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Grandma always made the best calico beans casserole using whatever staples she had in the pantry. Savory, smoky, and hearty – her classic recipe includes lima or butter beans, pork and beans, kidney beans, and ground beef in a tasty, deliciously zesty sauce. Everything comes together to create a wonderfully comforting dish. My updated version is a budget-friendly crowd pleaser that is easy to pressure cook. And what’s perfect about these Instant Pot Calico Beans is that you can use using nearly any beans you have on hand for this effortless, but filling meal.
Grandma’s Classic Calico Bean Casserole Recipe
This calico beans recipe is a modern twist on an old favorite. My grandma was one to let nothing go to waste. So, I wasn’t surprised when I found an old recipe for calico bean casserole in her cookbook. After all, it is perfect for mixing beans with simple pantry ingredients to make a hearty, budget friendly meal.
Here we are using the Instant Pot to pressure cook these mixed beans to make them even more flavorful and delicious. How’s that for a modern twist? Grandma would be proud of this quick and easy twist on her classic bean recipe.
Traditionally, calico beans are made with bacon, ground beef, an assortment of lima or butter beans, pork and beans, and kidney beans, and a tangy sauce. But, you can easily substitute other beans like, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, Great Northern beans, or what ever beans you have on hand. After all, calico means it is a hodgepodge of colors.
Grandma’s calico beans recipe is great for summer cookouts, outdoor gatherings, and potlucks. Or enjoying as a hearty meal on a fall or winter evening. This pressure cooker calico bean casserole is perfect for anytime!
What are Calico Beans?
Calico beans, also known as calico beans casserole, is a delicious dish that uses a variety of different beans for a great mixture of colors, flavors, and textures. In fact, that’s why they are called calico beans – because of the often colorful blend of multiple types of beans included.
Butter Beans vs Lima Beans: What’s the Difference?
Did you know that butter beans and lima beans are the same type of bean? Lima beans are immature and green in color. Butter beans are more matured and beige in color. But they are the same plant!
I prefer butter beans as they tend to be softer and well, more buttery in flavor. But, lima and butter beans are essentially the same.
These beans are incredibly easy and flavorful to make from dried. Read my tips on how to quick soak dried beans right in the Instant Pot here and see below on how to easily cook calico beans in the Instant Pot.
Ingredients Needed for the Best Calico Beans
For a really budget friendly meal, make calico beans casserole with dried beans. Cooking dried lima beans (butter beans) or dried white beans in the Instant Pot is really easy. Just add 10 minutes to the pressure cooking time, if using dried beans.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with other types of dried beans for Calico Beans, such as pinto beans, black beans, or garbanzo beans. Whatever you have on hand will work for Grandma’s calico beans recipe!
Along with your choice of beans you need:
- Ground beef
- Brown sugar
- Prepared mustard
- Apple cider vinegar
Additional Optional Ingredients or substitutions
- Molasses – just a tablespoon gives it a rich, slightly sweet flavor
- Liquid smoke – a teaspoon will give these beans that smoky goodness
- Sausage – for a meatier flavor, substitute your favorite sausage for the ground beef
- BBQ sauce – swap the ketchup with BBQ sauce for a tangier calico beans casserole
How to Make Grandma’s Calico Beans in the Pressure Cooker
Grandma would be proud of how incredibly easy and efficient this recipe is to make using an Instant Pot. It’s wonderful for making as a quick weeknight dinner, or making ahead to enjoy for several days!
Follow these 3 simple steps to create the perfect savory, rustic, comforting dish in only about 30 minutes:
- Use the sauté function to cook first the chopped bacon, then diced onion, and lastly the ground beef. Remove the fat from the pressure cooker by tipping to drain the grease and blotting with a paper towel.
- Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
- Close and lock the lid, and cook on high for 15 minutes. Let the pressure to naturally release for another 5 minutes before doing a quick pressure release.
Pro Tip: A few minutes of meal prep will go a long way! To make this and other ground beef-based dishes as easy dump-and-go-meals, prepare a large batch of ground beef in advance… Sauté 5 pounds of ground beef at once in a large skillet, and separate into 5 small freezer bags. Then just pull out what you need to make slow cooker and Instant Pot dishes – like this Calico Beans Casserole recipe – without any last-minute sautéing! Plus, you can also reheat precooked meat with seasoning for delicious tacos, chili, enchiladas, soups, or any nearly any recipe that calls for ground beef.
Frequently Asked Questions
Use 1/2 cup of dry beans for every 15 ounce can of beans. Overnight soak or quick soak your beans first. Add 10 minutes of pressure cooking time (for a total of 25 minutes) if using dried beans.
You can enjoy any number of toppings with this casserole. Serve additional chopped cooked bacon, diced white or green onions, and shredded cheese on the side.
Store in an airtight container Grandma’s calico bean casserole will keep well for up to 4 days.
Get the Best Pressure Cooker Calico Beans Recipe Here:
Instant Pot Calico Beans
- Instant Pot (or any electric pressure cooker)
- 4 slices bacon, thickly cut, diced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tsp prepared mustard
- 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 can (15 oz) pork and beans
- 1 can (15 oz) butter (lima) beans, drained (see notes if using dried beans)
- 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained (see notes if using dried beans)
- Using the Sauté function on the pressure cooker, sauté bacon until the fat has been rendered. Add onions and cook until the onions are transluscent. Add ground beef and cook until the ground beef is browned throughout. Remove excess fat by lifting and tilting the pot with a pot holder and blotting excess grease with a paper towel.
- Add ketchup, sugar, mustard, and vinegar to the pot and stir, then add beans and combine until well mixed.
- Lock Instant Pot lid into place, press cancel, and pressure cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. After pressure cooking, allow a natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then use a quick release to release any remaining pressure.
- Serve with your favorite garnishes or toppings.