What are cowboy recipes? These dishes are all inspired by the rustic meals eaten by cattle drivers in the American West and Southwest. The cowboys of yesteryear didn’t worry about calories or macros.
They wanted hot, filling food that could keep them working hard for long hours on the range. Many of these recipes are one-pot or one-pan. They’re indulgent and flavorful, with hot peppers and bright citrus or tomatoes cutting through thick cuts of meat and lots of creamy cheese.
Let’s take a walk down America’s memory lane, Cowboy-style.
1. Cowboy Casserole
There’s a reason why you keep skipping past that open bag of tortilla chips when you’re hungry and on the prowl for snacks. You’ve got all the fixings, but you’re tired of nachos. This Cowboy Casserole recipe is a great way to re-work the food on hand into a surprisingly filling dish. It’s got a pretty long ingredient list, but Cowboy Casserole is as versatile as nachos.
If you’re missing one of the items, keep going. It’ll still taste great when you pull this toasty-hot baby out of the oven.
2. Texas Cowboy Cheesy Beef Casserole
Don’t let the title fool you. Texas Cowboy Cheesy Beef Casserole is pretty different from the nacho-inspired casserole above. It’s not a snack; it’s hearty enough to be a full meal. A flaky layer of biscuit dough is topped with highly seasoned beef and a colorful medley of veggies.
This means that as the biscuits cook in the oven, they absorb all those delicious juices from the food. The tangy layer of cream cheese on the top adds more melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. If you’re tempted but don’t want to cook for too long, the recipe lists some time-saving swaps you can try.
3. Spicy Cowboy Chili
Tired of walking the mild side of chili? Spicy Cowboy Chili brings the heat. However, it’s a flavorful kind of heat, not the kind that sends you desperately chugging straight from the milk jug.
Chili powder, ancho, chipotle chiles, and jalapenos as garnish layer up the flavors of sweet and hot, earthy and smoky. This recipe is something you throw together in the morning and slow cook all day to enjoy at dinner. For the 3 pounds of beef, use a cheap, tough cut.
Those will hold a little more structure during the slow (7-9 hour) cooking time.
4. Grilled Cowboy Rib Eye with Watercress Salad
The joy of rustic cowboy dishes is how they focus on a key ingredient, perfectly prepared. Grilled Cowboy Rib Eye with Watercress Salad keeps that spirit of beautiful simplicity alive. The dry-aged cowboy-cut rib eyes are treated with the respect and cooking precision that these fine meats deserve.
They’re grilled to a suggested medium rare, although you can adjust the cooking times as you like. The rich, umami flavors of the steak are balanced out by a bitter salad of watercress, tarragon, and radish. It creates a sophisticated dish at home in a high-end restaurant.
5. Hearty, Colorful, and Delicious Cowboy Stew
What could be more authentic than a Hearty, Colorful, and Delicious Cowboy Stew? This recipe is the real deal. Cowboys running cattle across miles of wilderness would set up their campfire and pull out a big skillet. They’d throw in whatever food they had on hand: sweet golden corn straight from the fields, tomatoes, beans, beef if they had any, and then bring the fire with a handful of dried chilies.
The recipe suggests simmering it in a dutch oven or tossing it into a slow cooker. A few hours’ patience helps those flavors really melt together.
6. Southwestern Hash with Eggs
Southwestern Hash with Eggs gives home chefs a break from slow-cooked recipes. In fact, if you have pre-cooked potatoes on hand, you could be enjoying a spicy hash in just 15 minutes. This dish is baked, not fried, making for a lighter and less greasy meal.
If you’re cooking for a big family, you’ll want to add more eggs. They aren’t scrambled and thrown in like some recipes. These eggs get dropped into wells in the hash before baking.
You don’t want the kids fighting over who gets to ‘dig for gold’ and who gets scraps.
7. Cowboy Baconator
If you love Wendy’s famous Baconator but don’t want to leave home to get one, this recipe’s for you. You’ll need the three B’s: bacon, beef, and buns. The cowboy flair comes from the pepper jack cheese and freshly grated jalapeno peppers.
The Cowboy Baconator recipe calls for Applewood smoked bacon and suggests you bake the strips in a Dutch oven. If you do, don’t wash out that layer of bacon grease. Several of the recipes on this list, like the Cowboy Casserole at the top, will really sing with that extra layer of flavor.
8. Cowboy Caviar
There’s a good chance you’ve spotted Cowboy Caviar while scrolling through social media. This dish, loaded with multiple kinds of beans and finely chopped veggies, is colorful and photographs well. It’s also a welcome, lighter addition to a list with a lot of extra-rich options.
Cowboy caviar can be made in advance and is typically served cold with chips or crackers. Some home cooks mix all the ingredients before serving, making sure people get a blend of flavors with every bite. Others keep the beans and veggies separate, creating a rainbow of fresh, flavorful produce on the plate.
