Grandma’s Five-Bean Hotdish

bean casserole The next time you are asked to bring something to a potluck dinner, do yourself a favor and make this dish! I have been making it for 26 years now…ever since I got married and inherited the recipe from my mother-in-law Dorothy. It’s a classic “hotdish” recipe from the extensive Norwegian Lutheran population that settled in the Fargo, North Dakota area.

Oddly enough, about the same time I received this recipe from my mother-in-law, my Dad’s long-time secretary Rose, who also happened to be from North Dakota, shared a similar recipe with me. After making both recipes, I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, so I decided to combine the two!

The result is a bean dish that is always a hit no matter when or where I serve it. Decades of Norwegian Lutheran women from North Dakota can’t be wrong!


bean casserole


Grandma’s Five-Bean Hotdish

Grandma’s Five-Bean Hotdish


  • 1/2 lb. bacon (if you are in a hurry you can use pre-cooked)
  • 1 lb. ground beefed
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 can green beans (drained)
  • 1 can lima beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can yellow wax beans (drained)
  • 1 can pork and beans
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

(All the cans I use are roughly 16 ounces each, but if your can(s) are bigger or smaller, no worries….this recipe is very forgiving.)

bean casserole

Original recipes from Rose and Dorothy



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the ground beef, bacon and onion together until ground beef is no longer pink. Drain fat.



bean casserole bean casserole Transfer to large roasting pan and add the rest of the ingredients.


bean casserole bean casserole Stir together, cover, and cook for 1 hour.


bean casserole

This may SEEM like a summer picnic recipe, but trust me, no matter what time of year you serve this, you will have happy eaters! I’ve served this recipe at barbecues and picnics, church potlucks, and even holiday dinners to rave reviews.

Feel free to use whatever beans strike your fancy…you can’t really mess this up. Just throw all the ingredients in a big ol’ pot (or crockpot) and cook low and slow. Perfection.


What’s your favorite potluck recipe?


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  1. Kristi Tarnowski says

    I grew up 50 miles S of Fargo, in Pelican Rapids MN, and a favorite recipe from my Norwegian Lutheran Grandma is a similar 3 bean hot dish (pork ‘n beans, kidney and Lima beans, hamburger, bacon and onion) or whatever beans I have on hand (i am sure gma wouldn’t mind!) definitely a go to when it gets cooler-a good recipe for the crockpot!

    • Billie says

      We call it Calico Beans as well. I’ve never tried it with green or wax beans. Typically I use Bush’s baked beans, kidney, butter and pintos. I haven’t found a combination yet that I didn’t like.

    • Billie says

      My recipe doesn’t have nearly that much ketchup or sugar. This is one of those recipes though that is super forgiving. Start with 1/2 cup or each and adjust to taste depending on what beans you use. I often use a can of Bush’s baked beans. Sometime the onion flavor, sometimes Griller’s, and the Maple would certainly need less sugar added.

  2. Tracy says

    Woke up to snow on the ground this morning, so this recipe came just in time! Looks wonderful!
    My favorite potluck dish is King Ranch Chicken Casserole. Made with Doritos, chicken and green chiles. So many different versions of it and its always results in bringing home an empty pan!

    • Chris says

      Tracy, You have to share your King Ranch Chicken recipe! The bean recipe looks yum, too! I always look for new recipes to take to the field for meals during harvest. Yesterday I did chili. I used the Chinet hot drink disposable cups with lids to give each guy. We order Styrofoam takeout containers online for other meals to transport. Anyone have any more ideas? p.s. Thanks, Jillee for a new recipe.

  3. Melissa says

    I make something similar as well. I got the recipe from my friend from Newfoundland and they call them Trainwrecker beans. It uses maple syrup instead of the brown sugar though. Gives it a great flavour and we have maple syrup in abundance at my house as my husband does syrup every spring.

  4. Jessica says

    I would love to attempt this minus the meat….. Do you think it would work? It looks so good! I see things like this and can’t believe sometimes that I haven’t eaten meat in 10 years! Thanks for being awesome Jillee!! <3

    • Helen in Meridian ID says

      We make this from an old Job’s Daughter’s cookbook. Our recipe does not use hamburger, but does use some bacon. Our recipe uses butter beans, baked beans, kidney beans and at the end has squares of cheese that melt into it. Also a little less ketchup. We serve it at all family get togethers.

    • Angel says

      I have made this without meat before and its good. Either do less sauce or add more beans to cover the amount of meat. I would suggest though maybe adding just a small amount of liquid smoke since the bacon gives it a bit of smokiness to the flavor

  5. says

    Preheat oven to 350°, then when is the dish or pan put into the oven. The directions say “cook” for one hour but nothing about the oven. And please start putting the number of servings with the recipes. I love the recipes but would like to have some indication as to how many the recipe will serve.

  6. Carol says

    At our house it’s called “Old Settler’s Beans”. Only use baked, butter, and kidney beans and omit vinegar and add molasses. HAVE to make this at EVERY family gathering. Always a winner.

  7. Constance says

    Sounds interesting.
    I just got two questions:
    a) what is beans and pork? both already combined in a tin? (I couldn’t see it in the picture) and what do I do if I haven’t got access to it?
    b) in the description it reads “combine ground beef, bacon and onions and fry” but in the picture the onion in the casserole is raw. which is better?

