This easy and hearty recipe for Texas Cowboy Stew is sure to become a family favorite! Made with simple staple ingredients like potatoes, beans, and corn, this old-fashioned Cowboy-inspired soup fills hungry bellies - fast and on a budget.
If you're looking for the perfect comfort food that's also hearty, filling, and budget-friendly, you need to try this classic Cowboy Stew recipe.
Cowboy stew was originally a way for hungry folks to easily pull a hearty meal together over a campfire. This makes it the perfect fit for the average busy family, who are often overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life and have little time for meal preparation.
Made with ground beef, sausage, bacon, beans, and veggies in a savory broth, this recipe is a way to make the most of the ingredients you already have on hand.
Reasons to Love This Recipe:
- One-pot meal. Everything is prepared in one soup pot - no mixing bowls needed and minimal cleanup required.
- Filling. Thanks to the three kinds of meat, and fiber and protein-packed beans, this comforting dish is also incredibly satisfying.
- Perfect for a busy day. Because of the simple ingredients and simple preparation, this easy cowboy stew recipe is easy enough for even busy weeknights.
- Easy to customize. It's easy to swap out the ingredients for those you already have on hand.
- Ground beef: I recommend using a lean ground beef for this recipe, as the excess grease will be drained off. So the less fat, the better!
- Smoked sausage: You can use whatever type of smoked sausage you like best. I used beef sausage, but you could use pork or kielbasa sausage. Just make sure it is smoked and precooked.
- Bacon: To add some smokiness and delicious flavor, you'll cook 4 slices of chopped bacon until crispy. Make sure to reserve about 1 tablespoon of drippings for cooking the onions.
- Potatoes: Russet potatoes work best for this cowboy stew recipe, because their starchy texture helps to thicken the stew as it cooks. You could swap russets for white, red, or Yukon Gold potatoes if desired.
- Aromatics: You'll also need some chopped onion and minced garlic.
- Broth: I recommend using beef broth. Different brands have different amounts of salt, so if you tend to like less salt try the low-sodium version and add salt to taste.
- Diced tomatoes: You can use any type of diced tomatoes you like best. I really like fire-roasted ones for extra flavor!
- Beans: Both black beans and red kidney beans are added to this hearty ground beef stew - just make sure to drain the cans first!
- Corn: You'll need about 1 ½ cups of corn, which is about 1 can (15oz) of whole kernel corn. OR you could use frozen sweet corn if preferred.
- Seasonings: Cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Cowboy stew isn't spicy, so if you want to add some heat try sprinkling in some cayenne or other favorite Southwestern spices.
- Large pot: You'll need a pot that is large enough to hold at least 6 quarts (24 cups/6 litres). I like to use a stock pot or a large dutch oven.
Step one: Using 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon drippings from cooking the bacon, add the diced onion and cook until softened (about 4 minutes.
Step two: Add the garlic, then the ground beef. Cook until browned, then drain any excess grease.
Step three: Add in the sliced sausage, bacon, and seasonings (cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper). Stir well to combine.
Step four: Pour in the tomatoes and beef broth, deglazing the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Then add in the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes.
Step five: Once the potatoes are tender, add in the black beans, red kidney beans, and corn. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until heated through.
Step six: Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking, then ladle into bowls and serve with chopped parsley, if desired.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Use the "saute" mode to cook both the bacon and ground beef (with onions and garlic). Drain off any excess grease.
- Add in the canned tomatoes and beef broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Add in the sliced smoked sausage, bacon, potatoes, and seasonings.
- Cook on manual pressure for 5 minutes, then do a quick pressure release.
- Stir in the beans and corn, and switch into the "saute" mode.
- Once the stew is simmering, allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the beans and corn are warmed through.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking, then ladle into bowls and serve.
Slow Cooker Instructions
- Cook the bacon until crisp, and brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Drain.
- Transfer the cooked ground beef to a slow cooker, along with sliced smoked sausage, seasonings, tomatoes, beef broth, and potatoes.
- Cook on "low" for 5-6 hours, or on "high" for 3-4 hours.
- Add the beans and corn during the last hour of cooking.
- Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking, then ladle into bowls and serve.
Storing and Freezing
- Refrigerator: Cool your Cowboy Stew to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container. Store it in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until the soup has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74ºC).
- Freezer: Cool the stew to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through (165ºF or 75ºC). Keep in mind that potatoes can have a darker color and off-texture when freezing, so for the best results you may want to leave them out if you plan on making this as a freezer meal.
- Make ahead: Cook the bacon, ground beef, onions, and garlic ahead of time and place in a container in the refrigerator. Assemble the rest of the soup on the day of cooking. Alternatively, you can prepare the soup and reheat it when ready to serve.
What to Serve with Cowboy Stew
- Bread or rolls
- Cornbread muffins
- Tortilla chips and salsa
- Crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips
- Corn dodgers or hushpuppies
- Baked beans
- Corn on the cob
- Molasses bread or brown bread
The whole idea of Cowboy Stew is that you can assemble the ingredients you have on hand into a delicious and hearty stew, so feel free to incorporate different items into your soup.
Keep in mind that you want to stick with Tex-Mex and Southwest inspired ingredients for the best results.
- Ground beef. If you want to swap the ground beef for different types of meat (like ground chicken or ground turkey), you can easily do that. Just make sure to add a little oil to the pot to prevent sticking while browning.
- Sausage. I use and recommend smoked beef sausage, but any smoked and precooked sausage will do. Pork, chicken, turkey, or kielbasa sausages all work well for this recipe.
- Potatoes. Russets work best because they are starchy and hold up to longer cooking times, but you could swap them for white, yellow, or gold potatoes instead. Just be sure to reduce the cooking time accordingly. You could even experiment with baby potatoes or sweet potatoes!
- Beans. I used black beans and red kidney beans because I like the flavor of those ones, but you could use canned chili beans (if you like extra heat), ranch style beans, pinto beans, or whatever type you like best. I've even heard of folks using cans of baked beans!
Spicy: Cowboy stew isn't spicy by nature (even though it contains chili powder), so if you want some added heat try adding some ground cayenne, hot sauce, or crushed chilies. A small can of chopped green chilies could be tasty too, or you could swap the diced tomatoes for a can of Ro*tel (or my easy homemade Ro*tel substitute!)
With Mixed Vegetables: If you have some extra frozen mixed vegetables hanging around, you could easily add them to this old-fashioned Cowboy Stew recipe! Just stir them in during the last 10 minutes of cooking, and they should be perfectly warmed through.
With hot dogs: If you have some extra hot dogs on hand, try swapping them in place of the smoked sausage by cutting them into rounds.
If you loved this recipe for Cowboy Stew, let me know by leaving a 5-star review in the recipe card or comment below! You can also tag me on Instagram @dashfordinner.
- Dutch oven or large pot
- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 1 cup chopped white onion about ½ a large onion
- 3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound smoked sausage sliced into medallions
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes undrained (fire roasted if available)
- 2 large Russet potatoes* peeled and diced into cubes
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 can (15 oz) black beans drained
- 1 can (15oz) red kidney beans drained
- 1 can (15oz) corn drained (or 1 ½ cups frozen)
- Chopped parsley (optional)
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook the chopped bacon over medium-high heat until it is crispy.
- Once the bacon is crisp, spoon it onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Discard the rendered bacon fat, but reserve 1 tablespoon for cooking the onion.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds (or until fragrant).
- Immediately add the ground beef to the pot and use the bottom of a wooden spoon to break it into crumbles.
- Cook the beef until it is browned and no longer pink. Drain to remove any excess grease, then return the beef and onion to the pot.
- Add the smoked sausage slices, bacon, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and ground pepper. Stir everything together until well combined.
- Pour in the can of diced tomatoes and use the bottom of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Next, add the potatoes and beef broth. Stir well.
- Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
- Let the stew simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
- Add in the black beans, kidney beans, and corn, and heat the soup for another 5 minutes or until it is heated through.
- Remove from the heat, and taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
- Ladle into bowls and serve hot (garnished with parsley, if desired).
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