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Famous Virginia Brunswick Stew

January 15, 2016

I’m reposting my recipe for Brunswick Stew published by Amish Wisdom yesterday, for my own blog followers who may not have seen it there, and just to have it in my recipe archives here. (For those who saw it on Amish Wisdom, you can scoot on to other things.) I have a few more cooking tips and tidbits to share here. If you didn’t see it there and would like a chance to win a copy of Whatever Happened to Dinner in their drawing, you can head over there  (offer good until January 14 2016).

Brunswick Stew is versatile soup that can accommodate any veggies you choose; I stick with using potatoes, corn, baby lima beans, and diced tomatoes. Old timers will tell you that Brunswick Stew is a good way to use squirrel meat. I’m a big fan of Brunswick Stew but will forego the squirrel, thank you very much, and just use chicken! An interesting history debating whether it originated in Brunswick, Va., or Brunswick, Ga. can be found on Wikipedia.

It is a well-known dish in our parts of Virginia and popular at the annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale. G. Don Whitmore, feed salesman and treasurer for our congregation, introduced my family to this stew. He would make large quantities for our congregational meeting potlucks.

This recipe (my adaptation) comes from the collection of another Virginia cook, Martha Doughtie Cavanaugh, in Gather Round Our Table: A Southern Family Shares Recipes and Memories from the Doughtie Family and Friends (compiled by Edith Vick Farris, 2005, G & R Publishing).

shredded chicken

I like it because you can use up chicken picked off the bone from a roasted hen or any leftover chicken or turkey, and also odd bits of chicken or other broth stashed away in your freezer. If you buy one of those handy rotisserie (and cheap!) chickens at Costco, Sam’s or the grocery, and have leftovers, this is a perfect way to use those up.


Made in a crock pot or large kettle, adjust quantities according to the size of your kettle and number of people. It freezes well; the food editors who tested it for my book Whatever Happened to Dinner? claimed it tasted even better after refrigeration and reheating.


Brunswick Stew with Chicken


1 4-pound whole chicken or 3 large frozen boneless/skinless breasts
1 14-ounce package frozen baby lima beans
1 10-ounce package or can of corn
1 quart diced tomatoes
1 egg, beaten
6 white potatoes, peeled and diced
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
Lots of pepper (to taste)
Salt to taste
Optional: Pieces of ham seasoning (cooked ham bone, ham hock)


Cover chicken with water and cook for one hour (if using chicken breasts, replacing some of the water with chicken stock gives it more flavor).

If using whole chicken, strain out the fat, then pull out the bones. Dice or shred all meat and return it to the broth.

If using breasts, the meat will come apart during further cooking and stirring. Do not pour out broth.

Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for 2–3 hours, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Or put the stew into a slow cooker and cook for 8–10 hours on low.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and gently reheat when you’re ready to serve. Good served with cornbread, toasted cheese sandwiches, or just about any homemade or hearty bread!


What’s your favorite soup or stew in the winter?

Why–what makes a dish your favorite?

What memories does making, serving, or eating it evoke? 


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Whatever Happened to Dinner?


From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. My mother-in-law made a soup very much like this one. Our children looked forward to it as their reward every time they survived another long road trip between Goshen and Harrisonburg. Soup was always on the stove, waiting. Never called it Brunswick Syew, however.

    • My mother usually had chili soup waiting in winter for us when with our children survived another journey through snow and ice to Goshen! Thanks for nudging that memory as well. I do wonder what the Showalter version was, and noticed that nothing like Brunswick Stew is in Mennonite Community Cookbook, even though it includes so much coming from Virginia. 🙂

  2. You have so many outlets to document important occasions with recipes. And what’s more important than savory soup in the winter-time. You have probably seen my mother’s cryptic recipes for vegetable and chicken corn soup on my blog posts. Mother assumed everyone was as good a cook as she and took short-cuts in recording recipes.

    • With the blog ever-hungry for new fodder, I look for reasons to make things now rather than ducking out of calls at church or work for a dish for this family or that. I do love chicken corn soup, but my family did not seem to enjoy it. I will have to take another look–my mother’s corn soup had milk in it.

      Mom didn’t use a lot of recipes either and now she claims not to remember exactly what she always put into sloppy joes, for instance, without even hesitating on a blop of this or a pinch of that. (And sloppy joes don’t take a recipe for me.) But I’m glad she’s still able to cook what she does for herself in the evenings.

  3. I’m hungry too! Thanks!

  4. Beverly Silver permalink

    Hi Melodie, When I think of Brunswick Stew, I do remember Con and Connie, but I also associate okra with it! Beverly

  5. You are right, Beverly. After I posted the recipe, I looked online and was reminded that many others use okra in this stew. It certainly adds a nice southern twang and taste! I don’t usually have it on hand however. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Athanasia permalink

    Melodie, do you use “soup” and “stew” for the same meaning? This looks like a vegetable soup, what with everything being diced up and having tomatoes in it. To us stew starts with raw meat cubes dredged in flour and browned in oil, then water and seasoning added, covered and simmered, then chunks of potato, onion, carrot and celery being added and all cooked till tender. We always add dumplings and serve with horseradish and catsup. The broth turns into gravy.

    And when I say “we” I mean as many generations back as I can remember. My husbands family has a different stew that we also make now, but I had never had before I met him. It’s a chicken stew in gravy with noodles and they serve it over mashed potatoes. It’s similar to our chicken and dumplings but we would not use both mashed potatoes and noodles in one dish.

    What does the egg do? Does it strand up like egg drop soup?

    • You ask some good questions here. I didn’t come up with the name Brunswick Stew, that’s just what it is traditionally called here in Virginia. I get your difference though, especially noting that stew starts with raw meat cubes and browned. I’ve never dredged the meat in flour though, I can see how that would make it turn out with the broth becoming gravy. Interesting! My husband and I had different histories and definitions of vegetable soup/beef stew, which I wrote about here in 2013:

      The egg does kind of strand up and can be skipped; in fact, when I was making this batch after not making it for close to a year, I was surprised to see the egg in the recipe list. I thought, do I need to add it? I went ahead and did so. I saw a strand of two of egg white in the soup. Doesn’t seem to add much.

      THANKS for your comment and perspective!

      • Athanasia permalink

        I did read your past post. I often make vegetable soup, but just vegetables. Variety depends on what I have. But it’s always onion, celery, carrot, potato and tomato . Then combos that may include green cabbage, sweet potato, spinach, zucchini, broccoli stems, kale, lima beans, green bean, corn, wax beans. I use vegetable boullion cubes for broth. We always add wild rice to this

        When I have bones as from short ribs or rib roast I’ll make vegetable beef. I did that last weekend. This last batch I used rutabaga, cabbage, onion, green beans, broccoli stems, celery, tomatoes, and carrots. We add barley to this soup. I don’t like green peas or bell pepper in vegetable soup.

        We like cheese and crackers with soup.

      • Wow, that’s quite a list of vegetables. Quite a list! The straight up vegetable soup with no meat broth (I’ll have to check for vegetable boullion) does sound good, especially with the wild rice. A winner! Thanks as always, for weighing in…. whenever, Athanasia!

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