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A pride and joy of Virginia culture, Brunswick stew is a Southern classic that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years! The chicken and tomato-based dish is full of corn, potatoes, and beans for a hearty, satisfying, and delicious meal.

Chicken brunswick stew in a white bowl with a side of cornbread
Table of Contents
  1. How to Make Brunswick Stew | 1-Minute Video
  2. ​​​​​​​Why You’ll Love this Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Make Brunswick Stew
  5. Preparation and Storage Tips
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe
  8. Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe

If you love easy stew recipes as much as we do, be sure to try this Dutch oven beef stew, a Crock Pot chicken stew, Dutch oven pork stew, and this Irish stew, too!

How to Make Brunswick Stew | 1-Minute Video

​​​​​​​Why You’ll Love this Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe

Autumn in the South just wouldn’t be complete without at least one batch of this flavorful Virginia Brunswick stew recipe simmering on the stovetop.

  • Simple Ingredients. While some versions of the dish include a combination of chicken, pork, and even small game meat like squirrel or rabbit, this chicken brunswick stew takes advantage of the ease of a store-bought rotisserie chicken to get dinner on the table quickly.
  • Flexible. Tweak this recipe to suit your personal preferences. For instance, use okra if you love it, or leave it out if you don’t. Adjust the sweetness to your liking, or stir in bbq sauce if you like it smoky!
  • Affordable. A big pot of this stew is a budget-friendly way to feed a crowd.
  • Freezer-friendly. Have leftovers? The stew freezes well, so you get multiple meals from a single effort!
Chicken Brunswick Stew in a white bowl with cornbread on the side

The Origin of Brunswick Stew

There is a bit of a fight between Virginia and Georgia as to which state created Brunswick stew — Brunswick County, Virginia and the city of Brunswick, Georgia both claim it as their own.

As a native Virginian, I grew up on this cozy dish and it’s a recipe that continues to make our state proud! Regardless of where it originated, Brunswick stew has been around since the early 19th century and there are many, many versions of this supper.

Typically, it’s a tomato-based stew that resembles vegetable soup with added meat — but thicker! Old-fashioned Brunswick stew was originally made with a combination of meats like squirrel, rabbit, and possum, but today we’re not doing that!

The Difference Between Virginia and Georgia Brunswick Stew

In Virginia, our Brunswick stew favors chicken as the primary meat, while Georgians tend to prefer pork and beef. This easy Virginia Brunswick stew recipe includes the meat from a rotisserie chicken, as well as bacon, potatoes, onion, lima beans, okra (if you like), tomatoes, and corn. The broth has a slightly sweet, slightly sour taste (thanks to the brown sugar and vinegar), while Worcestershire sauce gives it great depth of flavor. You’re going to love this classic dish!

Bacon and onion in a white dutch oven

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for our favorite Virginia Brunswick stew recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step directions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Bacon: provides a smoky, flavorful base for the stew.
  • Onions: add sweet and savory flavor.
  • Chicken broth: the liquid base of the stew. Use low-sodium chicken broth if you like your stew less salty. You can also use homemade broth or chicken stock.
  • Russet potatoes: the starch thickens the broth slightly, while the potatoes add satisfying flavor and texture.
  • Tomato paste: for rich, concentrated tomato flavor.
  • Chicken: I use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for ease, but you can also use about 4 cups of cooked, shredded chicken breasts or thighs that you prepare at home.
  • Diced tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and okra: more veggies to bulk up the stew.
  • Brown sugar: adds sweetness to the broth.
  • Vinegar: gives it a little bit of acidic tang that brightens the dish and provides that classic “sweet-and-sour” flavor that’s a hallmark of Brunswick stew.
  • Worcestershire sauce: for salty, umami flavor.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: enhance the other ingredients.
Wooden spoon stirring together ingredients for brunswick stew

How to Make Brunswick Stew

While an old-fashioned Brunswick stew recipe requires the meat to be slow smoked over wood chips for hours or roasted in an oven first, this simplified stovetop version is so much easier! You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:

