Burgoo is a stew, similar to Irish or Mulligan stew, often served with cornbread or corn muffins. It is often prepared communally as a social gathering. It is popular as the basis for civic fund-raisers in the American Midwest and South.
The term is of uncertain origin, possibly from the combination of the Welsh words for “yeast” and “cabbage”.
Traditional burgoo was made using whatever meats and vegetables were available—sometimes including venison, squirrel, opossum, raccoon, or even game birds—and was often associated with autumn and the harvest season. Today, local barbecue restaurants use a specific meat in their recipes, usually pork, chicken, or mutton, which, along with the spices used, creates a flavor unique to each restaurant.
A typical burgoo is a combination of meats and vegetables: Common meats are pork, chicken, mutton or beef, often hickory-smoked, but other meats are seen occasionally. Common vegetables are lima beans, corn, okra, tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes. Typically, since burgoo is a slow-cooked dish, the starch from the added vegetables results in thickening of the stew. However, a thickening agent, such as cornmeal, ground beans, whole wheat, or potato starch can be used when cooked in a non-traditional way. In addition, soup bones can be added for taste and thickening.
The ingredients are combined in order of cooking time required, with meat first, vegetables next, and thickening agents as necessary. It is said that a spoon can stand up in a good burgoo. Cider vinegar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or chili powder are common condiments.