Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

Mrs. Morton Smith, a culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South, dedicated years of her life to the pursuit of culinary perfection, particularly in the realm of old-fashioned chicken and dumplings. While fried chicken may claim the title of the South’s most renowned dish, chicken and dumplings hold a special place in the culinary heritage of the region. It’s a dish that embodies resourcefulness, ingenuity, and above all, the warmth of home cooking.

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings
Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

In the South, where hospitality is second nature, meals often revolve around making the most of what’s available. Chicken and dumplings epitomize this ethos, transforming a humble bird into a feast fit for a multitude. What elevates this dish beyond mere sustenance is the artistry of the dumplings themselves.

There’s a delightful diversity in how dumplings are prepared. Some prefer them as small strips of pastry, dropped into the simmering pot, where they emerge either free-form and puffy or meticulously cut like delicate noodles. Others opt for the comforting embrace of soft drop-biscuit dumplings, gently resting atop the savory stew, ready to melt in the mouth with each spoonful.

Yet, regardless of style, the essence of chicken and dumplings lies not in the meat, but in the dumplings themselves. Mrs. Morton Smith understood this implicitly as she meticulously honed her craft. Her culinary wisdom, passed down through generations, revealed the secrets to achieving dumplings of unparalleled lightness and flavor.

In her treasured recipe, Mrs. Morton Smith unveiled the key ingredient: buttermilk. Its tangy richness imparted a subtle complexity to the dumplings, elevating them from mere dough to culinary artistry. But her expertise didn’t stop there. Mrs. Smith understood the importance of texture, imparting a crucial tip: kneading the dumplings on a generously floured surface. This seemingly simple step not only ensured a light, airy texture but also served to thicken the broth, imbuing it with a velvety richness that would envelop the palate with every spoonful.

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

For Mrs. Morton Smith, chicken and dumplings weren’t just a meal; they were a testament to the enduring traditions of Southern cuisine and the enduring comfort of home cooking. Each bowl served as a reminder of the ingenuity and resourcefulness that define Southern hospitality, welcoming all who gather around the table to partake in its simple yet profound pleasures. And through her dedication and expertise, Mrs. Smith’s legacy lives on, ensuring that the art of crafting the perfect chicken and dumplings continues to enrich the lives and palates of generations to come.

How Chicken and Dumplings Came to Be

Chicken and dumplings, with its rich history deeply rooted in Southern cuisine, embodies the essence of comfort food. This beloved dish, characterized by tender chicken simmered in a savory broth and topped with fluffy dumplings, has humble origins dating back to the early European settlers in America. As they brought their culinary traditions to the New World, they adapted their recipes to the ingredients available in the Southern landscape, thus laying the foundation for what would become an iconic Southern staple.

The beauty of chicken and dumplings lies in its simplicity. With just a few key ingredients – chicken, flour, butter, and seasonings – cooks could create a hearty and satisfying meal that could feed a large family. This was especially important in times when resources were scarce, and stretching a small amount of chicken to feed a hungry household was essential. By simmering the chicken slowly, its flavors would infuse into the broth, creating a delicious base for the dumplings.

The dumplings themselves are a marvel of culinary ingenuity. Made from a basic mixture of flour, baking powder, salt, and sometimes milk or buttermilk, the dough is dropped into the simmering broth by spoonfuls, where it puffs up and cooks to fluffy perfection. This simple yet ingenious method transforms the humble ingredients into a comforting and satisfying meal that warms both body and soul.

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

Over time, chicken and dumplings became more than just a frugal meal; it became a symbol of Southern hospitality and tradition. It’s a dish that’s served at family gatherings, Sunday suppers, and other special occasions, bringing people together around the dinner table to share not only food but also stories and laughter. The aroma of chicken and dumplings simmering on the stove is enough to evoke memories of childhood and simpler times, reminding us of the importance of family, community, and tradition.

While the basic recipe for chicken and dumplings remains relatively unchanged over the years, there are countless variations and regional differences that reflect the diverse culinary landscape of the American South. Some cooks add vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions to the broth for extra flavor and nutrition, while others prefer their chicken and dumplings with a thicker, creamier gravy. Regardless of the specific ingredients used, the essence of chicken and dumplings – warmth, comfort, and tradition – remains constant.

In a world that’s constantly changing, chicken and dumplings serve as a comforting reminder of the enduring power of food to nourish not only our bodies but also our spirits. With its simple yet satisfying combination of flavors and textures, it’s no wonder that chicken and dumplings continue to hold a special place in the hearts and homes of Southern cooks and food lovers everywhere.

