Kentucky Burgoo

This recipe makes a lot! Feel free to halve. Otherwise, it makes great leftovers.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves a small army. Or 12-16.


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder or country ribs, cut into large pieces (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 2-3 pounds chuck roast, stew meat, or other inexpensive cut of beef, cut into large pieces (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 3-5 chicken legs or thighs (bone-in)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 1 quart beef stock or broth
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 large potatoes (we used russets)
  • 1 bag of frozen corn (about a pound)
  • 1 bag of frozen lima beans (about 14 ounces)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4-8 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce on the side


1 Heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large soup pot (at least 8 quart size). Salt the meats well on all sides. When the oil is shimmering hot, working in batches brown all the meats. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown well. Do not move the meat while browning a side. Let the meat pieces get well seared. Remove the browned meats to a bowl.

2 Add the onions, carrots, celery and green pepper to the pot and brown them. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot. After a few minutes of cooking, sprinkle salt over the vegetables.

3 When the vegetables are well browned, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant. Add back the meats, and the chicken and beef broths and the tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

4 Uncover and remove the meat pieces. Strip the chicken off the bone and discard skin if you want. Break the larger pieces of meat into smaller, more manageable pieces. The reason you did not do this at first is because the meats stay juicier when they cook in larger pieces. Return all the meat pieces to the pot and bring it up to a strong simmer.

5 Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks about the same size as the meat pieces (if using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling, but russets you'll want to peel). Add them to the stew and cook them until they are done, about 45 minutes. When the potatoes are done, add the Worcestershire sauce, mix well and taste for salt. Add more Worcestershire sauce to taste if needed.

6 Add the corn and lima beans. Mix well and cook for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you’d like. Here is the point where you decide whether you want a burgoo that’s been hammered into a thick mass or a stew with bright colors in it. It’s your call.

To serve, taste one more time for salt, and add either Worcestershire or salt if you want. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

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  • Andrea

    It seems odd to cook the chicken thighs with the skin on. Doesn’t it make the stew greasy? I am cooking it now and curious to taste it!

  • Libba

    Can you make this and then freeze to serve the following weekend? I’m having a Kentucky Derby Party but will be out of town until the day before.

  • Lisa Millhorn

    Wondering if anyone has made this and frozen part of it for another day, a month or so out? I’ve had great luck freezing my huge batches of bean soup, in freezer bags laid out flat so they defrost fast.

  • Sue Dean

    My 6th grade granddaughter is making your recipe for school. I KNOW hers will be the class favorite. Hubby wants me to sneak him a bowl for dinner. LOL

  • Wendy

    I am in the 2 hour simmer part of this recipe now! Not looking forward to removing the bones and not sure how I’ll do it, but will figure it out. Won’t they be hot? I plan to bring it to a Derby party tomorrow. I’ll finish the cooking tonight – will it be ok in the fridge overnight and then reheated? Or should I put it in a crock pot on low all night?

    Yes, it will be okay in the fridge overnight and then reheated. ~Elise

  • Jean

    About the okra question… I was raised in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby, and now reside in a little hamlet called Georgetown, KY. I have made and/or eaten burgoo from all over the state for decades, and though I have not tried your recipe, it looks very tasty. Burgoo is like BBQ, it’s different, but familiar, from region to region. For the meats, I’ve always used a combination of pork, beef, and chicken (despite our local moniker of “roadkill stew” for this delicious concoction!). Now, back to the okra. It will not be at all slimy if done right. I dump a 1 lb bag of frozen, sliced okra into the pot before the long cook (several hours). The okra will disintegrate and thus add an amazing thickness to the broth that is the essence of true burgoo. I also add the lima beans at this time so their tough skins can soften. The corn should be added towards the very end of the cooking time. Instead of, or in combination with, the worcestershire sauce, experiment with a half bottle or more of BBQ sauce… it really perks up the broth! Thanks for a great site! Jean

  • Ducks223

    That bowl of soup pictured on this page looks delicious… but that isn’t burgoo.

    ~ Owensboro, KY.

