If you're looking for the perfect, most delicious side dish for your next barbecue, then I have the solution for you right here! Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew is an iconic Southern barbecue side dish containing the most delicious combination of meat and vegetables you've ever tasted.
If there was a list somewhere of iconic Southern recipes, somewhere near the top of that list would be Brunswick Stew. It is part-and-parcel of any Southern cook's repertoire although its origins are somewhat murky.
Of course, Brunswick, Georgia, claims bragging rights to the delicious recipe as does Brunswick County, Virginia. Who really knows where it originated? I'm sure I don't, but I know this - it is one of the most delicious combinations of meat and vegetables ever created. And, frankly, no Southern barbecue would be complete without a steaming pot of it.
All through the South, there are thousands of local, mom-and-pop barbecue restaurants. Every one of them serves up their own special barbecued meats, sauces, and stew. They're all different and delicious in their own unique way.
Depending on the cook, Brunswick Stew may have a base of all pork, all chicken or a mixture of the two. I prefer all chicken for mine. In years past, rabbit and other wild game meats were used, but that's quite rare these days.
The two things, however, that all Brunswick Stews must be is "smoky" and "sweet." The smoky aspect usually comes from the meat and the sweet from the addition of barbecue sauce.
How to Make Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew
I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you'll find the recipe card.
For Deep Smoky Flavor Start with a Ham Bone
Put the ham bone in a large cooking pot with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. If you don't happen to have a ham bone readily available, check to see if there's a HoneyBaked Ham store near you. They'll gladly sell you a ham bone. Also, lots of grocery stores have them if you just ask the butcher.
Note: Using the ham bone is optional, but it gives an extra smoky depth of flavor to the Brunswick stew. If you don’t have a ham bone, you may start with the simmering of the chicken and aromatic herbs. Use a barbecue sauce with a smoky flavor where called for later in the recipe.
Cook and Shred the Chicken
Add the chicken to the pot along with the bay leaves, thyme, parsley, celery, onions, and peppercorns. I had some celery leaves left over from making celery sticks the day before, so that's what I used. Waste not, want not! Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and tender – approximately 1 ½ hours.
When the chicken is tender, set it aside until it's cool enough to handle. I will often prepare the recipe to this point and place the chicken and broth in separate containers in the refrigerator overnight. That gives an opportunity for the fat to rise to the top of the broth and it can easily be removed before finishing the recipe.
Remove and discard the bones and skin from the chicken. Finely shred the chicken meat and return to the broth.
Add Remaining Ingredients to the Pot
Add the onion, butterbeans (or baby lima beans), corn, potatoes, diced tomatoes, barbecue sauce, catsup, salt, and red pepper flakes, if using. If needed, add more water to make a thick soupy stew.
Simmer Until Done
Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender. Makes 15-18 servings.
How to Serve
Brunswick Stew is most often served as a side dish along with barbecued chicken or pork, baked beans, and potato salad. It may also be served in a big bowl with saltine crackers on the side.
You'll likely have leftovers because this recipe makes a lot of stew! Just store them in a tightly closed container in your refrigerator for up to three days.
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Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew
- 1 ham bone preferably from a country cured ham
- 3 quarts water
- 4 pound stewing hen
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or several sprigs fresh
- 6 stems fresh parsley
- 2 ribs celery
- 2 small onions
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 1 large onion chopped
- 4 medium potatoes cubed
- 2 cups butterbeans or baby lima beans
- 19 ounces canned whole kernel corn drained (two cans)
- 18 ounces bottled sweet and smoky barbecue sauce recommend Kraft original
- 1 cup catsup
- 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 red chili pepper chopped (optional)
- Put the ham bone in a large cooking pot with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the chicken to the pot along with the bay leaves, thyme, parsley, celery, onions and peppercorns.
- Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and tender – approximately 1 ½ hours. When tender, set the chicken aside until cool enough to handle.
- Remove and discard the bones and skin from the chicken.
- Finely shred the chicken meat and return to the broth.
- Add the onion, butterbeans or baby lima beans, corn, potatoes, diced tomatoes, barbecue sauce, catsup, salt and red pepper flakes, if using. Add more water if needed to make a thick soupy stew.
- Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.