What Are Vegetarian Cowboy Beans? Delicious!

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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My daughter’s school was having a pioneer history week and the firts grade kids were all excited. Every time I saw my daugher she had little tidbits of information that had captured her imagination that she would share with me. At school they made a large covered wagon and they learned about the Oregon trail and about life on the wagon. Albeit a Eurocentric view that troubled me, I was pleased to see her enjoying school so much and reading all about the Westward expansion. I shared the story of Lewis and Clark and watched an animated version of the “Song of Sacajawea” with bated breath.

A little bit of research told me that what passes for cowboy beans today with ketchup and barbecue sauce and ground beef, could not be anything like the wagon train food. They must have used dried beans and available ingredients which surely changed as the journey progressed.

So how about just an onion, some dried oregano, sage and black pepper, chilli flakes and a jalapeño?

I cheated and used a large helping of diced tomatoes.

My daughter came home beaming that day and said that the beans were the “best” and all her friends liked them. I beamed too and squeezed her little hand in mine as we walked to the car with a skip in our steps.

Vegetarian Cowboy Beans


  • Cooked Beans – 4 cups of any kind of beans
  • Chopped Sweet Onions – 1 large
  • Canola Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Chilli Flakes – 1/4 tsp
  • Dried herbs – oregano, basil, sage – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt and pepper – to taste
  • Diced tomatoes, can/fresh – 2 cups
  • diced Jalapeño – 1 ts
  • Ground cumin – 1/2 tsp


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot or skillet and add the onion, chilli flakes and herbs and spices after the onions clear.
  2. Add jalapeño and then the tomato and cooked beans. Use pinto or kidney or black beans or a mix of types. If using dried beans, soak them in water over night and cook till tender in a pressure cooker ( about 8 – 10 minutes).
  3. Simmer for 15 minute sor longer till the beans are tender but not mushy.
  4. Garnish with fresh cilantro
  5. Serve with corn bread, corn muffins, tacos or burritos.