Look no further for the perfect summer side dish for next potluck or BBQ. These hearty Calico Baked Beans are a jazzed-up version of regular baked beans made with 3 kinds of beans, hamburger & bacon baked in a flavorful sauce.
Baked beans are a staple at many summer BBQ meals. There’s something about them that’s so simple but good. With summer in full swing and the world returning to normal this year, the 4th of July celebrations and other summer parties will hopefully be back in full swing. My favorite kinds of parties are the informal kind with a spread of dishes that you can’t possibly fit all on your plate at once. These parties are meant to be relaxing and foster some great conversation (& grazing) while enjoying the beautiful summer weather.
Beans are loaded with protein & fiber making them a filling & hearty option to serve alongside anything from ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs to even fried fish. Although they make a great side dish for a summer party, these Calico Baked Beans can be enjoyed year-round. I've even served them as a main dish with a side salad or steamed vegetable.
What Are Calico Baked Beans?
I’m not a vet, but I can assume the term Calico Beans references the various spots of color found on a calico cat. Not the most appetizing reference, but here we are. Each bean brings a different color & shape to the dish. The three kinds of beans used in Calico Baked Beans are:
- Pork & beans in tomato sauce
- Kidney beans – light or dark red will work fine
- Butter beans – these are the large, white, round beans that are a signature in Calico Baked Beans
These beans are combined with a hamburger & bacon in a flavorful brown sugar sauce. The sauce is flavored with ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire & spices and is balanced out by the molasses and brown sugar. The sweetness creates the perfect balance to this rich side dish that is cooked long & slow in the oven.
How To Make Calico Baked Beans
First, cut the bacon into pieces and fry in a skillet until crispy. Place bacon a paper towel to drain. Reserve a little of the bacon grease in the skillet to cook the hamburger. I would say about a tablespoon or two and drain the rest. Let’s be honest, anything cooked in bacon grease is good so having some left to cook the hamburger and onion in is a wonderful thing. Anyone else’s grandparents have a can of leftover bacon grease next to the stove top? This stuff is like gold!
Add the hamburger to the skillet over medium high heat and season with salt & pepper. Once browned, add the chopped onion and cook until the hamburger is fully cooked, and the onions are translucent.
Place the hamburger and onion in a large mixing bowl with the pork & beans, the drained kidney and butter beans, bacon and the rest of the sauce ingredients. The only beans you don’t want to drain are the pork & beans. Their sauce has some extra flavor and will give the Calico Baked Beans just enough liquid. Give everything a good stir to combine.
Bake the Calico Baked Beans uncovered at 325 degrees for 90 minutes, stirring about every 30 minutes. Cooking these beans long and slow allows the flavor to really meld together and the sauce to thicken. Serve them hot!
Can They Be Made Ahead of Time?
Yes! Another wonderful thing about these Calico Baked Beans is that they reheat beautifully. They are one of those dishes that are almost better the next day. The sauce continues to soak into the beans, deepening the rich flavor. To reheat, place the pan covered with foil in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes until heated through. Leftovers can also be enjoyed for 3-4 days after making them. I would not recommend freezing them as the texture will become mushy after they are thawed and reheated.
Can I Make Calico Baked Beans In A Slow Cooker?
Another yes! This is another versatile way to make these beans to serve at a party where you can keep them warm for a few hours. Repeat the same steps as you would making them in the oven except throw everything into the slow cooker instead of the baking dish. Cook them on LOW for 4-5 hours or HIGH for 2-3 hours and keep them on the warm setting for a few hours during your party. The sauce will not thicken as much in the slow cooker, but the flavor will remain the same!
Can I Make A Double Batch?
Affirmative! I couldn’t just say yes again. This recipe will scale nicely, making it perfect to feed any size crowd. The only issue you need to solve is finding a pan big enough to hold them. The beans could definitely be split into multiple pans or even cooked in a roasting pan.
Other popular side dishes:
Calico Baked Beans
- 8 slices bacon
- 1 # ground beef
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ white or yellow onion chopped
- 2 - 16 oz. cans pork & beans
- 1 - 16 oz. can kidney beans drained
- 1 - 16 oz. can butter beans drained
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp. yellow mustard
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp. molasses
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Cut bacon slices into small pieces. Add to a skillet over medium high heat and cook until bacon is crispy. Place bacon on a paper towel and drain all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the skillet.
- Place ground beef in the skillet and season with salt & pepper. Break apart and brown over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and continue cooking until beef is no longer pink and onions are translucent.
- In a large mixing bowl add undrained pork & beans, drained kidney beans and drained butter beans. Add hamburger mixture and bacon.
- In a small bowl combine ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar & Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and combine with beans.
- Pour Calico Baked Beans into a 9X13 baking dish. Bake uncovered for 90 minutes, stirring every 30 until the sauce has thickened. Serve warm.