This Green Bay Booyah recipe is a loud shout-out to my Wisconsin people!
I’m not from Green Bay, but I did grow up in Waupaca, which is just under an hour away. My sister lived in Green Bay for quite a few years and my Dad had a shop there. And I’ve eaten a lot of Green Bay Booyah in my time.
Just writing this post and typing up the recipe makes me homesick. I moved from Wisconsin when I was 20 years old and set my sights on Southern CA. I lived there for 16 years and am now in Northern VA.
But as amazing a place as So Cal was for a girl in her twenties, Wisconsin will always have my heart. (Yes, I’m getting a little teary-eyed).
I can always tell if someone I meet is from the midwest. We’re almost always down-to-earth, friendly people. People who cherish family and tradition. People who love to Booyah.
What does Booyah mean?
For me (and a lot of midwesterners), Booyah is more than just the name of a recipe. It stands for tradition, being good neighbors, and lots of beer and great times. It means a little hard work for a lot of payoff.
Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
“Booyah (also spelled booya) is a thick stew, believed to have originated in Belgium, and made throughout the Upper Midwestern United States. Booyah can require up to two days and multiple cooks to prepare; it is cooked in specially designed “booyah kettles” and usually meant to serve hundreds or even thousands of people. The name can also refer to a social event surrounding the meal.”
Booyah can be a noun or a verb. You can make Green Bay Booyah but you can also Booyah. As in, “When are we going to Booyah this year?”
Making Green Bay Booyah is traditionally a two-day event. It can be managed in one day, but you’ll have to get up before the crack of dawn to make that happen, and the stew (soup? stoup?) still won’t be ready until at least around 5 pm.
You’ll know you’re at a true Booyah if everyone knows when the stew is done depending on how drunk the chef has gotten. Beer is traditionally consumed through almost the entire booyah-making process, so this is usually pretty accurate!
Who invented Booyah?
There’s no clear answer as to who invented Booyah. Some people say it was a school teacher in Green Bay who needed to raise money to buy books for his students. He cooked a huge pot of soup and sold it by the bowl. A journalist asked him what the name of his soup was and the teacher answered “bouillon). When the journalist asked him to spell it, he answered “B-O-O-Y-A-H”. That’s how it was printed in the paper and what it’s been called ever since.
The other well-known claim comes from a native Green Bay resident who says her grandfather made the first kettle of Green Bay Booyah. He was 12 years old and wanted to replicate his mom’s chicken soup. So he butchered a chicken and roasted it all night. He decided to forgo her dumplings and used what the family had grown in their garden instead.
What’s the main ingredient of a Booyah?
Although there are likely hundreds of variations of Green Bay Booyah recipes in existence, the main ingredient is always the same: roasted chicken. Oxtail and beef are also added, along with the bones for a rich flavor and silky mouthfeel.
Vegetables like peas, carrots, cabbage, rutabaga, potatoes, celery, and onions are also a big component. And it all adds up to the most comforting comfort food you’ll ever have.
Green Bay Booyah Recipe – a stovetop version
I realize that for true Booyahers, there is no scaled-down version of this recipe. You either Booyah or you don’t.
Still, as sacrilegious as it seems even to me, it’s been far too long since I’d had any, so I decided to create a recipe I could make in my kitchen. It still takes time to make, but it’s truly a labor of love and well worth the effort.
Besides, if the well-known Green Bay restaurant Kroll’s can serve it on their menu, I figure I can, too.
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp ghee or canola oil, divided
- 3 lb bone-in chicken thighs
- 3 lb bone-in beef short ribs
- 1 lb pork shoulder
- 9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 large carrots, chopped
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage
- 2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (you can use regular diced tomatoes if you can't find fire-roasted)
- 1/2 of one rutabaga, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4 lb
- 1 lb red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1-2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (more or less to your tastes, but don't skip this)
- Preheat a LARGE dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tsp of oil and saute the onions, celery, and carrots until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of the oil and brown the chicken, then the beef ribs, then the pork in batches on all sides. (Tradition says that you can omit the tablespoon of oil and skip this step. I find that it adds even more flavor, but you can make it how you like!)
- Put all of the meat back into the pot, then add the chicken broth, garlic and bay leaves. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two hours.
- Remove the meat from the pot and discard the bones. The meat should just fall away from the bones. You can either pull it into bite-sized pieces or cut them, whatever is easier for you.
- Remove the garlic and bay leaves from the pot. Return the meat and onion/carrot mixture to the pot. Add the cabbage, tomatoes, rutabaga, and potatoes. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.
- Add the peas and cook for another few minutes until they're heated through. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice, taste and add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 830Total Fat: 53gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 294mgSodium: 824mgCarbohydrates: 21gNet Carbohydrates: 17gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 71g