Kentucky Burgoo

published Sep 26, 2023
Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

A hearty stew made of beef, chicken, and pork, plus, potatoes, corn, lima beans, and okra.

Serves6 to 8

Makes3 quarts

Prep30 minutes

Cook3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours

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Overhead view of stew in a yellow pot with a ladle resting inside.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Burgoo is a Southern specialty meant for the masses. Kentuckians simmer beef chuck, pork shoulder, and chicken in a tomato-laced broth with chunks of hearty potatoes and frozen vegetables until it becomes a thick stew perfect for sharing. There’s nothing better than curling up with a warm bowl of burgoo and a piece of cornbread on a cold winter night. Here’s how to make this Kentucky classic at home.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

What Is Burgoo?

Burgoo is a tomato-based stew popular in Kentucky that’s served during large gatherings (like the Kentucky Derby) and to accompany BBQ. Burgoo may have gotten its name from the mispronunciation of “bird stew” or “barbecue.” There are as many burgoo recipes as there are families in Kentucky, but most burgoo recipes contain at least three types of meat and a variety of hearty vegetables. 

The origins of burgoo are murky, like the histories of so many traditional dishes. Some trace the origin back to freed slaves or Indigenous communities, while others attribute it to a Civil War-era French chef. Regardless of who served the first bowl of this stew, it is apparent that it is an unpretentious dish made from regional ingredients. 

What Ingredients Are in Burgoo?

There is no set list of ingredients for burgoo, as everyone makes the stew slightly differently. Most recipes include hearty vegetables and at least three types of meat. Contemporary recipes, like this one, rely on beef, pork, and chicken, although game meat and mutton were common, thanks to their ready availability.

  • Beef chuck roast or stew meat: These tough, well-marbled cuts of meat become tender when simmered for an extended period of time.
  • Pork shoulder: This cut may be labeled Boston butt at your grocery store. While they are often sold in large pieces, some butchers package pork shoulder steaks that are the perfect amount for this stew.
  • Chicken thighs or drumsticks: The dark meat of chicken thighs and drumsticks stays juicy during the long cooking time. Make sure to use bone-in, skin-on chicken to add flavor and fat to the stew.
  • Aromatics: Sauté the onion, bell peppers, carrots, celery, and garlic to give the stew a robust, full flavor.
  • Canned tomatoes: Adding a large can of crushed tomatoes gives the stew its savory flavor base.
  • Potatoes: Cubes of russet potatoes soak up all of the flavors of burgoo.
  • Lima beans: Add frozen lima beans straight to the stew; there’s no need to pre-cook or thaw.
  • Corn kernels: The color of yellow sweet corn pops in this burgundy stew, although white corn will work too.
  • Okra: Sliced frozen okra thaws quickly in the heat of the stew.

If You’re Making Burgoo, a Few Tips

  • Use no fewer than three types of meat. The common thread among burgoo recipes is that a variety of meats is required. 
  • Brown meat first. Browning the meat helps to build the rich, savory flavor of the stew. The large proportion of meat means that this is best done in batches so that the meat can brown instead of steam.
  • Don’t skimp on the cook time. The longer cooking time turns tough cuts of beef, pork, and other meats tender. Some cooks say that the stew should be so thick that a spoon can stick up straight in the center of the pot.
  • Use frozen vegetables. Frozen corn, okra, and lima beans are already par-cooked and processed (cut from the cob, sliced, and shelled, respectively). There’s no thawing required; simply add the frozen vegetables to the burgoo during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. 

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

A hearty stew made of beef, chicken, and pork, plus, potatoes, corn, lima beans, and okra.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours

Makes 3 quarts

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 1

    medium green bell pepper

  • 2

    medium carrots

  • 2 medium stalks


  • 4 cloves


  • 5 slices

    bacon (about 4 1/2 ounces total)

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless beef chuck roast or stew meat

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless pork shoulder

  • 2

    bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, or a combination (about 10 ounces total)

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, plus more as needed

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 6 cups

    low-sodium chicken or beef broth, or a combination, divided

  • 2

    dried bay leaves

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried thyme

  • 1 pound

    russet potatoes (about 2 medium)

  • 1 cup

    frozen lima beans

  • 1 cup

    frozen corn kernels

  • 1 cup

    frozen sliced okra

  • 2 tablespoons

    Worcestershire sauce


  1. Halve and thinly slice 1 large yellow onion (about 2 cups). Dice 1 medium green bell pepper, 2 medium carrots, and 2 medium celery stalks (about 1 cup each). Mince 4 garlic cloves.

  2. Cut 5 slices bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Trim off any large pieces of fat from 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast and 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, then cut into rough 2-inch pieces. Season the beef, pork, and 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken drumsticks with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add a single layer of beef, chicken, and pork shoulder to the pot, being careful not to crowd the pot as this will cause them to steam, rather than sear. Sear until browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.

  4. Repeat searing the remaining meat in batches, adding another tablespoon of oil before each batch if the pot looks dry. If at any time the fond (dark, sticky glaze that forms on the bottom of the pan) smells smoky or is starting to burn, dissolve it with a few tablespoons of water. The meat will not be cooked through at this point.

  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bacon to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to the plate of meat.

  6. Add the onions, bell pepper, carrots, celery, remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the pot. Cook, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until golden brown and the onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

  7. Add the bacon, seared meat and any accumulated juices, 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, 4 cups of the low-sodium chicken or beef broth, 2 dried bay leaves, and 2 teaspoons dried thyme. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Bring to a boil.

  8. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, peel and cut 1 pound russet potatoes into 3/4-inch pieces (about 3 cups). Place the potatoes in a bowl or food storage container and add enough cold water to cover.

  9. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a cutting board. Finely shred all of the meat with 2 forks and discard the chicken skin and bones. Return the meat to the pot. Drain the water from the potatoes, then add the potatoes and remaining 2 cups broth to the pot. Simmer uncovered until potatoes are very tender, 50 to 55 minutes.

  10. Add 1 cup frozen lima beans, 1 cup frozen corn kernels, 1 cup frozen sliced okra, and 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine. Cook until the vegetables are heated through and the burgoo is thickened to desired consistency, 5 to 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate the stew in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating with more water or broth as needed to thin out to the desired consistency.