Chicken Booyah History and Recipe



What is Chicken Booyah?

Chicken Booyah is 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.  Booyah is lovingly called “Belgian Penicillin.”

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.


Chicken Booya

Photo courtsey of the St. Patrick Church in Askeaton.


Chicken Booyah History:

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 Bauthie 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 !!!!



Chicken Booyah Recipe:
Prep Time
45 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Total Time
3 hrs 45 mins

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

Course: Soup
Cuisine: Walloon
Keyword: Chicken Booyah History, Chicken Booyah Recipe
  • 1 (4 to 5-pound) whole chicken, roasted, 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 peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 small bunch celery, diced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and cut up*
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Recipe Notes

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



Chicken Stew    Great Lakes    Soups & Stews History   

Comments and Reviews

7 Responses to “Chicken Booyah History and Recipe”

  1. Esmertina

    I would love to try this. But the recipe does not specify any seasoning other than salt and pepper. I am used to adding a bouquet garni when making my own stock. What kind of flavor profile should I aim for? For chicken soup I do sage, thyme, parsley, onion and garlic … for beef I usually add rosemary, bay leaves and black peppercorns to this, and reduce the sage. Sometimes for regional stews I also add things like ginger, allspice, fennel, cloves or cinnamon. Should I just toss it all in and go for broke? Is there a Belgian herb mix that I may not know about? Would love some thoughts. Thanks!

    • Larry Luedtke

      There is a small unincorporated town called Eurin in Kewaunee County Wisconsin. An excellent dining establishment called Tippy Canoe will have the recipe. This is right in the heart of Belgian (Walloon )settlements and Bohemian settlements.

  2. Kelly Bur Shariff

    What a blast from the past! Remember lots of Chicken Booyah growing up in Green Bay even though my family roots aren’t Belgian. Especially remember booyah at church festivals where special booyah makers would come in with their ubiquitous metal garbage cans in which to make the booyah over an open fire, stirring with what I assumed were boat oars. One I remember was St. Johns in Green Bay. Even the lunch ladies at Langlade Elementary School in Allouez served delicious chicken booyah for school lunch in the late 1960s and early ‘70s! In response to Esmertina’s question about seasoning, chicken booyah is very basic. All the traditional recipes I’ve seen were only seasoned with salt and pepper. Living in Madison now and no one has ever heard of booyah except as an exclamation! Wonder how that use of the word ever started?!

  3. dave obry

    Thanks for the info. Larry. I talked to my brother-in-law ( George Pokorny } yesterday and he was getting ready to leave to go to a place in Green Bay to have some. Needless to say I wished I could have went with him. I thought about it the rest of the afternoon. So what am I to do but make up a batch myself. YEH!!. I think I’ll scale down on the amount tho. . Delish (think I’ll slip in a little salsa to make it a cal. style dish ) Take care. Cousin Dave.

  4. Kelly Biese

    The older gentleman in the picture is my uncle!

  5. Robert Thiry

    The very first Belgian “Kermiss” held in NE Wisconsin advertised “bouyo” on the menu, leading one to believe the author was correct with his well educated guess that the origin of the word “Booyah” was from the Walloon.
    On a side note;
    I always liked to add corn to my Booyah but it can develop a little sourness if it somehow manages to survive uneaten more than a day or two. (which rarely happens)
    Gotta have a little (non-traditional) garlic in there though.

  6. M. Rayome

    As a descendant from Walloons (Reheaume-changed to Rayome at Ellis Island- of Grez-Doiceau, Belgium) I have just loved reading this article as well as the comments, it has done my heart good. I have many, many fond memories as a small child in Green Bay, going to the booyah shack with my whole family on a Saturday or Sunday after church to get a bowl. I always remember mom telling us to be careful about the chicken bones. The place we would go to in Howard, just took a couple of large cleavers to the whole (fresh) chickens before they went into the pot. So, Tons of flavor from those bones, but had to take care eating. So Good! Recently made a large pot for hubby and our friends to eat while watching the Packer game (of course!), and they all loved it. Shot myself in the foot though, hubs said he now can’t go back to regular chicken soup ever again. But that’s ok, totally worth it.


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