Northeast Wisconsin loves their Green Bay Booyah, a rich chicken and beef stew that’s made in massive batches outdoors to feed hungry crowds. If you’re hungry for something that sticks to your ribs, it’s time to try this regional recipe. It’s been a tradition at church picnics, county fairs, and VFW gatherings across Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of Minnesota for decades.

Have you ever eaten booyah at a booyah? I have, and it’s so fun. On chilly fall days, giant kettles of piping hot, velvety booyah are made over an open fire and served up to the community at booyah events, to raise money and feed lots of hungry people. Get in line early, because they almost always run out!

That much booyah takes up to two days to make; some booyah cooks make elaborate charts to spread out the work evenly and keep things organized. It’s a community effort and a great way to work together, too. Everything is added to the pot at different times, resulting in one outstanding meal.

If you’re a big fan of bone broth, this soup is definitely for you. It uses short ribs and chicken to make the richest broth you’ve ever tasted, and it’s packed full of vegetables. I could live on booyah, it’s that delicious.

So grab your biggest pot and get to work! This authentic booyah recipe is made right on the stove, but I pared it down to feed a family instead of a whole town.

Green bay booyah in a white bowl.

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Already looking for a way to make a kettle of Booyah? Good for you! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What is booyah?

A booyah can be the stew or the community event where you eat booyah. Not confusing at all, because you really can’t have one without the other!

Sometimes booyah is spelled booya, bouja, boulyaw, or bouyou, but no matter what, it’s a filling, healthy stew made with chicken, beef, or pork and carrots, peas, cabbage, tomatoes, and potatoes. At least. It’s one of a handful of regional recipes that are made with what’s on hand, like Mulligan stew, gumbo, or burgoo.

Where did Booyah originate?

Booyah is believed to have origins in Belgium, and may come from the French word bouillon, for ‘broth;’ the way it’s pronounced is very similar to ‘booyah.’ But how Green Bay Booyah became Green Bay Booyah, well…

Back in 1906, a Green Bay teacher, Andrew Rentmeester, wanted to raise money for his school and came up with the idea of serving the Belgian dish, bouillon, at the event. He gathered up beef and chickens from the neighbors for the hearty stew. The news reporter who was covering the event scribbled down ‘booyah’ instead of bouillon—and the rest is booyah history!

Chicken thighs in a white baking pan.

What’s the difference between Booyah and chicken soup?

In case you’re wondering what the big deal is between the two, there are a number of ways that differentiate booyah from old-fashioned chicken soup:

  • Booyah is cooked longer. The chicken breaks down into shreds, and becomes almost indistinguishable.
  • Booyah also uses beef, and sometimes even pork is added. The gelatin inside the meat bones makes the soup so good for you, and gives the stew a silky texture.
  • Vegetables, so many vegetables– get added to booyah. They’re just as important as the meat.
  • Booyah is usually made in huge batches, rather than smaller pots.
  • Both chicken soup and booyah are great for cold season, though!

How long does it take to make Green Bay Booyah?

I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a process to make authentic Booyah, but it’s worth it. You should reserve part of the day to make a good booyah.

The key step in the process is straining the cooked onions and celery out of the broth after the beef is cooked. That way the rich beef and chicken bone broth stays clear and the booyah stays bright and colorful once the cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes are added.

Broth being strained out of green bay booyah.

The onions and celery–they’ve given all they have to the stock; you can let them go.

Can you freeze Booyah?

If you have any leftovers, booyah freezes beautifully. Of course, if you wanted to send some in my direction, I wouldn’t say no…I’d say booyah!

Booyah in a white stock pot.

Green Bay booyah in a white pot.

Booyah Stew

Hearty comfort food at its midwestern best, this Booyah Stew is a chicken and beef stew that deserves the starring role as part of your potluck or tailgate menu.
4.94 from 16 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Servings 10 servings (2 cups each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Belgian, Wisconsin
Calories 457

Ingredients 

For the broth:

  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in short ribs trimmed (see note 1)
  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth (see note 2)
  • 2 bay leaves

For the stew:

  • 4 cups cabbage shredded (from 1 small head)
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes undrained
  • 8 ounces rutabaga peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1-2 small, see note 3)
  • 1 pound russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 large)
  • 3 carrots peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • lemon juice for serving, optional (see note 4)

Instructions 

To make the broth:

  • Pat beef and chicken dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • In a large Dutch oven or stock pot (at least 5 ½ quarts), heat olive oil until just smoking. Add beef and cook, flipping occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove from pot and set aside. 
  • Add the chicken to the pot and cook, flipping occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove from pot set aside. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Do not drain fat from pot.
  • In the Dutch oven or stock pot, reheat rendered fat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and celery, and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in broth and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add back short ribs and chicken, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from pot. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard bones. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cover and refrigerate chicken.
  • Continue cooking the stew until the beef is tender, about 75 to 90 minutes longer. Remove beef from pot. When beef is cool enough to handle, remove and discard fat, bones, and any inedible connective tissue. 
  • Strain broth through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding solids. Allow liquid to settle, about 5 minutes, then skim off fat and return liquid to pot (expect 1-2 cups of fat; see note 3).

To make the stew:

  • To the pot with the broth, add the shredded beef, cabbage, diced tomatoes and juice, rutabaga, potato, and carrots. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until all vegetables are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. 
  • Add chicken and peas and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh lemon wedges if desired.

