Brunswick: The History of this Traditional Southern Stew

Brunswick stew is one of the most recognized dishes in Southern cuisine. Both Virginia’s Brunswick County and Georgia’s city of Brunswick claim to be the first to create the dish, but it has since become a staple in menus throughout the region. North Carolina added its own twist to the popular Brunswick stew tradition by adding pulled pork to the pot. Here is a closer look at the history of this enduringly popular dish.

Georgia vs. Virginia

Today, Brunswick stew is often associated with Lowcountry cuisine along the coastline of the Carolinas and Georgia. However, Virginia and Georgia still battle it out over the claim of being the originator of the stew recipe.

In Virginia, they claim the stew was first served in Brunswick County in 1828 in hunting camps along the Nottoway River. In Georgia, they say the stew was served in 1898 on St. Simon Island, near Brunswick, but maintain that the tradition started much earlier among the region’s Creek Indian population—it was only when it was cooked on St. Simon that it was given its modern name. There is little definitive proof for either account, and the recipes for each differ. Virginia’s version usually contains chicken and is thickened with potatoes. Georgia’s version is spicier, contains smoked pork and peas, and is more like a soup. Both versions traditionally contained squirrel meat, but no longer do so in restaurant settings.

North Carolina’s Claim to Fame

Even though Georgia and Virginia both claim the origin story, North Carolina has emerged as the leader in recognition for today’s Brunswick stew. It is usually served alongside NC barbecue, and many people consider this version of the stew with pulled pork to be the best version. Brunswick stew fundraisers are a standard in NC.

Taste Brunswick stew for yourself, along with traditional Eastern NC barbecue, at Joe’s Old Fashioned Barbecue in Whiteville, NC. Learn more about the menu and their classic Southern comfort food offerings by calling (910) 642-3511.