9. Cowboy Breakfast Sandwiches
It’s an old dilemma: the extended family’s visiting and you’re cooking them breakfast, but you don’t want to waste a whole morning making enough for everyone. Cowboy Breakfast Sandwiches can get you out from behind the stove in record time. This fast breakfast feast serves eight with thick, hearty sandwiches.
You start with Texas-cut toasts, which are double-thick slices of bread, and top them with sausage patties and a whole dozen eggs. Adjust the heat levels for picky young eaters by skipping the jalapeno slices and using mayo instead of a spicy sandwich spread.
10. Confetti Cornbread
The cornbread was a popular dish in cowboy times. It cooked quickly on the griddle. The golden-brown crust didn’t get soggy when eaten with a stew. Finally, the cornmeal did a great job of satisfying a steer-sized appetite.
Every cowboy and every rancher family had their own cornbread recipe passed down over generations. Confetti Cornbread is a modern, party-friendly update. It uses yellow corn, green chiles and jalapenos, and red pimentos to add fun colors and sparks of Southwestern flavor to a moist cornbread.
If you’re using authentic cornmeal instead of a boxed mix, remember to add baking powder for rise!
11. Cowboy Style Eggs Benedict
Sometimes a recipe elevates simple cowboy fare into a sophisticated dish (see the Grilled Cowboy Rib Eye with Watercress Salad). Other times, the tables turn and a fancy plate gets country-fied. Use a light touch as you prep this recipe. You’ll need soft-boiled eggs and they can be harder to peel than hard-boiled ones.
If you really want to make a country grandma proud, you’ll wrap the eggs and other ingredients in piecrusts made from scratch. However, store-bought piecrusts can save you a lot of time with this flaky Eggs Benedict-inspired dish.
12. Branded Pancakes
Here’s a fun one for when you’re cooking with the kids. Branded Pancakes use a thin batter. It’s poured in ribbons on the griddle in the shape of a cattle brand.
If the kids want to use their initials, remember to reverse the letters! Once those have had a chance to brown, you pour the rest of the pancake over it. This is like that trend of using the colored batter to make pancake art, except it’s a lot less work and there’s no artistic talent needed.
You can use Bisquick or try their linked pancake recipe for batter made from scratch.
13. Cowboy Biscuits
How did old-time cowboys make biscuits? They sure didn’t reach for a can of Crisco. No, the old-fashioned way of making biscuits was to use lard.
Animal fat makes a denser, richer kind of quick bread. This recipe is for sweeter dessert biscuits. You’ll need ingredients like pecans, chocolate chips, coconut, and brown sugar.
Still not sure about the lard? You can exchange it for butter, coconut oil, and the like if you absolutely have to. However, the texture’s going to be different.
If you have some lard in the fridge, give this old-fashioned recipe a chance.
14. Jalapeno Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits
We had a sweet biscuit recipe. Now let’s take a look at a savory one courtesy of a real chuckwagon cook with twenty years of experience. Jalapeno Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits are yeast-based, so make sure to add an hour of rise time to your cooking plans.
These use lemon-lime soda to add a bit of citrus tang, as well as create more lift from the bubbles. The recipe also has baking powder and yeast in it. If you don’t have any soda on hand, don’t worry about ending up with sad, flattened-out biscuits.
15. Bourbon Cowboy Cocktail
Has all of this cooking left you thirsty? This beverage may be just what you were craving. Bourbon is one of the more polarizing drinks out there.
Some love that mellow wood and vanilla fire. Other people find it too harsh to drink … at least, to drink straight. Every cocktail tries to enhance the best parts of the liqueur and balance out the tricky notes.
This one adds fruity Southern Comfort and fresh lemon and lime juice. It’s sweet, tart, and fiery, making it a great fit for a Cowboy-themed meal.
16. Wyoming Cowboy Cookies
Most cowboy-themed dishes are on the rustic side, but Wyoming Cowboy Cookies are pure indulgence. You start by toasting shredded coconut and pecans. Sure, it’s an extra step, but it’s well worth your time.
Toasting brings out the creamy and nutty flavors of these ingredients, which meld together with the deep richness of chocolate and brown sugar. Keep an eye on the oven as they bake; since some of the ingredients are already toasted, it can be easy to overcook these cookies. You’re aiming for a chewy center, not cookies that have gone completely hard.
17. Cowboy Nachos
Nachos are one of those dishes that can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them. Cowboy Nachos are on the prep-intensive end of the scale. You’ll be topping those chips with shredded beef brisket (recipe included), homemade pinto beans with bacon, Pico de Gallo made from scratch, and sauces to taste.
The brisket needs to marinate for at least 24 hours, so start planning this dish in advance. It’s worth the effort. The toppings made from scratch have a vibrant flavor and color that you just can’t get out of a jar or a can.
