What in the World is Burgoo?

Have you ever heard of burgoo?  It’s a Kentucky stew that can vary each time you make it!  Burgoo typically has three meats and a variety of vegetables like corn, potatoes, lima beans, and even cabbage.  Most cooks have one secret ingredient, like brown sugar or a dash or hot sauce. 

Instead of buying all of the ingredients, keep small amounts of leftovers in the fridge (that one piece of steak from the cookout; vegetables left over from a meal, a chicken breast that didn’t make it into the casserole).  And then throw them all together to make the stew.  It’s a yummy way to use up leftovers that aren’t large enough for a full meal.Chopping carrots on cutting board

So where did Burgoo come from?  If you’ve ever been to Kentucky, in particular the Kentucky Derby, you will see and smell burgoo cooking in big kettles over an open flame for parties and community events.  This hearty stew is also popular in parts of Illinois and the Ohio River Valley.

Family sharing Burgoo Stew

Like many other historic recipes, the origin of burgoo is rife with lore.  Some say it came from England in the 1800s, because folks would buy local meat and vegetables from their neighbors and so the taste varied with each creation.  We can’t prove it, but we heard burgoo is simply a mispronunciation of bird stew. 

As previously stated, you can use up the leftovers in your freezer, but if you are making it from scratch, here’s what we suggest:

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Burgoo Stew in pot

Burgoo Stew


Units Scale
  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 2 pounds roast beef
  • 2 pounds steak or sausage
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 minced garlic gloves
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 cups lima beans
  • 2 cups finely chopped cabbage
  • 64 oz. beef broth
  • 28 oz. of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves


Dice and chop all the meat and vegetables; brown the meat and sauté the vegetables in olive oil.  Then put all ingredients into a large pot and add the broth. 

Add crushed tomatoes, salt, thyme, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves.

Simmer for at least two hours, add a side of cornbread or biscuits and your burgoo feast is ready. 


Remember, you can substitute any meat or vegetables for what your family likes.  Many burgoos call for cabbage, but if your family doesn’t care for that – leave it out!

Keywords: dinner, soups, stews


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Karen A Dimarsico
Karen A Dimarsico
3 months ago

Excellent idea for leftovers!

Mrs. Katie, Heritage Ways
Mrs. Katie, Heritage Ways
3 months ago

Sounds great! I first enjoyed Burgoo when I went to my college roommate’s Kentucky pig farm. Gotta love a heritage comfort food! Thanks for sharing.

1 month ago

Bergoo has 17th century roots – basically oatmeal with molasses, traditionally a sailor’s breakfast.

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