Crockpot cowboy soup is made using simple ingredients like ground beef, pinto beans, and mixed vegetables. Everything is slow cooked in a rich flavorful broth. Pair this hearty soup with your favorite cornbread recipe and enjoy on a cool chilly evening.Jump to Recipe
Now that it's getting cooler out, it's time to pull out the slow cooker and make this comforting cowboy soup. This recipe has been my go to lately because it's extremely easy to make and requires little prep work. Plus I've been using crock pot liners which make clean up a breeze. Set it and forget about it for 2-3 hours until it's done. It doesn't get easier than that.
What Is Cowboy Soup?
Cowboy soup, is inspired by the American West and Southwest, areas with a rich history of cattle ranching and cowboy culture. The exact origin of cowboy soup is not known but it's thought to have developed as a hearty and practical meal for cowboys and ranchers working in the demanding conditions of the American frontier.
In the early days, hungry cowboys often had limited access to fresh ingredients and relied on shelf-stable or easily transportable foods like beans, dried meats, and canned goods. They would slow cook these ingredients over an open fire or in a simple chuckwagon-style kitchen.
Over the years, cowboy soup has changed and evolved with different regions adding their own touch to the recipe. This is why you'll see slightly different ingredients between recipes. Cowboy soup usually features beef, vegetables, beans, and of course delicious seasonings. It's a popular comfort food that is still enjoyed today.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Easy Preparation: Like I was saying earlier, this is so easy to make because the slow cooker does all the work. After you've ground the lean ground beef you add the remaining ingredients and let cook. Plus it only has to cook on low for 2-3 hours making it easy to prep a few hours before dinner instead of first thing in the morning.
Hearty and Filling: The ingredients are simple but hearty. They are sure to warm you on a cold winter day. The combination of potatoes, beans, and beef with other seasonings will keep you full for hours.
Perfect for Gatherings: Think game day, family dinner, or a pot luck. This recipe makes enough to feed 5-6 and it is always a hit with guests.
Budget-Friendly: The recipe list is simple and extremely affordable. Ground beef, potatoes, beans, and frozen vegetables are easy to find and won't break the bank. It's practical and cost effective. Who doesn't love saving money?
Leftovers Are Delicious: This soup is absolutely delicious the next day. The vegetables and broth continue to absorb the broth making them even more rich and flavorful.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Ground beef - We use ground beef in this hearty cowboy soup because it's easy and extremely affordable. I used a lean ground beef because I don't care much for the extra fat but you can use beef with higher fat content if you want added flavor. You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for a leaner recipe but keep in mind it may have an after taste.
Beef broth - To build the base of the soup. If you don't have beef broth on hand, you can use chicken broth. I always recommend using a reduced sodium broth so you can control the amount of salt you have in your cowboy beef stew. This is especially important because the other ingredients used may also contain salt. You can always add more salt but it's often hard to remove it from your dish.
All About The Beans
Pinto beans -These are a staple in cowboy soup. The have a creamy texture, mild flavor, and absorb the broth and spices so well. Different variations of cowboy soup may use seasoned pinto beans or different types of beans. One common secret ingredient you'll see in these recipes is ranch style beans. Ranch style beans are canned pinto beans pre-seasoned with tomato, garlic, onion, and more. They really elevate the soup and take the flavor to a whole new level. I highly suggest using ranch beans as a substitute.
Chili beans are also commonly used. These are typically kidney beans tossed in a mild chili sauce and other seasonings. These would also be a good substitute. If you're using one of these variations, I recommend that you drain the beans of any excess liquid but don't rinse so their seasonings can be incorporated into the broth. Black beans can also be used for added fiber. You can also throw these in alongside pinto beans for even more heartiness.
Onion - Any type of onion will be just fine in this recipe. You can make it with sweet, white, yellow, or red. Use what you already have on hand.
Garlic - A lot of garlic is used in this hearty stew because it takes the flavor to the next level. Fresh garlic is going to give the best flavor as opposed to garlic powder or pre-minced.
Canned diced tomatoes - Adds depth to the hearty crockpot cowboy tomato soup broth. This is a key element of the dish. You can subtitute rotel tomatoes for added heat and flavor. I decuded to combine diced tomatoes with canned diced green chilis but rotel is going to be a good combination of both. Check the rotel tomatoes label to ensure you choose mild if you're sensitive to heat.
Potatoes - For added heartiness. I used chopped baby potatoes. You can use red, yellow, or russet potatoes. If you want to switch it up a little bit and add a contrast of flavors, try using sweet potatoes instead. It will bring a hint of sweetness, and creaminess to the recipe.
Canned diced green chilis - The green chilies add a touch of heat and tanginess. If you're using rotel you can omit this ingredient since there are green chiles in the rotel already.
Frozen mixed vegetables - I absolutely love this blend of frozen vegetables. The one I use is made up of green beans, corn, peas, and carrots. Using a frozen blend saves so much time because everything is already pre-chopped into uniform sizes and they compliment this cowboy stew recipe so nicely.