  • Fry the bacon and onion. You know the recipe is off to a good start when the first two ingredients are bacon and onion. Your kitchen will smell amazing!
  • Add the chicken broth and potatoes.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  • Simmer the mixture for about 1 hour.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve!
Ladle full of Brunswick Stew

Serving Suggestions

Here are a few sides that go well with Brunswick Stew:

Overhead shot of a bowl of brunswick stew with chicken

Preparation and Storage Tips

Leftover stew will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To extend the life of your stew, pack the cooled leftovers in airtight containers or in freezer-safe Ziploc bags and freeze for up to 3 months. I normally freeze in batches of 3-4 cups so that it’s easy to thaw the right amount for a single meal or two.

When ready to enjoy, thaw the frozen stew in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat, just until warmed through. You can also warm individual servings in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Recipe Variations

  • Some recipes include potatoes, while others do not. You can omit the potatoes if you prefer.
  • Instead of a rotisserie chicken, use about 4 cups of cooked, diced chicken that you boil at home or that you have leftover from another meal.
  • Okra can be a controversial vegetable, so leave it out of the stew if you don’t care for it.
  • If they’re available, use butter beans instead of the lima beans.
  • Swap out the bacon and use fatback instead.
  • Brunswick stew typically has a sweet-and-sour flavor to the broth, which you can achieve by stirring in ketchup or BBQ sauce instead of the brown sugar. I use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, which gives the broth a slightly sweet taste, without being too overpowering. For a less-sweet broth, reduce the brown sugar to 1 tablespoon. You can always add more at the end, to taste.
  • Like more tang? Add an extra splash of vinegar.

Tips for the Best Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe

  • This recipe yields about 16 cups of stew. If you’re serving a crowd, it’s safe to assume about 1 ½ – 2 cups of stew per person as a main dish. This batch will make enough for at least 8-10 people.
  • For even more flavor and texture variety, try substituting 2 cups of leftover pulled pork for half of the chicken.
  • Make it spicy with a little bit of cayenne or hot sauce.
  • Use leftover Thanksgiving turkey instead of the chicken (or try a combination of both chicken and turkey).
  • Brunswick stew should be very thick. If it looks like the stew is too thin, just remove the cover and simmer a bit longer until it reaches the desired consistency. If you need to thin the stew, stir in additional broth or water, as necessary.
Front shot of a bowl of brunswick stew with a piece of cornbread on the side

More Stew Recipes to Try

Square close up shot of the best Virginia Brunswick stew recipe in a white bowl.

Virginia Brunswick Stew

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 16 cups
Calories 133 kcal
A pride and joy of Virginia culture, this Virginia Brunswick stew recipe is a Southern classic!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 slices (about 5 ⅓ oz) thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (about 3 lbs.), meat removed and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen sliced okra (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (apple cider vinegar also works well)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 more minutes. Add chicken broth and potatoes; bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
    Process shot of making brunswick stew in a white dutch oven
  • Reduce heat to low. Stir in the tomato paste. Add chicken, diced tomatoes, corn, lima beans, okra (if using), brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir well.
    Wooden spoon stirring together ingredients for brunswick stew
  • Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The stew should be very thick. To thicken the stew, simmer uncovered. To thin, add more broth or water. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve!
    Chicken brunswick stew in a white bowl with a side of cornbread

Video

Notes

  • Some recipes include potatoes, while others do not. You can omit the potatoes if you prefer.
  • Instead of a rotisserie chicken, use about 4 cups of cooked, diced chicken that you boil at home or that you have leftover from another meal.
  • Okra can be a controversial vegetable, so leave it out of the stew if you don’t care for it.
  • If they’re available, use butter beans instead of the lima beans.
  • Swap out the bacon and use fatback instead.
  • Brunswick stew typically has a sweet-and-sour flavor to the broth, which you can achieve by stirring in ketchup or BBQ sauce instead of the brown sugar. I use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, which gives the broth a slightly sweet taste, without being too overpowering. For a less-sweet broth, reduce the brown sugar to 1 tablespoon. You can always add more at the end, to taste.
  • Like more tang? Add an extra splash of vinegar.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 133kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 6gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 259mgPotassium: 441mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 88IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: Brunswick Stew, brunswick stew recipe, chicken brunswick stew, Virginia Brunswick stew recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Jamee says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious! The chicken we ordered from grocery pick-up was seasoned, but that only made this better. Yum!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Jamee!!

