Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

The Great Dumpling Debate

Posted May 1, 2008

It is a Southern staple: chicken and dumplings. Wait a minute! Did I say it right? Should it be chicken and pastry? What do you call it?

Amy Kunkle suggested this blog idea after a little debate with her husband. I have always said chicken and dumplings but I grew up in the western part of the state. It seems most folks downeast say chicken and pastry. 

Several questions: what do you call this classic Southern dish?

What restaurant makes the best chicken and dumplings/pastry?

And what is the ultimate chicken and dumplings/pastry recipe? Do you think you can pry it away from Grandma long enough to write it down and post it here on the Carolina Conversations blog?


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • blueangelchild2001 May 5, 2008

    This comment is fairly late....however:

    I have lived in Sanford, NC all of my life, although only being 21 years of age, throughout the years I have heard it called ALL the names that I have seen listed by comments of other users. Depending on what comes out....I call in chicken and dumplings or chicken pastry. My mother and family have always called it chicken and dumplings, where as my boyfriend's family has always called in chicken pastry. Both families have always made it the same.

  • mrkagain May 2, 2008

    Chicken and dumplings, and chicken and pastry are two different animals..... and the difference is so simple that I cannot for the life of me understand how people get confused.

    Dumplings may be made with flour or cornmeal either one and often have vegetables added to the pot. Dumplings are thicker than pastry, and usually shaped just like what they are called -relatively think pieces of some type of grain based bread mixture, often with a bit of leavening of some type added to puff them up.

    For pastry, think a tough pie crust, because that's almost what pastry is. It's rolled out like a pie crust and cut into strips. It is, in effect, pastry. To add leavening to it would mess it up. It's just what it's called - pastry, and almost like a flat pasta that was never dehydrated.

    It's really simple, easy to understand, and nothing to argue about.

  • this is my Screen Name May 2, 2008

    I'm from the north and this would have been chicken and dumplings to me. My in-laws in N. Carolina calls it chicken and pastry and I'm trying to master it. Modeling it after theirs, the broth is really watery, like soup and I don't know what the consistency should be. Should it be thicker? Anyone use the Anne's chicken flavoring as well?

  • thefensk May 2, 2008

    I'm glad somebody mentioned Chicken Slick. I had forgotten about that but this reminded me that I've seen it called that in some of my cookbooks.

  • seahawksforpack May 2, 2008

    I am from Wilson County and it is definitely chicken pastry. My mom use to roll hers out but she has now become the queen of chicken pastry since discovering Atkinson's restaurant grade frozen pastry. She likes to use broth from hens - not just regular chicken - she says it makes the broth richer. She likes to get the broth boiling and then drops in the pastry. She does not stir much as she says this will cause it to come apart or clump. She has mastered this to point that she prepares lunches at our church for 150 plus people!

    As for dumplings - they are made of cornmeal and usually served at our house in fresh garden peas or spring onions.

  • MaplesMom May 2, 2008

    Just had to say after posting and reading reviews- I was sooo hungry for chicken pastry last night, I went to Carolina BBQ. They have pastry dinner plates on Thursdays. Once again- nothing is as good as mom's- but this was a good 2nd.

  • MommyBear May 2, 2008

    I grew up near Sanford NC. To us, it was always chicken pastry which was long thin strips of pastry. Granny used her own fresh chicken which she plucked herself. To me, dumplings are more like thick lumps of pastry which often doesn't get done enough and has a doughy consistency. Its a debate in our house as I prefer 'pastry strips' which I either make homemade using a rolling pin or if in a hurry buy from the grocer's freezer as opposed to my Michigan husband who wants his 'dumplings' like his Mom made. My own Mom calls it 'spoon pastry' which is how she drops it into the pot - Granny didn't teach her how to cook!

  • glw May 1, 2008

    Growing up in Wilson County, in our house, it was Chicken Stew.
    Now it's Chicken Pastry-No "and". My mom still makes the best. How many times I stood by her side in the kitchen and watched her roll out that pastry. Now we all use the frozen kind.

  • 1Moms_View May 1, 2008

    My granny's chicken and dumplings were the best I've ever had. I wish I could make them like she did. I do the same things, but they'll never come close to Granny's. My other grandmother made them, but hers were always bland and she called them chicken and pastry.

  • Drifter May 1, 2008

    I was born and raised in Greensboro and they were always "Chicken 'n' Dumplin's" to me. In fact, it's one of my favorite meals to this day! Homemade is /always/ the best.




Meet the Author
Bill Leslie