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Real Southern Chicken & Dumplings

Okay, y’all, I’m about to share one of my signature dishes with you guys, which is pretty good news because it is delicious!! This is a take on my Aunt Frances’s dumpling recipe, it’s her basic one, but I do it just a little differently. I have been making these things for YEARS (like since I was a teenager), and they are one of my little family’s favorites. I also tend to make these for friends when they have babies or need a special meal.

Because wouldn’t this make you happy?? It makes me happy every time!


This is not a 30-minute meal, let’s just make that clear from the get-go. This is a hardcore, made-from-scratch Southern woman recipe! And it is worth every flipping second you spend on it! Trust me. Here we go:

Ingredient Line-up
-1 medium-sized whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
-1 onion, quartered
-4 carrots, peeled and chopped in large pieces
-3 stalks of celery, chopped in large pieces
-3 cups of all-purpose flour
-2 eggs
-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
-cold water
– 1 or 2 whole bay leaves (I use dried)
-salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika

1) Start off by putting your raw, whole chicken in a large pot. A Dutch oven works great (I use my favorite Le Creuset for dumplings!), or whatever you would use to make soup or spaghetti sauce in. Make sure you remove the giblets, if there are any. Toss the giblets, except for the neck, which you can put in for more flavor, if you aren’t grossed out by a neck floating in your pot, which I am not.

2) Add all of your onion, carrot and celery, then fill your pot until your chicken is just covered with water. Drop in your bay leaf (I only use one, but some people like two) and season, season, season! You’re going to need a few teaspoons of salt for this much water, and make sure you do 10 grinds or so of pepper and a hefty shake of garlic powder. I just do a couple shakes of paprika over the top.

3) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low for about 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is done. You can tell if the chicken is done if you lift out the chicken a bit and slice the skin between the leg and thigh- if the juices are clear, it’s done, if they’re bloody, give it another few minutes. If it’s a little underdone, that’s okay because it’s going to go back into the pot to simmer again. Remove chicken from pot. Let cool.

4) You can keep your stock simmering on the stove until you’re ready for it.

5) For the dumplings, you will take your flour, eggs, oil and water and mix them together. Also season with salt and pepper. You will notice I did not give an amount for the water. That’s because it varies. Start by adding about a half a cup of water. Mix it all together, and if your batter is still crumbly, add more. You want everything to come together but look like a ball of dough. You are going to be rolling this out with a rolling pin, so you don’t want it runny. If you add too much water, add a little flour. It won’t hurt it.

6) Once you feel your dough is “right,” sprinkle a large clean surface with a TON of flour. I like to line my island with parchment paper, then flour it so I don’t have to scrape dough off my countertops, afterwards. It’s a smart plan. Lay down your dough, dust it heavily with flour and pat it down into a rough circle. You may want to check the bottom to make sure it’s not sticking and add more flour if it is.

7) Roll out your dough to about 1/8″ thickness with a rolling pin, continually dusting sticky spots with flour. Once it’s rolled out (probably about 2′ x 2′) let it SIT THERE for about 15 minutes. If you don’t, your dough will shrink up and really make you mad.

8) While your dough sits, remove the celery, onion and carrot from your stock with a strainer or slotted spoon. Save the carrots, but toss the rest.

9) Go ahead and take the skin off your cooled chicken and peel the meat off the bone. You’ll want bite-size pieces of chicken. Once you do that, chop your carrots into small pieces, as well. Set aside.

10) Cut your dumplings. Take my advice and use a pizza cutter for this, as it saves about an eternity of time. Cut your dumplings into about 1 1/2″ squares (you can go bigger or smaller as you prefer- it’s not science).

11) Turn up the heat on your stock to high until it boils, then turn it down to medium high. You’re ready to drop your dumplings!

12) Pick up your dumplings a handful at a time (you can stack them atop one another) and drop them one-at-a-time into the stock so they don’t stick to each other. After each handful, give them a loose stir. Keep going until all of your dumplings are in.

** If some of your dumpling stick, that’s okay. You don’t have to get each one into the pot at the risk of losing your mind. I generally lose 5 or 6 to stickage.**

13) Once all of your dumplings are in the pot, stir then every few minutes so they don’t stick, but let them simmer for a good 15 minutes. Then, drop in your chicken and carrots and stir it all together.

14) Taste your broth. Re-season. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water or canned broth. If it’s too thin, don’t worry, it will thicken up in a few minutes. If it doesn’t, just mix together a few spoonfulls of flour with some water in a cup to make a runny paste, then whisk it into your sauce- it will thicken right up. You want some juice, though, because you can soak it up with crusty bread!

15) Let all of your ingredients simmer together for five minutes or so over medium heat. Keep stirring so they don’t stick, but don’t chop at them.

