the instructions below to make this flavorful dish.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy over medium-high heat.
  3. Add ground beef into the skillet and cook until browned.
  4. Next, add the chopped onions and green peppers and cook until they become tender.
  5. In a bowl, mix the ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce together.
  6. Add the mixed sauce into the skillet and stir to coat the ingredients evenly.
  7. Finally, add the cans of beans and mix well together.
  8. Transfer the mixture into a large baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbly on the top.

Once out of the oven, let the dish cool for a few minutes before serving. You can also add some shredded cheddar cheese on top of the beans to make them more flavorful and gooey.

Variations and Add-ons

There are endless variations you can try with calico beans to make it more unique and personalized. You can add in other ingredients such as corn, diced tomatoes, or even hot sauce to give it a spicy kick. You can also experiment with different types of beans, such as garbanzo, black beans, or navy beans. You can also swap the ground beef for ground turkey or chicken to make it a healthier option. Furthermore, if you prefer a vegetarian version, you can omit the meat altogether and replace it with mushroom or tofu for added protein.

In conclusion, calico beans are a versatile, flavorful, and easy-to-make dish that can serve a crowd. With the variety of beans, ground beef, and bacon in a sweet and tangy sauce, it’s no wonder why it’s a classic Midwestern recipe. Follow the steps outlined in this article to make your version of calico beans, or experiment with different ingredients to make it your own.

Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Calico Beans Recipe

Choosing The Right Beans

Choosing the perfect type of beans for your calico beans recipe is crucial in achieving its ideal taste and texture. The traditional recipe calls for three types of beans: kidney beans, butter beans, and pinto beans. However, you can always experiment with other types of beans, such as black beans, navy beans, or cannellini beans.

When selecting the beans, it’s essential to choose the ones that are fresh, plump, and unblemished. Canned beans can be an excellent alternative to fresh ones, but make sure to drain and rinse them thoroughly before using.

The Perfect Ratio and Consistency

Getting the right consistency for the calico beans is key to this recipe’s success. It’s essential to have the perfect ratio of beans to liquid ingredients, such as broth, tomato sauce, and ketchup. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a 3:1 ration, with three parts of beans and a part of liquid.

It’s also crucial to balance the sweetness and acidity of the beans. Adding brown sugar or molasses can elevate the sweetness levels, while vinegar or Worcestershire sauce can add a tangy flavor to the dish. Adjust the seasoning, salt, and pepper according to your preference.

Storage and Reheating Tips

Calico beans are a hearty dish, and storing the leftovers is a fantastic way to enjoy it for several days. When storing, wait for the dish to cool down before transferring it to an airtight container. Ensure that the container has a tight-fitting lid to prevent air from seeping in and spoiling the dish.

Calico beans will last for up to four days in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer. To reheat, transfer the beans to a microwave-safe dish and heat for two minutes, stirring the contents halfway through for even heating. Alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 350F and bake the dish in a baking dish covered with foil for about 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.

In conclusion, making the perfect calico beans recipe requires attention to detail, right ratios, and consistency. Choosing the right beans, balancing the sweetness and acidity, and storing it correctly can help ensure you create a delicious and unforgettable dish. With these tips and tricks, you’re well on your way to making the perfect calico beans for yourself and your loved ones!

The Best Occasions to Serve Calico Beans

Perfect for Potluck and BBQ Parties

Calico beans are a versatile and crowd-pleasing dish that is perfect for potluck and BBQ parties, where guests bring and share different dishes. These beans can be served as a side dish alongside grilled meats, burgers, hot dogs, and more. Their tangy and savory flavor compliments the charred and smoky taste of the grilled food.

One of the best things about calico beans is that they are very filling, thanks to their high fiber and protein content. They are also a hearty meal that can satisfy the hunger of guests of all ages and dietary restrictions. Plus, they can be served hot or at room temperature, making them ideal for outdoor parties where the food needs to stay fresh for a longer time.

Comfort Food for the Cold Weather

Calico beans are perfect for cold winter days when you crave hot and comforting food. A warm bowl of these baked beans can turn a gloomy day into a cozy and satisfying one. The beans release their flavors slowly as they cook, resulting in a rich and complex taste. You can also add some smoked ham, bacon, or sausage to the recipe to give it an extra layer of taste.

Furthermore, these beans are easy to prepare and can be made in a big batch for meal prepping and freezing. You can reheat them in the microwave or oven whenever you crave a warm and healthy meal that is also budget-friendly.

Quick and Easy Meal for Busy Days

If you are short on time but still want to have a nutritious and delicious meal, then calico beans are the solution. These beans can be made in a jiffy using cans of mixed beans, canned tomatoes, and a few spices. You can also add vegetables such as bell pepper, onion, and celery to the recipe to boost its fiber and flavor. As a result, you will have a one-pot meal that is low in fat and high in fiber and protein.

Moreover, calico beans can be customized to suit your taste preferences. You can adjust the level of sweetness, acidity, and spiciness of the dish to your liking by adding more sugar, vinegar, or hot sauce. You can also substitute the ground beef with ground turkey or chicken to reduce the calorie count. Finally, you can serve the beans with a side of cornbread, biscuits, or rice to complete the meal.

In conclusion, calico beans are an all-time favorite dish that can be enjoyed on different occasions and for different reasons. Whether you serve them at a potluck, a winter party, or a busy weekday, these beans are guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds and fill you up with energy and nutrients. So, next time you are looking for a versatile and tasty meal, remember to give calico beans a try!

Thank You for Trying Our Calico Beans Recipe!

We hope you enjoyed making and tasting our calico beans recipe! It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for potlucks, picnics, and family gatherings. We’re glad that we were able to provide you with a recipe that’s easy to follow and delicious.

If you’re looking for other recipes to try, be sure to come back and check out our site again. We’ll be updating it regularly with new recipes and other culinary adventures. You can also share your experience making our calico beans recipe with your friends and family. They might be interested in trying it out for themselves!

Once again, thank you for giving our calico beans recipe a shot. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you again soon!


1. Can I use canned beans for this recipe?

Yes, you can use canned beans for this recipe. Just be sure to drain and rinse them before using.

2. Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this recipe ahead of time and reheat it when you’re ready to serve.

3. Can I freeze the leftovers?

Yes, you can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container.

4. Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?

Yes, you can use ground turkey instead of ground beef. It’ll still taste delicious!

5. Can I add more or less spice to this recipe?

Yes, you can adjust the spice level to your liking. Add more or less chili powder depending on your preference.

6. Can I top this recipe with cheese?

Yes, you can top this recipe with shredded cheese before serving.

7. Can I make this recipe in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can make this recipe in a slow cooker. Just cook it on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

8. Can I use different types of beans in this recipe?

Yes, you can use different types of beans in this recipe. Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite.

9. Can I serve this recipe with rice?

Yes, you can serve this recipe with rice. It’ll make for a hearty and satisfying meal.

10. Can I use bacon instead of sausage?

Yes, you can use bacon instead of sausage. Just be sure to cook it first before adding it to the recipe.

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About the Author: David Dunlap

Worked in restaurants for years before turning to food writing and has won multiple awards for the work, including more than a dozen awards.

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