  8. clarissa says

    Technically to eliminate the risk of BPA you would have to leave out all of the beans…the ketchup…well about everything.. its ridiculous they put BPA or chemicals in ANYTHING. no wonder there are so many health problems, obesity, etc

  9. Lynda Mortensen says

    My new husband is from Minnesota, and his family is German-Lutheran. Funnily enough my New Mother-in-Law’s name is Dorothea! He often mentions ‘Hotdish’ but being a guy, has never been able to tell me what’s actually in it, although he did mention something about Tater Tots once, which caused me to raise my eyebrows, as I KNOW they didn’t have those in Olde Worlde Germany LOL! He just eats it, doesn’t care what’s in it ;). I’m going to try this out tonight, even though I never usually use canned veggies, so. I might substitute some of the beans for frozen ones.

    • Tina says

      Actually the German restaurants I’ve gone to serve Tater Tots but they sure don’t look or taste like those pre-made things in a bag. They’re like little potato dumplings but not cooked in a sauce. YUMMY!!

  10. Jacquie says

    Oh how funny Jillee! I lived in Jamestown, ND, just 90 miles West of Fargo, for 40+years and I am married to 100% Norwegian-Lutheran Minister! I make this “Hotdish” whenever I can and have been looking forward to making it since the cool temperatures kicked in. My plan is to make it this Sunday for our church’s annual meeting. We too use mostly legume beans, such as kidney, butter, northern, and baked beans. Like you said, it is very forgiving. This Irish-Scottish girl has grown to love it as it was handed down to me from my mother-in-law also. If we bring any leftovers home, I plan to eat it as often as I can!! YUMMY!

  11. says

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  12. Beth Moe says

    This is a very good recipe. My recipe comes from an old recipe book and it has the exact ingredients except the ketchup is 1/2 cup and the brown sugar is 1/2 cup. This dish is sweet with 1/2 cup of the sugar and ketchup. Would be way too sweet with what this recipe calls for. As for the beans, any kind that you have at hand work. I add chick peas as well. Good as leftovers over buns.

  13. alicia says

    Ready your website nearly every day, although I rarely comment. Just have to day, I was super excited to see this on the front page today. I live in Minnesota, and my grandma made this for every get together. No one can make it quite like hers, although I have come close!

  14. Rosemary S says

    Yes, some of the old family recipes from ND are the best. I live not so far from Fargo and we usually have some sort of “hotdish” going. Especially now, since the weather is turning colder…the soups and hotdishes win their places on the dinner table. Your recipe looks like a winner too! Thanks!

  15. Jill Schwieger says

    This recipe looks like it may become a family favorite and standby! I love this sort of dish that is simple, inexpensive, tasty comfort food. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! Blessings…..

  16. Allie says

    Jillee, last night I used your Championship Chili as the main “hot” dish as my friends and I (we call ourselves Team Sparkle) go down to Reno, NV when we can and cook up enough food to feed up to 200 people in a parking lot outside of the homeless shelters. It was a huge hit (I took your recipe and multiplied it by 5, then cooked and added 6 lbs of elbow pasta to stretch it out). This sounds like a great alternative for the next time, though man, opening up more than 25 cans was a royal pain :-)

  17. Jenny says

    We make this with a can of baked beans, 1 can of light kidney beans, 1 can of dark kidney beans, and a can or jar of northern beans and then the other ingredients in your recipe. My recipe calls for lima beans too but I don’t really like them so I don’t add them in. We cook it in the crock pot on low for a few hours (4 hours maybe? but it can depend a lot on your crockpot.) Great for family gatherings, and great leftovers too! It is always very popular!

  18. JoAnne says

    Tracy, I’m interested in the King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe too! Sounds very good.
    I’m going to try the Bean Casserole next weekend. What to serve with it…..any suggestions?

  19. Alyssa says

    My mom has made this for years, but uses the slow cooker. She also calls it calico beans! She cooks the bacon, burger, and onions the evening before, drains well. Refrigerates overnight, then adds everything to cooker in the morning. It is always nice to come home to this smell!

  20. Diana says

    Very similar to a recipe I used to make – we call it 4 bean casserole. I never tried it with yellow or green beans, but that adds a healthy twist to it. We use pork and beans, kidney beans, white northern beans and Lima beans. I actually dislike Lima beans, but in this recipe I use frozen Baby Lima beans … Since they are smaller than regular Lima beans, they are actually very tasty. I have found that if you use regular baked beans instead of pork and beans, it makes it too sweet since regular baked beans are already sweetened. Can either bake it on the oven for an hour or about 4 -6 hours in the crockpot on medium or low. Always even better the next day!

  21. patricia middleton says

    We call this Calico Beans because of the varied colors of the beans. We use green limas and sometimes canned navy beans. Like you said this receipe is very forgiving. This is a favorite fall dish and we use apples and or apple cider and reduce the brown sugar a bit.

  22. Jean Wofford says

    My recipe is 5-Bean Supreme…and I use whatever beans I have in my pantry, green beans, navy beans, pork & beans, red beans, butter beans, or wax beans. I have even added whole kernel corn for extra color. The meat in my recipe is bulk sausage and link sausage, browned and drained. I cook the onion with the sausages then add the rest of the ingredients. Instead of ketchup, I use a can of condensed tomato soup with one can of water. Cooked in crock pot all day and served over rice with buttered cornbread makes for a great supper on a cold day!

  23. Lisa * says

    I made this last night for dinner and it was a big hit! I used 1/2 the amount of ketchup and sugar and added a few more cans of beans plus about 1/2 tsp of ground mustard. I’ve made similar (Calico Beans) in past but these ones were even better!


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