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Burgoo Recipe: A Kentucky Fall Favorite

Burgoo Recipe: A Kentucky Fall Favorite

Burgoo recipe stew in crock
Written by Victoria Van Vlear
Photography by Elliott Hess

For New England, it’s clam chowder. For Louisiana, it’s gumbo. For Kentucky, the classic soup is burgoo, a meat and vegetable stew. In the new book Famous Kentucky Flavors, authors Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess share some of the dishes—along with travel tips and food festivals—that are integral to the Bluegrass State. The burgoo recipe is one of them.

Here’s what the authors have to say about this famous burgoo recipe, and their favorite variation.

black and white photograph of Kentucky food festival
Midwestern flavors run the gambit from roasted corn and homemade fritters to soups and stews like this burgoo recipe.

“Burgoo is to Kentucky what Brunswick is to Virginia (or to Georgia, depending on who you ask). It is the Bluegrass State’s version of Louisiana’s famous gumbo. It’s as much a staple to Kentuckians as clam chowder is to New Englanders. And while this historic dish can be traced back to the early days of the state, few culinary historians can agree on who, what, when, where and why burgoo came about. They can even seem to settle on an origin for the stew’s name.

“The not knowing is almost as fun as the quirky recipes for this culinary masterpiece.

Black and white photo of festival in Kentucky
Kentucky is known for its festivals, like this one to celebrate the Midwest culture.

“Here’s what we do know: burgoo is a thick meat and vegetable stew that generally includes a variety of meats, including beef, pork, chicken, mutton and rabbit (or some combination of all of these—improvisation is key), and tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, lima beans, and okra. Some versions are a little bit wilder and include whatever meat is convenient, from venison to squirrel to game birds; some burgoos contain barbeque. And no two chefs make burgoo the same way.

“If you haven’t tasted burgoo by Chef Ed Boutilier at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, you’re missing out. Here is his famous recipe.”

Burgoo recipe stew in crock
This burgoo recipe is a perfect classic stew for fall in the country.

Copycat Keeneland Burgoo Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 pounds stew meat
  • 12-ounce can tomato puree
  • 2 pounds fresh okra, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon beef base
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup sherry wine
  • 3 pounds diced potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • Water (as needed)
  • Cornstarch (if desired)

Directions:

Brown stew meat with herbs. Add remaining ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for a minimum of three hours, stirring occasionally.

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Before serving, combine water and cornstarch and add the mixture slowly, stirring until the burgoo reaches the desired thickness.

Famous Kentucky Flavors book cover
Famous Kentucky Flavors by Cameron M. Ludwisk and Blair Thomas Hess.

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