Chicken Booyah
Chicken Booyah History and Recipe

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Photo courtsey of the St. Patrick Church in Askeaton.

A super “stick to your ribs” soup-stew made with chicken. While chicken soup is universal and variations of this dish can be found in many cultures world wide, northeastern Wisconsin is the only place in the world where Chicken Booyah is found. It is a favorite at the many festivals, church picnics, bazaars, and any other large gathering in the northeast part of Wisconsin. This chicken soup is typically made in large 10 or 20-gallon batches, cooked outdoors over a wood fire, and worked on by several people at once. Restaurants have their own special recipe. Booyah is lovingly called “Belgian Penicillin.”

Men stirring the Chicken Booyah

The first Belgian immigrants arrived in Wisconsin in 1853. These immigrants were from the French-speaking part of Belgium, with their own language called "Walloon." Walloon is not a version of French. It is a language with its own grammar and vocabulary. Even today, the area settled by these people in Wisconsin, they settled in a corner of eastern Wisconsin near Lake Michigan, is known as the Walloon area. The theory is that the uneducated Belgian could not spell, thus writing down the word he heard.

It is believed that the word “Booyah” comes from the word “bouillon.” Another theory is that the word comes from the French word “bouillir,” but also like the Walloon word "bouyu" (pronounced like "boo-yu" with a "u" between and with the  French pronunciation of the letter). For years people have been trying to figure out the origination and what makes it so special. Yannick Bauthičre of Gembloux, Belgium sent me the following information:

In history, Walloons spoke Walloon. Only the most educated people (counts, dukes, scholars, monks, etc.) spoke French as a second language. Our people started to learn French when Belgium was created, in 1830. And even then, Walloon remained our main language until World War II. My grand father spoke Walloon much better than French. So, most settlers coming from Wallonia hardly spoke much French. That's why, in my humble opinion, "booyah" doesn't come from French "bouillon" or "bouillir" but from Walloon "bouyon" or "bouyu". But that's just my opinion !!!!

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Chicken Booyah - How To Make Chicken Booyah

This is one of those delicious recipes that makes a large quantity. Plan to have family and friends over to help you eat it.

Recipe Type: Soups and Stews, Poultry, Beef, Pork, Vegetables
Cuisine: Great Lakes (Wisconsin)
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 3 hr


1 (4- to 5- pound) whole roasting chicken, cut into quarters
1 pound beef stew meat, bones included
1 pound pork stew meat, bones included
2 large onions, chopped and divided
4 quarts water, divided
6 carrots, diced
6 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 small bunch celery, diced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and cut up*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

* To easily prepare the tomatoes, use a sharp knife and cut the tomatoes while still in the can.


In a large soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat, add chicken, beef, pork, 1/2 of chopped onions, and 2 quarts water; cover and bring to a boil, Reduce head to low and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until chicken is tender and the meat falls from the bone; remove chicken from the pot to a large bowl and set aside to cool (when cool, take meat from the bones and cut into pieces). Refrigerate cooked chicken until ready to use.

Continue to cook beef and pork approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender. Remove beef and pork from the pot to a large bowl and let cool (when cool, take meat from the bones and cut into pieces). Refrigerate beef and pork until ready to use.

Strain the stock, place in refrigerator, and let cool. When cool, remove fat from surface of stock. Return cooled and strained stock to soup pot. Add remaining 2 quarts water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add remaining onions, carrots, and potatoes; simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add chicken, beef, pork, peas, celery, tomatoes, salt and peppers; simmer until thoroughly heated. Serve in large soup bowls.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.



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