Hearty and delicious, this easy old-fashioned Alabama camp stew recipe (a.k.a Brunswick stew) is made with canned meat, diced tomatoes, beans, corn, and onion. It will fill you up and keep you and your family grinnin’ like a possum eating a sweet tater!
If you happen to live anywhere near Alabama and go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for this, chances are the cashier will ask if you’re making camp stew. Mama remembers having camp stew as a child around campfires, at family gatherings, and even in the school lunchroom. This recipe is as old as the hills and is often known as Brunswick stew outside of my stomping grounds.
So, why is it called camp stew? The name came from it being so easy to make while camping since it can be made entirely out of canned goods. Yep, to make my Alabama camp stew recipe you’ll need canned meat, canned tomatoes, canned corn, canned beans… and chopped onion. The instructions are as simple as adding everything to a stockpot, letting all the flavors simmer and mingle together for an hour, and serving. My kind of recipe!
The many variations of camp stew
This is my easy camp stew recipe, but there are so many ways to make it your own. Some people add potatoes, some leave out the onion and opt only for canned goods, and others add Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce. Add more corn, less corn, lima beans instead of butter beans, etc. This is easily modified so go with your favorites. I would try to keep the meat the same, though, because a lot of the flavor comes from that sauce.
This is one of the most delicious and flavorful stews to ever touch a spoon. My friend Jyl has a firm policy in her family that she always doubles the recipe because folks can’t help but come back for seconds, thirds, and often fourths. The recipe below will serve about 6 people.
Make it how you like but I suggest trying it this way first because you’ll likely be hooked from the get-go and the first bite will tell you exactly why this stew is so famous in sweet ol’ Alabama.
- Canned pork in BBQ sauce
- Canned beef in BBQ sauce
- Canned chicken breast
- Diced tomatoes
- Butter beans or lima beans
- Canned corn kernels
How To Make Alabama Camp Stew
First, let’s do the prep work. Peel and dice your onion, then open all of your cans but don’t drain them.
Toss it all into your stockpot (or a Dutch oven, whatever’s handy), liquid and all.
You shouldn’t need salt or pepper unless you just really want to add it. But I suggest tasting it first.
Put all of this in a pot over medium heat and stir often until it comes to a boil.
Then reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes to an hour.
Cooking camp stew on a campfire
If you are cooking this over a fire, just stoke the fire, put the ingredients in the pot, stir it a lot, and try your best not to let the bottom scorch. Eat it when you grow tired of messing with it.
Enjoy your delicious camp stew!
If you are making my Bags To Dishes meals, this is a great addition. Simply leave out the onion and the entire recipe is shelf stable.
- Store leftover stew in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
- You can also freeze the stew for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating as above.
As mentioned above, there are many ways to make this camp stew recipe your own:
- Add different vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celery, frozen peas, or green beans.
- Use different canned beans: black beans, kidney beans, or cannellini beans.
- Use only canned pork or only canned beef. Alternatively, you can make your own with shredded beef and barbecue sauce or pulled pork. As for the chicken, you can use shredded rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken breast.
What is the difference between beef stew and Brunswick stew?
The main difference is that Brunswick stew or camp stew is made with beef, chicken, and pork, not just beef like a beef stew.
What goes with Brunswick stew?
If you’re not making campfire stew, serve your Brunswick stew with cornbread, jalapeño cornbread muffins, Dutch oven bread, buttermilk biscuits, or homemade dinner rolls.
How do you thicken Brunswick stew?
You shouldn’t need to thicken this stew, but the best way to thicken any stew is with a cornstarch slurry. Mix together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (or flour) with 2 tablespoons of cool water and add it to the stew. Wait a minute and repeat as necessary.
Is Brunswick stew a Southern thing?
Yep, Brunswick stew is a Southern staple.
You may also enjoy these sensational stew recipes:
Traditional Beef Stew Recipe (Without Tomatoes)
Our Family’s Southern Chicken Stew Recipe
Smoked Sausage and Beef Stew in the Crockpot
- 3 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 14-ounce can whole kernel corn
- 1 14-ounce can butter beans, baby lima, or lima beans
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 10-ounce cans beef or pork bbq in sauce
- 1 10/12-ounce can chicken breast
- Dump all contents into a medium-sized stockpot, including the liquid in all of the cans.3 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, 1 14-ounce can whole kernel corn, 1 14-ounce can butter beans, baby lima, or lima beans, 1 chopped onion, 2 10-ounce cans beef or pork bbq in sauce, 1 10/12-ounce can chicken breast
- Place over medium heat, stirring often, and bring just to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes to an hour.
Never be afraid to try something new.
Remember, amateurs built the ark.
Professionals built the Titanic.
I’ve printed this recipe out when it was first posted years ago. Then at the beginning of the pandemic when I stocked up on groceries, I bought everything for the recipe and put it all together (with the recipe) in a box. In my mind it was an “emergency” recipe.
Well, my pandemic pantry stash is nearly gone. And today I went through the remaining non-perishables I had stored and checked dates. The canned tomatoes boxed up for this camp stew needed to be used
I made this for supper and was totally surprised at how good it was. Hubby went back for seconds and thirds. I used 2 cans of Castlebury’s Pork in BBQ sauce. It’s got a little kick!
The only thing I would change is the weather. This would be even better in a cold night. And it’s 73 degrees on this November night. Weird, right?
Happy to know this is so good and so easy.
Thank you so much Dianne, this is wonderful to hear. Am so glad you love it!
I just finished putting together a crockpot together. I have a hard time finding the Castlebury’s so I have started using LLoyd’s barbeque chicken, pork and beef. Works well.
Thanks for the tip Bobbie!
If you have time or leftovers, using slow smoked pork and smoked sausage as the meat is primo!
November- camp stew season is here
With all due respect this recipe is not “Alabama camp stew” . Since I was a child me and my family and families like ours have been making camp stew and it’s almost offensive knowing that someone is making camp stew from ingredients from a can. I normally don’t comment on these boards no matter how offensive or silly they may be but I couldn’t let this one go, sorry Christy. Camp stew is something put together from fresh meats and vegetables hopefully locally harvested and by no means put in a crock pot. I’m not saying your recipe is not going to be fantastic but respectfully from all the families who spend the time and trouble to make the unforgettable Alabama stew please don’t call this recipe “Famous Alabama Camp Stew”.
I’m with you, Garrett. In my corner of GA, we call it Brunswick Stew, and none of the old folks around there would even consider putting canned meats or even canned vegetables in it. And not just chucked. Real Brunswick Stew where I come from uses pork, chicken, and often beef, cooked till fall-apart tender, then blended with corn, limas, tomatoes and seasonings and cooked all day. Hot sauce, tomato sauce or ketchup are added later, with a splash of vinegar. If thickening is required, mashed butter beans or crushed saltines. Ideally cooked out in the open, in a huge black iron pot suspended over a wood fire.
Ok, I know I’m late to the party, but can anyone tell me if it tastes like BBQ sauce once it’s all mixed together? It looks delicious but I can’t quite get my mind around making a soup/stew that tastes like BBQ. The three meats doesn’t bother me, BTW. 🙂
Ok, I thought I’d asked this before but couldn’t find my comment to see the answers. Once I submitted more comments loaded. So never mind!