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Hearty, Colorful and Delicious Cowboy Stew Recipe – How to Make it in 13 Simple Steps

A hearty cowboy stew in a cast iron pot.

Even though the occupation of the cowboy was created in Central America, the cowboy has become an icon of the American West. In the 1700s cattle ranching came to Texas, and cowboys were needed to tend the cattle. Additionally, the cowboys were needed to take the cattle from the distant cattle ranges to the railroad spurs in Kansas where the cattle would be loaded on cars and transported to the cities.

The cattle moved slowly, eating grass to fatten up as they crossed the plains over a period of about two months. The heyday of cattle drives were the decades between the 1850s and 1910. On these cattle drives, the chuck wagon was where the camp cook prepared meals for the cowhands. This recipe for Cowboy Stew is hearty enough to fill the belly of any cowboy using ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

A hearty cowboy stew in a cast iron pot.

Cowboy Stew Recipe

April Freeman
Our recipe for Cowboy Stew is sure to be a family favorite. While many people with hearty appetites do not care for soup as a meal, this recipe is packed with filling ingredients, like meat, beans, and rice. Additionally, this recipe is very economical to create. Ground beef is a rather inexpensive cut of meat, and the many veggies included can make this recipe a great choice if you are feeding a house full of teenaged boys.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings


  • Large skillet
  • Spatula
  • Dutch Oven or Slow Cooker


  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 can Mixed Vegetables
  • 1 can Ranch Style Beans
  • 1 can Whole Kernel Corn
  • 1 can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 can Chopped Tomatoes with Diced Chilies
  • 1 package Spanish Rice cooked according to package instructions
  • 20 ounces Beef Broth
  • 1 can Eight-Ounce Tomato Sauce


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and chop it with a spatula.
  • Cook the beef until it is thoroughly browned and no longer pink. Drain the fat from the beef.
  • In a large Dutch oven or the ceramic liner of your slow cooker, add the vegetables, corn, beans, and tomatoes.  Don’t worry about draining the veggies. This recipe uses the juices of every vegetable to create a delicious savory broth.
  • Stir in the onion powder, tomato sauce, and beef broth.
  • Stir in the chopped, cooked ground beef, stirring to combine. Add the tomato sauce.
  • Heat the stew over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer. Allow the stew to simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Stir in the prepared Spanish rice. Serve the stew in large bowls.
  • If you choose to prepare the stew in the slow cooker, add all the ingredients (except for the Spanish rice mix) and cook the stew on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Before serving, stir in the cooked Spanish rice mix.
  • To store the leftovers, allow the stew to cool to room temperature.
  • Place the stew in a container with a tightly fitting lid and store it in the refrigerator for three to five days.
  • To reheat the stew, put a serving in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for one and a half minutes. Stir to make sure it is completely warmed. Alternately, you can reheat the stew in a saucepan until it is steaming.


Most of the time, the meals prepared by the cook on a cattle drive heavily featured beans and cornbread. Dried beans lasted a long time on the trail, weren’t very heavy to haul, and were filling for the men. This recipe uses ranch style beans, a more heavily seasoned version of canned beans. If you can’t find ranch style beans, you can use a can of regular pinto beans. Just stir in a teaspoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of brown sugar,  ¼ teaspoon pepper, a dash of cumin, a pinch of oregano, ¼ teaspoon minced garlic, ½ teaspoon onion powder, and a teaspoon of tomato paste. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will work in a pinch. Alternately, a can of pork and beans should work as a good substitute.
Of course, cowboys are connected to the beef industry. This recipe features the depth of flavor that ground beef provides. However, if you don’t eat red meat or you’re being careful about your cholesterol, you can substitute ground chicken or ground turkey for ground beef. Our recipe calls for just a pound of ground beef, but if your people are big-time meat eaters, you can definitely increase the meat to two pounds.
This recipe for Cowboy Stew uses canned tomatoes that include diced green chilies. These tomatoes are amazing for adding just a hint of heat to a recipe. Very few people think that tomatoes with diced green chilies make a soup too hot, but if you have very sensitive tummies in the family, you should feel free to swap the tomatoes with chilies for a can of plain tomatoes.
This recipe is filling enough to stand on its own, but if you like, you can serve it topped with cheese and corn chips. Additionally, it would be excellent served with a wedge of a hearty cornbread or a crusty slice of bread.  No matter what you serve with this soup, your family is sure to love this colorful, nutritious soup.
Keyword Cowboy Stew, Main Course, Recipe

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