Brunswick Stew is a classic southern recipe traditionally made with squirrel or rabbit cooked in a hearty tomato and barbecue-based broth. In this recipe, small game meat has been traded for shredded pork shoulder for a delicious, comforting, and flavorful stew the whole family will love!
What is Brunswick Stew?
I thought it appropriate that I dive right into answering what exactly Brunswick stew is before chatting about the recipe I have for you guys today.
Brunswick stew, with its origin having occurred in either Virginia or Georgia, is a popular southern dish traditionally made with small game meats such as squirrel, rabbit, or possum simmered in a tomato-based broth filled with a variety of vegetables such as lima beans, corn, and okra.
As with all deep-rooted recipes, however, Brunswick stew recipes vary greatly throughout the southern states, particularly in the type (or types) of meat used.
These days, you’ll find this delicious southern stew typically made with a tomato-based broth seasoned with barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Lima beans, corn, and okra are still the most popular vegetables. Travel to Eastern North Carolina, however, and you’ll often find Brunswick stew filled with potatoes (which I adopted in this recipe).
The best type of meat is still a hot topic, with many “best” opinions. Though wild game like rabbit and squirrel is still enjoyed in many homemade Brunswick stews, it seems that the most popular meat added these days is chicken and pork (sometimes beef).
How to Make Brunswick Stew
Before starting with this recipe, you need to figure out how much time you have. As written, this recipe requires between 3-4 hours to make. The reason why my recipe takes so much longer to cook compared to other Brunswick stew recipes is that I am not starting with pre-cooked and shredded pulled pork.
If you’re short on time:
- Prepare the pulled pork the day before or purchase pre-cooked pulled pork from your local market. I imagine that many bbq restaurants may even sell pulled or bbq pork by the pound.
- Swap pork for chicken. Skinless chicken thighs will be cooked and tender in less than an hour.
- Rotisserie chicken is always a wonderful last-resort. You’ll need at least one whole chicken.
Next, think about what kind of flavor you want your stew to have (smokey vs sweet vs vinegary)? This recipe calls for one cup of barbecue sauce (much less than other recipes, believe it or not), so you’d hate to add a super sweet sauce if you much prefer a smokey BBQ flavor.
Finally, grab your biggest pot or Dutch oven. I’m especially fond of my 7.5 quart Lodge Dutch Oven. It’s what I used for this recipe and it’s what you see in these images.
How to Make Brunswick Stew:
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Step 1 – Season and sear the pork
You don’t have to sear the pork, but I always recommend that you do so as it’s a great way to add more flavor.
Begin by generously sprinkling salt and pepper all over the entire surface of your pork shoulder. Next, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear all sides, until lightly browned but not burned. Remove the pork to a clean plate and set aside.
- If your pork shoulder is too large to fit in your pot, use a large knife to cut in half (the bone shouldn’t be bigger than your pot).
Step 2 – Cook the onion
Add four tablespoons of butter to the same pot set over medium heat and add the diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until starting to soften. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Step 3 – Add additional vegetables
Add your favorite vegetables. In this case, I added potatoes, corn, lima beans, and diced tomatoes. Add the broth and thoroughly mix to combine. Return the pork back to the pot, nestling under the mixed vegetables so that it is completely submerged in broth.
- If you choose to add more delicate vegetables, wait to add them until after the pork has been cooked (okra, for example).
Step 4 – Cook
Bring to a low boil before reducing heat to a simmer. Cover and allow pork to simmer for at least 2-3 hours.
- Given the lengthy cook time, can this recipe be made in the slow cooker? Yes, Brunswick stew can be made in the slow cooker. First, you’ll need a large enough slow cooker, like this large 10-quart slow cooker on Amazon. If it has a saute mode, great. Follow the instructions as listed. Otherwise, follow the instructions until you finish cooking the onions. Once the onions are cooked, transfer the onions, pork shoulder, broth, and veggies to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-8 hours.
Step 5 – Remove and shred the pork
After 2-3 hours, check the progress of the pork. Once fully cooked and tender, remove from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Use two large forks (or your hands) and shred into chunks. Once all the pork has been shredded, return pork AND the bone back to the pot (the bone still has flavor).
Step 6 – Season and serve
Add the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using) and mix well to combine. Season with additional salt, pepper, and BBQ sauce, to taste. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite cornbread recipe and coleslaw for a complete meal.
How to Store Leftovers
If you find yourself with leftovers, that’s awesome! I find that the flavor gets better after 1-2 days, just be sure to keep it stored in the refrigerator until ready to reheat and serve.
To freeze Brunswick stew, allow it cool completely before transferring to a large ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible then transfer to the freezer for up to 3-4 months. To reheat, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating in a small saucepot or in the microwave.
More Stew Recipes,
If you try making this Brunswick Stew Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Brunswick Stew Recipe
- 3-4 pound bone-in pork shoulder - (see notes)
- salt and pepper - to season
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 large onions - diced
- 6 cloves garlic - minced
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes - (or other type of waxy potato), diced
- 2 (15 ounce) cans corn - drained
- 12 ounces frozen lima beans
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup barbecue sauce - plus more to taste
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper - (optional)
- Season and sear the pork. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the entire surface of your pork shoulder, using your fingers to rub it into the pork. Meanwhile, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides, until lightly browned, but not charred.
- Cook the onion. Remove the pork to a clean plate and set aside. Add four tablespoons of butter to the same pot set over medium heat and add the diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until starting to soften. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add additional vegetables. Add the potatoes, corn, lima beans, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Thoroughly mix to combine. Return the pork back to the pot, nestling under the mixed vegetables so that it is completely submerged in broth.
- Cook. Bring to a low boil before reducing heat to a simmer. Cover and allow pork to simmer for at least 2-3 hours.
- Remove pork and shred. Remove the pork shoulder from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Use two large forks (or your hands) and shred into chunks. Once all the pork has been shredded, return pork AND the bone back to the pot (the bone still has flavor).
- Season. Add the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using) and mix well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
- Prepare or purchase pork ahead of time. You'll need approximately 4 cups of shredded or pulled pork (less if you choose to add shredded chicken in addition to the shredded pork).
- Add shredded chicken. Chicken will take less time to cook when compared to bone-in pork shoulder (approximately 1 hour for bone-in skinless chicken thighs).
- If you're really short on time, you can even use shredded rotisserie chicken!