Booyah Soup Recipe
Booyah (or booya) is a fall stew tradition of the Upper Midwest, cooked outdoors in a giant kettle to feed the masses. This recipe is downsized for the stovetop, a rich and flavorful soup you’ll crave every booyah season!
Booyah is a Fall Stew Tradition of the Upper Midwest
Have you ever eaten a steaming bowl full of Booyah? Have you ever been to a Booyah? That’s right. This fun-to-say word is both a soup and an event, mostly making their appearances in northern Wisconsin, parts of Minnesota, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. People sometimes refer to it as Green Bay Booyah.
I had no clue about this booyah tradition until a just few years ago when friends of ours invited us to theirs. The invitation read “You’re invited to the Booyah!”, and it talked about eating booyah.
We didn’t know what we were in for. But how could we not be curious?
Of course, we had to accept.
You’re gonna love this rich and flavorful Booyah soup recipe I’m sharing with you today, scaled down in quantity from traditional mega-batch recipes made in giant kettles to feed the masses. Yes, this one can be enjoyed wherever you live, from your very own kitchen.
But…if you’re ever invited to a Booyah, please promise me you’ll go!
Here’s another favorite recipe, perfect for fall: This ultra tender, flavorful Beer Can Chicken just can’t be beat!
The Tradition of a Booyah Kettle
Booyah is a rich and flavorful soup, absolutely delicious, made in huge batches in “booyah kettles”. The photo above shows the booyah kettle and booyah stick owned by our friends, Jason and Dianna. They were the ones who introduced us to this tradition of the Upper Midwest.
It was Dianna’s idea to open up their home and backyard to this Booyah tradition 6 years ago. When her dad heard about it, he jumped in with an offer to help. Growing up in South St. Paul, attending these events at various churches and local festivals was a regular part of life for Dianna’s family.
Their Booyah is now an annual fall event for their family and friends. The actual date is dictated by the availability of Dianna’s brother’s cover band the Lid Twisters, who provide live entertainment all evening long. Each year they tweak the recipe just a bit and lengthen the invite list, currently at over 100 guests.
Jason and Dianna set up a tent in their backyard with seating and long tables to hold all the side dishes and desserts brought by guests. Friends and neighbors catch up on all the latest while kids run and play. It’s a beautiful fall scene.
How our Friends Make Their Recipe
When I asked Dianna to share a little bit about how they prepare this stew, she referred to a spreadsheet that her dad has created, listing ingredients and timing. Isn’t that awesome?
Here is how our friends make their booyah recipe in a giant booyah kettle:
- The day before: pre-cook all on-the-bone meats (to include short ribs, chicken, and oxtails – plus soup bones for extra flavor). Save liquid for broth the next day. Remove all bones and discard.
- The day of, at 4:00 am: light the fire outside under the 20-gallon booyah kettle and add the broth, dried beans, onions, parsley, cubed pork and beef, pork brisket, crushed fresh garlic, and plenty of flavorful dried herbs and spices.
- 6:00 am: add the meats that were cooked and de-boned the day before.
- Noon: add the rutabagas.
- 2:00 pm: add the cabbage, carrots, celery, green peppers, and potatoes.
- 3:00 pm: add the canned peas, corn, green beans, and whole tomatoes.
- 5:00 pm: soup’s on! Or should I say booyah’s on?!
Hosting One of These Gatherings Takes Commitment!
Hosting a booyah is no small ordeal. It takes a great deal of time and energy to pull off the event, not to mention massive quantities of ingredients.
I have to retell the story that Dianna told me, about the one year when she got up at 4:00 am, lit the fire, and added the broth and other ingredients to the pot. She went back to bed, in need of a bit more sleep.
Then she completely missed the 6:00 addition of meats. And what was in the pot ended up burning. Dianna called her dad in a panic, and they decided to proceed as normal, hoping the burned ingredients would just give the stew some extra flavor.
It all turned out alright.
But the following year, and every year since, Dianna says that her dad shows up at their house by 3:30 am, just to make sure everything goes according to the spreadsheet. ;)
A Smaller Green Bay Booyah Recipe
The recipe is from the new Cook’s Country Eats Local cookbook. If you know about Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen, then you know that this recipe has been tried, and tried again, until it reached ultimate perfection.
