Homemade Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings
Big Mama’s Southern Homemade Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings is hands-down the perfect comfort food. It’s a showstopper recipe for entertaining, and feeds an army!
One of my favorite “foodie” friends, Tim Martin, introduced me to his “Chicken and Dunklin” recipe. I knew from the very first time that this recipe had to make it into the book. Tim so generously gave his approval, and the rest is history! He is an amazing cook. You really need to check him out.
After I made this recipe for the fourth time, I thought to myself, “Why is it that I love this recipe so much?” I was stumped. Finally it came to me that every time I ate this meal, thoughts of my grandmother cooking over her stove popped into my head. When she served Chicken and Dumplings (very much like this traditional Southern recipe), she talked incessantly of her mama, “Big Mama,” teaching her how to make them. I think those are her favorite memories.
In preparation for my presentation at the Country Living Fair in Nashville and Atlanta, I made and re-made this recipe experimenting with different brand flours, rolling the dumplings, dropping the dumplings, making homemade stock, and using store-bought stock in the recipe.
I’m super excited to report that this Southern Chicken and Buttermilk Dumpling Recipe straight from my book, Harvest, won all the taste tests in my home of 9 judges; no changes necessary.
The best tasting chickens are those that have been free to roam and are slow-grown working their muscles as they find insects for food. Especially in these low and slow recipes, the flavor is absolutely more luscious and silky than those that are young chickens.
In all of my testing, I found that the stock is the most important part of the final dish’s flavor. Certainly you can use prepared stock, but I find it tastes metallic. I’m not saying to never use stock from the store, but there is nothing like homemade stock. It’s super easy to make, and if you are stewing the chickens anyway, you might as well make your own stock.
It’s all in the Stock!
There are two requirements for good stock: body and flavor. Both comes from the collagen created from cooking the chicken low and slow.
I especially like older-aged organic free-range chickens when making stock. I look at this meal as one last way that a good hen or rooster who has served you well can serve one last time. If you don’t have access to old chickens, chicken wings are a great substitute. The wings and legs are the working part of a chicken, therefore they have a lot of connective tissue and muscle fiber that can be broken down into body and flavor.
The recipe is below, but I feel compelled to tell you just how easy it is here. After rustically cutting onions, garlic, celery, and carrots, place them in a large pot along with a few herbs and the chicken. Cover with water, bring to a boil, lower to simmer and let it go for about an hour. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and pour the remaining stock over a mesh colander into a large bowl. There you go. How easy.
Now for the Dumplings!
In my quest for the perfect dumpling, I experimented with all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, butter, and Crisco. I preferred the all-purpose flour without adding salt, but the rest of my family (all of them) preferred the self-rising flour. We all felt those made with Crisco were the best.
Did you know there are great differences between Northern and Southern Dumplings? Northerners prepare dumplings like the Southerner’s drop biscuits. They add flour to the broth to make it thicker and then drop spoonfuls of the dumpling mix into the broth. They are more dense than the Southern version. You can lighten them up by adding an egg white and some baking soda, which many Northern cooks do.
There is a time and place for that, but in the South we like our dumplings square, a little lighter, and thinner. Interestingly, Southerners like a biscuit on the side of their dumplings! Isn’t that funny? It’s all made practically the same as dumpling ingredients.
Dumpling Making Tips
1. Don’t add too much fat to your dumplings. They will disintegrate in the broth.
2. You can use your food processor to make the dumpling mixture. My hands are my favorite tool and I find it quite empowering to make something without machines of any kind, but when I am in a rush the processor really helps.
3. Tim’s Tip: Don’t be afraid to overwork the dough. You can’t overwork it in dumplings. Biscuits…yes, but not dumplings.
4. I know the measurements to my dumpling recipe by heart, which encourages me to make it more. I recommend using measuring tools and then pouring the ingredients in your hands or a bowl to get a feel for what the right amount looks and feels like. By doing this, you will eliminate time from future dumpling making.
