Chicken Bog: A Comforting Taste of the Lowcountry

Learn the history behind the South Carolina staple. 

Illustration of chicken bog in a pot with Crystal hot sauce
Photo: Allrecipes Illustrations

Chicken bog, a simple pilaf-style dish made with rice and chicken, is a South Carolina staple that has stood the test of time. Somewhere between a casserole and a stew, nobody quite knows where chicken bog got its name — some say it stems from its composition (the chicken is, quite literally, bogged down in rice), while others insist it's a nod to the marshlands of the Lowcountry. That said, here's what we do know about chicken bog:

What Is Chicken Bog?

Chicken Bog
Travis and Jamie

Traditional chicken bog is made by boiling a whole chicken until tender, discarding the skins and bones, then adding white rice to absorb the stock. The dish often contains smoked sausage, onions, and various spices.

Damon Lee Fowler, culinary historian and cookbook author, defines chicken bog as "a highly localized form of pilau, probably of African provenance, in the U.S. found only in South Carolina."

How Rice Is Ingrained In Carolina Cuisine

Rice Field
Cindy Robinson/Getty Images

Rice was South Carolina's main agricultural product until the early 20th-century. The crop dominated the state's economy and influenced almost every facet of life in the Lowcountry, from livelihoods to local cuisines. The bulk of North American rice production shifted from The Palmetto State to Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas after the Civil War.

Of course, South Carolina's relationship with rice — and thus its relationship with wealth — was built primarily on slave labor. Enslaved people were the ones to clear the state's wooded swampland with rough tools, and they were also the ones to create the massive hydrological systems for rice field irrigation.

It's impossible to talk about South Carolina cuisine without talking about the Gullah Geechee people, the descendents of the Africans who were enslaved in the Lowcountry region on the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. Rice is a staple ingredient in Gullah cuisine, as well as in West African cuisines. Thanks to Gullah influence, you'll find white rice listed among the main ingredients for traditional South Carolinian dishes like purloo, Charleston red rice, and, yes, chicken bog. Visit the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission to learn more about the community's significant contributions to art, music, language, and cooking.

Chicken Bog History

Creamy Chicken Bog With A Kick

Chicken bog is most popular in the Pee Dee region of the state, which includes Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter, and Williamsburg counties.

"While fondly cherished as the native stew of the Pee Dee ... the name chicken bog was never well documented by its users .. because it was a commonplace high protein meal that fed a lot of people in a poor environment," Stan Woodward says in his documentary film Southern Stews: A Taste of the South.

Chicken bog enthusiasts from all over the South congregate each October in Horry County for the Loris Bog-Off Festival, an annual cooking competition and celebration of the dish. "The festival began in 1980 as a chicken bog cooking contest and has evolved into the huge event it is today," according to the festival's website.

How to Make Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog
Corey Williams

This is what the South Carolina Encyclopedia has to say about making chicken bog: "Traditionally, the only ingredients are chicken, rice, sausage, and onions, seasoned with salt and plenty of black pepper. The best chicken to use is an older hen, past good egg production, free-range and full of flavor; the second choice is a fat rooster. The chicken is poached, and then its meat is pulled off the bone, not chopped. The fat is removed from the broth, and then the rice, chicken, sausage, and onions all simmer gently together in the broth until the rice is 'done.'"

Cooking chicken bog is traditionally an intuitive experience, and many practiced cooks don't follow a recipe. "You do it by feel," says Kent Huggins, a Dillon County native whose chicken bog is cooked in the oven instead of on the stove and uses a strict 3:1 stock-to-rice ratio.

Those of us who didn't grow up with chicken bog, however, might feel more comfortable following a recipe than haphazardly throwing ingredients into a pot. If you're a newbie, try Kent's Chicken Bog For a Crowd for your next big get-together (also check out our recipes for classic Chicken Bog and Creamy Chicken Bog With a Kick).

More Lowcountry inspiration:

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