The majority of us will never buy a 20-gallon booyah kettle and spend a couple days preparing this kind of feast for our family and friends.
That’s where this downsized Green Bay Booyah recipe comes in ultra handy.
But please know that even though this soup was scaled down from a full-fledged booyah recipe, it still requires hands-on time and simmering time. It’s essential for full flavor and tender meats.
And I promise you, it’s absolutely worth it!
The broth is heavenly, super flavorful with a gorgeous silken quality from the gelatin of the beef bones. And there are chunks of tender meats and vegetables in every single spoonful. The stew is rich and hearty.
If you’re looking for a new fall tradition, maxed out in homemade warmth and comfort, this booyah recipe has my vote.
Like this fall stew recipe? Save it to Pinterest!
And a couple more stews to keep you cozy this fall and winter, recipes from my friends: Lemon Chicken Stew from FoodieCrush and Sancocho (Peurto Rican Beef Stew) from The Noshery.
This rich and flavorful stew is a fabulous way to enjoy a downsized version of traditional booyah. No giant booyah kettle required!
- 2.5 lbs. bone-in, English-style short ribs, trimmed, meat and bones separated (I used bone-in beef chuck short ribs)
- 2.5 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions, chopped fine
- 2 ribs celery, minced
- 8 c. low sodium chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 c. shredded green cabbage
- 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 8 oz. rutabaga, peeled and cut into ½” pieces
- 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” pieces
- 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced ¼” thick
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pat beef and chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and black pepper.
- Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown beef on all sides, about 10 minutes; transfer to plate. Cook chicken until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to plate. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard it.
- Pour off all but 1-1/2 teaspoons fat from pot. Add onions and celery and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Add beef, beef bones, and chicken, and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until chicken registers 175° F, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to bowl. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces, discarding bones. Cover chicken and refrigerate.
- Continue to simmer stew until beef is tender, about 1-1/4 hours longer. Transfer beef to plate. When cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces, discarding fat. Remove beef bones and bay leaves; discard.
- Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle, about 5 minutes, then skim off fat and return liquid to pot.
- Add shredded beef, cabbage, tomatoes, rutabaga, 1-1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to liquid and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rutabaga is translucent around edges, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in potatoes and carrots and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add chicken and peas, and simmer until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
adapted slightly from Cook's Country Eats Local
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 556Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 201mgSodium: 485mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 49g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Cook’s Country gave me a copy of Cook’s Country Eats Local for my review. I was not compensated additionally to write this post. Originally published in September 2015. Some photographs updated September 2018.
We always went to the Hastings Firemens Booya until I tried making it myself from a friends recipe. It is different to some degree from this one and I make mine in a 18 qt. electric roaster. We haven’t been to the Firemens Booya since I started making m own. My family likes mine better. Even my 90 year old mother, who doesn’t pay too many compliments, said it was the best she’s had. Usually serve with pulled pork/chicken and Snicker Apple Salad and variety of bars. Our adult beverage of choice is fresh apple juice (hot or cold) and Buttershots. Yum!! It’s a family tradition every year….Booya, hay ride and bonfire with s’mores!! It is a lot of work but we’ll worth it!!
My sister-in-law, from Green Bay, just hosted their 6th annual Booyah! She has the traditional 20 gallon pot and her recipe is slightly different but cooked all day over an open fire! Her parents bring the brats, cheese and Spotted Cow beer from Wisconsin and all of our (very large) family here in Maryland gets a little taste of Wisconsin! Delicious evening!
So FUN!!!! Lucky you! :)
The secret ingredient is the timing of the spice bag in the kettle.
Use the regular spices you like, add the
spice bag after the ox-tail and chicken bones and skin are picked out. Remove the spice bag when the flavor seems right to your taste. Add the vegetables and simmer.
I helped dad cook booyahs (400-1000 gallons) at a timei in South Saint Paul, VFWs , and the west side of St Paul during the 60s and 70s.
Can you recommend a store that sells a 20 gallon pot.
Look at the Bayou Classic 10 gallon soup kettle. I think it’s around $70.
Thanks for the recipe! I am hoping to make this soon for a large group and am wondering how big of a pot I should get to double the recipe. Any advice or insight on how many quarts the recipe yields? Thanks for the help!
