Of all of Kentucky’s iconic regional dishes, burgoo is the oldest, the most rustic, and certainly the heartiest!
A catch-all hunter’s stew, burgoo has as much variety in its origin story as it does in its ingredients. Some claim the recipe was brought over from Wales, while others attribute its creation to French chef Gustave Jaubert, who served Kentuckian John Hunt Morgan during the Civil War. After the War ended, Jaubert was hired by Frankfort’s Buffalo Trace Distillery to cook large iron kettles of burgoo for its employees. Jaubert was soon known as The Father of Burgoo, catering events with 1000 gallons of burgoo, which reportedly contained “400 pounds of beef, six dozen chickens, four dozen rabbits, thirty cans of tomatoes, twenty dozen cans of corn, fifteen bushels of potatoes, and five bushels of onions,” according to a Louisville Courier-Journal article at the time.
These days, burgoo is one of Kentucky’s signature regional cuisines, served everywhere from Keeneland’s track kitchen to church picnics across the Bluegrass State. The stew was even referenced in the name of the 1932 Kentucky Derby winner, Burgoo King!
Kentucky Burgoo, Recipe courtesy Churchill Downs
· 1 pound beef top round chunked
· 1 pound lamb sirloin chunked
· 1/2 pounds chicken thighs chunked
· 1 tablespoon salt
· 12 cups water
· 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
· 6 cloves garlic, minced
· 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (one 12-ounce bag)
· 2 1/2 cups frozen sliced okra (one 12-ounce bag)
· 2 15-ounce cans, butter beans, drained
· 1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
· 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
· 1/4 cup Kentucky sorghum or molasses
· 1/4 cup ketchup
· 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
· 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
· 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1. Place the beef, lamb, and chicken in a large Dutch oven.
2. Add the salt and water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.
3. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer until the beef and lamb are fork tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
4. Remove the beef, lamb, and chicken pieces to a plate and let cool.
5. Strain the broth, pour back into Dutch oven.
6. Stir in the onion, garlic, mixed vegetables, okra, butter beans, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, sorghum or molasses, ketchup, vinegar, cloves, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.
7. Add the meat to the vegetables and cook for about 1/2 hour to thicken the broth.
8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.