18. Cowboy Cake – One Bowl Country Whiskey Cake
It takes flavor the size of Texas to balance out a dark molasses cake. In this recipe, this cake for grownups uses Jack Daniel’s whiskey or Tennessee bourbon. The fiery alcohol cuts through the dark, jammy notes of the molasses.
It’s featured in both the batter and in the whiskey glaze you spoon or brush over the finished cake. This old-fashioned kind of cake is usually baked in a pair of 9” loaf pans. Want to bump up the Jack Daniel’s flavor?
Slice the loaves like bread and spread whiskey icing between each piece.
19. Cowboy Pie
Shepherd’s pie meets the American West and gets reborn as Cowboy Pie. You brown smoked sausage and veggies to release their flavors, then add tomatoes, beans, and juice and cook til bubbly. Everything’s topped with a fluffy layer of corn muffin batter.
As it bakes, the moisture escaping the filling steams the batter. You’re left with an exceptionally tender cornbread topping. The cheese that’s stirred into the filling isn’t just upping the indulgence factor.
When the Cowboy Pie cools enough to eat, that cheese will help bind everything together. After all, nobody wants a runny pie spilling all over their plate.
20. Cowboy Baked Beans Casserole
You’ll never look at canned baked beans the same way again after trying Cowboy Baked Beans Casserole. There’s dressing up a sometimes boring kitchen staple, and then there’s turning the can into a kitchen essential. This recipe is all about sweet heat, with jalapenos and green chilis doing the tango on your tongue with ketchup, brown sugar, and a sweet-smoky BBQ sauce.
If you swap out the can of pork and beans for plain baked beans in tomato sauce, you may want to crumble some crispy bacon over the top before serving.
21. Loaded Cowboy Baked Potatoes
There’s a lot of mains on this list, so let’s check out a side dish. Loaded Cowboy Baked Potatoes aren’t kidding about that name. They’re overflowing with summer vegetables like zucchini and squash, as well as ground beef, cheese, and a generous dollop of sour cream. In fact, you’ll be layering those toppings so high, you’ll need to use extra-large potatoes to contain everything.
Concerned that this recipe calls for a bottle of Summer Ale? If you’re cooking for a young crowd, you can swap that out for nutritional yeast, mushroom bouillon, or chicken stock.
22. Cowboy Calico Beans
Beans are a great, heart-healthy way to get some protein in the diet. However, they can be a little bland, a little colorless… unless you’re cooking Cowboy Calico Beans! This colorful medley packs in a punch of sweet and sour flavor with kitchen staples like cider vinegar, ketchup, and mustard.
The recipe calls for butter, kidney, navy, and lima beans, but you can swap any of these out and have a great result. Just reach for beans in contrasting colors to keep up the ‘calico’ spirit of this classic cowboy dish.
23. Cowboy Casserole with Cornbread and Chicken
Casseroles are a great way to bring a complete, hot dinner to the table with minimal fiddling around in the kitchen. You prep your filling and toppings, dump them in a large baking dish and let them hang out in the oven while you’re setting the table. Cowboy Casserole with Cornbread and Chicken takes that convenience a step further.
It calls for crumbled premade cornbread or corn muffin mix for a topping shortcut. Other time-saving tips include using diced rotisserie chicken and a can of cream of chicken soup for the filling.
24. Chuck Wagon Tortilla Stack
Have some stale flour tortillas that you can’t get rid of? If they’re dried out, you can rehydrate them and make a quick and easy meal with a Chuck Wagon Tortilla Stack. This half-hour dinner recipe starts with a cooked-down chili that you make from beans, beef, veggies, spices, and barbecue sauce.
You layer cups of it and 10-inch tortillas in a skillet, topping with cheese. It’ll smell great, but don’t rush the next step. Cook the stack on low. You want the smoky flavors to come from the barbecue sauce, not from a burned meal.
25. Cowboy Bacon Beans
Pork and beans, or in this case bacon and beans, is such a staple in Western and Southwestern cooking that I had to throw in a recipe. Yes, you can get something like this from the canned food aisle of your supermarket. Yes, these beans need to simmer for three to four hours.
And yes, they are absolutely worth it. Dry pinto beans and thick-cut bacon bring out the best in each other: the beans absorb richness from the meat, and the meat gets blanketed in a creamy sauce of silken-soft beans.
26. Cowboy Potatoes
Ready for your Cowboy cooking final exam? Welcome to one of the trickiest, most often mishandled recipes on this list. How can Cowboy Potatoes be such a cooking challenge, you’re asking?
How can people mess up a four-ingredient dish? Home chefs get cocky around the classic trio of potatoes, onion, and bell peppers. They get impatient. Instead of leaving the hash alone, they give in to temptation and stir it up. Stop.
Take a deep breath, enjoy the aroma, and give it time to really brown on one side. Then you can stir, letting the other edges get kissed by the pan.