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The Perfect Dumpling for Chicken and Dumplings

What makes the perfect dumpling for chicken and dumplings? Everyone I’ve asked has a different version, but all agree that it consists of flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, and maybe melted butter.

Two respected sources claim that Bisquick is the answer to the perfect dumpling. Your thoughts?

First, the bad news: when it comes to making chicken and dumplings, there is not one perfect dumpling.

Now, the good news: there are in fact two perfect dumplings.

chicken and dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

Some cooks might think of “drop” dumplings that puff up in broth to a fluffy, doughy cobbler-style blob as a Northern delicacy, and “rolled” dumplings that are similar in consistency and texture to an egg noodle as a Southern specialty.

But the consensus is that there is no consensus.

Through my research, I’ve found Pennsylvania Dutch recipes for the chicken or ham stew known as pot pie (or “bot boi,” as it was initially termed by the Germans) that feature flat rolled noodles.

chicken and dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

I’ve also found recipes for Southern chicken and dumplings with drop biscuits bobbing around in the soupy gravy like matzo balls.

Simple Fresh Southern co-author Ted Lee, who splits his time between New York and South Carolina, has a soft spot for both types.

chicken and dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

“I think they’re both worthy and wondrous,” he admits. “It just depends what kind of ‘soup’ they’re going in, and what kind of mood you’re in—I put soup in quotes because some chicken and dumpling recipes are more like a dense chicken gravy with biscuits in it.”

What follows might not be the definitive way to make drop dumplings or rolled dumplings, but there’s no denying that both are filling and comforting no matter what your geographical or emotional situation.

Throw the dumplings into a classic ham or chicken soup and watch the magic happen as it thickens into a savory stew.

chicken and dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

One note: despite your sources’ confidence, I must sincerely disagree that an egg has any place in a drop dumpling.

An all-butter dumpling has a richer flavor, smoother texture, and makes a creamier gravy than its egg-based counterpart.

Try it yourself the next time you make chicken and dumplings and taste the difference.

chicken and dumplings
chicken and dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Biscuit drop dumplings or rolled noodle dumplings? Make chicken and dumplings the way you like it with these two classic methods.

Ingredients

Chicken Soup Base

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 pound ham, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 pound cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

Drop Dumplings

  • 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • OR

Rolled Dumplings

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Add the ham, chicken, and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes more.

CHOOSE YOUR DUMPLING!

If making drop dumplings:

  1. Stir the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt together with a fork.
  2. Whisk in the milk and butter until fully incorporated. 
  3. With a large spoon, drop golf ball-sized lumps of batter into the broth.
  4. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the dumplings are fully cooked.

If making rolled dumplings:

  1. Stir the flour and salt together with a fork, and make a well in the center of the flour. 
  2. Pour the egg and olive oil into the well, and with your fingers, gently stir the liquid to incorporate the dry ingredients and form a shaggy dough.
  3. Squeeze the dough together and knead gently on a floured surface for 30 seconds until it forms a smooth ball. (Take a look at my pasta dough tutorial for step-by-step photos and video for this very similar process.)
  4. Roll the dough as thin as possible, no more than 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Cut into approximate 1-by-2-inch strips or large squares. 
  6. Add the dumplings to the simmering broth and cook for about 5 minutes, until puffy and tender.

Notes

Drop dumplings adapted from The New Doubleday Cookbook and the great oral tradition of dumpling-making

Rolled dumplings adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern

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