5. You may find that you need more or less buttermilk. Give the flour a little time to soak up the liquid as you work the flour-buttermilk mixture. Make sure you don’t add too much liquid or, like the fat, it will disintegrate when you put it in your boiling stock.
6. A pizza cutter is perfect for making the Southern square dumplings.
7. When you drop your dumplings in the stock make sure that the stock has come to a boil, because the temperature is going to drop once you put them in the pot. Put the dumplings in quickly so that they cook at the same rate. You want to put them in separately though, so that they don’t stick together and make one big dumpling.
You’ll find this recipe and others like it in my book, Harvest!
Big Mama’s Southern Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings
- 1 whole free range organic chicken
- 4 quarts 1 gallon water
- 3 stalks celery chopped
- 2 carrots
- 1 Vidalia or yellow onion chopped
- 5 sprigs parsley
- 5 sprigs rosemary
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon pepper
- 3 cups self-rising flour
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- ½ cup buttermilk plus more if dough is too dry
- Bring chicken, water, celery, carrots, onion, parsley, rosemary, garlic, and butter to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for at least 3 hours or until the chicken falls off the bones. Make sure to skim the foam as needed.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour until fully incorporated. Add buttermilk slowly into the flour a little at the time. When the dough is easily formed into a ball, knead the dough.
- Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/16 of an inch or even thinner. Pinch or cut into 1 inch squares (I use a pizza cutter for this). Set aside.
- When chicken is falling off the bone, remove the pieces to a plate. Strain the broth throwing away vegetables and herbs.
- Add broth back to the pot and add butter, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Pull all the meat from the chicken and shred. Return chicken to the broth.
- Add the dumplings to the broth and bring to a hard boil. Allow them to boil about 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon every few minutes for the next 30 minutes. This step releases the starch in the dumplings, promotes creaminess, and intensifies the buttery flavors!
Delicious!!! My husband said it was absolutely perfect and how TRUE chicken and dumplings should taste!
Oh my goodness!! That makes me so happy Tina!! I hope your family enjoyed it immensely. Thanks for letting me know.
This looks so perfect for my needs. My husband is in a nursing home (vascular dementia) I am always looking for nourishing meals I can take him. I was wondering if this is freezable in individual servings. After the last year of hell we have been through I am looking to help him gain weight as well. Thank you in advance for your response.
I am so sorry to hear about your husband Eileen, but I do hope he will love this recipe. I know my family does! Ye, you can freeze this in individual servings. Just add a little water to it when when you warm it up if it is too thick. Thaw it out in the refrigerator. I hope he can gain a little weight.
I cook my chicken in the oven instead of boiling. I coat my chicken in olive oil and seasonings, add my veggies cook for half the time then add water, when the chicken is done I debone, cook the bones only under high heat 20-25 minutes, add it to the broth and veggies with additional water and cook another hour or so, I do this with my Chicken and Dumplings, rice, noodles and soup.
Extra work for sure but I feel the end result is more than worth it.
Your preparation sounds amazing!! I’ll give that a try!
I’ve never made chicken and dumplings before even though I love the dish. I was really craving some so, I saved a bunch of different recipes from different websites of what I thought would be good versions. I ended up going with this one. My mother complained the whole time about different things I was doing. I said, I’m making it, you eat it then let me know. Well, it was a labor of love. I had fresh rosemary in the garden. I had no parsley. I actually forgot to use the stick of butter and kosher salt in the stock at the end. I ended up throwing table salt in to taste. I left my phone in another room so I just finished it up with common sense. It didn’t thicken up as much as I’m used to, but that was what I was hoping for. It refrigerated and reheated perfectly. I did have to use bone in skin on chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. But mostly, I followed this recipe. I added fresh ground smoked black pepper to my dumplings. I have to say I was pleased and I’ve never had a more tender, soft dumpling in my life. I guess the best part was my mother ate her words. She said “You bested me, these are better than mine.” Even if I do a cheater version for time’s sake, I will use this dumpling recipe. It was a hit.
