HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Chicken a la king vs. chicken pot pie

Is Chicken pot pie basically just chicken a la king in a pie crust? I've been looking at the a la king recipes, and that's what they look like to me. Or am I missing something?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I love both. I think of the gravy in a la king as being a cream sauce and in pot pie as being a regular, non milk, gravy. Either is fine with me though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolatetartguy

      I think there IS some dairy (milk, most likely) in the pot pies I have had in restaurants and purchased in supermarkets and Costco. But the cream in chicken a la king is more obvious and there's more of it. I love both but while I make chicken a la king, I do not make pot pies. BTW, Costco's storemade CPP is made from their rotisserie chicken and lots of vegetables. It is affordable, huge, delicious, and practical only for large families. When I bought it I had to freeze part of it, which of course meant soggy when reheated. And as always with the rotisserie chicken, I don't need to look at the amount of salt on the label - I can see it in my ankles.

    2. For me, the chicken filling part - chicken & vegetables in a bechamel (aka white) sauce - is the same. The only difference is that Chicken Pot Pie is enclosed in a pie pastry crust, while Chicken a la King is the same filling poured over baked puff pastry "shells" (Pepperidge Farm brand around here).

      1. I haven't had chicken á la king since I was a kid in the 50s and it came out of a can. No doubt there's a homemade version that's vastly superior to my memory. But, even if there is, I don't think it would be equivalent to my concept of chicken pot pie.

        For chicken pot pie, I use a chicken gravy. Even if I'm making it from a rotisserie chicken I use the skin, carcass, connective tissue and the gelatin that collects in the bottom of the container to make gravy and then add the cleaned meat and steamed veggies. Beyond that the veggies I remember in chicken á la king were peas and mushrooms in a white sauce. While I do use peas in chicken pot pie and might feel like including mushrooms sometimes, my chicken pot pie has carrots, potatoes and onions in addition to peas and, generally, about an equal proportion of meat to veggies while chicken á la king, I believe, has a significantly higher proportion of meat to veggies.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rainey

          Nah - I use the exact same proportions for ala King as I do for pot pie. It's just a matter of whether or not I feel like making pastry or pulling ready-made puff pastry out of the freezer - lol!

          1. re: rainey

            I agree with you on the vegetables except that CalK also has pimiento or sweet bell peppers. They kind I ancountered in school cafeterias is similar to what I make. Bechamel made with half and half or light cream. A little chicken base added. Diced raw chicken and the mushrooms and peppers very gently cooked, with sporadic bubbles, then peas added off heat at the end. I prefer not using cooked chicken because it breaks up too much during stirring, whereas the diced cubes retain their shape.
            It was served over toast points or rice. Whether or not it's any good now, I haven't a clue, but Stouffer's frozen CalK used to be rather good. When my mother got too old to want to cook, it was on her weekly shopping list. I think rice was included.

            CPP does rely mostly on typical chicken gravy, but in my experience it is enhanced by a small amount of milk.

          2. Nope.
            Chicken A La King has Pimentos, Sherry or Brandy and a Supreme sauce that is made with either crème fraiche or heavy cream .
            Chicken pot pie is a chicken stew without dairy and the "pie dough" cut into pieces and simmered in the stew.
            Chicken Pie is basically chicken stew with vegetables in gravy and is topped with a crust and baked in the oven. Sometimes has a bottom crust as well.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chefj

              Not totally.

              Chicken pie has a much thicker gravy, no dairy, often no vegetables either, and is baked sealed in a crust, top and bottom. Chicken pot pie, which is where we part ways, is topped with a pate brisee, puff pastry or even biscuits, and baked. It contains plenty of vegetables, carrots, peas, potatoes, pearl onions, and the sauce binder is normally a veloute, enriched with heavy cream (Supreme).

              What you describe as chicken pot pie is chicken and dumplings to me, with rolled and cut dumplings, rather than dropped. The dough is similar to a biscuit dough, rather than pie crust. I seen quite a few variations of the dumplings used in this dish, even flour tortilla strips.

              Chicken a la King does have pimentos, and often mushrooms. Served on toast points, it's a nice throw back lunch, although my high school cafeteria's concoction kind of ruined it for me in my younger years. I make a much better version now.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                Where is the "pot" in pot pie?
                With Chicken and Dumplings the dumplings are like biscuit dough but not like the pie dough that is used in what I know as pot pie (bot boi).
                I really believe that at some point in American history the PA dutch Bot Boi got switched in english to pot pie and the confusion began with Pot Pie and savory pies from the British tradition and all the variations of that.

