Hobo stew is an inexpensive and flavorful soup that is easily customized to fit anyone's taste.
Soups and stews don't have to be expensive and time-consuming to be delicious. Whether you call it mulligan stew, campfire stew, or hobo stew, this easy recipe comes together quickly and is enjoyed around campfires by scout troops and in family kitchens for everyday dinners.
What is it
Recipes for hobo stew vary wildly because this popular dish is often a hodge-podge of whatever people have on hand, or if made around a campfire, kids can often select their personal favorite ingredients to craft their own personal version of this stew in foil packets.
For me, a hobo stew recipe must adhere to these rules: It must be easy. It must use minimal ingredients. It must be inexpensive. But it must still taste good! After all, minimal effort isn't worthwhile if the end result isn't something you want to eat.
The great thing about this easy soup is all ingredient amounts are optional and can be mixed and matched to fit anyone's tastes. The food items can be laid out on a picnic table for everyone to grab their favorites and customize their own hobo soup.
- Ground meat - Ground beef is my preferred choice, but different meats such as ground chicken, ground turkey, and ground venison also will work.
- Large onion
- Beef broth - Water can also be used but it will be far less flavorful. If using water I recommend adding Worcestershire sauce at least. If you don't have beef broth, chicken broth would be the next best option.
- Tomato base - Choose V8 juice, ketchup, tomato juice, tomato sauce, or tomato paste. However, I feel V8 adds the most flavor.
- Mixed vegetables - such as whole kernel corn, carrots, peas, and green beans.
- Canned beans with liquid - Such as great northern beans or pinto beans. The liquid is important because it helps thicken the soup.
- Medium potatoes - I use russets for the starch they add to the soup, but red potatoes and Yukon golds also work.
- Seasoning - creole seasoning, salt, and black pepper.
How to make it
Hobo stew can be made in a 12-inch Dutch oven or soup pot without needing to dirty any additional cookware. Chop the potatoes into one inch pieces, and ensure the remaining vegetables are bite sized, or smaller.
The beef and onion get sauteed together in the large pot, then the rest of the ingredients are added in and simmered until the potatoes are tender.
You can even do this in the crock pot if desired, but I would still recommend sauteing the beef and onion for maximum flavor.
Tip: You can add olive oil if the ground beef you are using is too lean to render enough fat to properly saute the onions.
Customizing this stew
There are many ways to customize this hearty stew with different ingredients. The customization most people make is which vegetables they choose to include. Any combination of onion, garlic, corn, peas, beans, and carrots will work well. I also call for great northern beans in my recipe because I like their size and mild flavor, but you can also substitute any similar bean.
A major problem I have with many hobo stew recipes is the lack of flavoring added. Yes, it keeps the ingredient list minimal, inexpensive, and easy, but it will taste extraordinarily bland. I get around this by using V8 Juice as half of the broth and creole seasoning to jazz up the flavor. However, you can substitute other seasoning blends such as chili seasoning, fresh herbs, or even hot sauce.
Other notable changes would be to add two tablespoons of flour as a thickener and one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce for added depth of flavor, however, I omitted both of these from my recipe to keep the ingredient list as minimal as possible.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Any leftover hobo soup should be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to one week. Leftovers can be reheated as needed in the microwave.
- Add chopped onion and one pound ground beef to a large soup pot and cook over medium heat until the meat has browned and then onion is tender. Break the ground beef into crumbles as it cooks.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer the stew until potatoes are tender, approximately 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
Can you do me a favor? If you enjoyed my post would you mind sharing it with your friends? You can see more of my recipes by liking me on Facebook and follow me on Pinterest too. Otherwise, stay up to date by getting each new post sent directly to your inbox by subscribing today.
This recipe was originally published January 8, 2020 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.