Main Courses, Poultry

Mamaw’s Chicken and Dumplings

Get cozy on a cold fall or winter’s night with this easy chicken and dumplings recipe straight from the kitchen of a Southern grandma.

Get cozy on a cold fall or winter's night with this easy chicken and dumplings recipe straight from the kitchen of a Southern grandma.

Chicken and dumplings are the quintessential Southern comfort food.  I was reared on the chicken and dumplings of a lady named Ms. Dot.  Ms. Dot was basically the community baby-sitter.  While today, childcare providers are required to abide by strict government regulations and health codes, back in the early 80’s my father along with numerous other parents just dropped their kids off at Ms. Dot’s house for the day.  To me, chicken and dumplings were supposed to taste like Ms. Dot’s.  Years went by and I snubbed my nose at plate after plate of chicken and dumplings because they simply did not match the culinary goodness of what I remember as a kid.  That is, until I met Mamaw.

Mamaw is my husband’s grandmother and she loves to feed people.  Literally, she takes offense if you show up at her house not hungry.  It is Southern comfort food at its grandest – biscuits and red-eye gravy, fried okra and cornbread.  All cooked in nothing less than a pound of bacon fat.  Yes, you can literally feel your arteries clogging . . .but it’s sooooo good. If you’re lucky you might even end up going home with a jar of homemade sweet pickles.

Mamaw grew up on a farm in South Mississippi. The small town of Sumrall, MS, was founded by and is named after her people. The homestead is still there, though I’ve heard it is overgrown and hard to find now. Like most people living in Mississippi in the early 1900’s, life was hard and her family didn’t have a lot of money.

Mamaw at 16

Mamaw at 16 c. 1931

She married the love of her life when she was very young. Though her husband has been dead for 27 years, she still talks about their life together like it was not so long ago. She still lives in the same house in North Jackson that she and her husband built in the 1960’s. Stepping through her front door is like stepping back in time. The gold shag carpet, the linoleum countertops, the dark wood-paneled walls – it’s all still there and yet strangely comforting.

mamaw and papawMamaw with her husband

Back when The Husband was still just The Boyfriend, he decided things were getting serious enough between us to meet Mamaw.  Even though there were only three of us, she had a spread big enough to feed ten.  She set a plate of chicken and dumplings down in front of me.  I just knew I probably wouldn’t like them, but there was no way I was going to break this little old lady’s heart by turning down her food.  So I gingerly raised a fork to my lips and took a bite.

Oh glorious rapture in heaven!  Finally!  Someone who knew how to make the chicken and dumplings of my childhood!  I not only cleaned my plate, but went back for seconds.

Seven years later, Mamaw still likes to feed people but she doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  Having lost my own grandmother last year, I am suddenly aware of how valuable these people are, how we need to take advantage of the time we have with them, and learn everything we can.  Just over a month ago, I paid Mamaw a visit with the sole purpose of learning how to make her chicken and dumplings.

mamaw 020

Of course, there was no recipe.  It was “a little bit of this” and “a little bit of that.”  I watched, frantically jotted down notes, and listened to her stories of growing up on a farm in south Mississippi.  Later, I went home and made it again, this time writing down measurements, cooking times, and adding my own touches.

One thing that did surprise me – for the last seven years I was under the delusion that Mamaw handmade her own dumplings.  At one point she did, explaining that my husband’s grandfather even made her huge board that she used to roll out her dumplings.  But at the age of 94 and with the invention of modern refrigeration, she now reserves the right to use frozen dumplings. Hey, who am I to argue with a lady in her 90’s?

I have included a recipe for homemade dumplings similar to what Mamaw uses. However, sometimes I just want chicken and dumplings without all the work. Mary B’s frozen dumplings in the freezer section at the grocery store taste just like homemade. Just follow the directions on the package.

mamaws hands 025

Mamaw her husband raised two children – a daughter and a son. A few days after she taught me how to make this, we buried her son, my husband’s father.

Get cozy on a cold fall or winter's night with this easy chicken and dumplings recipe straight from the kitchen of a Southern grandma.

