Chicken Champions

The Unexpected Ingredients the Pioneer Woman Adds to Her Chicken and Dumplings

published Mar 24, 2020
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chicken and dumplings in a dutch oven
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

Ree Drummond (aka the Pioneer Woman) is one of the most successful food bloggers of all time. She has a hit Food Network show, has authored countless cookbooks, and even has her own line of homewares available at Walmart. To say she is a culinary powerhouse is an understatement. So, when we were picking out which recipes to include in our chicken-and-dumplings celebrity recipe showdown, we knew we had to include her. Her recipe is a classic interpretation of chicken and dumplings with a few ingredients that made it unique. We were excited to try it — here’s how it went.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings

The Pioneer Woman starts by dredging pieces of chicken in flour, salt, and pepper, then browning them in a pot with melted butter. You’ll then set the chicken aside and add onion, celery, and carrot to the pot. (At this point the pot should have a lot of brown bits stuck to the bottom.) Add ground thyme, turmeric, chicken stock, and apple cider, then add the browned chicken back to the pot and cook for 20 minutes.

While the chicken in simmering, make the dumpling dough. In a large bowl sift together flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add half-and-half and stir to form a dough.

Remove the chicken from the liquid, shred it, and add it back to the pot. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Drop spoonfuls of the dumpling dough on top, sprinkle with parsley, cover it halfway with a lid, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes and adjust seasoning if needed.

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

My Honest Review of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe was fairly good, but it had some strange elements that didn’t quite work for me. The first was the addition of apple cider. I found the flavor to be a bit confusing and too sweet. Although it was only half a cup, it took away from the savoriness of the base and overshadowed the rich chicken flavor. The second ingredient that confused me was the turmeric. It gave the whole dish a yellow hue and strong earthy flavor that felt out of place. I love turmeric, and think it’s a wonderful addition to many dishes — but not this one. It was as if Ree had just learned what turmeric was and went on a mission to add it to everything she made.

The dumplings themselves were nice and wonderfully light. The texture was airy and delicate and they puffed up beautifully. The turmeric in the broth, however, stained them a bright yellow color, which I’m not sure I loved.

Overall, the extra ingredients didn’t really work for me. If the recipe held back and went with more of a straightforward approach I would have been more into it.

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

If You’re Making the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings, a Few Tips

1. Skip the turmeric. The amount of turmeric in this recipe might not seem like a lot, but it completely changes the flavor profile. It gives the entire dish a golden color and strong earthy flavor. I suggest leaving it out completely.

2. Skip the apple cider, too. I didn’t think the apple cider added anything to the dish — if anything I think it made it slightly too sweet. If I made this recipe again, I’d replace the apple cider with additional chicken broth.

3. Use fine (not coarse) yellow cornmeal. The fancy coarse varieties of cornmeal (the kind often used to make grits) are too large to make these dumplings and will give them a gritty texture. When shopping for your ingredients, make sure the label says “finely ground.”

4. Go heavy on the salt. The Pioneer Woman’s recipe simply lists the salt “as needed,” but it really does need a lot. The sauce is thick and luscious, so it needs a generous amount of salt to to balance it.

Rating: 7/10

Have you ever made The Pioneer Woman’s chicken and dumplings? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn