Brunswick Stew: Southern Side or Main Course?

— Written By

It may seem like a strange time of year to be thinking of making Brunswick stew, but I am for two reasons, one, as we move into a new growing season this is a great dish for using any remaining frozen vegetables from last years harvest, and second, the Southern Sides Competition at the BBQ Festival on the Neuse. Yes, this year you can come and cook your favorite Brunswick recipe for participants and judges.

Brunswick stew is a traditional southern dish, and recipes vary greatly. Generally it is a tomato-based stew, containing various types of lima beans/butter beans, corn, okra, and other vegetables, and one or more types of meat. Its origin is a debate being claimed equally by Brunswick County, Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia. It is said true Brunswick stew will contain squirrel or rabbit meat, but chicken, pork, and beef are more commonly used. Eastern North Carolina Brunswick stew has potatoes, which thickens it considerably. Eastern Virginia Brunswick stew tends to be thinner, with more tomato flavor and less smoky flavor.

There is no “official” recipe for this traditional stew; many families have their own famous recipes. North Carolina natives have been known for their unique concoction, thick and tomato based, using chicken-breast chunks and pulled Eastern North Carolina–style barbecue as the meat.

Here are a few recipes for the stew; these have been known to be a tad healthier than some!

Brunswick Stew


  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded
  • 1½ cups fresh or frozen baby lima beans
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 3 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can no salt added tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon very low sodium or low-sodium Worcestershire sauce


  1. Heat a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Remove the skillet from the heat and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray (being careful not to spray near a gas flame). Pour the oil into the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom. Return the skillet to the heat and cook the onion for 3 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Stir the chicken and remaining ingredients into the skillet. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Serves 6. Each serving contains: 237 calories, 2.5 g fat, 142 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 25 g protein.

Brunswick Stew with Smoked Paprika


  • 2 cups (¾-inch) cubed Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper


  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken, paprika, salt, and pepper; simmer 15 minutes.

Serves 6. Each serving contains: 308 calories, 7.5 g fat, 29.4 g protein, 31.6 g carbohydrate, 4.9 g fiber, 65 mg cholesterol, 645 mg sodium, 36 mg calcium.

Healthy Homemade Brunswick Stew


  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • ½ Vidalia onion, diced small
  • 3 ears of yellow or white corn, cut from the cob
  • 2-3 cups of fresh lima beans
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes (you can also buy diced and chop them up more)
  • 1 cooked deli chicken (or cooked whole chicken), shred white and dark meat
  • ¼ stick of butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 32 ounce container of chicken stock (or fresh chicken stock if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • Sea salt and black peppercorn to taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Peel and cut the potatoes and put them in a large pot of water. Bring them to boil and continue boiling for approximately 5 minutes. The key is to cook them a little, but not to the point where they are easy to mash. You will continue cooking them in the stew.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, cut up all the vegetables. Once the potatoes are done, drain them and set aside.
  3. In a large soup / stew pot, add the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes covered then add in the celery, carrots and corn and cook covered for an additional 4 minutes.
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the chicken and potatoes. Cook on high until it begins to boil, then lower to medium-low and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add in the chicken and potatoes and leave uncovered. Cook on medium-low and let simmer until stew thickens. Use the immersion blender a couple of times to help the thickening process.
  6. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. 20 minutes to an hour if you have the time.
  7. Ladle out stew and serve.

Serves 8-10