four bowls of chicken and dumplings in a line
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn
Chicken Champions

We Tested 4 Famous Chicken and Dumplings Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

published Mar 27, 2020
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Chicken and dumplings is the definition of comfort food; it’s the culinary equivalent of a tight hug — and we could all use a hug right now, in any and all forms that allow us to do maintain a safe, six-foot distance.

Here’s the thing, though: While all pizza may be good pizza, the same cannot be said of chicken and dumplings. Sad chicken and dumplings can be very, very sad. On the other hand, the very best versions are transformative, combining an ultra-savory broth with dumplings that puff up like clouds.

To find the absolute best chicken and dumplings recipe out there, I pitted four of the most popular recipes against one another in a side-by side-taste test. They varied widely in terms of difficulty: Some called for making your own stock, while others used store-bought chicken stock. Some had you break down entire chickens and cook them, while others used store-bought rotisserie chicken. At the end of it all, I learned a lot about what makes a good chicken and dumplings recipe, and one recipe stood out as the clear winner.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Chicken and Dumplings Contenders

There are a lot of chicken and dumplings recipes online; in order to narrow the field, I stuck to classic interpretations of this comfort-food classic.

I started by looking at the most searched-for recipes, and quickly narrowed it down to The Pioneer Woman’s and Betty Crocker’s, both of which get glowing reviews. But, knowing that the most popular recipe isn’t always the best (and in hopes of uncovering a surprising gem), I chose two others based on personal recommendations from friends. The first was for Grandbaby Cakes‘ recipe, which we’ve previously shared on Kitchn; the second was the high-effort, but highly recommend Bon Appétit recipe. Here’s a bit more about each.

The Pioneer Woman’s recipe is rather simple, but calls for a few unexpected ingredients: turmeric and apple cider.

Betty Crocker’s recipe is very straight-forward and doesn’t use any unexpected spices or ingredients. It does, however, use a shortcut to make the dumplings: Bisquick mix.

Grandbaby Cakes’ recipe is a southern-style chicken and dumplings, made with a brown roux instead of a white one — a technique often reserved for making hearty stews such as gumbo. It also used store-bought rotisserie chicken to cut out a few steps and make it a recipe you can throw together on a weeknight.

Bon Appétit’s recipe was the most labor-intensive of them all. The recipe is calls for a homemade stock made from ingredients like leeks, parsley stems, and whole black peppercorns.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How I Tested the Chicken and Dumplings Recipes

Every recipe was made on the same day. I followed each recipe exactly as written and didn’t take any creative liberties. I also grabbed some of my friends to help taste, and we all agreed that two of the recipes were better than the others.

Meet Our 4 Chicken and Dumplings Contenders

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. Under-seasoned and Underwhelming: Betty Crocker’s Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe was a disappointment. Even with the Bisquick shortcut, it was a lot of work for something that wasn’t that good. I wanted more spice and more savoriness. It was almost as if someone had started to make chicken and dumplings but never added the seasonings at the end. As for the dumplings, instead of being light and airy, they were bread-like and heavy. Finally, the recipe never instructs you to shred the chicken, so you’re left with clunky pieces that are hard to eat. I will not be making it again.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. Weird (Not in a Good Way): The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe wasn’t bad, but it had some strange additions that didn’t work for me. The first was apple cider, which made the broth too sweet. The second was turmeric, which gave the whole thing a yellow hue and strong earthy flavor that felt out of place. The dumplings themselves were nice and light, but the turmeric in the broth stained them a bright yellow color. If this recipe had a more straight-forward approach, I would have been more into it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. High-Effort, High-Reward: Bon Appétit’s Best Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe was a delicious, classic interpretation of chicken and dumplings — but it was also a lot of work. You have to make homemade stock, strain it, shred the chicken, make the sauce base, and then the dumplings. The sauce base was great, with a wonderful leek-forward flavor and a pleasant richness from a generous amount of chicken fat. The dumplings were wonderfully light and the dish, overall, was perfectly- seasoned, hearty, and exactly what I think of when I picture “comfort food.” If you want a cooking project that will take practically all day to pull off, this is for you.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The Clear Winner: Grandbaby Cakes’ Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Sometimes simple is best and that was definitely the case for this recipe. It was everything I wanted in terms of flavor and it was also the easiest. It cuts out a ton of the extra steps by using a rotisserie chicken and store-bought stock, but still tastes amazing. If you’re looking for a simple, quick, and no-frills chicken and dumplings recipe that tastes amazing, this is it.

Do you have a favorite chicken and dumplings recipe? Tell us below in the comments.