Recipe Review

I Tried the Famous “Cowboy Stew” and It’s as Cozy and Hearty as the Name Suggests

published Nov 4, 2023
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Cowboy stew in Dutch oven.
Credit: Lena Abraham

Lately the food world seems to be overtaken by recipes that draw inspiration from a surprising source: cowboys. From butter, to casseroles, to “caviar,” there appears to be some mystical draw to these hearty, almost nostalgic recipes. Although it’s hard to say whether any cowboy ever actually ate any of this stuff, we can’t deny the appeal.

The latest cowboy craze? Cowboy stew. Kathleen of Gonna Want Seconds has a version that is rapidly garnering five-star reviews, so we figured it was only natural we gave this Western-inspired recipe a shot. Although it’s quite different from the colorfully named cowboy stew of yore, which featured meat and organs from a calf, it’s still loaded with lots of hearty, stick-to-your-ribs ingredients. 

Get the recipe: Cowboy Stew

Credit: Lena Abraham

How to Make Cowboy Stew

Slice kielbasa sausages into 1/2-inch pieces and chop slices of bacon. Add bacon to a large pot over medium heat. Cook until crispy, then transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. 

Add the sliced sausage to the pot and brown on both sides, then remove to another paper towel-lined plate. Add 80/20 ground beef to the pot, along with diced onion and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. Add all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, and chili powder, and cook for one minute more. Add canned petite diced tomatoes (with liquid), baked beans, chopped green chilies, canned sweet corn (with liquid), peeled and cubed russet potatoes, and water. Return bacon and sausage to pot, bring mixture up to a simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour.

Serve garnished with chopped parsley. If the stew is too thick, loosen with additional water.

Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Review of Cowboy Stew

As someone who eats meat rather infrequently, I found the inclusion of ground beef and two types of pork to be somewhat intimidating. The resulting stew is a bit like chili, but even meatier. Incorporating all of this protein makes for an intensely savory dish, with baked beans and corn bringing some sweetness for balance. The addition of potatoes and flour creates a thick, ultra-rich broth imbued with tons of smoky flavor from the kielbasa. All this to say that this stew is about as hearty as it gets. If you’re a meat-lover, there’s a good chance you’ll be into this recipe, but for me it was a bit too intense.

If you need to feed a lot of hungry people fast, this recipe couldn’t be easier. Although the inclusion of lots of canned ingredients does lighten up prep time considerably, I couldn’t shake the subtle tinny flavor you sometimes taste in canned ingredients. I think swapping in a couple of non-canned ingredients (like fresh or frozen corn or chopped fresh tomatoes) would help mask this unpleasant flavor. Any canning liquid lost in these swaps could easily be replaced by water or broth, as the stew is already plenty thick — even more so after spending a night in the fridge. 

3 Tips for Making Cowboy Stew

  1. Use a really big pot. This recipe makes a lot of stew! I used a 6.75-quart pot, which gave me plenty of room for stirring and simmering.
  2. Sear off your kielbasa in batches. Even with a large pot, it’s impossible to sear off all your sausage in one go. Add enough sliced kielbasa to lay flat in a single layer to achieve that perfect golden-brown, and adjust the heat as you go to avoid accumulating too many browned bits on the bottom of your pan. 
  3. Stir often while the stew simmers. With two whole cans of baked beans, this recipe actually contains a fair amount of sugar. Stir every few minutes while the stew is simmering to avoid burning those sugars.