We Made Dolly Parton’s Hearty Chicken and Dumplings

Dolly Parton knows country music, but what about country cooking? We put Dolly's signature chicken and dumpling recipe to the test.

When it comes to country music, no one does it better than Dolly Parton. She’s released more than 70 albums, written hundreds of songs and starred in her fair share of movies. With all that talent, you’d think that this country queen would stop right there. Not Dolly! Turns out she likes to take a turn in the kitchen once in a while, too. Recently, she published her go-to recipe for chicken and dumplings on Instagram. Seeing it—and knowing it’s Dolly’s signature dish—I had to give it a try.

Find out if her recipe is worth singing about!

What You’ll Need for Dolly’s Chicken and Dumplings

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

To make Dolly’s signature dish you’ll need just a few basic groceries:

  • 3-pound stewing hen—I just used a whole chicken here
  • Onion, peeled and left whole
  • ¼ cup celery leaves, chopped
  • 2½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

First Impressions of Dolly’s Dumplings

Looking at this recipe, it’s fairly brief. There aren’t many ingredients, but sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious—like these amazing five-ingredient recipes. In fact, I had all the ingredients, save for the chicken, already at home.

You might have a few questions about that stewing hen. A stewing hen is simply an older chicken. They’re used commonly for soups, stews and broths, so it makes sense to see one in this recipe. (They also can be cheaper than traditional chickens.) If your butcher doesn’t carry them, you can opt for a whole chicken instead—just keep it around the three-pound mark.

Getting Started With the Chicken Broth

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The first step in Dolly’s recipe is to make a simple chicken broth. To do this, add two quarts of water to a Dutch oven—I used a five-quart model to make sure I had plenty of room. Then add two teaspoons of salt and the chicken. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the base is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and add in your pepper, celery leaves and whole, peeled onion. Now, my Dutch oven didn’t have room for the whole onion, so I just cut it in half and fit it in on either side of the chicken. I don’t think Dolly would mind!

With all your ingredients inside, replace the cover and let this simmer away until the chicken starts to come away from the bone. For me, this took about an hour, though I’d recommend keeping an eye on things after 40 minutes.

Finishing Your Broth and Chicken

When the chicken is nice and tender, you can turn off the heat and remove it from the pot to cool. Then take the broth you’ve made and strain it. I just used a simple mesh sieve, so a few smaller bits of onion and celery remained. If you want your broth to be clearer, you can use cheesecloth—it’s a helpful tool to keep in the kitchen.

Then, once the chicken is cooler to handle, start to remove the meat—you can discard the bones and skin. Since the chicken is so tender, it will pull apart pretty easily. If you do have some larger pieces, like the chicken breast, Dolly recommends you cut it into one-inch pieces. I didn’t get too precise about this—it’s rustic, country cooking after all!

If you’d like, this is a perfect place to stop. You can refrigerate the broth and chicken and prep this dish the next day if you want. I, however, couldn’t wait to give this dish a try, so I kept going.

Getting Ready for Dumplings

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With your broth strained, return it to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. While this is going, you can start to make the dumplings. It’s pretty simple—almost like making a biscuit. Just whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Then cut in the shortening until it’s in pea-sized pieces. You can do this with your hands, but I like using a pastry blender to keep the shortening cold.

Once that’s combined, stir in your milk. I used whole milk, but whatever you have on hand is just fine. I think buttermilk would be pretty tasty in here! After this has come together as a dough, turn it out onto the countertop (be sure to dust it with a little flour first) and knead for a few minutes. Dolly recommends five in her recipe. I just kneaded it as long as it took to listen to “I Will Always Love You”—that’s about three minutes.

With the dough ready, roll it out until it’s about a half-inch thick. From there, cut it into an inch to inch-and-a-half squares. I think this is a rustic dish, so I wasn’t too exact.

Putting the Homemade Chicken and Dumplings Together

At this point, that broth should be boiling. Being careful, spoon the dumplings into the broth, cover your pot and cook for ten minutes. After that, stir in your chicken and cook until heated through—just a few more minutes.

Does the Queen of Country Know Country Cooking?

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

After having this dish simmering away all afternoon—it smelled amazing!—I was excited to try it. I ladled myself a more than generous helping and dove right in. Let me say, Dolly does it right!

The broth, though simple, was so satisfying. Honestly, I could sip that plain. But combined with that super tender chicken, it was a real joy to eat. As for those dumplings—I’d categorize them as a hit. They were fluffy on the outside, but a little dense inside—textbook dumpling, in my opinion. Topped with a little cracked pepper and some fresh parsley, I thought this dish was really comforting and darn tasty.

It’s no wonder that Dolly says this is her signature dish—it’s certainly one that I’d make over and over. Thinking about adding your own twist to this recipe? Learn more about making dumplings from scratch.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.