I’m SO GLAD it is now mother approved! That’s the best news ever. When my mom approves it, I know it is good. I’m trusting yours on this! It sounds like you a absolutely knew what you were doing. Thank you so much for leaving a comment and review! It makes all the difference in the world.
I have been using your recipe for 2 yrs. It is the closest I’ve found to Grandma’s. I use your basic recipe, but changed it a little for ease. I sauté 1 c. onion, 1 c. celery, and 1/4 c. small tender carrots (all thin slices) in 4 TBLS. butter. When veggies are soft, not brown, I add 4 TBLS. flour, scraping the bits, barely browning the bottom of the pan, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Then, add 8 c. of your stock. This make a velvety sauce, not too thick.
IMHO, dumplings should not be dry, but have a little noodle “ish” bite to them. Well, this time I cooked the chicken (I use tenders, for ease) without checking my supplies. No buttermilk, milk, or shortening!
I substituted half and half with a little vinegar for buttermilk, and butter for shortening. They turned out delicious and fluffy, but with that moistness in the center. I’m old, so don’t bother rolling them out as you do, but use my small cookie scoop (1.5 TBLS) to drop them in. (Side note: my GM flour ALWAYS needs about 1/2 c. more liquid to achieve your dough consistency). Worked like a charm.
Two other small changes. When the dumplings are cooked through, add the chicken, then 1 qt of heavy cream. Yes. Adjust seasonings. Cook until warmed through on low. Hey, you only live once. Creamy & delicious. Thank you for your flexible recipe that can stand up to a few adaptations to accommodate individual tastes. No matter how you do the rest, the heavy cream truly adds a creamy new dimension. Thank you again and I love your site.
I’m glad you liked the recipe. It sounds like you are having fun with this recipe. That makes me smile. I’m with you on the heavy cream!!
I’m 56 and I LOVE chicken n dumplings! Betty Jean (my mama) made these almost every Sunday and I grew up craving them! My mama passed away in 2008 and even though I knew how to make them, per her recipe, I just didn’t have the heart. Over the years, I’ve made something similar, but using noodles instead of dumplings. I came across your recipe which with the exception of buttermilk, was spot on for hers! So I grabbed Betty’s “biscuit making bowl” and her old wooden rolling pin and went to work! When I tasted them, I welled up a bit because the taste and flavors were so familiar! Thank you so much for reminding me of something that I truly love and have missed. These would def. be Betty Jean approved!
This just makes my day. This is what food is all about! Of course it’s about nourishment, but it evokes such amazing memories too. I’m so glad to have been able to help you remember and make the dumplings. Your mama would be proud of you!
sorry I posted twice, didn’t think it went through lol Will you please delete one or the other and this too lol
Thank you! And just so ya know, I’m a south Ga. girl, born and raised….My blood type is chicken stock! lol My husband and son loved the dumplings as well! This is usually a cold/rainy day comfort food, but I think we can all use a little comfort whenever and however we can get it, these days. Thank you again!
I agree! We need some kind of comfort every day! I love this! I want some chicken and dumplings right now! So glad you liked them!
I have not made the dumplings yet, but I gave the recipe 5 stars.it looks delicious and I want to make them. I’ll summarize my question as I’m not sure you got my comment I wrote that just disappeared. . I’m having 25 over for Thanksgiving. In your video you used six cups of flour but kept the other ingredients the same as doing 3 cups of flour. Can you help me figure out how much I need for all the ingredients for that many people? Also, should I cook 2 chickens and divide the cooking. Thanks for your help and sharing with us!! I know its going to be good!!
I will certainly look into that for sure!!
I cannot wait to try this! I grew up in Northern Indiana and we called this Pot Pie! Over the years tvWe used beef and my it was delish!! Over the years the family recipe is no longer available but this looks very similar. Thank you so much!
It’s so interesting how dumplings are so different around the US. I’m so excited for you to use the recipe to create new memories!
I can’t wait to try this recipe. I want to thank you for what you do. The more I read the more I like. My husband must like to as he surprised me with your cookbook.
Tracie, you have no idea how much I needed that today. You are a true god-send. Thank you for this kind comment. Hope you love the book!