Notes

  1. Bone-in short ribs and chicken thighs: The bones lend a thick, luscious consistency to the homemade broth. After cooking the beef, be sure to remove any extraneous cartilage before shredding; leaving that in can make some bites too chewy to consume.
  2. Chicken broth: You'll need 8 cups of chicken broth, which is about 4 small cans or 2 large cartons of store-bought. If you're really feeling ambitious, feel free to start with Homemade Chicken Broth.
  3. Rutabaga: Not a fan of this root vegetable? Leave it out and add an extra potato.
  4. Lemon wedges: These are optional, but highly recommended; squeeze on just prior to serving for a welcome burst of acidity and brightness.
  5. Yield: This recipe will make about 5 quarts (20 cups!) of stew, enough for 10 generous 2-cup servings.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Make ahead: The broth can be made a day or two in advance. It's much easier to scrape excess fat off the top of the broth when it's chilled.
  8. Freezer: Cool and package into freezer-safe containers. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 2cupsCalories: 457kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 35gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 847mgPotassium: 1098mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 3313IUVitamin C: 41mgCalcium: 71mgIron: 4mg
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Comments

  1. 4 out of 5 Stars! A key to great Booyah is the seasoning – which is lacking with most recipes. I created my own blend of Savory Seasoning, then added two additional spices – white pepper and ?? – some things are meant to be kept secret! In order to create a traditional 24-hour Booyah, I used a whole roaster to create the broth, I then simmered Oxtail, Beef Short Ribs, and Beef shanks for 4 hours to add another layer of flavor to the broth. I reserved the water from the beef, and refrigerated it over night, then took the cold fat off the top to reveal a beautiful, gelatinous beef stock, which I then added back to the Booyah for another layer of flavor! Thanks for sharing – Booyah is now in my seasonal rotation!4 stars

  2. I’m 66 and born and raised in Green Bay. I attended Catholic school from 1st to 8th grade. Parishes scheduled their summer picnics on different Sunday’s throughout the summer and my sister and I when in our 20’s & 30’s visited most of them with our children for booyah, games, raffles and the dessert tent.
    As a child attending a large Catholic school I remember watching the men making the booyah behind the school in 3 huge propped up barrels with wood burning underneath.
    I am so glad in your memo you mentioned cooking on a wood fire because that is the true flavor of every parishes booyah back in the day before electric kettle cooking started. Every parishes booyah had a little different twist but the smokey flavor was constant in all of them. You look a little too young to maybe remember that. I noticed in your recipe it is omitted.
    To get the smokey flavor in the kitchen small batch my husband slow grills the stewing chicken several hours adding plenty of apple wood. The next day I simmer the entire whole chicken in 1 gallon of water with the celery and onion, 1 tsp black coarse ground pepper for 3-4 hours with bubbles barely appearing on the surface, kinda like a crock pot cooking on the high setting for the same amount of time. Remove the chicken and continue with your recipe adding the cold deboned chicken after potatoes are done and the stove is turned off.
    No need to remove grease because there isn’t any. The fat is rendered during the grilling.
    Total cooking time in stock pot is 8-9 hours. The church started theirs about 3 a.m.
    And always much more chicken then pork and beef. They also left the bones in which made it messy to eat and unsafe as it was a choking hazard.5 stars

  3. We used snapping turtle for our booyah cookouts compliments of my Polish grandfather.
    Try pronouncing bouillon in Polish. Bool-yun!

  4. The word “Booyah” comes from the Kewaunee/Door county Waloon pronunciation of the very old, classic French preparation called, “Bouillon” (roughly translated to “boiled stuff”.)
    While this recipe looks totally legit, I have to raise an eyebrow at the lack of (that much-maligned kitchen shortcut) chicken and beef bouillon cubes*! They contribute a (somewhat unnatural?) flavor that I think is really key to achieving the genuine flavor of what you’d get from one of those large aluminum stock pots at a church-carnival or kermis!
    -C
    *Both “booyah” and “bouillion” have both been around way longer than the aluminum-wrapped soup-base cubes. Booyah is not named after bouillon cubes. Both booyah and the cubes are named for French bouillon.

  5. Family has been making Booya (Booyah) for generations. The story about the Belgiums making Booya are correct but I would not hold swear the true true origins or variations that it originated from there (Can’t be proven). It has been around in many form and names over centuries. The Rentmeester clan might have had a shool function and it was spelled differently but they are not the creators of the soup.

    “Back in 1976, a Green Bay teacher, Andrew Rentmeester”. Churches and other organizations have been making Booya for centuries upon decades in the world.

    1. I’m from green bay wisc, and I grew up with booya in the 60’s always ate that at the county fair . . was told a bunch of ladies would make chicken soup at home and bring it to the county fair and dump that soup into a huge pot and MIX IT ALTOGETHER, sometimes it would taste great, and then there were times it tasted horrible, LOL

  6. The combination of flavors from the thighs and ribs plus the rutabaga, makes this unique with a rich depth of flavor. I made 12 quarts and the longer it sat, the better it tasted. Regard this as a stew on steroids. A definite keeper.5 stars

  7. This is an interesting variation of beef vegetable soup. I made this into more of a soup using the same amount of meat – hence soup, not stew. Anyway, I ended up with 12 quarts. I get carried away. 4-cups of shredded cabbage from a small head, to me, means the whole head. I go from there with the rest of the ingredients. Frozen peas – the whole one pound bag, 96 ounces of broth, etc. It happens……… The only thing I added was instead of the second onion, I used two medium leeks because I like their flavor profile and used organic “smart” chicken which has superior flavor and texture.

    Regardless whether soup or stew like – made for 8 or 128, this is damn delicious!5 stars

  8. I’ve been threatening to make this for sometime and now with the NorCal weather being mostly cold and snow, I’m definitively making this tomorrow.5 stars