According to legend, Mulligan stew is a dish hobos prepared in their camps during the early 20th century.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Mulligan stew as “a stew made from whatever ingredients are available” and its first-known use dates to 1894. The stew was traditionally creating using ingredients hobos begged, borrowed or stole and shared among their group.
“A hobo stew, or Mulligan, has great staying qualities,” the Sept. 30, 1899, edition of the Evening Star in Washington, D.C., newspaper noted. “An Irish stew is a Mulligan. But a Mulligan is not, necessarily, simply an Irish stew. Anything goes in a hobo Milligan, even if it is paid for. It is generally cooked in a five-gallon coal oil can and eaten from tomato tins.”
Because of its history, there is no formal recipe for Mulligan Stew.
“You put in everything in mulligan stew but your socks,” The Associated Press in 1980 quoted hobo king Gordon “Bud” Filer as saying. “And those you keep to strain your coffee. You put in anything at all — potatoes, onions, maybe chicken or meat if a butcher gave you some. You didn’t buy any of the ingredients. You got them from gardens or farms, or worked for people who would give them to you.”