Posted by: Erica Retrochef | February 14, 2011

Chuck Wagon Beans

Even in South Carolina, the dregs of winter are dreary and chilly. This week, we were in the mood for something hearty and satisfying and warm. “Chuck wagon beans” (or, more honestly, “chili with beans in it”) looked like a reasonable warm dinner for a cold winter night…

Chuck Wagon Beans

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or shortening
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 clove garlic (optional)
2 cans Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups cooked or canned white or kidney beans (1 lb. 4-oz. can)
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder

Melt shortening. Add onion, garlic, and meat. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Add Hunt’s Tomato Sauce, beans, water, and seasonings. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Makes 4 servings.

The ingredients are pretty straightforward. (We’re substituting ground turkey for ground beef, which always works great in a chili.)

The meat and onions both need a little more cooking time than the rest, so they go in the pan first.

Pour on your beans and sauce…

… then just let it simmer for a while.

I served it with cheddar cheese on top and cornbread on the side!

You won’t win a chili cook-off with it, but this is a decent meal. I was most surprised that it has a decent amount of chili powder! A lot of vintage recipes call for just a pinch, and the spiciness is simply lost. Two teaspoons won’t get you up to five-alarm chili, but it will have a pleasant warmth.

Original found via Cloth98’s Flickr stream.



  1. The use of lots of large beans is authentic, when it comes to representing old-style cowboy food. My grandfather, who was a cowboy in his youth (before moving on to develop nerve gas and antibiotics), described eating a lot of beans. But he wasn’t too nostalgic about the food from his teenage summers either. They had pies, but the ones they took with them out on the range had to be durable, with thick, doughy crusts. And sometimes they didn’t get any dinner, so they smoked instead. (And if it was too windy to light up, they carried some emergency chaw, though Grandpa managed his entirely wrangling career with just one plug.)

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