Chicken and dumplings is a meal of humble origins in the South, with the dumplings being added to chicken soup to cheaply make the meal more filling and add some needed carbs to the diets of laborers.
Adding cream to it isn’t so traditional, but it makes it taste even better. If you’d like a more traditional version of chicken and dumplings, you can leave it out altogether. It’ll still taste excellent.
Just add some milk to the dumpling dough instead of cream.
When making a simple recipe like this, the quality of the ingredients matters a great deal. If you use homemade chicken stock, it’ll absolutely elevate this meal.
Store-bought chicken stock is just chicken-flavored water. Homemade chicken stock has a far superior flavor and is loaded with nutrients.
Just remember, if you’re using homemade stock, it typically won’t have any added salt. You’ll need to add a little more to the recipe to make up for it.
Another little trick you’ll see in this recipe is to render the trimmed fat from the chicken thighs rather than using vegetable oil. Fat is flavor. Using the chicken fat will amplify the flavor of the chicken, rather than using flavorless cooking oil.
It also prevents waste. The chicken comes with its own oil. No need to pay extra.
Making The Dumplings for Your Chicken and Dumplings
There are as many dumpling recipes for chicken and dumplings as Southern cooks.
Do you prefer them flat, or round? Do you include cornmeal, or is it more like a biscuit?
I grew up on drop dumplings that are made similar to biscuit dough, so that’s what I’ve included in this recipe.
You can always change it up and experiment how you like.
If you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like making dumplings, you can use canned biscuits. Use the cheap ones, not the fancy layered ones. Just cut them into quarters and drop them in the soup when the recipe calls for them.
Canned biscuit dumplings may feel like cheating, but they’re still good. So, who cares?
Creamy Chicken and Dumplings
Creamy Chicken Soup
- 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs - cut into 1/2-inch cubes, fat trimmed and reserved
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion - finely diced
- 1 cup carrots - finely diced (about 1 1/2 large carrots)
- 1 cup celery - finely diced (about 3 medium stalks)
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme - or, substitute 1 tsp. of dried thyme
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1-2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley - finely chopped (optional)
Making Your Chicken Soup
- Render the trimmed chicken fat in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Discard solids. Add enough vegetable oil to make 3 tablespoons, or pour off enough fat to reduce it to 3 tablespoons.
- Add the chicken and brown on all sides, not cooking all the way through. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. You'll need to do this in two batches to prevent crowding in your pot.
- Add the butter, onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until the onions become translucent and the celery and carrots become soft.
- Add the browned chicken back in, along with the chicken stock, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Making Your Dumplings
- While your chicken soup is simmering, sift the flour, along with the baking powder, salt, and black pepper, into a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly.
- Work the lard into the flour until it becomes crumbly and is well distributed.
- Stir in the cream until the dough comes together.
Finishing Your Chicken and Dumplings
- Stir 1 cup of heavy cream into the soup and mix until evenly distributed. Taste for salt and adjust.
- Using two spoons, carefully drop the dumpling dough into the pot a spoonful at a time. Cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Serve hot with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of parsley.