Have you ever wondered how the classic Kentucky burgoo is made? Look no further! In this article, you will discover the secrets behind crafting this renowned dish. Bursting with flavor, this traditional Kentucky stew is slow-cooked to perfection, combining an array of meats, vegetables, and spices. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a curious beginner, this article will guide you through the steps of creating your own delectable bowl of Kentucky burgoo. Get ready to savor the rich history and mouthwatering taste of this beloved Southern dish.



The classic Kentucky burgoo typically includes a variety of meats, such as beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. This combination of meats adds depth and richness to the stew.


A key component of Kentucky burgoo is a medley of vegetables. Traditional options like potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and corn are commonly used. These vegetables not only enhance the flavor but also contribute to the stew’s hearty texture.


Broth serves as the base for the Kentucky burgoo. It provides a flavorful backdrop for all the other ingredients. The broth can be made from chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, depending on your preference.


To create the distinct flavor profile of Kentucky burgoo, a variety of seasonings are added. This may include salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce. These seasonings help to enhance the taste of the meat, vegetables, and broth.

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Preparing the Meat

Start by preparing the meat for the burgoo. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, ensuring they are relatively uniform in size. This allows for even cooking and ensures that the meat retains its tenderness.

Chopping Vegetables

Next, chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. The size of the vegetables should be consistent with the meat to ensure a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Keeping the vegetables chunky adds a rustic touch to the stew.

Making the Broth

To make the broth, combine the chosen stock with water in a large pot. Add in the meat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Allow the meat to cook until it becomes tender and easily shreds apart. This process infuses the broth with the savory flavors of the meat.

Cooking the Burgoo

Once the meat is tender, add the chopped vegetables to the pot. Stir them into the broth, ensuring they are well-coated. Cover the pot and let the burgoo simmer on low heat for several hours. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and comforting stew.

Serving Suggestions


Kentucky burgoo is often served with traditional accompaniments, such as cornbread or biscuits. These bread options help to soak up the flavorful broth and provide a satisfying contrast in texture. Additional side dishes like coleslaw or a fresh salad can also complement the robust flavors of the stew.


When serving the burgoo, consider garnishing with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, such as parsley or thyme, to add a touch of color and freshness. You can also serve the stew in individual bread bowls for a unique and rustic presentation. Present the burgoo alongside the chosen accompaniments for a complete and visually appealing meal.


Adding Beans

For those who enjoy a heartier stew, adding beans to the burgoo is a delicious option. Kidney beans, lima beans, or black beans can be included to provide additional protein and texture. Simply rinse and drain the beans before adding them to the stew during the final stages of cooking.

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Using Different Meats

While the classic Kentucky burgoo recipe traditionally includes beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, you can modify the meat selection to suit your preferences or availability. Consider incorporating venison, rabbit, or even seafood like shrimp or fish to add a unique twist to the dish.

Vegetarian Option

For those who prefer a vegetarian version of Kentucky burgoo, simply omit the meat and replace it with hearty vegetables like mushrooms or tofu. Ensure that the stew is still packed with flavor by using a robust vegetable stock and adding plenty of seasonings to enhance the taste.

History of Kentucky Burgoo


Kentucky burgoo has its roots in American pioneer cooking. The stew was originally created as a communal dish, often prepared in large cast-iron kettles over an open flame. It was a way to bring people together, as everyone would contribute ingredients to create a hearty and nourishing meal.

Traditional Events

Kentucky burgoo became particularly popular during local events and gatherings, including political rallies, horse races, and family reunions. Today, it remains a cherished dish in many Kentucky communities, often served at outdoor festivals and county fairs.

Tips and Tricks

Slow Cooking for Better Flavor

To achieve the best flavor in your Kentucky burgoo, opt for slow cooking. This allows the flavors to develop and meld together over time, resulting in a more delicious and comforting stew. Consider using a slow cooker or simmering the burgoo in a Dutch oven on low heat for several hours.

Reheating Leftovers

Leftover burgoo tastes just as delicious, if not better, the next day. When reheating, add a splash of broth or water to the stew to revive the flavors and prevent it from becoming dry. Reheat the burgoo gently over low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.

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Freezing and Storing

Kentucky burgoo freezes exceptionally well, making it convenient for future meals. Allow the stew to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer-safe bags. It can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw the frozen burgoo overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Health Benefits of Kentucky Burgoo

Rich in Protein

Thanks to the combination of various meats, Kentucky burgoo is a protein-packed dish. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, as well as supporting immune function. The mixture of meats in the stew provides a variety of amino acids, contributing to a well-rounded protein source.

Vegetable Nutrients

Kentucky burgoo also offers a wonderful array of vitamins and minerals from the vegetables included. Potatoes provide a good source of potassium, while carrots offer beta-carotene and vitamin K. Onions and celery add antioxidants and fiber to the stew, making it a nutritious and wholesome meal option.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to cook burgoo?

The cooking time for burgoo can vary depending on the cut and size of the meats used. Generally, it takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to cook burgoo on low heat. The stew is ready when the meat becomes tender and easily shreds apart.

Can I make burgoo in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can definitely make burgoo in a slow cooker. Simply follow the recipe and instructions as mentioned, and instead of simmering it on the stovetop, transfer the ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high heat for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is tender.

Can I make burgoo in advance and freeze it?

Absolutely! Kentucky burgoo is a perfect dish for meal prepping. Allow the stew to cool completely before transferring it to airtight containers or freezer-safe bags. When you’re ready to enjoy it, thaw the frozen burgoo overnight in the refrigerator and reheat it gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.


Kentucky burgoo is a true culinary gem, deeply rooted in American history and loved by many for its comforting and hearty qualities. Whether you’re preparing it for a traditional event or simply craving a delicious and nutritious meal, the classic recipe and variations provide ample opportunities for personalization and enjoyment. So gather your ingredients, take your time with the preparation, and savor every spoonful of this iconic stew. Cheers to a warm and flavorful bowl of Kentucky burgoo!

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.