Brunswick Stew Origins and Recipes

Brunswick stew is a traditional favorite with its roots firmly planted in the South. Although the origins are uncertain, and both Brunswick County in Virginia and Brunswick in Georgia claim they invented the recipe, it's known that ancient Indigenous traditions already included a similar dish long before the disagreement over who invented it began.

The original recipe used game, usually squirrel, and corn long-simmered over an open fire. Nowadays, Brunswick stew is most commonly made with chicken or a combination of several types of meat, which might include rabbit, beef, and pork. Onions, corn, and tomatoes or barbecue sauce are frequently included, and many recipes call for lima beans, peas, and okra.

Whether you like yours with chicken, squirrel, rabbit, or pork, you'll find three stellar recipes to choose from in this collection. We've also included a fourth dish, the Kentucky burgoo, similar in taste and use of ingredients.

  • 01 of 04

    Chicken and Pork Classic Brunswick

    Brunswick Stew with Pork and Chicken. Diana Rattray

    This recipe for Brunswick stew uses chicken thighs, pork, and a wide variety of vegetables and seasonings to add flavor and color. Use leftover chicken and pork, or use cooked chicken thighs and pulled pork, mix them with potatoes, lima beans, and corn. No matter what you use, this flavorful dish is ready in just 1 hour.

    Make a cooking medium of chicken broth, cayenne, pepper, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and barbecue sauce for the meats to soak up the tomatoey flavors. Serve with homemade cornbread, slaw, and pickles.

  • 02 of 04

    Brunswick Stew with Potatoes, Corn, and Lima Beans

    Brunswick Stew with Cornbread. Diana Rattray

    This version is a classic Virginia-style Brunswick stew made with chicken, potatoes, lima beans, corn, and tomato sauce. Although the recipe indicates a slow-cooked chicken resulting in off-the-bone juicy meat and a tasty broth, use leftover chicken and store-bought chicken stock to make your stew if need be. Add leftover pork or bacon to the stew if you'd like or switch-up the vegetables to suit your family's tastes.

    If you're not making the broth from scratch, the stew can be made in 1 hour. Otherwise, your cooking time will be close to 3 hours and 20 minutes. Serve with cornbread or crusty New Orleans French bread.

  • 03 of 04

    Georgia Style Brunswick Stew

    Brunswick stew. Diana Rattray

    Barbecue sauce and hot sauce add to the flavor in this version of the stew. Cooked chicken (or a combination of chicken and pork), potatoes, cream-style corn, and ketchup round out a tasty dish that's ready in under 1 hour. Use bacon drippings to add flavor, and feel free to add legumes or other vegetables if you want more volume and heartiness.

    This easy dish requires only mixing all of the ingredients in a dutch oven, cooking, and adjusting heat and salt to your preferences. Serve with warm buttermilk cornbread bread and a green bean salad.

  • 04 of 04

    Kentucky Burgoo

    Kentucky burgoo recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

    Like the original Brunswick stew, the Kentucky burgoo follows the same pattern of progression. What started as a stew of game meat, like venison, or local smaller species like raccoon, opossum, or squirrel, is today a stew of chicken, pork, or mutton. Our recipe uses chicken and beef in a slow-cooked and thick preparation filled with veggies like onions, carrots, potatoes, okra, lima beans, tomatoes, and cabbage.

    Cook for 2 to 3 hours until your preferred consistency adding water if necessary. Serve with grits.

For the Best Brunswick Stew

To make a wonderful stew, remember to:

  • Cut up your potatoes ahead of time and keep them in cold water until it's time to use them.
  • Use seasonal ingredients if you can, like butter beans and fresh corn.
  • Rinse the okra, if using, with very cold water. If you're keeping it whole, just trim the stem. If you're cutting it up in wheels, remember that the seeds will cook and ooze out a gelatinous component. In the stew, the mouthfeel of this slimy characteristic will go unnoticed, but if you don't want to take risks, add the whole okra 5 minutes before the end of cooking time.
  • Keep the stew in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or make ahead in big batches and freeze in family-sized special bags for a later occasion.