In the early 1950’s Trinity Lutheran Church in Sauk Rapids, MN. would hold a “Booyah Festival” on a weekend during fall harvest time. On Saturday bushels of cabbage, carrots, chicken, etc etc would be brought to the school basement where it was sized mixed etc in preparation for the overnight cooking in the large iron pots with the fire underneath. Most of the ingredients would be donated by the members and usually it was from their home garden harvest. The men would cook the ingredients all night outside and stir with canoe paddles. After church the next morning we would bring our containers which were filled from the cooking pots. We brought gallon containers so the delight could be stored in quantity for a few days. It was delicious!! The event was a fall fundraiser for the church.
Thank you so much for sharing, Ted. What a great vision you gave for this dish! I especially love the stirring with canoe paddles! :)
Awww I followed this recipy I make my own version it comes out really tasty . I wish I can share my own picture of the soup here. Thank you so so much
So fun that I found this post!
Have friends in S St Paul and it has become a bit of a tradition for us to go to Booya Day there or On the Road Again Day, as it’s properly called.
After we all go Saturday please the Booya n Chili, we wander back to friends place and enjoy an afternoon and evening of more food that we brought and merriment around a campfire.
Ended up seeing one of my cousins at the car show with his old Model T car and he’s becoming a regular there.
Will miss it this year, I think I may have seen a mention of drive-by pickups of the Booya.
But not the same without all the people and stands all up n down street.
Happened upon this, as I thought it would be fun to do a small family gathering booya.
So much fun! Thanks for sharing your memories, Karen. :)
I DO have a 20 gallon pot an DO want to make the whole thing, can you share the original recipe please?
I toos have a large pot and would like the full recipe and time schedule. Is it possible to get it?
It sounds a bit like Kentucky Burgoo!
Just a hint that I found very helpful for making broth. Put chicken/ turkey bones and carcasses ( like after Thanksgiving) in a crockpot, along with onions, garlic, celery, seasonings and cover with water. Cook all day or overnight to get a really good bone broth. I strain and refrigerate when cool,
then skim off fat. This make sure a really rich stock full of gelatin. I freeze so I can always have a stash of broth. No watching the pot for hours!
What a great idea, to use a crock pot to make broth! I never thought to do that. Brilliant! I might try using my instant pot too.
Used this recipe last weekend for the packer game, turned out great and was a big hit. I enjoyed a couple more bowls this week, and have some stashed away in the freezer as well. I was a little concerned on how much I should size up the recipe for a 30 quart pot (did not see a quart-sized measurement in the post for the downsized batch, I could have missed it), I went with 3X, which ended up being about the right amount for cooking, 4X would have been too much for the 30 quart.
I made this with my 2-4th grade class. We had been studying the history of the Midwest and wanted to make a recipe that would represent our work. This was such a big hit and so much fun to do in the classroom. It smelled so good all day. So delicious!! Thank you.
I made this exactly as written with the exception of adding the rutabaga as I could not find one at our local grocery stores. I substituted turnip instead. The booyah came out so delicious. My husband ate 3 bowls for supper last night. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
So wonderful to hear! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Wonderful & a traditional stew for halowine… yummy
This has been a yearly family tradition/reunion. Made from scratch. It started with my great grandparents in or around 1930’s. . Just had it last Saturday. Yum.
Delicious!!! Worth the work.
Yay!! Thanks, Dave.
I grew up in St, Cloud and St. Joseph MN and remember bringing the pots, jars and whatnot to fill on that Sunday.
There used to be a dozen rumors of where it came from, some said Russia and East Europe, some said it was a corruption of French bouillabaise, others yet out of northern Michigan. BUT, whereever it came from, it has always been a staple.
btw: I have had the all ground version, and thought that seemed a bit to much like gruel.
I’ve never heard of an all ground version! Nice to hear from you, it’s always fun to hear people’s personal stories on this stew!
I grew up around St. Cloud also, my grandfather’s church would do Booyah every year and it was the ground version also. Not like gruel at all, I looked forward to it, so flavorful and filling. Might start a new tradition here in the deep south.
This got a lot of nice compliments. Delicious!!
Making a large kettle of booya this week!! I have a secret ingredient that I add to the soup. It gives it the unique “booya” flavor (:
I love to hear this!! (And I’d love to know your secret ingredient!) :)