Parties with a Twist of Murder!
Parties with a Twist of Murder!
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Food Ideas: Wild West Murder Mystery

Cowboy, Old West and Pioneer Inspired Ideas

Desserts for our western murder mystery
Wild west party starter and pudding

Hosting a Wild West Murder Mystery - Other Helpful Ideas

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These recipe ideas are great for using with our Murder in the Wild West murder mystery game, or for other western or cowboy parties.

To make the food extra authentic, consider serving on pewter-style plates or using wooden dishes and utensils. Online shops such as Etsy sell packs of "pewter look" paper plates. You may also consider using tin mugs. Some customers like using Mason jars as glasses or as cutlery holders.

A:- Cowboy and Western Food Ideas (Make-Ahead)

Our selection of party recipe ideas is largely make-ahead so that they don't interfere with the smooth running of your party.

A1:- Ideas for Authentic Food

To give your party food an authentic feel, consider what cowboys and those living in Western cowtowns actually ate.

Range of foods: Texas, Mexican and American Frontier food. 

Cowboy trail food: while on the trail, the cowboys' diet consisted largely of beef, salt pork or bacon, potatoes, pinto beans, sourdough biscuits, bread or flapjacks and strong, thick black coffee. They also ate dried fruit.

American Frontier food:  available vegetables included potatoes, sweetcorn, onions, tomatoes, and squash. (Laura Ingalls Wilder's books show that pioneers also cultivated carrots, peas, peppers, pumpkins, cabbages, beets and turnips. See link.)   Nuts included pecans and almonds. Fruit included apples, apricots, cherries and peaches. Chilis and molasses were used for flavorings.

A2:- Some Suggested Party Recipes With an Old Western or Cowboy Theme


Main Course Ideas

Dessert Ideas

A3:- Modern Ideas with Cowboy Names

Bonnie's menu uses "cowboy" names such as Chuckwagon Stew
Menu for Bonnie's party

A4:- Simply Add Decorations to Turn Normal Food into Western-inspired Food


B:- Drinks

Contrary to popular belief, beer was the most popular drink in the saloons on the American Frontier - a hard-up cowhand could nurse a single drink for several hours. Spirits included rum, gin and whiskey. That said, wealthy establishments did have access to aged Bourbon and even champagne and French wines. On the cattle trail, cowboys drank strong black coffee.

Try using the drinks labels provided with the decoration pack to turn ordinary drinks into "wild west" ones.

Bottles use drinks labels from game's decoration pack
Selection of drinks where bottles are covered with drinks' labels from decoration pack

C:- What if I Don't Like Cooking?

No problem. It is a good idea to give your guests some sort of nourishment during the game, but it doesn't have to fancy. (After all, cowboys were given some pretty basic food during their long cattle drives.) We've found that friends are pleased to be invited to the game and often offer to make a dish, either dessert or starter. 

If you don't want to cook, then why not make a list of possible western or cowboy dishes (see above) and ask each of your guests to bring a dish?  You can then have a pot-luck buffet.

Alternatively, if you fancy a takeaway, burgers or a Mexican takeaway would blend with the theme.


Bonnie and Ray cooked a superb menu for their party guests while running our Murder in the Wild West game. They served a Southwest wagon wheel with quick draw poppers for starters; then they made a chuckwagon stew and buttermilk biscuits; for dessert, they served a fresh blackberry cobbler and homemade vanilla icecream. Her lucky guests washed this down with peach tea and root beer. See Bonnie's Wild West Party for further details.

Bonnie's Wild Western food: starters, mains and dessert
Bonnie's meal from left: Southwest wagon wheel with quick draw poppers; chuckwagon stew with buttermilk biscuits; blackberry cobbler and homemade vanilla icecream

For our murder mystery game launch party, we made a starter based loosely upon the bacon that cowboys ate on their trail rides and the molasses that some cowboys used to mix with their beans. Nigella Lawson has a superb recipe for slow-cooked black treacle ham (see here) that we used; the advantage of this is that it can be made in advance and then carved just before the party. We paired this with a potato salad and bread roll. (To be more authentic, we should have used Texan potato salad and cornbread but one of our party had food allergies and so we kept the food simple.) We had the starters after Round 2 of the game.

For the main course, we relied on those other staples of wild west food: beef and corn. We served chuckwagon stew (aka beef stew) with baby sweetcorns. Again, we were able to do most of the preparation the day before the party: we made the stew, mashed the potato and put the potatoes in a wide oven-proof dish. We also prepared the root vegetables for roasting. On the day of the party, we reheated the stew and the vegetables while we played rounds 3 and 4 of the game; we also boiled the kettle after finishing the starters so that it could be quickly reboiled and the boiling water used to quickly cook the peas and baby sweetcorn. 

For dessert, a wonderful friend brought the best apple cobbler we have ever tasted! We had dessert and coffee after finishing the game and listening to the Audio Solution.

Food for wild west launch party
Our test party food from left: slow-cooked ham in black treacle with potato salad; chuckwagon stew with baby sweetcorns, mashed potato and root vegetables; apple cobbler and shortbread biscuits

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Important Disclaimers

These ideas are provided for your inspiration only. Any recipes or recipe ideas should be tested before your party. Ideas for party recipes, decorations or costumes should be adapted as you wish. It is YOUR responsibility to follow any necessary safety precautions.