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Burgoo is a term used for many types of stew or porridge made from a mixture of ingredients. Burgoo is a spicy stew that has its roots in the Irish or mulligan stew. Traditionally, the idea was to make a stew using whatever meats and vegetables were available and in good supply.

Left: Kentucky burgoo.

That meant venison, squirrel, opossum (though not in modern recipes) or game birds; essentially whatever the hunt brought back. The local Kentucky barbecue restaurants use specific meats—usually pork, chicken or mutton—in their recipes which creates (along with spice choices) a distinct flavor unique to each restaurant. Cornbread or corn muffins are served on the side.

Currently burgoo serves mainly as a tool for social gathering among Kentuckians and their friends. Typically each person brings one or more ingredients and all the ingredients will be cooked in a big pot.

No standardized recipe exists, but it is a combination of at least three things. Today, the meat is usually pork or mutton, often hickory-smoked, but not limited to these more popular meats. A combination of beef, pork, chicken and mutton are frequently used, both hickory-smoked and non-smoked. Vegetables such as lima beans, corn, okra and potatoes have always been popular. A thickening agent of cornmeal, ground beans, whole wheat or potato starch is all that most cookbook recipes use today, but it is traditional to add soup bones for taste and thickening.

The ingredients are combined in order of cooking time required, with meat usually going in first, vegetables second, and if necessary, thickening agents last. A good burgoo is said to be able to have a spoon stand up in it. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other savory spices can be added. Some varieties use cider vinegar, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce or dry chili powder. These condiments are often made available for people to spice up their own bowl as well.

There are many different recipes for burgoo, with considerable disagreement over ingredients and method of preparation. Many regional versions of this stew are thick enough to stand your spoon in. The recipe below was developed to be a lighter first course soup.

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 pound mixed cooked meats (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, game, etc.)
  • 1/2 gallon chicken stock
  • 1/2 gallon beef stock
  • 1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup okra
  • 1/4 cup lima beans
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe Cooking and Preparation Method


Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, skimming the top as needed.



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