A rootin’-tootin’ supper at your campfire

Three Creeks Naturalist

Light the fire and grab your dutch oven – it’s campfire cooking time with Two Hungry Naturalists’ Greg Wittmann. Watch how to make cowboy baked beans, or chuckwagon beans, here.

Cowboy baked beans are a misnomer as American cowboys didn’t make them because not all of the ingredients were readily available in the southwest and Texas in the 19th century. Ranches didn’t typically have canned beans. Instead, they used soaked pinto beans. Nonetheless, the name stuck.


Now let’s get cooking! One of the great things about campfire cooking is that you make the rules. There’s really no wrong way to make a recipe over an open fire, especially when hungry urban cowpokes are standing around with tin cups eager to devour your creation.

For a hearty campfire meal that sticks to your bones, you’ll need a good meat, a dutch oven and a campfire. Start the fire 90 minutes before cooking to ensure that the logs burn down to coals.

I prefer to use a can of venison meat, but you can use ground beef, ground turkey, sausage, chuck roast, bacon or a vegan meat substitute instead. Our other hungry naturalist has threatened to use roadkill. I’m glad he’s on camera when he’s cooking for our programs.

I like using some heat in order to warm me up from the inside out. Jalapeno peppers, banana peppers and some sriracha sauce add some kick to your cowboy mosey.

A fire blazes at a campsite at Scioto Grove Metro Park. Photo/Alison Colvin

Two Hungry Naturalists Cowboy Beans Recipe:

2 large cans baked beans
½ cup ketchup
A squirt of yellow or brown mustard
¼ to ⅓ cup brown sugar (I prefer less sweet)
1 lb ground turkey
Jalapeno peppers or banana peppers for the low heat loving urban cowpokes
3 cloves minced or chopped garlic (I prefer 4 or 5)
1 tsp onion powder
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper diced
1 large onion diced

Brown your ground meat, onion and bell pepper in the dutch oven until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. I like leaving the drippings in for flavor, but you can drain out the fat after the meat’s browned if you’re worried about it being too soupy. Add all other ingredients and cook at a light simmer for about 10 minutes depending on the heat level of your fire. Remove the beans from the fire if they bubble too much and then spread out the fire to cool it down before returning the beans to the heat. Then you’re done. Enjoy!

Two Hungry Naturalists Scott Felker and Greg Wittmann at Clear Creek Metro Park. Photo/Kim Strosnider

Whether you’re on the trail or in your backyard entertaining friends and family, your cowboy baked beans are sure to add warmth to a cold cowboy night. Who knows, the two hungry naturalists might pull up in your backyard asking for the nearest hitching post for their stick ponies with some fresh roadkill for your recipe.

What’s your favorite campfire recipe? Share it with us at mediagroup@metroparks.net.

2 thoughts on “A rootin’-tootin’ supper at your campfire

  1. I love your blog posts! My favorite memory of a meal is oatmeal for breakfast. I had never had oatmeal before, and after a day of hiking with friends and a night spent sleeping well but in chilly temps, that morning oatmeal was just so delicious. I think it might have even been instant, whatever, it was new to me and hit the spot.

    My favorite food is freshly caught fish. As a kid, we’d catch ’em and Dad would fry them up. Unfortunately I have no idea what the recipe was, but they were soooo tasty served with canned baked beans and tater chips. Good times!

    1. Amanda, thank you! We’re happy you enjoy them. It sounds like you had some great campfire eats! We’d love to see the recipes if you find them.

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