Booyah (stew)

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For other uses, see Booya.
Type Stew
Place of origin United States
Region or state Upper Midwest
Main ingredients Meat (commonly beef, chicken, or pork), vegetables (carrots, peas, onion, celery, potatoes), seasonings
Cookbook:   Media: Booyah (stew)

Booyah (also spelled booya, bouja, boulyaw, or bouyou) is a thick soup of probable Belgian origin made throughout the Upper Midwestern United States.[1] 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.[2][3][4] The name also refers to the event surrounding the meal.


American-style booyah stew

In cooking booyah, one makes a base or broth derived from meat bones, to which vegetables are added. Beef, chicken, and pork are popular varieties of meat for booyah (with all three often in the same kettle),[5] with vegetables such as carrots, peas, onion, and potatoes also in the mix. A wide variety of seasonings are used, sometimes lowered into the kettle in a cheesecloth bag.[6] Typical large-scale booyah kettles can hold more than 50 US gallons (190 L) and are made from steel or cast iron to withstand direct heat and the hours (or days) of cooking.[7]


The term "booyah" may be a variant of "bouillon". It is thought to have derived from the French language words for "boil" (bouillir) and "broth" (bouillon). The spelling with an H has been attributed to phonetic spelling by Wallonian immigrants from Belgium.[8] The Dictionary of American Regional English attributes the term to French Canadian immigrants; others attribute it to a derivation from the Provençal seafood dish bouillabaisse.[6]

An article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 29, 1976, speculating on the origin of the spelling and related fundraiser event, reads:

Lester (Rentmeester) relates recollections of his schoolteacher father, Andrew, probably the "pioneer" of the word "booyah" and friend of the creator of the soup. "At the old Finger Road School where he taught, funds were always in short supply," he recalls. "So my father hit on the idea of a community picnic to raise money for the school. He went around to parents and neighbors, gathering up beef and chickens for the traditional Belgian soup that would be the main dish at the benefit affair. And he also went down to the office of the old Green Bay Gazette, looking for publicity." The writer handling the news of the benefit picnic, so the story goes, asked what would be served. "Bouillon—we will have bouillon," came the reply, with the word pronounced properly in French. "The young reporter wrote it down as he heard it," Rentmeester relates. "It came out 'booyah' in the paper. It was booyah the first time it was served at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church—an affair my father also originated--and that's what people have called it ever since."

Booyah seasoned with peas, granulated vegetables and chicken

Modern day[edit]

Booyah is still made in northern and northeastern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula at church picnics, county fairs, VFW gatherings, and in smaller amounts at private gatherings, sometimes at booyah cooking contests.

The Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul has five kettles with a total yield of 350 US gallons (1,300 L) of booyah. The kettles have been around for several decades.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Episode 3: "Food and Family"". The Meaning of Food. Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Everything Goes When Cooks Wage Battle Of The Booyahs". Chicago Tribune. July 17, 1986. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Booyah (a soup tradition of the Upper Midwest)". September 3, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Booyah! This northeastern Wisconsin tradition could become the official state soup". The Capital Times. Dec 10, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Booyah! This northeastern Wisconsin tradition could become the official state soup". The Capital Times. Dec 10, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Trimble, Steve (June 2004). "Memorable Minnesota Meals - Part II: More about Hot Dish and Booya". Dayton's Bluff District Forum. St. Paul, Minnesota: Dayton's Bluff (District 4) Community Council. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  7. ^ "You Never Forget the First Time You Have Booya or Brunswick Stew". June 12, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  8. ^ Defnet, Mary Ann (December 30, 1997). "Origin of Booyah". Wisconsin's French Connection - Kitchen. University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 

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