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Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew

Learn to make the very best Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew recipe! This Georgia staple is an iconic southern barbecue side dish.
5 from 42 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Brunswick stew in a vintage bowl.

If you’re looking for the perfect, most delicious side dish for your next barbecue, then I have the solution for you right here. This is the best Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew recipe! Not only is it a Georgia staple, it’s 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 Old-Fashioned Brunswick Stew. It is part and parcel of any Southern cook’s repertoire although its origins are somewhat murky.

Brunswick stew in a vintage bowl.

My recipe is for old-fashioned Georgia Brunswick stew made with ham, chicken, potatoes, butter beans, corn, onions, and diced tomatoes. All that goodness is slowly stewed together until it reaches a deliciously rich, slow-cooked barbecue flavor.

✍🏻 History of Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew has quite an interesting history involving a long-standing rivalry between two cities with the same name — Brunswick. Of course, the city of Brunswick, Georgia, claims bragging rights to the delicious recipe as does Brunswick County, Virginia.

There just happens to be a large rusted pot sitting on top of a cement block on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia which the local residents claim to be the pot in which Brunswick stew was first made in 1898.

There also happens to be another large iron pot in Brunswick, Virginia, sitting on a cement block that is claimed to be the pot used to cook the very first batch in “early colonial days.” It’s a friendly rivalry that has been going on for over a century.

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. This particular recipe has Georgia roots – that’s the only thing I can tell you for certain!

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 pulled pork, all chicken, or a mixture of the two. I prefer all chicken for mine. In years past, squirrel 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 are “smoky” and “sweet.” The smoky aspect usually comes from the meat and the sweet from the addition of barbecue sauce.

💗 Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It encapsulates the essence of southern barbecue in every spoonful
  • It’s versatile – change the ingredients to suit your tastes.
  • Stores and freezes well.
  • It’s a one-pot recipe!

🥄 Equipment You’ll Need

To make this delicious southern classic, all you’ll need is one large pot. I am not talking about your standard large pot either. You need a POT with a capital P! One large enough to cook a whole chicken with plenty of room for the broth and vegetables. The one I use holds 15 quarts.

🥘 Ingredient Notes

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  • Ham bone (Preferably from a smoked ham. The ham bone is optional but highly recommended.)
  • Stewing hen (Look for a hen with a total weight of 4 to 5 pounds.)
  • Butter beans (I’m talking about petite, green butterbeans – sometimes called baby limas – not the big white mealy type. See my post on Southern Butter Beans for an explanation.)
  • Bottled barbecue sauce (I rarely use a purchased bbq sauce because I prefer my family’s secret recipe, but for this recipe, I do recommend the Kraft original brand. If you’re not using a ham bone, make sure the sauce you choose has a smoky flavor.)
  • All the remaining ingredients are fairly common and need no explanation.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

🔪 How to Make Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew

Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of steps! I promise you it’s worth it. And the best thing about this recipe is that it makes more than enough for leftovers. So, while it may take a bit more time than other recipes, you’ll reap the rewards for many meals to come!

For Deep Smoky Flavor Start with a Ham Bone

Put the ham bone in a large cooking pot or Dutch oven with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

If there was any usable cooked meat on the bone, remove it and return it to the broth in the pan. Discard the ham bone.

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.

👉 PRO TIP: 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

Photo collage showing a hen and herbs cooking in a large pot.

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 the chicken is tender, set it aside until it’s cool enough to handle.

👉 PRO TIP: I suggest preparing the chicken in advance. Place the chicken and chicken stock 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.

Shredded chicken in a mixing bowl.

Remove and discard the bones and skin from the chicken. Finely shred the chicken meat and return it to the broth.

Add Remaining Ingredients to the Pot

Photo collage showing remaining ingredients being added to the pot of Brunswick Stew.

Add the onion, butterbeans (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

Large pot filled with simmering Brunswick Stew.

Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender. Makes 15-18 servings.

🍽 How to Serve

In my part of the south, Brunswick Stew is always served as a side dish for barbecued chicken or pork, along with baked beans, and potato salad. I’m quite sure I’ve never known anyone who served it on its own as a main course. But if that takes your fancy, go ahead and dish some up in a big bowl with saltine crackers or freshly baked cornbread on the side.

