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Cowboy Beans

Cowboy beans, according to Lisa Fain in the book The Homesick Texan’s Family Table, is a dish that is “a popular staple in Texas.” It is also popular in the southwestern US. It is a dish with a sweet and tangy sauce.

Cowboy Beans Trivia

  • If you want to make authentic Texas cowboy beans, consider the advice of Richard Hosking, in the book Authenticity in the Kitchen: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2005: “Regardless of these variations, everyone agrees that authentic Texas ‘cowboy beans’ must be made with pinto beans (although similarly shaped red beans are permitted in a pinch).”
  • Other terms for cowboy beans are barbecue beans, ranch beans, ranch-style beans, chuckwagon beans, and Texas-style pinto beans.
  • Cowboy beans are also called Frijoles Charros. Charros originally referred to horsemen in Mexico, but according to Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann, in the book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, Revised and Expanded, the word charros was also used later to describe the “Mexican cowboys who settled and worked in Texas.” They also described Frijoles Charros as “the cowboy beans of the American southwest.”

Cowboy Beans Buying Guide

  • You can buy ready-to-eat cowboy beans in the supermarket, grocery store, farmers’ market, food stalls, or food trucks specializing in Texas comfort food.
  • When buying ready-to-eat cowboy beans, check the packaging for any damage like holes, dents, or a tear that could compromise the integrity of the food inside. Damaged packaging makes the item’s food safety questionable, making it inadvisable to purchase and consume.
  • When buying from a restaurant, food stall, or food truck, ask if the cowboy beans are spicy or not. You can also inquire regarding the ingredients used in making cowboy beans if you are avoiding specific ingredients for medical, dietary, or other personal reasons.
  • Cowboy beans is a side dish, and it is very filling, so make sure to order enough that you can finish to avoid any leftovers which will be disposed of by the restaurant, contributing to the growing problem of food wastage. If the serving is too much for you, try to share it with others.

Cowboy Beans Production & Farming in Texas

Cowboy beans are very popular in Texas. It is a common side dish in many Texas restaurants. Here are some of the restaurants where you can order cowboy beans.

Burnt Bean Company in Seguin

Cattleman’s Steakhouse At Indian Cliffs Ranch in Fabens

Chute 4 Rodeo Foods in Waco

Dosey Doe Breakfast, BBQ & Whiskey Bar in The Woodlands

Jaxon Beer Garden in Dallas

North 40 Feedlot in Hamlin

Prairie House Restaurant in Cross Roads

Texas Cowboy BBQ in Abilene

The Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery in Amarillo

Windmill Café on the Square in Frankston

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals

A brand of cowboy beans contains sodium nitrite and modified starch additives.

Other additives that may be found in ready-to-eat cowboy beans include any of the following:

Autolyzed yeast extract
Citric acid
Disodium guanylate
Disodium inosinate
Modified food starch
Silicon dioxide
Sodium erythorbate
Sodium phosphate

In terms of additives to the original ingredients, it is not uncommon to find modern versions of cowboy beans loaded with a lot of other new ingredients. Urvashi Pitre, in the book Instant Pot Fast & Easy: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes, explained that “Mexican-style frijoles charros, or cowboy beans, don’t ask for much in the way of ingredients—but deliver great flavor with just some basic pantry staples. Feel free to add ham, chorizo, pork sausage, and other meats to the pot.”


Frijoles charros is a traditional Mexican dish. There are food historians who believe that the Texas cowboy beans originated from frijoles charros, which was brought to Texas by Mexican travelers. Daniel Hoyer, in the book Culinary Mexico: Authentic Recipes and Traditions, wrote: “Frijoles charros or cowboy beans are served throughout Mexico. This version comes from the highlands around Guadalajara, the home of the original charros, consummate horsemen and lasso artists who wear the formal clothing and large hats associated with Mariachi.”

Marilyn Tausend and Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, who wrote an article about frijoles charros / cowboy beans in the book La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine, explained that it originated in Jalisco and that this dish is popular in Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and Jalisco.