Get cozy on a cold fall or winter's night with this easy chicken and dumplings recipe straight from the kitchen of a Southern grandma.
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5 from 4 votes

Mamaw's Chicken and Dumplings

Get cozy on a cold fall or winter's night with this easy chicken and dumplings recipe straight from the kitchen of a Southern grandma.
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 16 minutes
Servings 6 -8
Calories 339kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 1 boiler/fryer chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

For the dumplings:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  • Place chicken pieces in a large stockpot. Fill pot with enough cold water to cover chicken. Add onion, bay leaves, and salt. Bring water to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour. Remove chicken to a plate to cool. Strain remaining both. Discard onion and bay leaves.
  • In the meantime, combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the milk and egg. Mix until it forms a dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out the dough to about an 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough into strips, about 1 ½-inches wide and 3 inches thick.
  • Dumplings can be dried for up for four hours, or use them immediately.
  • Remove chicken from the bone and shred into bite-sized pieces. Bring broth back to a boil.
  • Drop dumplings into boiling broth and cook until tender. Time will depend on the thickness of the dumplings and how long they were allowed to dry.
  • Add chicken bouillon, shredded chicken, ground pepper, and thyme. Cook until heated through.
  • Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 15 minutes.

Notes

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Since the dumplings will absorb much of the broth, add about ¼ -1/2 cup or so of chicken broth when reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 7.7g | Trans Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 817mg | Potassium: 424mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3.2g | Vitamin A: 3850IU | Vitamin C: 5.8mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 2.3mg

117 Comments

  1. Wow Mamaw sounds like she’s in great shape! There must be something to the idea that a southern diet can breed long life. Chicken and dumplings are a definite classic. I’ve never made it myself but it looks delicious.

  2. Mamaw could have inherited these great recipe from her grandma. The chicken and dumplings look terrific! I love it.

  3. would something like bisquick biscuits work in place of the frozen biscuits in this recipe?

    • The Cooking Bride

      My only concern with using Bisquick is that you could end up with a pot full of mush. You could try it, but I would suggest cutting down the cooking time significantly, as I just don’t think they would hold up to the cooking time recommended in the recipe.

    • You can use canned biscuits – cut them into thirds or fourths.

      My Gran’s people are from Alabama and that’s how she did it after she ahd her 4th baby. (Takes a lot less time than making them by hand!) Delicious!!

    • Yes, Bisquick mix works WONDERS. It’s how my Dad made Chicken and Biscuits, and the very specific flavor of Bisquick means two things to me, to this very day: Strawberry Shortcake, and Chicken and Dumplings.

      It does make a sort of ‘gravy’ from the dough, but if you put them on top of the bubbling mix (and we kept in the celery, carrots, and onions, to make almost a stew of it) they keep their shape and sort of steam.

      Now I have to make this…. Dad’s been gone for a year and a half.

  4. Story and photos are wonderful. She sounds like a great lady to know!

  5. That dish looks delicious.

  6. Very cool. Reminds me of my own grandmother and growing up in South Louisiana.

    Sigh… I miss home. Your description of Mawmaw’s house brings me back to my own childhood and so many houses of friends, family and relatives that I visited and spent time at.

    I was always encouraged to eat seconds, thirds, fourths and clean out the pot if just a little bit was left. It’s amazing I never gained weight.

    My wife makes her own dumpling/biscuits and places them on top long enough for them to cook just before serving.

    There are things I am not allowed to cook in the kitchen. Chicken and dumplings are one of those things. I like my wife’s chicken and dumplings, and her feeling is that if I make one of her “specialties” and it turns out better than hers, she will no longer desire/feel good about making it herself.

  7. Beautiful series and beautiful blog.

  8. This looks so amazing! Thanks for sharing. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  9. The ingredients: amazing.

    But I have HUGE texture issues — I’m thinking this might be one of those dishes I should avoid? Might you suggest a slightly less texture-issuey version?

    😉

    • The Cooking Bride

      Mikalee, I have come across versions where you drop big spoonfuls of biscuit mix on top of the broth. That way you could avoid the dumplings altogether if you didn’t like it. I don’t think it would work for this version though! 🙂

  10. Just the site of your image had my mouth watering, then you grabbed me as a reader when you brought food to life. Magical realism… perhaps a touch..

  11. Gonna give it a try this weekend. Never had a Mamaw like yours but I totally plan on being one when I “grow up”!

  12. That looks delicious!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe, looks like it would be fun to make with my kiddos! 🙂

  13. I think I gained 5 pounds just thinking about eating that. Plus it uses frozen dumplings so it’s easier to make. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Wow. We eat something similar in Jamaica. I swear the south and islands have so much in common. This made me hungry. I think she should ship them out 🙂

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