chicken pot pie

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes for which your lifetime mileage has probably varied. There are your run-of-the-mill, ready-made pre-frozen pot pies, with a minimal amount of substantial filling and a dry, flavorless crust. There are your butter-drenched restaurant versions (not that I’m one to hate on butter). And there are homemade ones, with (hopefully) fresh ingredients and a hearty filling.

This is one of those recipes that I’ve tweaked almost as many times as I’ve made it. It’s the classic version of a chicken pot pie, stuffed with basic veggies and chicken meat wrapped in a white sauce, with a couple additions to make it a little more delicious. I’ve swapped out basic bechamel (or the traditional canned cream of chicken soup) for a garlic bechamel spiked with a bit of paprika and pepper to keep it from being too bland. Instead of a standard pie crust, I’ve flipped crust on top in the form of mini buttermilk biscuits. While I’ve done big, hefty biscuits on the top in the past, cutting the biscuit dough into smaller pieces has a couple benefits. The biscuits (biscuit-ettes?) cook faster than their big biscuit brothers, which keeps the chicken in the filling from drying out. And the biscuit-to-filling ratio seems to work out a little better with a well-dispersed dough.

chicken pot pie 2

Chicken Pot Pie

For Filling:

  • 2 lbs bone-in chicken legs, cooked and meat removed (see cooking notes below)
  • 3-4 medium carrots, cut in half length-wise and thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, or 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas (I use frozen; there’s no point in diminishing the perfect simplicity of fresh green peas by cooking them heavily)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

For Garlic Bechamel:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or smashed
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Salt & pepper

For Biscuits:

I’ve used a variety of biscuit recipes over the years, and quite frankly it mostly comes down to finding a good ratio of basic ingredients and then executing them quickly. This is Smitten Kitchen‘s buttermilk biscuit recipe (halved).

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4.5 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp (~88 ml) buttermilk (see cooking notes)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. 
  2. For the pot pie filling, melt 1 Tbsp butter in a medium-sized dutch oven or saute pan. Add shallots, carrots and celery, and cook over medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken meat, peas, and chicken broth and cook until broth is simmering, stirring well. Let the mixture sit off heat while you are making the bechamel.
  3. To make the garlic bechamel, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, whisk in flour, 1/2 Tbsp at a time. The flour will thicken into a stiff paste relatively quickly. For a nuttier flavor, keep cooking the roux over low heat, stirring frequently, until light brown.
  4. Drizzle the buttermilk into the roux a few tablespoons at a time, whisking constantly as you do. The mixture should thicken slightly between each addition. When most of the milk is incorporated, add the minced garlic. Add the remaining milk and whisk until the sauce is thick (it should coat the back of a spoon easily). Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste (and you should be tasting).
  5. Fold the bechamel into the chicken and vegetable mixture until it is evenly distributed throughout. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste (everything is cooked through, so don’t be shy about taking healthy — that is, hefty — samples).
  6. To make the biscuits, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Cut in cold butter until the largest butter bits are the size of peas. Hey, you don’t even have to eyeball it with this recipe, because you *have* peas right there to compare your butter chunks to!
  7. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the buttermilk in. Use a rubber spatula to fold the buttermilk into the flour, until a dough ball forms.
  8. Lightly flour a cutting board, then transfer the dough ball to the cutting board and press into a disk, about 1″ thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough disk into a grid of biscuits about 2″ square.
  9. Arrange the biscuits over the top of the pot pie mixture, leaving some room for them to spread.
  10. Cook the chicken pot pie in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden and cooked through. Let sit 10-20 minutes before serving.


My favorite way to cook the chicken for this recipe is to throw the  legs — skin on — into the slow cooker with some onions, garlic, salt and water and simmer on low for 8 hours. The meat will fall off the bone, and you’ll have made your broth as well. Obviously this requires an extra day of prep; otherwise you can use about 1 – 1.5 cups of cooked, diced boneless chicken from whatever part of the chicken you are partial to.

Buttermilk is something I absolutely never have on hand. I usually do a mix of about 1/3 cup sour cream and 2/3 cup milk per cup of buttermilk, but the usual suspects of buttermilk substitution (vinegar + milk, lemon juice +milk) will work here. Feel free to use buttermilk if you have it, but personally this begs the question, “who are you and what are you using so much buttermilk for?”


Caramelized Onion Meatballs

Along with harissa and sea salt, caramelized onions are one of my go-to ingredients to make my dishes a little more interesting. Even though they take some time to prep, they add a punch of flavor that’s hard to beat. Here’s a simple, delicious recipe that I threw together on one of those “what can I make with what I have, avoiding the ordeal of putting on pants to go to the store” kind of evenings. The caramelized onions give the meatballs a rich, decadent flavor that pairs well with tomato sauce and pasta, but would also be good with some creamy mashed potatoes, or even on a meatball sub.

caramelized onion meatballs

Caramelized Onion Meatball Recipe

Yields about 28 small meatballs

  • 1 onion, sliced into thin segments
  • 4 T butter
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking sherry
  • 1 lb ground beef (I used 10% fat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pasta and sauce to serve
  1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then add onions. Stir to coat onions in butter, and when they start to soften turn down the heat to low. Cook until onions are a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. This takes about 30-40 minutes, although if you’re lazy you can cut it down to 20 by raising the temp a bit. Make sure not to let them burn! When they look done, toss in the sherry and turn the heat back up slightly for a minute or two. Take off heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Transfer the onions to a cutting board and finely chop (as best you can– evenness doesn’t matter a whole lot, but you do want to get the pieces very small).
  3. In a mixing bowl combine meat, onions, garlic, egg and salt and pepper to taste. Blend with your hands (clean hands, of course) until everything is well incorporated.
    Pro tip for seasoning: If you’re anxious about over/under salting your meatballs and don’t want to have to taste a mix of raw egg and beef for yourself, season it conservatively and then break off a small piece to test. Throw the mini-ball in the frying pan, taste, and adjust seasoning accordingly.
  4. Wet your hands and roll the meatballs into 1″ balls, setting aside until the mixture has been entirely shaped.
  5. Turn heat a pan over medium heat with a little olive. When hot, add meatballs (one at a time, don’t dump them all in so they stick together). Let cook for 2 minutes, then give the pan a swirl to turn the meatballs. Continue until cooked through, or, if you’re making tomato sauce, gently drop the par-cooked meatballs into the sauce and let simmer for about 10 minutes.