Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo

By on April 1, 2016

Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo

Pronounced BUR-goo.

This meat and vegetable stew is one of the oldest food traditions in the state of Kentucky and staple of the Kentucky Derby. The dish is slow-cooked in large batches and has a history of containing some pretty weird ingredients. Some earlier versions of “Burgoo” or “Brunswick Stew” called for squirrel, opossums, and about any other forest dweller that walked or flew. Today, the most common meats used in “Burgoo” are beef, lamb, pork, and poultry.

While there are many variations, all Burgoo makers agree that 1) Burgoo should be made in stages: cook the meat first, and then add the vegetables. 2) No less than 4 – 6 hours should be devoted to making burgoo. Some recipes call for a 24-hour cooking period. 3) Burgoo should contain more than one meat. 4) Burgoo should be prepared outdoors over an open fire.

Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo is as integral to the Kentucky Derby as the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.” In 1932, a Bluegrass colt named Burgoo King—yes, Burgoo King—won both the Derby and Preakness.


  • 2 pounds pork shank
  • 2 pounds veal shank
  • 2 pounds beef shank
  • 2 pounds breast of lamb
  • 1 (4-pound) chicken
  • 8 quarts cold water
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds onions
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 quart tomato puree
  • 2 cups whole corn, fresh or canned
  • 2 pods red pepper
  • 2 cups diced okra
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cups dry lima beans
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 cup Kentucky bourbon (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tabasco
  • Steak Sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce


Put the pork, veal, beef, lamb, and chicken into a large pot. Add the water and bring it to a boil slowly. Simmer until meat is tender enough to fall off the bones, about 4—6 hours.

Lift the meat out of the stock. Cool the meat, remove it from the bones, and chop it. Return the chopped meat to the stock.

Pare the potatoes and onions and dice them. Add them, plus the carrots, green peppers, cabbage, tomato puree, corn, red pepper, okra, parsley, lima beans, celery, and bourbon, to the meat and stock. Allow the stew to simmer until very thick about 6 hours.

Season to taste with the salt, pepper, Tabasco, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

Burgoo…midway between a hearty soup and a stew…succeeds the juleps in the guests’ cups as a first course. Also served the day after the Derby, in silver Mint Julep cups.