🍚 Storing Leftovers

You’ll likely have leftover stew because this recipe makes a lot! Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To freeze, fill freezer-safe zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

When you’re ready to enjoy your stew again, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat just until warmed through or in the microwave on 50% power.

Brunswick stew in a vintage bowl.

🔀 Variations and Substitutions

  • To make your life easier, you can totally skip the steps of cooking the chicken and broth. Simply substitute the meat from a rotisserie chicken and use about 8 cups (or more) of purchased chicken broth or stock.
  • Some recipes don’t include potatoes. I think they’re essential to the stew, but omit them if you like.
  • Add a cup of frozen, sliced okra along with the other vegetables.
  • A couple of tablespoons of hot pepper sauce add a nice background kick of spice.

❓ Questions about Brunswick Stew

My stew is too thick (or too thin)! What can I do?

The traditional Brunswick Stew recipe is quite thick. Thicker than you would likely think of stew. If you feel like it’s just too thick, you can always stir in a little water or stock to get your desired consistency. If the stew seems too thin, remove the cover and let it cook until it has reduced to the consistency you want.

Can I use all pork instead of chicken?

Well, since Brunswick Stew was originally made with small game animals like squirrel, rabbit, and/or possum, I’d say you can use pretty much anything you like. Even though a pork shoulder roast or pork butt would work well, chicken is most commonly used these days.

What side dishes go with this?

There seems to be a common misconception that Brunswick Stew is a main dish stew such as beef stew. It’s not. Brunswick Stew itself is a side dish. It’s served as an accompaniment to barbecued chicken or pork.

Is this the same as burgoo?

No, they’re different. The state of Kentucky lays claim to burgoo. Burgoo is a similarly thick stew flavored with chicken and mutton. Brunswick Stew doesn’t (and shouldn’t) contain any mutton.


I’d LOVE to know what you thought!
Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked it!

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📖 Recipe

Brunswick stew in a vintage bowl.

Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew

Learn to make the very best Old Fashioned Brunswick Stew recipe! This Georgia staple is an iconic southern barbecue side dish.
4.96 from 42 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Soups and Stews
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 18 servings
Calories: 264kcal
Author: Lana Stuart


  • 1 ham bone preferably from a smoked 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 (also called baby or "petite" 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 1/2 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


  • Brunswick stew may be made with all pulled pork, all shredded chicken, or any combination of the two. I prefer all chicken.
  • The ham bone is optional and used only to provide a smoky background flavor for the stew. A good source for purchasing a ham bone is HoneyBaked Ham. Or check with the butcher at your grocery store. They often have them and will often provide you a bone free of charge.
  • If you can’t find a ham bone, you can start with cooking the chicken and aromatic herbs and use a barbecue sauce with a smoky flavor where called for later in the recipe.
  • For a much faster preparation, skip cooking the chicken and substitute the shredded meat from a purchased rotisserie chicken in its place. When using this option, be sure to use a very smoky barbecue sauce. 
  • Keeps in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for about 4 days. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1cup | Calories 264kcal | Carbohydrates 35g | Protein 13g | Fat 8g | Saturated Fat 2g | Cholesterol 36mg | Sodium 806mg | Potassium 632mg | Fiber 3g | Sugar 14g | Vitamin A 369IU | Vitamin C 17mg | Calcium 48mg | Iron 2mg

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.

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— This post was originally published on February 22, 2011. It has been updated with additional information.

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  1. Oh my goodness. this looks absolutely perfect! Can’t wait to try it. As for being a side dish… not so much.. we are having it as the main attraction along with grilled cheese sandwiches… truly a southern favorite!!

  2. I was always told, and have always been told, that brunswick stew wasn’t real without some squirrel. I know that be an old country recipe but it is good. I have also had some without squirrel that was good too.

    1. Well, Leland, if I had to wait until I had some squirrel to put in the pot, we would never ever have any Brunswick Stew around here :-) I’ve never eaten any squirrel and don’t have any plans to either!

  3. I just ordered a pressure canner today, and I’d already decided that I was going to make Brunswick stew to put up for those yucky, cold, wet days when my husband and I are doing the “What’s for dinner?” “I dunno.” thing. While Brunswick stew is certainly time-consuming (the best things in life are), it’s such a cheap dish. I estimate this recipe would cost no more than $10, and for our family of 4, this would cover at least 3 dinners. Win! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

  4. I serve my brunswick stew with homemade cornbread… mine is made with smoked boston but and smoked chicken…..and I was born in brunswick,ga…..

