How to Make Cowboy Soup

Cowboy soup is a mix-and-match soup made with ground meat, beans and any vegetables you have on hand. The result is a hearty, warming bowl that's ready in 30 minutes.

Anyone who’s lived in a cowboy town knows that the Wild West is still very much alive. Rodeos and cattle drives happen on a regular basis, and if you’ve been lucky enough to experience a coal-powered railroad ride or a mining tour in a picturesque mountain town, you’ll know what I mean.

In addition to Wild West vibes, the cowboy appetite is also quite real. After a long day of working outdoors, there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of cowboy soup. The best part about this hearty, filling recipe is that it’s super easy to make, and it’s almost completely customizable. You can make it with a variety of ingredients you have on hand in the pantry.

What Is Cowboy Soup?

Cowboy soup is similar to a hearty chili, but it takes everything to the next level. The spice profile is very comparable, with chili powder and ground cumin being the two major ingredients used here, although cowboy soup is not typically as spicy as most chili recipes.

You’ll find similar ingredients in the recipe as well, like ground beef, tomatoes and green chilis, but there are also a few extra ingredients to make the soup more filling. It’s rich with chunks of potatoes, sweet corn and vegetables to make this one-pot meal one that absolutely satisfies.

Hearty Cowboy Soup Recipe

The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match ingredients that you have on hand in the pantry and refrigerator. Feel free to use ground sausage, pork, chicken or turkey instead of the beef, and swap out the beans for black beans, Cannellini beans, Great Northern beans or kidney beans. The spices can be customized based on your personal preferences, as can the vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) Ranch Style beans (pinto beans in seasoned tomato sauce), undrained
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cans (10 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 can (15 ounces) mixed vegetables, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Step 1: Cook the meat

This soup is extremely easy to make, and it only requires two steps! Get started by heating a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ground beef and chopped onions, breaking the meat into crumbles as it cooks. When the meat is no longer pink, add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Drain any excess grease.

Step 2: Add the remaining ingredients

At this point, you can pour in the remaining ingredients and give the pot a stir. We recommend draining the canned tomatoes to get rid of the tomato juice. Otherwise, the soup will get a chili vibe that takes away from the other flavors. You’ll want to keep the juices in the beans and green chilies, though, to make sure the dish has enough liquid. If you accidentally drained them, no worries; just add extra broth or water.

Bring the soup to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the soup along with cowboy lasagna.

Tips for Making Cowboy Soup

Cowboy Soup In A PotTMB Studio

How You Can Make Cowboy Soup Your Own

As we mentioned earlier, this soup is ridiculously easy to customize. You can make it with any ground meat you have on hand, and feel free to mix the meats to come up with the two pounds. A combination of ground beef, pork and veal come together to create a really nice base. Sausage links work well in this recipe, too, if that’s what you have on hand. Just be sure to slice the links into bite-sized pieces before browning them in step one.

The beans and vegetables are similarly swappable. We don’t recommend omitting the potatoes, as they’re a core piece of creating texture in this dish, but you could use sweet potatoes instead if you want to switch things up. Frozen vegetables are a fine substitute for canned vegetables, but you’ll need to add a few minutes to the cook time to bring them up to the correct temperature.

Can You Cook Cowboy Soup in a Slow Cooker?

This recipe can be easily modified for a slow cooker. Simply brown the beef in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

How to Serve Cowboy Soup

The soup itself contains everything you need for a filling meal—meat, beans, starch and vegetables—so you won’t need to prepare any side dishes. It tastes great on its own, or you can add a dollop of sour cream, sliced avocado and chopped green onions to brighten it up a bit. Although it doesn’t need it, we recommend serving the soup with a side of cowboy bread, cowboy cornbread or Texas toast to embrace the cowboy spirit.

Storing Cowboy Soup

This recipe makes 3-3/4 quarts, or ten 1-1/2 cup servings. If you find yourself with leftovers, let the soup cool before packing it into airtight containers. It will last in the refrigerator for three to four days, or up to three months in the freezer. Keep in mind that the potatoes will soak up excess moisture as the soup sits, so you may need to add extra water or broth before reheating. Potatoes can also create an odd, grainy texture when frozen and thawed, so only freeze the soup as a last resort.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.