What happens when you put a Tex-Mex spin on classic cowboy stew and smoke it on a Traeger grill? Nothing short of magic, if you ask us.
This smoked stew is extra hearty with both ground beef and sausage, packed with filling veggies and beans, and every bite has the smoky flavors thanks to the pellet grill. And to make it even better, you can make smoked cornbread on the grill at the same time for a next level pairing.
Cowboy Stew Ingredients
Cowboy stew, a lot like a dump soup, is great because you can basically toss anything in and let it ride. Have picky eaters in the house? Drop the onion and veggies. Don’t eat red meat? Swap ground beef for ground chicken or turkey and beef sausage for chicken sausage.
The possibilities are endless, but here’s everything you’ll need for the recipe:
- ground beef and some type of smoked sausage
- diced onion and bell pepper (or poblano/jalapeño for a kick)
- canned pinto beans, stewed tomatoes, and RO-TEL
- quartered baby gold potatoes or peeled and diced russet potatoes
- mixed vegetables (canned or frozen)
- taco seasoning
- chicken broth or water
Making Smoked Cowboy Stew on a Traeger Grill
You’ll want to start the recipe in a large (at least 6-quart) soup pot or Dutch oven. I try to avoid long cooks with acidic ingredients like tomatoes in my cast iron pots, so go with enameled or stainless steel if possible. Now, let’s get cracking.
Sauté diced onion and bell pepper in olive oil before browning ground beef.
If you want to save some time, you can even use a frozen onion and pepper blend like the one my taco chili recipe calls for. In that case, brown and fully cook the ground beef on its own before adding the frozen onion and pepper blend along with everything else.
For tips on browning ground beef like a pro, check out my post on vegetable beef soup.
Add the remaining ingredients to the cooked ground beef.
I needed a photo of everything together as you see above, but you should add one ingredient at a time, mixing as you go. This Texas cowboy stew makes a Texas sized batch. Once everything is in the pot together, you’ll probably be short on space and stirring can be difficult.
Do as I say, not as I photograph myself doing.
The recipe calls for a range of chicken broth or water, since your pot and ingredient list may vary slightly. You want to add as much as you can get away with. And you can always add some halfway through the cook once the initial liquid has reduced.
You want your cowboy stew to be thick, but you still want a fair amount of broth to carry all the flavors and soak into the cornbread.
Smoke the cowboy stew for 3 hours at 325ºF.
I used Traeger Signature pellets on the Traeger Pro 575. Smoke the stew uncovered so the top layers pick up some smoke as it cooks. Stirring every hour or so will spread the love around to ingredients at the bottom of the pot.
If you’re in a hurry, you can crank the temperature up a bit and reduce the time. Just be sure to give everything a stir more frequently.
And if you’re making cornbread on the grill alongside your stew, you’ll actually want to increase the temperature anyway. Speaking of…
Brown Butter Smoked Cornbread
Hopefully my fellow Texans will forgive me, but I made a more Northern-style cornbread. So I used Kenji’s brown butter cornbread with a few minor tweaks. For a more Texas-style recipe, check out our poblano and cheese filled Traeger smoked cornbread.
His recipe calls for browning the butter in the oven. I considered making brown butter in the smoker, but I thought that might be overkill. Making it on the stovetop only takes a few minutes.
How to Make Brown Butter
If you’ve never made brown butter before, it’s really simple. Typically you want to use a lighter colored pan so you can see the color changing, but I didn’t want to dirty another pan.
To make it, simply add butter to a skillet over medium-low heat and wait for the bubbles and foaming to stop. Shortly after, you’ll start to see some browning around the edges. Stir or whisk the butter constantly to avoid any burning.
Once the butter starts to smell nutty and sweet, transfer to a bowl and add an ice cube. The ice cube will replace the water that cooked off the butter and cool it down so you can mix it with the remaining cornbread ingredients.
The ice cube is a trick we picked up during our experiments to find the internet’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can also use an extra tablespoon of cold butter. That’s what Vanessa does for her brown butter chocolate chip cookies.
Mixing and Baking on a Traeger
The rest of the gang are the usual suspects—cornmeal, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar mixed with eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk. If you’d like a more savory option, you could go with something like a jalapeño cheddar cornbread.
Kenji’s original recipe calls for baking in a 425ºF oven for 20-25 minutes. I turned the smoker up to 425ºF towards the end of the cowboy stew cook and baked it for around 25-30 minutes until a toothpick came out clean and the edges were nicely browned.
If you want to skip the cornbread, you can serve your cowboy stew with other bread options like our air fried buttermilk biscuits or grilled bread like I did with my healthy pot roast. Or to stick with the Tex-Mex theme, tortilla chips or strips would add great crunchy textures as a bread alternative.
Regardless of how you serve your smoked stew, I hope you enjoy it! Let me know how your batch turns out in a recipe review. And if you have a question about the recipe or any ingredients, drop it in the comments below.
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion, diced
- 1 Bell Pepper, diced
- 2 pounds Ground Beef (90/10)
- 1 pound Smoked Sausage, cut into half moons
- 1 1/2 pounds Baby Gold Potatoes, quartered*
- 2 cans Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cans (10 oz each) RO-TEL or Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
- 1 can Stewed Tomatoes
- 10 oz bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables
- 2 packets Taco Seasoning
- 3-4 cups Chicken Broth or Water**
- Preheat smoker to 325ºF with the lid closed.
- On the stovetop, heat a 6-quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for 5-6 minutes to soften the vegetables before pushing to one side and adding the ground beef. Brown one side before breaking apart and mixing everything together.
- Once the ground beef is fully cooked, add the remaining ingredients, stirring as you add to evenly mix.
- Place the stew on the smoker, uncovered, and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring every 60-90 minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender and the stew has picked up enough smoky flavors.
*You can use any diced potato. If you use russet potatoes, peel first.
**Add as much broth or water as needed to mostly submerge all the stew ingredients. You can add more as the stew reduces on the smoker.
For the cornbread, increase the temperature on the Traeger to 425º in the last 30 minutes of smoking the stew. Add your favorite cornbread mix to a 10" cast iron skillet. (See the post above for what I used.) Smoke alongside the stew for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges and bottom of the cornbread are nicely browned.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: about 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 395Total Fat: 12gCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 7gProtein: 32g