                1. re: chefj

                  The pot is whatever you bake it in, a casserole, crock, larger ramekin, etc., crust atop. I've personally never seen this dish made by simmering it in a pot, as a stew. That to me is chicken stew, with or without the dumplings.

                  I did say that the dough used in chicken and dumplings is similar to, or the same, as biscuit dough, although not necessarily, as opposed to pie dough. According to what came down through your family's history, it could also be a form of noodle dough.

                  As far as the name being transformed into the English Pot Pie from the Dutch Bot Boi, that's highly plausible and not much of a stretch. The English have a long culinary history with meat pies and things baked in dough, and would readily accept this dish into their repertoire, with cultural modifications.

                  Chicken Pot Pie has some regional and ethnic interpretations in the US. I think of it as a baked dish of chicken and vegetables in a rich gravy topped with a crust and served from a casserole. YMMV.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    I understand that the casserole, crock, etc. can be interpreted as a pot, but it is not common to call any of those vessels pots. Which still makes me believe that at some point someone started referring to chicken pies as pot pies and that stuck and expanded.
                    The dough used for P.A. Dutch Pot Pie (Bot Boi) is a short pastry dough (though not always) cut in to diamond shaped pieces( called patches, the dish is also know as Tailor's patches) and simmered in the pot.
                    I would think the the chicken pie that the chicken pie came from the English rather than the English adopting it from the Americans. Also there are many English pies that only have a top crust.
                    It would be interesting to see how this all came about.

                    1. re: chefj

                      It's not common usage now, but perhaps it was centuries back, as there were probably less variation in cookware, especially amongst common people, than what we have available today. The word "pot" is derived from middle English, and cognate or descended from Dutch and Low German. The word "casserole" is French. The word "pot" has been around centuries longer.

                      The concept of pie, in general form, dates back to the Egyptians, runs through the the Greeks and the Middle Ages in Europe and was brought to this country by the English. There are many documented options for constructing and filling a pie throughout history, it's subject matter for a master's thesis in culinary anthropology. I guess humans through history like pie.

                      Here's a short bit on pot pies, according to Wiki, including mention of the Dutch Bot Boi, which you've probably read:


            2. I have made both dozens of times as my late husband adored both. For me the pot pie has the chicken in larger chunks while the a la king has bite-size bits. For either I would make my own double-strength chicken stock then thicken it into a gravy---no milk. For a pot pie I would add baby onions, baby carrots,and green peas, while for a la king I would add chopped scallions, celery, and green or red pepper. BTW yes this is a bunch of work but you can freeze the a la king-type stuff (of which you will get many pints) and have it ready to serve on toast or hot biscuits or rice or noodles or a baked potato or in crepes: money in the bank.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Querencia

                Except when, as happened with me years ago, you accidentally jostle the plug on your chest freezer and lose, among other things, 24 pints of chicken a la king. Sob....

                I actually make it with turkey more often than chicken. If whole turkeys or breasts are on sale, I dismantle them and roast some of the parts, reserve the boned-out breast or half-breast, and make stock with the carcass. I slice the breasts into cutlets and also dice some to make a la king.

              2. WOW!!!! I haven't thought of Chicken a la King since I was maybe 8 years old............. and that's a VERY LONG TIME AGO!! I don't think I've ever seen it on a restaurant menu that I can remember. I wonder if they serve it at a place like Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown LA? Anywhere?

                1. Chicken Ala King has a cream base, Pot Pie has a chicken stock base. At least in my kitchen.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    Well, I'm making "Turkey a la King" tonight, & it's getting made with half homemade turkey stock & half 1/2 & 1/2, & will be served over Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Patty Shells. May be a "lazy" way of doing it, but hubby loves it, & I don't think it's too shabby myself - lol!

                  2. My PA Dutch grandmother taught me that chicken pot pie is pie that's made in a pot = chicken stew with cut up pieces of rolled pie dough stirred in. If it's in a pie shell and baked it's chicken pie, no pot.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: ChrisOC

                        Philly is very close to Pa Dutch country and at some of the diners here when they run a chicken pot pie special it is chicken stew with yummy rich homemade noodles in the sauce. /swoon.