  • Doris

    I grew up in western KY. In Daviess County, many of the Catholic Churches still have a picnic in the summer with games, like a mini-carnival. Burgoo and chopped or sliced mutton sandwiches are two of the biggest draws for these events. There are multiple 50-60 gallon vats of burgoo cooked over open fires all day long. The mutton for the sandwiches is cooked on huge barbecue stands over a low fire for hours and basted with spices and barbecue sauce. My parents made a 40 gallon vat of burgoo and barbecued mutton, chicken, pork and beef several times a summer. Mutton or lamb was always used in the burgoo in Kentucky. I cannot imagine cooking it without lamb. My husband and I make it frequently in a crock pot. We add some liquid smoke to give it the fired flavor, some beer and even a little whiskey. My kids all love it. Whenever we go back home, we eat our fill of burgoo and mutton sandwiches. We also take coolers and buy several gallons of burgoo and some chopped mutton at Old Hickory in Owensboro, KY to bring back to Kansas and freeze. It really brings back some happy memories of my childhood.

    • Phil

      I’m from Owensboro also, (Bar-B-Que capitol of the world) just finished a bowl of Ol’ Hickory burgoo. I have to admit, anyone in the area, Old Hickory has some of the best bar-b-que in the world. Better than the other place on Parrish Ave. that a lot of people brag on !
      What is pictured isn’t Kentucky (Owensboro burgoo) !

  • Vee

    Is this significantly different from New Brunswick stew? It’s something I’m familiar with from Tennessee, and this hits all the notes–including commenters who mention that older recipes call for game (esp. rabbit). Even the lima beans, and people who like to cook it til it’s sludge! Even the Tabasco sauce…

    I think burgoo is typically served at a large gathering, and would typically have more than one type of meat in it. ~Elise

  • jamie

    I made this the other night I browned everything and then threw it all in my 7q crockpot over night on high for 7h ( because my dh woke up for work at 6 and he always wakes me up with his noise so i asked him to turn it on low and I got up at 9) and low for 3 ad hrs I also got up at 4am( thats just when I woke in the night) to take the meat off the bone) I used a pork tenderloin cause it was 1/2 price, stewing beef and chicken thighs. I also used kidney beans because I didn’t have any lima on hand. my dh has not eaten anything but this for the past 4 days. I have even cooked other yummy things and he only wants to eat this. I think I used about 1/4 c worcestershire sauce and I also put in a few drops of liquid smoke and a sweet potato instead of a white one. Just made more sense to me being a southern dish. I am going out this week to get some more meat to make it again!

  • Carissa

    We don’t have lima beans in New Zealand, but I’m trying canned Cannellini beans in my stew tonight – it smells divine and I still have an hour to wait…. I wonder if lima beans are the same as what we call “broad beans”? This is my favouritist recipe site on earth – I have a stack of printed recipes and forward them onto Mum. Thanks Elise.

    Hi Carissa, broad beans, also known as fava beans, are different from lima beans, but you can use them in this recipe in place of the lima beans, as long as you shuck them from their pods, boil them separately first, then remove the outer peel, before adding them to the stew. ~Elise

  • Lucas

    Is there any chance of seeing a Snapping Turtle soup pop up on here anytime soon?

    Great question! Although terrapin soup has been on distinguished menus for decades (a hundred years ago) I have no plans to make for Simply Recipes. My go-to guy for game Hank Shaw is not fond of cleaning turtle, and I don’t think we have many snapping turtles here in Northern California. ~Elise

  • chandani

    Elise that is wonderful historical recipe. I would love to make this for some of my friend this weekend. But they don’t eat beef. Can I substitute it with lamb or can I just make it with only pork and chicken. Thank you.

    According to other commenters mutton is traditional, so I assume lamb would be an excellent substitution. ~Elise

  • Paula

    Grew up in southwest Indiana, and Burgoo was popular late summer fare – like the writer from Illinois, cooked in kettles over a fire at big family and church gatherings – yummy! My question/comment – we always put in a cheesecloth laden with spices to simmer in the stew (maybe this is called the “cat”? – I cannot remeber). Any idea what spices to include?

  • Holly Varnado

    In Mississippi we call this country stew. Tastes even better with rabbit, squirrel, and pork.

  • amanda

    I grew up in central IL and we have always made it as a family. In fact, my mom grew up making it, so it goes back in the family at least before she was born! We do make it in kettles over a fire and someone always has to be stirring with wooden paddles. We also make upwards to 60-70 gallons per batch. We spend the summer preparing the veggies and cooking the chicken, beef and pork and then make it on Labor Day. It is quite the family tradition!
    ps – it loses something unless you make it over a fire, something about the smoke….so good!