16) Eat them. They’re good.

Let me know if you attempt this dish (I promise it’s not as complicated as I made it sound!)- I hope you enjoy it!!

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  • Reply Lindsey

    Oh my gosh -my mouth is watering! I can vouch for you – these dumplings are AWESOME!!!!!!!!! Looks like I might have to give these a try very soon – thanks for sharing!! (Cole will really appreciate this post, assuming I can actually make them!)

    August 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      You can do it!!

      August 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • Reply Megan

    Ok, I am now officially FAMISHED. 🙂

    August 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm
  • Reply Amanda

    As a fellow southern gal I make this a lot too. I have a few variations. I use just chicken breast (on the bone) b/c I don’t like to handle a whole carcass of meat with necks and other gross stuff. I also put all the cooked chicken, carrots, etc back into the pot before dropping my dumplings. I’ve never cut mine into squares (I usually drop them in by small spoonfuls, then cover them and don’t touch til they’re cooked) but I’m willing to give this method a shot.

    Also, if you’re really in the mood for this but not in the mood to cook, go to Cracker Barrel! They have the best chicken & dumplings!

    Glad you’re feeling better after the last few days!!

    August 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      You can definitely use a cut-up bone-in chicken, too! And yes, spoonfuls work- we also do it similar to how we make spaetzle if we’re in a hurry (slicing it in thin strips off of a cutting board into the stock).

      I totally had Cracker Barrel dumplings yesterday! Love them. Although, they don’t touch the homemade version!

      August 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm
  • Reply Tam

    I can’t get past the WHOLE CHICKEN part. I just can’t. I am a terrible Jewish Mama. This is the same way you make stock for Matzah balls and I JUST.CAN’T.
    All I think about is “Yuck germs! Salmonella! slimey dead chicken! EEEW!”

    and so I end up cooking everything with skinless breasts, which turn out dry and bland.

    Sigh. This looks so delicious.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Tam, try a cut-up whole chicken, instead. The butcher will do that for you at your grocery store if they don’t already have some out. Then, there are no innards or the actual chicken carcass look to it. Or use bone-in chicken breasts or leg quarters- both work great! You just need the bone in there for flavor’s sake. You can do it, I believe in you! 🙂

      August 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm
  • Reply Courtney at TypeBMom

    I’m from North Carolina and this is my husband’s favorite food! Like others, I can’t quite get over the whole chicken stuff too, so I use a cooked rotisserie & supplement with bouillon (blasphemy, I know.. I know..) but I love love the idea that you line your counter with parchment. I am so happy I won’t be scraping dough off the island anymore! Thank you!

    August 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      You can definitely pull off a quick version with a pre-cooked chicken and a store-bought stock. No biggie! If I ever do that, I just add lots of aromatic veggies (onion, celery, carrot) to my stock and let it cook for a while to give it that homemade taste. Works like a charm! And yes, parchment paper rocks!! Wax paper works the same, too.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:47 am
  • Reply kristen

    This looks so yummy. I’ve never made it before but have now been inspired!

    August 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm
  • Reply bbjoys

    Yum, that looks amazing!

    August 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm
  • Reply Summer

    I just made this for dinner. Being as I live in Tampa it’s definitely not cold out, but it is rainy, so it’s nice to be indoors and dry and enjoying a bowl of dumplings like my Meme makes! Thanks for the recipe and thank you for a positive blog I can enjoy reading!

    September 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!!

      September 23, 2011 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Laura

    Any idea on if I can stick this in the crock pot and let it heat back up? We’re planning a picnic in the mountains and this sounds so yummy! I plan on cooking it just as the directions say and then putting it in the crock pot to stay warm.

    September 30, 2011 at 7:03 am
    • Reply Jessica

      Laura, I have never done that, but it may work. I would just make sure it’s on the soupier side when you put it in the Crock-Pot because it’s going to suck up extra moisture the longer it sits and you don’t want them dry. Definitely just keep it on warm, not low!

      September 30, 2011 at 9:28 am
  • Reply Jen

    I love making Chicken Pot Pie, but have never attempted Chicken and Dumplings. It’s cold and rainy in Georgia and I’m making this for dinner tonight. Along with my great grandmother’s pound cake. Can I get any more Southern?

    October 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm
  • Reply Alexandra

    I have made this twice now since you posted it, and it has been wonderful both times! Thank you for sharing this recipe 🙂 Chicken and dumplings is my favorite winter food, and this is the best recipe I’ve ever used!

    December 30, 2011 at 10:31 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Thanks so much, Alexandra, for sharing your success! I love chicken and dumplings, too, and this recipe never fails me!

      December 31, 2011 at 9:41 pm

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