This homemade, from scratch, Chicken a la King is a recipe straight out of my childhood. It’s tender, moist chicken cooked in a creamy mushroom and pimiento sauce.
We’re reaching back in the vintage files for another delicious vintage recipe with my classic homemade Chicken a la King. Just in case you’ve never enjoyed this dish before, it’s another one of those great old recipes that people just don’t seem to make very much these days.
It contains bite-size pieces of moist chicken in a creamy mushroom and pimiento sauce. It’s one of those homemade, comfort food, lick-your-plate-clean recipes. For real. And it’s super easy to make.
While many people assume this recipe has French roots, it really doesn’t. It’s the “a la” part that seems to give that impression and, I confess, I thought it came from France. Turns out, there are several origin stories.
The most popular of these belongs to Chef George Greenwald of the Brighton Beach Hotel in New York. It’s said that this classic dish was invented there in the 1890s for E. Clark King, II.
Even though it was invented in the 19th century, it didn’t really take off until the 1950s and was phased out of most restaurants by the end of the 60s.
Regardless of its origins, Chicken a la King is an old fashioned recipe that I keep around. Maybe it’s the cream sauce. Maybe it’s the mushrooms. And even with its origin in the North, I always think of it as being decidedly Southern. It was a dinner party staple when I was growing up and also made frequent appearances on our Sunday dinner menus.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Part of our classic southern foodways.
- Great for both family meals and company dinner.
- It’s rich and indulgent but can be modified with lighter options.
- Uses common, easily sourced ingredients.
🍳 Equipment You’ll Need
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- Good Sharp Knife. Ever heard “the sharper the knife, the less you cry” It’s true. You’re much less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife. Buy the best your budget will allow and treat them right.
- Large Saucepan or Stockpot. This is one of the workhorses of the kitchen. Perfect for soups, stews, and big old pots of chili.
- Mixing Bowls. I love the classic glass Pyrex mixing bowls. They’re cheap and last forever.
🛒 Ingredient Notes
There’s nothing at all unusual in the ingredients, especially for a southern pantry! The only things you may not have on hand are the pimientos and allspice.
- Whole Chicken – I prefer a whole chicken weighing less than 4 pounds, if possible.
- Diced Pimientos – I always have these on hand because who knows when a craving for Pimiento Cheese may strike! If you need to purchase a jar, try to find the Dromedary brand. Of course, finely diced roasted red peppers will also work in a pinch.
- Whole Allspice – Many recipes for poaching or boiling chicken call for whole allspice. Use it if you have it, but if it’s not available don’t worry. It’s okay to leave it out.
🔪 How to Make Classic Homemade Chicken a la King
Start by Making an Aromatic Chicken Broth
- Start by cooking a whole chicken in water with some lovely aromatic seasonings. Celery, carrot, whole allspice, peppercorns, and an onion stuck with whole cloves make a delicious stock!
- Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, partly covered, for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Let the chicken cool completely in the broth.
- Take out one cup of the broth to use in the recipe and store or freeze the rest to use in something else.
👉 PRO TIP: I always leave the peel on the onion when making chicken stock. It gives a pretty golden color to the finished stock. You’ll have quite a bit of stock, but you only need one cup for this recipe. Take that out and freeze the rest – it will make a wonderful chicken soup later!
Prepare the Chicken
- Once your chicken is done and has cooled, remove all the meat and discard the skin and bones. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Set that aside for now.
👉 PRO TIP: Want to skip the whole boiling and deboning the chicken part of the recipe? No problem! Simply purchase a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store, remove the skin and bones, and start from there! Alternately, if you don’t mind using a pressure cooker or instant pot, you can speed the process up significantly by cooking your chicken that way. Your choice!
Make the a la King Sauce
- Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a large pan. Add the flour and stir together with a wire whisk until well blended.
- Add the cup of chicken stock and whisk rapidly until smooth and well blended.
- Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the half-and-half and simmer for an additional ten minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the lemon juice.
- Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.
- To the yolks, add 1/2 cup of the hot sauce mixture and stir rapidly.
- Scrape the yolk and sauce mixture back into the pan and bring barely to the simmer while stirring. Remove the pan from the heat.
Saute the Mushrooms and Put it All Together
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and add the sliced mushrooms.
- Cook stirring constantly until wilted and golden brown.
- Add the pimientos and Tabasco and continue cooking just long enough to heat the pimientos through.
- Add the shredded chicken and mushroom mixture to the cream sauce. Stir together.
Make the Toast Points
👉 To Make Toast Points: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the crust from 4-5 slices of bread. Cut across the bread to create triangles. Spray each side of the bread with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted and slightly crispy. May be made ahead of time.
🍽️ How to Serve
I’ve heard of people serving Chicken à la King over thin pasta, but the traditional service is over toast points. Or, if you’re serving it for a luncheon, it’s quite nice to spoon over puff pastry shells.
🔀 Recipe Variations
- Substitute turkey or tuna for the chicken. It’s a great way to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey and Tuna a la King is delicious!
- Instead of pimientos, you can always substitute finely diced roasted red peppers.
- Half a green bell pepper, diced very finely, is an excellent addition to the sauce.
- Instead of fresh mushrooms, substitute drained, jarred mushrooms.
⏲️ Can I Make Chicken a la King in Advance?
My easy to follow recipe below gives you instructions for making the recipe all at once. However, you can also cook the chicken in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to three days and then finish the recipe later.
❓ Questions About Chicken a la King
Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze, allow it to cool completely and freeze in an appropriate freezer safe container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. I’d suggest reheating in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. If the sauce separates when reheating, stir in a little milk or half and half.
Chicken a la King doesn’t need much embellishment. I usually serve it with a fresh tossed green salad dressed with an oil and vinegar based dressing to provide a contrasting acidity for the cream sauce. A mixed fresh fruit salad or mixed steamed vegetables would also be nice.
More Questions? I’m happy to help!
If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Classic Homemade Chicken a la King
- 1 whole chicken under 4 pounds if possible
- 6 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small onion stuck with 2 whole cloves
- 2 whole allspice
- 1 carrot peeled and cut in large pieces
- 3 ribs celery cut in large pieces
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup half-and-half
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks beaten
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup diced pimiento drained
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 16 toast points
- Place the chicken, water, bay leaf, onion, allspice, carrot, celery, salt and peppercorns in a large pot.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Let the chicken cool in the broth.
- Strain the broth, reserving one cup of broth for this recipe and freeze or store the remainder for another use.
- Remove all the meat from chicken and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the flour, stirring with a whisk.
- When blended, add the cup of reserved broth. Stir rapidly until the sauce is blended and smooth.
- Cook about five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the half-and-half and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the lemon juice.
- Beat the two egg yolks in a small bowl.
- Add ½ cup of the hot sauce mixture to the egg yolks and stir rapidly.
- Scrape the mixture back into the sauce and bring barely to the simmer while stirring. Remove pan from the heat.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are wilted and nicely browned and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the pimientos and Tabasco and stir well. Cook just long enough to heat the pimientos.
- Add the cubed chicken and the mushroom mixture to the sauce.Serve over toast points.
For the toast points:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Remove crust from 4-5 slices of bread.
- Cut across the bread to create triangles.
- Spray each side of the bread with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet.
- Bake until toasted and slightly crispy.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To freeze, allow it to cool completely and store in a freezer safe container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
- Reheat in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. If the sauce separates when reheating, stir in a little milk or half and half.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on August 10, 2011. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.