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Hoover Stew: A Taste of American History

When the weather turns cold and you find yourself in need of a hearty and comforting meal, look no further than Hoover Stew. This warm stew, rooted in the history of the Great Depression era, is not only delicious but also a budget-friendly option that will fill your empty pockets with satisfaction.

Hoover stew in a large bowl.

Why I Love Hoover Stew

Hoover Stew, named for US President J. Edgar Hoover (and not as a compliment) was a popular make-do food during the Great Depression (learn more about cooking from home when times get hard here). It combined whatever staples and odds and ends a family had to serve as many mouths as possible.

While the original ingredients included cheap hotdogs and few, if any spices, the recipe is easy to adapt to real food ingredients without compromising on your budget! Along with this frugal recipe, we love making leftover bread soup, quick and easy hearty tomato soup, and canned beef stew.

These are just some of the recipes we make to help save money on groceries while also eating well on a budget.

The Connection Between the Great Depression and Hoover Stew

In the aftermath of the stock market crash of 1929, millions of Americans lost their jobs, banks failed, and businesses closed their doors, marking the beginning of the Great Depression. Families across the country were plunged into poverty and faced immense hardships. It was a difficult time for the nation, and President Herbert Hoover, who was in office at the time, faced widespread criticism for his handling of the crisis.

As the country struggled to recover from the economic devastation, families had to find ways to make ends meet and put food on the table. Budget-friendly recipes like Hoover Stew emerged as a solution, providing nourishment when resources were scarce.

Hoover stew in a large bowl.

Hoover Stew vs. Hobo Stew: What’s the Difference?

During the difficult times of the Great Depression, two similar-sounding dishes emerged: Hoover Stew and Hobo Stew. Although their names may suggest a connection, there are distinct differences between the two.

The lost meaning behind these terms reflects the harsh reality of the era, where poverty and homelessness were prevalent. Let’s explore the nuances that set Hoover Stew and Hobo Stew apart:

  • Ingredients – While both stews were made from inexpensive ingredients, the specific components varied. Hoover Stew typically consisted of basic pantry staples like onions, potatoes, and canned vegetables. Hobo Stew, on the other hand, often relied on foraged or scavenged ingredients like wild game, vegetables, and even discarded food scraps.
  • Preparation – The preparation methods for these stews also differed. Hoover Stew was typically cooked on a stovetop, simmering for several hours to develop flavors and create a warm and comforting meal. In contrast, Hobo Stew was often prepared outdoors, cooked in makeshift pots over open fires by transient individuals seeking sustenance.
  • Social Context – While Hoover Stew was named after President Herbert Hoover, it wasn’t a recipe directly associated with him. Instead, it symbolized the challenging times of the Great Depression, when many Americans struggled to make ends meet. Hobo Stew, on the other hand, was a term coined to describe the meals prepared by homeless individuals, often using whatever ingredients were available.
Ingredients to make Hoover Stew on a cutting board.

Tips for Adding Flavor to Hoover Stew

When it comes to cooking Hoover Stew, there are plenty of creative ways to jazz up your dish and add extra flavor on a budget. Don’t be afraid to experiment with alternative ingredients and techniques to elevate your stew.

To help you get started, here are some tips for improving the flavor of your Hoover Stew:

  • Spices and Herbs – Add a variety of spices and herbs to enhance the flavors of your stew. Experiment with different combinations of seasonings such as thyme, rosemary, paprika, or bay leaves. Don’t be afraid to get creative and tailor the flavors to your liking. Swap dried herbs for fresh herbs, like homegrown sage, for even more flavor.
  • A Touch of Heat – If you enjoy some heat in your stew, consider adding a pinch of chili powder, cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes. These ingredients can add a subtle kick and bring out the flavors of the other ingredients in your stew.
  • Acidic Ingredients – Acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice can help balance the flavors of your stew. A splash of apple cider vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice can add a tangy and refreshing element to your dish.
  • Healthy Greens – Don’t forget to add some greens to your stew for additional nutrients and flavor. Spinach, kale, or collard greens can be excellent choices and add a pop of color to your dish. Be sure to chop them finely and add them towards the end of the cooking process.
  • Homemade Stock – Using homemade bone broth or stock instead of store-bought broth can greatly enhance the flavors (and nutrition) of your stew. Simmering bones, vegetables, and herbs for a few hours will yield a rich and flavorful broth that will take your Hoover Stew to the next level.
Cover of In the Homestead Kitchen Magazine - Culinary Herbs Edition.

In the Homestead Kitchen

This recipe was featured in issue no. 31 of In the Homestead Kitchen Magazine: Culinary Herbs Edition. If you’d like access to more recipes like this, you can subscribe and receive instant access here.

With your subscription, you will receive a beautifully designed monthly digital magazine full of recipes, DIY tutorials, and homesteading tips and stories to guide and inspire you in your kitchen, where together, we will fill our pantries, feed our families, and change our culture!

As a bonus, this affordable subscription also offers access to hundreds of Homesteading Family’s in-depth instructional videos to teach and support you as you learn essential homesteading skills. 

Is a printed copy more your speed? We’re planning on taking this magazine to print in January 2025, so subscribe today to lock in your price!

Overhead shot of cooked pasta in a bowl.

How to Make Hoover Stew

Supplies Needed

Get ready to cook up a batch of Hoover Stew by gathering the necessary supplies and ingredients. This hearty and delicious meal requires a few key elements to bring out its rich flavors.

  • Large Pot – You will need a large pot to cook your pasta, separate from the pot you use to make your stew.
  • Dutch Oven – I love using my enameled cast iron Dutch oven for this recipe.
  • Wooden Spoon – Wood works best, but you can also use a silicone spatula for stirring.
Pasta in a bowl and other ingredients to make Hoover stew.

Ingredients Needed

  • 1 lb Short Pasta – Elbow macaroni is popular, but bowties, penne, or rotini also work.
  • 1 Tbsp Cooking Fat of ChoiceHomemade butter, freshly rendered lard, or a neutral-tasting oil are all good choices.
  • 1 Onion, Diced – You can use yellow, white or red onions for this recipe.
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, MincedFreeze-dried garlic can also be used if that’s what you have on hand.
  • 1 Quart Diced Tomatoes – If you are using store-bought canned tomatoes, you will need a 28 oz. can.
  • 2 Cups Canned Corn – You can use frozen or even freeze-dried corn, too.
  • 2 Cups Canned Beans – Pinto or white beans are popular choices.
  • 1 lb Leftover Meat – Chop leftover poultry or pork roast, or use sliced smoked sausage.
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Diced Herbs of Choice – This is a personal preference, but herbs such as basil, oregano, sage, thyme or rosemary complement this dish well.
  • Parmesan – Use for an optional topping.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.
  2. While pasta cooks, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Once heated, saute onion in cooking fat until translucent.
  4. Once the onion softens, add garlic and cook one more minute.
  5. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, pasta water, and meat to the Dutch oven. Stir together, heating through.
  6. Once the tomato mixture is warmed through, add the cooked pasta and meat, tossing together to combine.
  7. Add in the diced herbs, stir gently to mix, and heat through for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Serve Hoover Stew warm, with parmesan for topping.
Hoover stew in a large bowl.

Serving and Enjoying Hoover Stew

The best way to serve Hoover Stew is to pair it with some homemade artisan bread, sourdough Parker House rolls or cornbread. The combination of tender stew and the crunch of bread creates a delightful contrast of textures that enhances the overall experience.

Also, dunking the bread into the soup soaks up the rich flavors of the stew, giving every bite of bread a burst of deliciousness.

No matter how you choose to serve it, Hoover Stew is a true testament to the resilience of the American people during challenging times. So gather your loved ones around the table, savor the warm stew, and let the flavors transport you to an era of strength and perseverance.

Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below. Then, snap a photo and tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily so we can see your Hoover Stew!

Hoover stew in a large bowl.

FAQ

What is Hoover Stew?

Hoover Stew is a budget-friendly dish that originated during the Great Depression era in the United States. It was named after President Herbert Hoover, who was in office during this difficult time. This stew is made with inexpensive ingredients and was often prepared by individuals and families who were struggling financially.

How did the Great Depression and the market crash of 1929 contribute to the popularity of Hoover Stew?

The Great Depression and the market crash of 1929 caused widespread poverty and unemployment in the United States. As a result, many families had to find creative ways to stretch their limited resources. Budget-friendly recipes like Hoover Stew became popular during this time as they provided a filling and nutritious meal with affordable ingredients.

What is the difference between Hoover Stew and Hobo Stew?

Hoover Stew and Hobo Stew are similar in that they are both inexpensive and hearty dishes created during the Great Depression era. However, Hoover Stew is specifically connected to President Herbert Hoover and the difficult times of the Great Depression, while Hobo Stew is a term used to describe a mixture of ingredients that hobos or vagabonds would cook together while traveling.

What ingredients and supplies do I need to make Hoover Stew?

To make Hoover Stew, you will need ingredients such as beef, onions, beans, canned tomatoes, and pasta. You will also need a large pot, a knife, and a cutting board for preparing the ingredients.

Can I add other ingredients to jazz up my Hoover Stew?

Absolutely! Hoover Stew is a versatile dish that can be customized according to your preferences and what you have on hand. If you want to add extra flavor and variety, consider incorporating ingredients like fresh herbs, spices, or additional vegetables.

What is the best way to serve Hoover Stew?

Hoover Stew is best served warm, especially during colder weather. It can be enjoyed as a standalone meal or paired with bread or biscuits. The beauty of Hoover Stew is that it was designed to be a filling and satisfying dish, perfect for those with empty pockets during the Great Depression era.

What is the legacy of Hoover Stew and other Depression-era recipes?

Hoover Stew and other Depression-era recipes represent the resilience and creativity of the American people during a challenging period in history. These recipes symbolize the ability to make a nourishing meal out of limited resources and the spirit of making do with what one has. They serve as a reminder of the importance of community, resourcefulness, and the value of simple, comforting food.

Hoover stew in a large pot.
Hoover stew in a large bowl.

Hoover Stew

This warm stew, rooted in the history of the Great Depression era, is not only delicious but also a budget-friendly option that will fill your empty pockets with satisfaction. Enjoy this flavorful and frugal Hoover Stew recipe.
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Course: Dinner, Main Course, Soup, Stew
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 492kcal
Author: Carolyn Thomas

Equipment

  • Large Pot
  • Dutch Oven
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting Board & Knife

Ingredients

  • 1 pound short pasta elbow, bowtie, penne, etc.
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or lard or neutral cooking oil
  • 1 whole onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 quart canned tomatoes, diced or 28 ounce store-bought tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn canned, frozen or freeze-dried
  • 2 cups beans pinto, white bean, etc.
  • 1 pound meat leftover poultry, pork, ground beef or sliced sausages are all great.
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.
  • While pasta cooks, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Once heated, saute onion in cooking fat until translucent.
  • Once the onion softens, add garlic and cook one more minute.
  • Add tomatoes, corn, beans, pasta water, and meat to the Dutch oven. Stir together, heating through.
  • Once the tomato mixture is warmed through, add the cooked pasta and meat, tossing together to combine.
  • Add in the diced herbs, stir gently to mix, and heat through for 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve Hoover Stew warm, with parmesan for topping.

Notes

  • Nutrition facts were calculated using one pound of cubed beef.

Nutrition

Calories: 492kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 905mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 596IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?We want to see! Tag @homesteadingfamily on Instagram.
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