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The April Daring Cook’s challenge was a Brunswick stew. According to our reliable old friend Wikipedia,  this stew originates from the Southern states of the USA, though both the Georgians and Virginians claim it as their own.

Traditionally, Brunswick stew is made with rabbit or squirrel but today, more common meats like chicken or pork are used. It also includes several vegetables such as lima beans, okra and tomatoes. There is no one definitive recipe, luckily for us, because our interpretation was fairly loose.

My first thought when reading the recipe was that it seemed kind of meaty for a semi-veg girl. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I wanted to participate. Then, after a little thinking, I thought that we could probably make a good vegetarian version with black turtle beans. I had made a pretty successful soup using black beans the week before, and still had half a packet of beans to use up!

On the forums, I asked the lovely Daring Cooks whether they had any good ideas regarding how to turn Brunswick Stew vegetarian. Thanks to everyone who replied – there were some extremely helpful suggestions, especially from the font of knowledge, Audax. The secret of converting a meaty dish into a vegetarian version is to add, add, add. Not simply exchange. Like it or not, beans just do not have the flavour of a good ol’ bunny.

This is how I decided to make our conversions:

  1. Replace the meat with soaked black turtle beans and dried mushrooms for a ‘meaty’ base.
  2. Replace the bacon with sprinkles of paprika, for ‘smokiness’.
  3. Replace the meat stock with vegetable stock.
  4. Add some spices such as cumin and thyme, for flavour.
  5. Add some red wine, for richness.
  6. Add some Vegemite, for mysterious umami (thanks Audax!)
  7. Fry up the onions and add garlic, for sweetness and flavour.

Our stew was relatively successful. It would be particularly good on a chilly Wintery night. And healthy. And a good way to use up spare vegetables. And possibly an easy way to feed a crowd. It would also probably work better with meat – though this version was still tasty!


2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 dried red chilli, ground to flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin, ground
The leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, fresh
Olive oil
250g black turtle beans, soaked overnight
A small handful of dried mushrooms (we used porcini)
500g waxy potatoes, diced (we used kipfler)
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 carrots, chopped
2 corn cobs, kernels removed
1-2 cans peeled tomatoes, crushed
½ cup red wine vinegar
A dash of white wine (we drank all the red!)
1 bay leaf
Tamari or salt, to taste
Vegemite, to taste
Pepper, to taste
250ml-1L Vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon


  • We were in a bit of a hurry so we used a pressure cooker to make this meal. This could not be beat for convenience; all was done in half an hour. However, this could easily be done in a conventional pot on the stove.
  • Fry up the onion, garlic, chilli, paprika, cumin and thyme on a low heat. Cook until the onion is soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Chuck in all of the rest of the ingredients, apart from the lemon juice. We used 250ml of vegetable stock and only one can of tomatoes, as the pressure cooker doesn’t need much liquid. If this was being made on the stove, I would have used at least a litre of stock and 2 cans of tomatoes (plus some water).
  • Cook for about an hour on a low heat if using the stove. Cook for about 20 minutes if using a pressure cooker.
  • When ready, squeeze in lemon juice, to taste.
  • Serve with some fresh herbs and crusty bread.

And finally, the obligatory blog checking lines: The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

Thanks must go to Wolf for choosing this recipe. I enjoyed this challenge, even though it wasn’t something that I could eat in its original form! I also love learning about ‘traditional’ recipes from all around the world. The Daring Kitchen is pretty special, ain’t it?!

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15 Responses to “Brunswick stew: the vegetarian version”

  1. Robert says:

    I have a few comments. I agreee with all of your additions/substitutions in changing this dish to vegetarian except for one. I think cumin would really alter the style of the dish. Just my opinion.

    I buy the very same can of smoked paprika.

    Last but not least, I have a young second cousin named Saskia. Have never seen that name anywhere else until now.

  2. Hannah says:

    I’m pretty certain some of the people I met in Southern Virginia would throw their cans of beer at anyone who suggested putting vegemite in one of their regional meals 😛 But I’m kinda loving the idea, and this definitely looks tasty!

  3. Shelley says:

    Your vegetarian stew looks so good! I loved the versatility of this challenge – I am sure that the lack of meat did not cause any kind of lack of taste. Even as a non-vegetarian, I just may try this version some time! And your pictures are beautiful, by the way. Great job with the challenge!

  4. Looks really good! Maybe I’ll try a vegetarian version next time.

  5. Silke says:

    I like the adeptions you made to the stew. Especially the vegemite. Its something we dont know here in Belgium.
    Ow and Saskia is a very common name around here. 🙂

  6. Well I’m so happy that the advice from the forums was so successful, I really applaud your wisdom about add add add not exchange. The final recipe sounds great and you seemed to like it a lot and using a pressure cooker sounds like a time saver only 20-30 mins WOW. I love black beans and your photograph is very clear and shows all the ingredients so well, bravo. And you used vegemite even better LOL LOL. And thanks for the kind words. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  7. Marisa says:

    Your veggie version looks superb! I declare it to be a challenge well done!

  8. jo says:

    Great job on your challenge and your stew looks delicious. Love the addition of chillie and black beans as well.

  9. Angelica says:

    Extra props for making a vegetarian brunswick stew! I can only imagine how difficult it was to convert a meat dish to veggies, but you did a wonderful job!

  10. Laura says:

    Well, your Brunswick looks really tasty.

  11. wic says:

    love this meat free version. great work.

  12. Ruth H. says:

    I love black beans! I bet they were a fabulous addition to this recipe! And I will knidly choose to agree with you that cumin was a good call in this stew – especially a vegetarian version of it. I added some to my own (vegetarian) pot, too…! Beautiful work, and beautiful photographs! Thank you for sharing!

  13. chef_d says:

    I will definitely try your vegetarian version, looks so delicious!

  14. Wolf says:

    audax always manages to have the berst suggestions! }:P

    Well done! I’m glad you did decide to do the Challenge. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the different versions!

  15. Steph says:

    Yummy! I came to the same conclusion as you did — need to add some smokiness to replace the bacon! I even used the very same brand you did! I love the use of black beans in your stew – I think they are my favourite legume. I’ve never tried vegemite before — what kind of a flavour does it have on its own?

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