Don’t let the title of Chicken a la King fool you — sounds regal, but this dish is about as down-home and comforting as it gets. It features a thick and creamy sauce loaded with hearty vegetables and tender bites of chicken, perfectly served over your choice of toast, pasta, rice, or (our personal favorite) Homemade Biscuits!
Leave those second-string canned soup and frozen entree renditions in the past, and welcome in this easy, made-from-scratch revival of a recipe! It comes together fast on the stovetop, making this dish absolutely perfect for weeknights when you need a quick-fix dinner, and even serves double-duty as a make-ahead, freezer-friendly meal!
Below you’ll find tons of quick tips for whipping up this easy Chicken a la King recipe in a flash!
But, before you begin your scroll, if you need more cures for your comfort food cravings, be sure to bookmark these quick, creamy dinners: Easy Chicken Scallopini with a lemony, rich Piccata Sauce or this Creamy Pesto Pasta with chunks of chicken, fresh tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese!
WHAT IS CHICKEN A LA KING?
Chicken a la King consists of a creamy, savory gravy-like sauce loaded with vegetables and chunks of chicken. The sauce contains a hearty mix of mushrooms, peas, onions, celery, and pimentos (or red bell peppers).
In its original form, it was served over toast but has also come to find itself generously ladled over biscuits, pasta, and rice as well.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHICKEN A LA KING
There are many claims to fame when it comes to the origin of Chicken a la King, but one thing is sure — it sounds French and fancy, but this saucy staple is 100% pure American comfort food. More specifically, New York comfort food.
The most popular origin story is that it was created by Chef George Greenwald in the 1890s for E. Clark King II, the proprietor of the Brighton Beach Hotel, located between Manhatten Beach and Coney Island. Mr. King liked the dish so much, he instructed the chef to put it on the menu.
The dish took on King’s namesake, and it skyrocketed to fame across New York City in the decades to come, spreading onto restaurant menus like wildfire between the 1910s and 1960s, enjoying peak success in the 1950s.
It’s no surprise that during this decade (which was the beginning of the American processed food revolution), the popular dish was both turned positively mediocre in both canned and frozen forms. And, so began the demise of Chicken a la King.
However, with a “fresh is best” mentality dominating today’s food culture, the dish is making a retro comeback and returning to its initial state of culinary glory and for good reason — Chicken a la King (made from scratch) is positively delicious.
CHICKEN A LA KING INGREDIENTS
The base of the sauce for Chicken a la King is a roux; a mixture of butter and all-purpose flour. The flour serves as the thickener for the sauce. Note, this recipe calls for unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter on hand, you will need to omit salt from the recipe entirely, and rather, season to taste once the sauce is finished cooking.
The body of the sauce is made up of unsalted chicken broth and heavy whipping cream.
If you’re watching your calories, you can sub in half-and-half. However, you should note that the sauce will not be quite as thick, nor as decadent.
The sauce is seasoned with a simple yet flavorful mix of Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Again, if you only have full-sodium chicken broth, omit the salt entirely from this recipe and season to taste at the end.
The vegetables make this classic recipe both hearty and savory. They are as follows: Red bell pepper, onions, celery, peas, and mushrooms. You want all of the vegetables to be roughly the same size in this dish. Think of the size of a pea, and do your best to dice the pepper, onion, and celery to match.
QUICK FIX TIP: BELL PEPPERS
Pimentos and red bell peppers have very similar flavor profiles. You can bypass deseeding and chopping the red bell pepper altogether, and add a drained (4-ounce) jar of diced pimento peppers at the end of the cooking process instead. The pimentos will go in at the same time as the frozen peas and chicken.
QUICK FIX TIP: MUSHROOMS
If you’d like to speed along the prep work significantly, buy your mushrooms pre-washed and already sliced. Then, all you’ll have to do to ready them for the pan is give them a rough chop!
QUICK FIX TIP: CHICKEN
You’ll need about two cups of diced chicken, and it should be cooked before it goes into the sauce. Feel free to prepare it in advance if needed!
We used our easy recipe for perfect Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts for Chicken a la King, but you could also make a Whole-Roasted Chicken one night, then transform the leftovers into Chicken a la King the next!
If you really need an easy fix, there’s always the store-bought rotisserie chicken option as well.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN A LA KING
Before you begin, take note: You’re going to be cooking a lot of vegetables. You’ll want to enlist your largest fry pan or a Dutch oven to start the sauce! Also, be sure it comes equipped with a lid, as the vegetables will cook covered for a small stint of time.
- Cook the Veggies – Melt the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the diced bell pepper, onion, celery, and mushrooms. Reduce the heat and cover for about 6 minutes, just until the veggies have softened.
- Make the Sauce – To thicken the sauce, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for about 1 minute. Then, add the chicken broth one big splash at a time, stirring until completely mixed and smooth after each addition.
- Season and Simmer – Once all of the broth has been incorporated, add the remaining seasoning and simmer until slightly thickened.
- Add the Finishing Touches – Lastly, stir the frozen peas and the cream, and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes more, then stir in the chicken. If the chicken is added cold, you’ll need to keep the sauce over heat until it is warmed through. Stir every so often, to ensure it doesn’t scald. Then, serve and enjoy!
WHAT CAN YOU SERVE IT ON?
CAN YOU FREEZE CHICKEN A LA KING?
If you’d like to freeze your Chicken a la King Sauce, spoon it into a snug, freezer-safe, airtight container for up to 3 months. Be sure there is very little headspace if using the container; this will help to prevent freezer burn.
You could also freeze it in a freezer-safe, zip-top bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing, then, lay it flat to freeze. Laying it flat will help the sauce to thaw quickly.
5 MORE CHICKEN DINNERS YOU’LL LOVE
- Creamy Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole
- Crockpot Chicken and Rice
- Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings
- Creamy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Chicken and Scalloped Potatoes Casserole
An easy Chicken a la King sauce that comes together fast on the stovetop! Rich, creamy and loaded with a hearty mix of tender chicken, mushrooms, peas, celery, and peppers.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 red bell pepper seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
- 2 ribs celery finely diced
- 1 (8-ounce) package sliced button mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, separated
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, separated
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups diced or cubed cooked chicken
Add the butter to a large skillet (with a fitted lid) or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter has melted, add the diced bell pepper, onion, celery, mushrooms, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir the mixture until evenly coated in the butter. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for about 6 minutes -- just until everything has softened.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth one big splash at a time, stirring until completely mixed and smooth after each addition.
Once all of the broth has been incorporated, stir in 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Stir the peas and the cream, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes more, then stir in the chicken.
Serve over biscuits, rice, or pasta and enjoy!