How to make faux chicken and dumplings through sheer force of will

Faux chicken and dumplings simmering on my stovetop. The only ingredients are flour, water, a few spices and SHEER FORCE OF WILL (© 2013 Billy Suratt)
Faux chicken and dumplings simmering on my stovetop. The only ingredients are flour, water, a few spices and SHEER FORCE OF WILL (© 2013 Billy Suratt)

Faux chicken and dumplings (recipe below) simmering on top of the stove. The only ingredients are flour, water, a few spices and SHEER FORCE OF WILL. (Photo © 2013 Billy Suratt)

Who doesn’t love chicken and dumplings? I certainly do! I’ve been contemplating trying to make some from scratch for a few months now, but it’s something I never have quite gotten around to trying yet.

More recently, though, I started wondering if I might be able to at least come up with some sort of reasonable facsimile using shelf-stable ingredients I already had on hand (which wasn’t much at the time of this experiment).

It seemed like a pretty tall order at the outset, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the faux “chicken and dumplings” I was able to produce through, well, basically SHEER FORCE OF WILL.

If you’d like to try replicating my experiment in your own kitchen (or industrial laboratory), here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 1/4 cups water (1/4 cup for the dumplings, 6 cups for the broth)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 tsp. chicken flavored soup stock powder
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Emeril’s BAM! Burger Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning

How to prepare faux chicken and dumplings

First, put 5 cups of water in a pot on the stove and set it to medium or medium-high, depending on how impatient you are.

Take 1 cup of water and microwave it for a few minutes in a suitable container (I used a Pyrex measuring cup) until it reaches a rolling boil. After the microwaved water is boiling, add 6 tsp. of chicken soup starter powder and stir until dissolved.

I used Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base & Food Seasoning; it’s not that great, but it’s the best thing I’ve found locally so far and I like it better than chicken bouillon cubes because you can easily measure the powder out in any amount you like. (The jar says “Naturally Tastes Better,” but I’m not sure better than what.)

The Orrington Farms soup base ingredients are salt, dextrose, food starch-modified (corn), chicken fat, monosodium glutamate, spice, coloring, soybean oil, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. Just like mother used to make, huh? I’m not an MSG fan at all, but at least it doesn’t contain hydrogenated oil and I doubt it’s any worse than ramen powder.

(Worth noting: The Orrington Farms powdered chicken broth base sold by Amazon contains no MSG; either what I obtained locally is old stock or Kroger just fails.)

After the soup base is dissolved in the boiling water, add it to the pot on the stove. Then add the dried parsley, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, BAM! Burger Seasoning and Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning.

Parsley is a pretty much useless herb with basically no flavor or nutritional value whatsoever, but I find it’s really good for making things seem more savory. Nothing says “savory” like little green things floating around in broth, especially if it’s chicken-looking broth.

One warning: This stuff is pretty spicy. Like, Szechuan spicy. I like spicy, though, plus we’re making soup out of a bunch of dried crap dissolved in boiling water, so dulling your taste buds by setting your mouth on fire with chicken-ish pepper water isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Once you’ve dumped everything in the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce heat to low and put a lid on there while it’s simmering so the water won’t evaporate too much. If you let the water evaporate and it reduces down, it’ll be even hotter. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind.

How to make the dumplings

In an appropriate bowl, bucket, garbage pail, whatever’s handy, combine the flour, salt and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Stir it up with a fork until the water’s all absorbed and you’re left with dough. Cover an appropriate work surface (a large cutting board works nicely) with flour, dump the dough out and start kneading it a little. Be liberal with the flour; make sure your hands are covered, the surface you’re working on is covered and you dust a little on top of the dough, too. (Dumping a little on the floor never seems to hurt, either.)

Homemade dumplings. Yummy! (© 2013 Billy Suratt)

Homemade dumplings. Yummy! (Photo © 2013 Billy Suratt)

I don’t pretend to even halfway understand The Physics Of Dough, but basically just keep smushing the stuff around until it seems, I don’t know, doughy enough. Then pat it down, take out a rolling pin, cover the rolling pin with flour and start rolling the dough out to about an eighth of an inch consistency. Maybe two-eighths of an inch; this is not an exact science. Basically, you want the dough to be thinner than a doughnut but thicker than paper.

After the dough’s rolled out properly (if it stuck to the rolling pin, you did it wrong and it isn’t rolled out properly — spend a few minutes throwing more flour around the kitchen), take a knife and start cutting it into dumplings. I like the pieces to be about an inch wide and a couple inches long, but feel free to get creative and whack ’em up however you like. For instance, with the holidays fast approaching, you might like to try cutting out some dumplings in the shape of a heart or Abraham Lincoln. Go nuts.

After you’ve chopped up the dumplings, drop them in the simmering broth, put the lid back on there and let the stuff cook until they float. Then let it cook a few minutes longer. Again, this is not an exact science; just cook the stuff until you’re tired of cooking it and/or about to pass out from hunger.

Let it rest for a few minutes after removing it from the heat. If you used Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base & Food Seasoning like me, now take a fork and skim off the bit of nasty-looking film congealing on top and discard it. I assume that’s probably just chicken fat, but I’m not eating it.

All done! Ladle your faux chicken and dumplings out into a bowl and enjoy.

I’ve made this recipe a couple times now and while it’s not something I’d want to eat very often, it’s surprisingly tasty in a pinch (like if you’re in the middle of a snowpocalypse or nuclear war and can’t get to the store for better ingredients). Adding a can of chicken or perhaps even some peas and carrots could easily take this recipe to a whole other level, not to mention making it more nutritional(ish).

For what it is (chickeny boiled pepper water with some dough floating in it), it’s surprisingly tasty. It’s undoubtedly high in sodium, though, so if you have high blood pressure or need to limit your sodium intake for some other reason, please don’t eat this or you’ll probably die (disclaimer: not my fault).

Bon appétit!

I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email (discretion is always guaranteed).

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