  5. I’m not from the south and have sadly never made (or had) brunswick stew. Yours looks so hearty and comforting that I’m going to print your recipe and add it to my list of new recipes to try. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  6. Your brunswick stew look soooo good. :) I absolutely love brunswick stew but haven’t had it forever since I moved back to the west coast. Now I’m craving it!

  7. Mmmmm. I just adore brunswick stew. It’s one of those dishes I had never even heard of until I moved down south and now I can’t get enough of the stuff! Your version looks delightful!

    1. You know, the recipes that I have the most fun with and enjoy posting the most are ones that we grew up with. And it makes me happy to think that Mr. Wyatt would be proud of my Brunswick stew. Just wait until you see what I’m posting next.

  8. have always associated brunswick stew with Georgia for some reason, and with chicken too… you make yours pretty much like I like mine, I swear we’re family…

  9. wow,can’t believe this. Today I put a small pork roast on to cook, then my husband and I decided to go see my sweet 99 yr.old granmother in Clermont,GA. Just above gainesville. On the way we said “lets stop and get some Brunswick Stew to go with the pork sandwichs for dinner”. Thats what we did then I get home and find stew on your blog today..how funny, great minds think alike. are you making a pound cake? cause I just took one out of the oven.
    Rhonda (publix)

  10. My husband makes a Brunswick Stew with chicken and pork shoulder. I’ve not wanted to tell him it’s lacking something but it must be the BBQ sauce and catsup. I’ll sneak this recipe in the file in hopes he’ll see it and want to give it a try. I sure don’t want to discourage my man from cooking!

    1. It could very well be that, Sharon. The BBQ sauce gives it the smoky quality and the catsup bumps up the sweetness. Both are essential, in my opinion, for Brunswick Stew.

  11. Being from the UK I’ve never heard of Brunswick Stew, but this looks like great party food – and I’m having a housewarming party soon! Looking forward to trying it. My blog is particularly aimed at newbie and nervous cooks, and this has inspired me to do a post on party food – I won’t steal this recipe, but I’ll certainly put a link to it. Thank you

    1. Hi! I’m so glad you like the recipe! However, I really wouldn’t categorize this as party food. I’d say it’s more family supper table food. It is a side dish that is typically served along with barbecued meats, either chicken or pork. I do hope you’ll try it in any case!

  12. Hi, Lana!

    This is kind of weird that I just clicked over to check out what I’ve missed on your blog and I see Brunswick Stew.

    One of my most favorite cookbooks (which is almost ready to fall apart on me from being opened so often) is The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Today, I sat on my couch looking through the book for a soup recipe I had made in the past. As I was looking through the soup and stew section of the cookbook I came across one called “Brunswick Stew”. I hadn’t remembered seeing it before and had never heard the term before either. I read through the recipe and mentally added it to my “things to make”.

    I click over here and what do I see but Brunswick Stew. I think it’s an omen and a recipe I need to try.

    Looks delish! Thanks for sharing.

    Pam aka: Bored Cook

  13. Maybe I am not as southern as I think I am, I’ve never heard of Brunswick stew before, but now that I have, it sounds amazing! Thanks for the introduction!

    1. I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of Brunswick Stew. It’s a standard at all southern barbecue restaurants. Almost always served as a side dish with pulled pork, barbecued chicken or ribs.

  14. Brunswick stew is a labor of love. We’re fortunate to have excellent Brunswick stew available from our favorite barbecue joint, but should that ever fail me, I will try your excellent recipe!

    1. Oh, no, Lucy! It’s really easy. Just simmer a hen, remove the meat, add the veggies and simmer some more. No labor at all!

      1. I was just wondering if it is possible to replace the whole hen with boneless skinless chicken breast? I would feel a bit more comfortable not having to deal with the bones. Other than that, the stew looks fantastic and I would love to try it. Thanks, Rachel

      2. Rachel – yes, if you don’t want to use a whole chicken you could use just breasts. However, I would suggest a mixture of breasts and boneless, skinless thighs so that you get a variety of both white and dark meats.