What You Need to Make Traditional Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients for Chicken Stew:

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (or use chicken thighs or breasts)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (for thickening)

Ingredients for Dumplings:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup milk


  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Return the chicken pieces to the pot. Pour in the chicken broth, and add the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
  4. While the stew is simmering, prepare the dumplings. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk until just combined.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and shred it into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the pot.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup of flour with about 1 cup of the hot broth from the pot to make a slurry. Stir the slurry back into the pot to thicken the stew.
  7. Drop the dumpling batter by spoonfuls on top of the simmering stew. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through and fluffy.
  8. Serve the chicken and dumplings hot, garnished with fresh chopped parsley if desired. Enjoy your old-fashioned comfort food!

Traditional Chicken and Dumpling Recipe


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • Chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)


  1. Simmer Chicken, Celery, and Carrots:
    • In a Dutch oven or large pot, place the chicken parts, chopped celery, and carrots.
    • Add enough water to cover the chicken and vegetables by about an inch.
    • Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt over the mixture.
    • Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat.
    • Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it simmer until the chicken is tender. This usually takes about 30-40 minutes.
  2. Prepare Chicken:
    • Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot and place it on a cutting board.
    • Let it cool slightly, then remove the skin and bones.
    • Cut the chicken meat into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
  3. Season Broth and Bring to a Boil:
    • Bring the broth in the pot to a boil.
    • Season the broth with black pepper to taste.
  4. Make Dumpling Dough:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and the remaining teaspoon of salt.
    • Cut in the shortening using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    • Pour in the buttermilk and stir until a soft dough forms.
  5. Shape Dumplings:
    • Lightly flour a clean surface.
    • Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead it lightly a few times until it comes together.
    • Pat the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness.
    • Pinch off pieces of dough, about 1 1/2 inches in size, and shape them into small dumplings. You can roll them into balls or flatten them slightly between your palms.
  6. Cook Dumplings:
    • Drop the shaped dumplings into the boiling broth, one at a time, making sure they are submerged.
    • Once all the dumplings are in the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer.
    • Cook the dumplings, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and tender. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
  7. Combine Chicken and Dumplings:
    • Once the dumplings are cooked, add the chopped chicken back into the pot.
    • Stir gently to combine and heat the chicken through.
    • Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  8. Serve:
    • Ladle the chicken and dumplings into bowls.
    • Garnish with chopped fresh chives if desired.
    • Serve hot and enjoy your old-fashioned chicken and dumplings!

This recipe serves about 6-8 people, depending on portion sizes. Adjust the ingredients accordingly if you need to make more or less.

It is possible to prepare the chicken and dumplings in advance.

Chicken and dumplings is a classic comfort food dish that warms the soul with its hearty flavors and satisfying texture. While it’s traditionally cooked in one go, you can also prepare it ahead in two parts, making it a convenient option for busy days or planned gatherings. Here’s how you can do it:

Firstly, start by preparing the broth and chicken according to your preferred recipe. Whether you opt for a homemade broth simmered with aromatic vegetables and herbs or use store-bought options, ensure it’s flavorful and well-seasoned. Similarly, cook the chicken until it’s tender and easily shreddable, whether you choose to poach it, roast it, or use a rotisserie chicken for convenience.

Once cooked, allow the broth and chicken to cool before refrigerating them separately. This step is crucial for food safety and helps in maintaining the quality of the dish. You can store the broth and chicken in airtight containers for up to two days in the refrigerator. For longer storage, such as up to two months, you can freeze them. When freezing, make sure to use freezer-safe containers or resealable bags to prevent freezer burn.

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

When you’re ready to enjoy your chicken and dumplings, simply thaw the broth and chicken overnight in the refrigerator if they were frozen. Once thawed, reheat the broth in a pot over medium heat until it reaches a gentle simmer. While the broth is heating, prepare the dumpling dough.

For the dumplings, you can make the dough ahead of time. Prepare the dough according to your preferred recipe, then roll it out and transfer it to a lined baking sheet. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dumpling dough for up to one day before using it.

When the broth is simmering, drop in the prepared dumplings as directed in your recipe. Allow them to cook until they’re tender and cooked through, which typically takes about 15-20 minutes. Finally, add in the shredded chicken and any additional ingredients such as fresh chives for extra flavor. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before serving piping hot bowls of comforting chicken and dumplings to your delighted guests or family.

By preparing the components ahead of time, you can streamline the cooking process and enjoy a delicious homemade meal with minimal effort when you’re ready to indulge. Whether it’s a cozy weeknight dinner or a special occasion, chicken and dumplings prepared in advance offers both convenience and comfort in every spoonful.



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