As soon as winter’s chill sets in, I start longing for my Grandma Bev’s famous home-style chicken and dumpling soup. One steaming spoonful brings back cherished memories of her cozy farmhouse kitchen, where a perpetual pot of this soulful soup simmered on the stove.
Grandma Bev was known across three counties for her chicken and dumplings, which she made using her great grandmother Hattie’s handwritten recipe. As a child, I’d sit at her weathered wooden table, mesmerized as Grandma Bev transformed humble ingredients into magic.
She’d pull plump carrots and celery ribs from her root cellar, chopping the veggies into tiny pieces so they’d melt into the broth. Her secret ingredient was a whole chicken from her backyard flock, simmered for hours with the vegetables until the meat was falling off the bones. After fishing out the chicken, she’d carefully strip every morsel and chop the tender meat before returning it to the pot.
Next came Grandma Bev’s light-as-a-feather dumpling dough, handled gently as to not overmix. She used a special carved spoon to scoop and drop large, fluffy spoonfuls of dough onto the bubbling soup. “Now, don’t go lifting that lid, sweet pea…you’ll deflate ’em!” she’d caution.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity for my impatient young self, Grandma would declare her soup done, filling up bowls for me, my parents and my aunts and uncles. We’d pass around homemade bread and a crock of salty butter, settling in for an afternoon of sipping, dipping and storytelling.
Now as a mother myself, I faithfully recreate Grandma Bev’s recipe whenever autumn nip turns to winter bite. As my own kitchen fills with delicious chicken aroma and my family gathers around the table, I feel Grandma’s warmth and love in each cozy spoonful. I’m so honored to share this cherished family recipe so you can also chase away chills with fork-tender chicken, pillowy dumplings, vibrant veggies and a soul-soothing broth.
What makes this chicken and dumpling soup recipe so special?
This recipe has been passed down in my family for generations since my great grandmother Hattie’s time. It’s comforting and nostalgic, made just the way my Grandma Bev did with farm fresh ingredients and lots of love.
What type of chicken do you recommend using?
For the best, richest flavor, I recommend using a whole chicken, preferably a pasture-raised bird. Simmer it in the broth then remove the meat from the bones. For convenience though, boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts work too.
Do the dumplings really not need mixing very much?
It’s important not to overmix the dumpling dough or else they can get dense and tough when cooked. Just mix gently with a rubber spatula until the dry and wet ingredients are just incorporated, with streaks of flour still visible. This helps keep the dumplings light and fluffy.
Can I prepare the soup ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can make the whole soup minus the dumplings up to 3 days ahead. Cool and refrigerate, then reheat at serving time. Add the dumplings to the hot broth and cook as directed. The flavors actually improve with time.
What if the dumplings sink instead of floating while cooking?
Don’t worry, it happens! As long as they’re fully cooked through, sunk dumplings will still taste great. Just avoid lifting the lid before the minimum simmering time or else they can deflate prematurely.
What’s the best way to store and reheat leftovers?
This soup stores easily for 2-3 days refrigerated. Dumplings will soften so it’s best to add them fresh when reheating. Bring soup to a gentle simmer, then drop spoonfuls of dough right in to cook. Add more chicken or broth to thin out as needed.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- For the dumplings:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- To begin this soothing soup, generously season 1 1⁄2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. I prefer using a larger grain sea salt or kosher salt. Get out your largest stockpot or Dutch oven and heat it to medium high. When hot, add the chicken in an even layer and let it cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes until the bottom gets nicely browned. Flip each piece over and repeat on the second side. You want that flavorful fond to build up on the pot bottom. Transfer the gorgeous, golden brown chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.
- Keeping the heat at medium, add 3 minced garlic cloves to infuse flavor, along with the aromatic base for our soup – 3 peeled carrots chopped into 1⁄2 inch pieces, 3 stalks celery diced small, and 1 yellow onion. Stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, let the vegetables cook for 5 to 6 minutes until slightly softened but still with a little crunchy bite left. Don’t let them brown too much though or they’ll turn bitter. Next, pour in 6 cups good quality chicken broth and use the spoon to scrape up all those lovely browned bits stuck to the pot bottom. This adds tons of meaty flavor!
- Plop the reserved seared chicken pieces back in along with any juices on the plate too. Partially cover with the lid slightly askew and gently simmer the soup for about 10 minutes to ensure the chicken cooks through and further infuses the broth. While the soup bubbles away, whisk together 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour and 1⁄4 cup water in a small bowl until smooth. When the chicken is opaque and cooked through, drizzle the flour mixture into the broth while continuously stirring. This will act as a thickener to give our soup some lush body. Continue cooking uncovered for 15 minutes, allowing the noodles to soften and the broth to thicken up beautifully.
- While the soup simmers, we can make our fluffy dumplings! In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt with a fork. Make a well in the center before pouring in 1⁄4 cup milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Using a flexible rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry just until combined, being careful not to overmix. The dough will be a bit shaggy looking with some streaks of flour left. This is perfect!
- Now for the fun part – dropping in those dumplings! Carefully plop heaping tablespoons of the dough in a circle around the perimeter of the bubbling soup. Leave about 1 inch space between dumplings so they have room to expand as they cook. Put the lid securely in place and set your timer for 8 to 10 minutes without peeking! Resist lifting that lid or the dumplings may deflate prematurely. When they’re done, they will have puffed up considerably. Finally, stir in 1 1⁄2 cups frozen peas (no need to thaw) and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for bursts of color and freshness. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if desired.
- Use bone-in chicken thighs if you want an even richer-tasting broth. Simply remove the meat from the bones when cooked.
- For convenience, you can use pre-chopped frozen veggies like carrots, celery and onion. Just decrease the cooking time.
- Don’t overmix the dumpling dough or the dumplings can get tough. Be as gentle as possible when folding the wet and dry ingredients.
- Resist lifting the lid while simmering or the dumplings may deflate before they’re done cooking.
- Sprinkle a bit of chopped fresh dill or parsley over each bowl for a pop of color and flavor.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days. The flavors meld even more over time.