  2. Gail Shannon says:

    I grew up in VA Beach and our Brunswick stew was different. Of course, the recipe had been in our family for 200 yrs by the 1950’s. It had squirrel, rabbit, and chicken but no bacon. We were potato farmers so that was always included. Otherwise, the recipes were extremely similar.

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Gail! Yes — the really old recipes definitely used squirrel, rabbit, possum, etc. — whatever was available! 🙂

    2. Doug says:

      This brings back fond memories of our family’s Labor Day tradition. I grew up in Northern VA. Every Labor Day we would travel to see my cousins in Farmville, VA. My Uncle JB had a 20 gal. cast iron caldron he would hook to a tripod over a fire and cook Brunswick Stew all day long. It was always corn, lima beans, potatoes and tomatoes, stock and what ever meat he ended up in his traps. Usually rabbit, squirrel, possum with chicken added. Sometimes deer. One year there was some ground hog (not recommended. came out a little greasy and gamey). But after cooking all day, occasionally stirring with a canoe oar, the meat was fall apart tender and the stew always amazing. Thanks for bringing back old memories. Yes, I will be making your recipe, while remembering those great cousin get togethers in Farmville.

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        I love hearing that, Doug! Farmville is a great little town — we love visiting! I hope that this recipe gives you a little taste of your family traditions. Happy New Year!

  3. Susan says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! I love okra and all the veggies in here. This is one of my all time favorites now. The sweetness from the brown sugar makes it for me. i served it with Cheesy Jalapeno Corn Bread!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Sounds like the perfect dinner to me, Susan. Thank you!

  4. Charla Sage says:

    5 stars
    Love Brunswick stew and your recipe is spot on. Love it!!!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much, Charla! It is one of our favorite recipes.

  5. Mark Earnhardt says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is the BEST! Just like my mum made, from her mother’s recipe from my home in Hanover and Henrico counties, Virginia!!
    Definitely a comfort food for me, this non-apologetically replaced Montanan! I’ve been making this in Montana for potlucks, church meals, cook overs, healing meals, recipe sharing, etc., and it’s a been a rave – and ravenous – hit!
    AND sharing this recipe to all who want and NEED it.
    Far surpasses the simple “chicken soup” for the soul.
    Really, it’s so good and wholesome it’s not just a food, but a cure-all, and a THERPY!
    Food IS medicine!
    Thanks SOOOOO much!
    Spread the love, y’all!!!!
    Mark

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Wow, thank you so much, Mark! We really appreciate you sharing the recipe and are so glad it’s such a hit!

  6. Rebecca says:

    5 stars
    This looks very similar to the way I learned to make Brunswick Stew back in the mid-’70s out in Powhatan County. My first teaching job was at a school that had a big fundraiser in the fall, and stew was one of the top sellers. As another poster mentioned, the men cooked all night in huge cauldrons.

    No okra, tomato paste, or vinegar. My recipe calls for butter, which really richens the taste. Because I’m an overachiever (LOL), I can/freeze all the veggies over the summer. the firs

    This is the first thing to go at my annual fall party!

    1. Rebecca says:

      Oops — Should have proofread! Guess I got excited thinking about summer veggies. 🙂

    2. Blair Lonergan says:

      I love that! We have an Apple Harvest Festival here in Madison each fall, and it’s a similar situation — men stirring the stew in hours in big cauldrons. Such a classic! I bet the butter is a delicious addition. I’ll have to try that next time…