  • Ang

    So love this recipe! I am adding it to my next menu planner….. Question – we only use white meat chicken, since it would no doubt dry out cooking it as long as the dark meat, when should I add it? If the meats and chicken cook for roughly 2 hrs, maybe 1/2 of that? Thanks for all of the fabulous recipes Elise!

    Good question, no idea on the answer. I don’t put chicken breast meat in stews unless it’s with the rest of the chicken. The dark meat from the thighs and legs is what works in a stew like this. They’re more flavorful. ~Elise

  • Rhonda

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was quite good. I added some tarragon, bay leaves, and tomato paste. I used fresh corn rather than frozen. I prepped it this morning and let it cook in the slow cooker all day. Served it with french bread. What a wonderful, and easy, dinner. Very tasty. Thanks!

  • SteveEdz

    I made this stew last night for my Sunday meal today. I’m having my mother make some mashed potatoes so we can dump the stew over it. They are going to look at me very strangely when I tell them what it is.

    While I was cooking, I must have gone through a half loaf of bread soaking up the broth and stuffing my face…it oughta be REAL good today.

  • Susan

    Elise, this is the best looking recipe for Burgoo I’ve seen yet! I think it’s the meats used, as most recipes call for wild meat. have Lima beans it favorite! .

    re lima beans, Often the problem people have with the texture is because they don’t cook them long enough. Frozen lima’s take about 25-30 minutes, minimum, to cook through, otherwise the texture is hard or crumbly. Cooked long enough, they are as creamy as cannelini or other beans. They are a perfect addition to stew or soups that take a longer time to cook because they get so soft yet still hold their shape.

  • Marie

    This sounds quite interesting. Since we don’t eat pork, will substitute goat or lamb. For the reader that says okra is slimy, you must fry it first in oil before adding it to any type of dish and then you should have no problem or, at the very least, minimal.

  • Greg Walker

    I love burgoo, but the only recipe that I have is about a hundred years old and it makes a VAT of stew. Literally. It is sized for fifty gallons, or so.

    It does include all kinds of roadkill and it is cooked for about a day or more. I have always intended to scale it down and modernize it a bit, so that the meats retained some integrity, but have never made the time. I am looking forward to this version! I think it will sate my craving.

  • Jenny Lee

    I was born and raised in Madison and Fayette co.s
    Never heard of burgoo til I was in my 30s.
    It’s a western KY dish.
    But even tho I’m recently introduced – I think the real recipe calls for wild meat…the idea being whatever is on hand. Ned brings venison, bob turkey, sam brings ham–or rabbit or squirrel or dove…you know?

    One of those great simple regional dishes that is different and delicious anyway your mom makes it.


    • Suzanne, Flemington, NJ

      How about adding locally raised Wild Boar? It’s so lean and absolutely delicious!

  • Jen

    Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks: You said you would be swapping okra for the lima beans…good idea! Is it better to use fresh or frozen okra? I have used it a few times, but I remember that one version is rather slimy, and I don’t like slimy food!! Thanks for the suggestion.

    I think okra, fresh or frozen, still cooks up slimy, doesn’t it? ~Elise

  • E. Peevie

    Apparently, lima beans are the black jelly beans of the stew world–a lot of people pluck them out and hand them over to me.

    But whereas I’ll take your black jelly beans, I don’t want no stinkin’ lima beans, so I’ll be swapping them for a more acceptable bean variety also.

    This recipe sounds like a fantastic alternative to chili on game day.

    Lima beans were the one food item that as a kid I simply could not eat at all. But you know what? They’re great in the stew, no kidding. ~Elise

  • Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

    Gorgeous photos! Thanks for the intro to burgoo. I’ll be adding in okra and swaping out the lima beans with another. Maybe cannellini? Or, is that complete sacrilege?

    I’m guessing that anything goes with this stew. Cannellini, why not? ~Elise

  • Sapphire

    Sounds delish! One thing though. When is the garlic added, when browning the veggies?

    Good catch! Thank you. Right before you add the meat. I’ve adjusted the recipe. ~Elise

  • Jon

    In Western Kentucky Mutton is the main meat of choice. Gives it a great earthy flavor!

  • cheryl keeping

    I was born and raised in KY and ate burgoo all of my life. Of course, our local burgoo may have had squirrel, turtle or rabbit in it. But beef, chicken and pork work. Also, you might try adding a can of beer. Yum!

    I see squirrel mentioned a lot in articles about burgoo, as well as venison and possum. Thanks for the beer idea! ~Elise