                      2. OP I blame you for giving me the idea for Sunday dinner that I had to go to Publix and buy a chicken and all the ingredients for a pot pie. Now my Sunday morning is gonna be messed up cooking and baking ;)

                        1. This has been an interesting read with all the different variations. I wonder if it's regional because some people are describing their version of chicken pot pie as what I'd think of as chicken and dumplings (which also has two versions, one to me is PA/Amish w/ dropped noodles/pie crust and one w/ biscuits dropped in). When you describe your versions, tell what part of the country you're in or where you grew up and that might clear it up some.

                          I'm not much of a purist, I play w/ the fillings of both chicken pot pie and chicken a la king (if it can be called a filling), change dairy amount, type of dairy, size of chicken pieces, types of vegetables. I put pie crust on top and/or bottom of chicken pot pie. Chicken a la king served over any starch like rice, noodles, vol au vent. I grew up/lived all over the US. Both are essentially chicken gravy white sauce w/ chicken and vegetables.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chowser

                            If you buy a frozen chicken pot pie from a national brand in any supermarket, it will have a pie crust, sometimes only a top crust but sometimes a bottom one too (e.g. Marie Callender's). I had never before heard of chicken pie with pieces of ANY type of dough cooked into the sauce being called anything but chicken and dumplings. I've heard of apple pandowdy, which does that with pieces of pie dough, but have never had it nor seen it on a menu in the northeast. At Cracker Barrel Restaurants, another multi-state chain, the chicken and dumplings has noodle dough pieces mixed in but I have seen the dish topped with mounds of biscuit dough in single location restaurants in the northeast.

                            Obviously everyone's entitled to their take on a dish, but when national brands and chains prepare a dish in a particular way, that's a good indication of what the majority of people consider to be the correct definition. Now back to cooking my knockwurst and baked beans using a tomatoey sauce because though I've lived near Boston most of my life, my first introduction to baked beans was Campbell's, not B&M!!! ;>) Don't get me started....

                          2. In our house they are both pretty random, depending on what is in the fridge and/or garden. Pot pie often ends up with cream, tarragon(actually Mexican mint marigold since it is too hot for tarragon in Austin), mushrooms, roasted peppers, whatever, usually with some Sherry. A la king is French for either "too lazy to make a crust" or "too hungry to wait for it to bake.".

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tim irvine

                              "A la king is French for either 'too lazy to make a crust' or 'too hungry to wait for it to bake.'."

                              Too funny. That's what chicken and dumplings are, too. Just throw it in and let it go.

                            2. Chicken Ala King is one of the first things my mom taught me how to cook. My grandmother selected her own funeral luncheon and that is what we had on that day also. That time it was on toast points. Chicken Ala King was very popular during the fifties especially with ladies who met at each others' houses for lunch. I remember reading in my great grandmother's journal about her buying a luncheon set as a wedding shower gift from Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. I asked my mom what the heck was a luncheon set and she explained that it was a nice linen table cloth and four cloth napkins. The cloth was just the right size for a card table for luncheon for four.
                              The Philadelphia area version that I was taught to make had pieces of white meat chicken that my mom cautioned me not to cut or tear too small, rich chicken stock, cream, pimentoes, green peppers, mushrooms and sliced hard cooked eggs. I didn't care for the eggs much and I asked my mom if the eggs were included to make the dish cheaper per serving and she explained that the eggs were considered "cute". Something about chicken and eggs I guess. We had it over rice or toast points sometimes but my mom's preferred base was pepperidge farm puff pastries. Yum! I guess I will tell you her super secret tech. She would turn off the heat when the dish was all done, and stir in some freshly grated nutmeg, or a bit of nutmeg from a tin. So good!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                Chicken a la King is one of the classical American menu items that was said to originate at Delmonico's in NYC before the beginning of the last century. In my New York culinary education I was taught to enrich the sauce with heavy cream and egg yolks and flavor with sherry and light veal stock in addition to the ingredients in the prior post. That was in the days when kitchens always had a pot of veal stock simmering on the back of the range.

                                Originally Chicken Pot Pie was simply whole chickens simmered in a rich chicken stock and the resulting strained stock was used to make the roux-thickened sauce for the pie filling. No vegetables, no dairy, so delicious.