Frozen corn - Yes, I know we just talked about corn being in the frozen mixed vegetables but sweet corn is one of the highlights of this soup. You don't get too much from the frozen vegetable mix anyway so adding more isn't over-doing it. If you're making this in the summer time, be sure to try fresh corn.
Chili powder and cumin - Spices to enhance the flavors of the vegetables.
Salt and black pepper - Also used to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Be sure to taste the soup before adding any extra salt. Try using seasoned salt for added flavor.
Make Crockpot Cowboy Soup In These Simple Steps
Step 1. (Optional) Line your crock pot with a plastic liner for easy clean up.
Step 2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Once all the beef is browned, drain any excess grease. Place the ground meat into the crock pot.
Step 3. Add chopped onion, minced garlic, beef broth, pinto beans, tomatoes, potatoes, green chiles, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen corn, cumin, chili pepper, salt and pepper to the crock pot.
Step 4. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 2-3 hours or on high for 1-2 hours. The longer you cook it, the more the flavors will meld together. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Step 5. Serve the hearty crockpot cowboy soup topped with shredded cheese, hot sauce, a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions.
Prep Ingredients Ahead: The part of this recipe that takes the most time is the prep work. If you do all of that ahead of time, making this will be a breeze. Prep all the vegetables and open canned goods before starting and everything that comes after will be a breeze.
Use Quality Broth: A good-quality beef broth is going to make a big difference when it comes to the flavor of the soup. Try a homemade option using leftover beef bones for a rich, savory base.
Don't Overcook: This soup doesn't take a long time to cook. We're talking 2-3 hours on low, max. Be wary that you don't overcook, especially if you're using lean ground beef which may toughen over time. You also want vegetables that still have a little bite and not ones that are disintegrating.
Taste and Adjust: Taste the soup about halfway through the cooking time to check the seasoning. You can adjust the salt, pepper, or add more spices if needed. This allows time for the ingredients to start to come together so you have a better idea of what you need, if anything.
Customize Toppings: The toppings mentioned above are totally optional. Feel free to customize these using only the ones you want or none at all. If you have a get together, I suggest having little bowls set out with different toppings so everyone can customize their own bowl.
Slow Cooker Liners: If you've never used a slow cooker liner, you're missing out. It makes clean up so easy! They also prevent any food from sticking to the sides of the crock pot.
What to Serve with Crockpot Cowboy Soup
Cornbread: This classic Southern side dish is a perfect accompaniment to cowboy soup. It's slightly sweet and crumbly, which contrasts nicely with the savory soup. Use it to dip excess broth for a delicious combination.
Rice: Serve the soup over cooked white or brown rice to make it a heartier meal. Stir it in at the end or place the rice in the bowl before adding the soup.
Sliced Avocado: Fresh avocado slices or guacamole add creaminess and a cool contrast to the spicy soup.
Shredded Cheese: Try different types of shredded cheeses like cheddar, Monterey Jack, or pepper jack. Stir it in for a gooey cheesy addition to the soup.
Sour Cream: A dollop of sour cream can provide a creamy, cooling element to the meal.
Pickled Jalapeños: If you love extra heat and tanginess try stirring in pickled jalapenos at the end.
Biscuits: Flaky biscuits, especially cheddar and jalapeño biscuits, can be a tasty accompaniment. Use it the same way you would with cornbread and use it to dip and soak up extra broth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is cowboy soup made of?
The most common ingredients found in cowboy soup are beef, beans, corn, tomatoes, and mixed vegetables with beef broth.
Do I have to use a slow cooker?
No, you don't have to use a slow cooker to slowly cook this soup. You can use a large pot or dutch oven. Place the soup over medium heat and cover. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 1-2 hours.
How do I store and reheat leftover cowboy soup?
Before storing, allow the soup to cool. Once cooled, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. For longer term storage, you can freeze the soup for up to 3 months. Be sure to thaw before reheating. To reheat, place the soup in a microwave safe container. Refrigerate for 30 second increments stirring in between until fully heated through.
Can you put raw beef in the slow cooker?
Yes. You can put raw beef in the slow cooker but I don't recommend putting ground beef in with all the other ingredients without browning first. If you put raw ground beef in with all the ingredients it'll be quite a while before it's coked. You'll also have to stir frequently to ensure it breaks up evenly. This will result in very fine textured beef and excess fat in the soup. That's why I recommend you brown the beef before adding.
More Soup Recipes You'll Enjoy
Hearty and Easy Crockpot Cowboy Soup Recipe
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 can pinto beans rinsed and drained
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes drained
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- 1 4 oz can diced green chilis
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- salt and pepper to taste to taste
- shredded cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, chopped green onion
- (Optional) Line your crock pot with a plastic liner for easy clean up.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Once all the beef is browned, drain any excess grease. Place the ground meat into the crock pot.
- Add chopped onion, minced garlic, beef broth, pinto beans, tomatoes, potatoes, green chiles, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen corn, cumin, chili pepper, salt and pepper to the crock pot.
- Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 2-3 hours or on high for 1-2 hours. The longer you cook it, the more the flavors will meld together. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Serve the hearty crockpot cowboy soup topped with shredded cheese, hot sauce, a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions.