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5 Go-To Vintage Cowboy Meals

5 Go-To Vintage Cowboy Meals

Cowboys were known for their rugged and independent spirit, and their meals reflected this. They often had to rely on whatever ingredients they could find on the trail, and they had to be creative with their cooking methods, as they often didn't have access to modern appliances. Here are five different meal recipes that cowboys might have made during the wild west era.

1. Chuckwagon Stew: This hearty stew was a staple for cowboys on the trail. It was made with a variety of meats (such as beef, pork, or venison) and vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, and onions), all cooked together in a single pot. To add flavor, cowboys might have also included spices like cumin, chili powder, and paprika.

Chuckwagon Stew

  • 1 pound beef, pork, or venison, cut into small chunks
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the meat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, potato, and carrot, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Pour in the beef broth and water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, and paprika, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.


2. Biscuits and Gravy: This simple but filling meal was another trail favorite for cowboys. To make it, cowboys mixed flour, baking powder, and salt to create a biscuit dough, which they then rolled out and cut into circles. They cooked the biscuits over a campfire or in a Dutch oven, and served them with a savory gravy made from pan drippings and milk.

Biscuits and Gravy

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup pan drippings (from cooked meat)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk to create a biscuit dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut it into circles using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

To make the gravy, heat the pan drippings in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is bubbly. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the gravy over the warm biscuits.


3. Jerky: Jerky was a popular trail snack for cowboys because it was easy to pack and had a long shelf life. To make it, cowboys would slice strips of meat (such as beef or venison) and then dry it in the sun or over a fire. They might have added spices like salt, pepper, and garlic to give it extra flavor.

Ramblin Jerky

  • 1 pound beef or venison, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper. Place the sliced meat in a large resealable bag and pour the marinade over it. Squeeze out any excess air and seal the bag. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the marinated meat on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 4-6 hours, or until the jerky is dry and slightly chewy. Cool the jerky completely before storing it in an airtight container.


4. Grilled Venison: Cowboys often hunted for their own food on the trail, and venison was a common catch. To cook it, they would build a fire and then place the venison on a spit or grill over the flames. They might have also added herbs and spices to give the meat extra flavor.

Grilled Venison

  • 1 pound venison, cut into steaks or medallions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Brush the mixture over the venison steaks or medallions. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the venison for about 4-6 minutes per side, or until it is cooked to your desired level of doneness. Remove the venison from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.


5. Cornbread: Cornbread was a staple for cowboys on the trail because it was easy to make and could be cooked in a variety of ways. To make it, cowboys mixed cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder with water or milk to create a batter, which they then cooked in a skillet or Dutch oven. They might have also added diced onions, jalapenos, or cheese for extra flavor.

Cowboy Cornbread

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the milk and melted butter to create a smooth batter. Preheat a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Pour the batter into the preheated pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve the cornbread warm, with butter or honey if desired.


Cowboys had to be resourceful and creative with their cooking on the trail, and their meals were often simple but satisfying. These five recipes offer a taste of the hearty, flavorful meals that cowboys might have enjoyed during the wild west era. Enjoy!

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