According to Steffan Igor Ayora Díaz, in the book Foodscapes, Foodfields, and Identities in Yucatán, “Yucatecans have several versions of cowboy beans (frijoles charros) and pozole, both originally Mexican highland recipes.”

In many parts of the world where pinto beans are consumed, there is a local dish that is similar to cowboy beans.

Cowboy beans have gained followers outside of Texas, like in Miami, Florida.


Cowboy beans is sold in sealed or resealable polypropylene or plastic packs/containers. You’ll find homemade cowboy beans sold in farmers’ markets in plastic food containers or glass jars. You can also find canned cowboy beans.

Enjoying Cowboy Beans

The book Coleman The Outdoor Adventure Cookbook describes cowboy bean as “a traditional Mexican dish made with pinto beans, bacon, garlic, and onions. It has a soupier consistency.”

A bowl of cowboy beans is good enough for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. “A big pot of these cowboy beans, aka frijoles charros, is a lovely way to end a day outdoors” (from the book Fresh Veggie BBQ: All-Natural & Delicious Recipes). All you need is a “big pan of cornbread and a tall glass of iced tea” to make cowboy beans “a quick and easy dinner” according to the book Game-Day Fan Fare. Tom T. Traywick, in the book Magnolia Elegy: Place In the Edisto Fork, believes that cowboy beans “are best served with smoked brisket, sausage and ribs; coleslaw, fresh raw jalapeños, sliced onion, cornbread, and Shiner Bock.”

A bowl of cowboy beans is real comfort food, especially for those who grew up cooking homecooked cowboy beans using the family recipe. A warm bowl of cowboy beans is great during cold weather, but it is also an amazing food even during warm weather.


You can store leftover cowboy beans. It will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator and at least six months in the freezer. Make sure you use a food container with a lid and make sure the container is secured before storing it in the refrigerator or freezer so that it does not absorb the odor of other items in the refrigerator or freezer.


In the book Magnolia Elegy: Place In the Edisto Fork, Tom T. Traywick explains that cowboy beans can be cooked in a variety of cooking methods; “in a large crock pot, in a Dutch oven on the stove, in the over, over coals, or on the smoker.”  There are two ways of cooking cowboy beans: you can cook it for longer and have soft beans, while a shorter cooking time gives you firm beans. Cowboy beans are not spicy by default, although it is not uncommon to find cowboy beans cooked with dried chilies and chili powder.

Today, it is cooked like a stew or baked. It is not uncommon to use canned ingredients as well as ingredients unavailable to cowboys before, like ketchup or barbecue sauce. There are versions of cowboy beans today with new surprising ingredients.  Edgar Castrejón, in the book Provecho: 100 Vegan Mexican Recipes to Celebrate Culture and Community, wrote: “I really liked cowboy beans when I was growing up, even if back then I was removing the chunks of sausage and bacon. Now I make frijoles charros with shiitake mushrooms and vegan sausage.”

Nutritional Benefits

The basic ingredients of cowboy beans are pinto beans, pork or bacon, onions, salt, and black pepper.

Pinto beans – Pinto beans provide the body with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and thiamine). Pinto beans are also rich in antioxidants. Pinto beans promote digestive health and heart health. Pinto beans help reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of cancer, reduce the risk of stroke, and at the same time improve blood sugar regulation and assist in managing weight loss.

Pork / Bacon – In moderate, healthy amounts, pork is beneficial to the body. It is a good source of fat and protein. Pork also has iron, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and zinc. It has creatine for muscle build-up and taurine for heart and muscle function.

Onions – Onions contain antioxidants, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds. Onion also has antibacterial properties. Onions help maintain heart health and digestive health. It also helps the body control the blood sugar level as well as promotes bone density.

Salt – Taken in healthy amounts, salt can be beneficial to the body. It prevents iodine deficiency and helps in oral rehydration. Salt helps in cardiovascular health and in managing diabetes. Salt also helps prevent hyponatremia and promotes oral hygiene.

Black pepper – Black pepper contains vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Black pepper also has calcium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Black pepper is good for digestion and intestinal health. Your immune system will also benefit from a diet that includes black pepper.



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