What Makes Pennsylvania-Style Chicken Pot Pie Totally Unique

For the most part, when people think of chicken pot pie, they picture a thick, flavorful, gravy-like stew encased under a golden brown pie crust. Sure, there are variations to the classic style, such as using biscuits or puff pastry instead of a traditional pie crust, but typically, some sort of flour-based crust is involved. However, in Pennsylvania-style pot pies, crust does not exist. Also known as Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie or Amish chicken pot pie, these savory P.A. pies more closely resemble chicken noodle soup than classic pot pies in appearance and style.

Instead of crust, Amish chicken pot pie is made with homemade noodles, which are made from flour, shortening or flour, salt, and sometimes eggs and milk. They are rolled out and cut into squares, rectangles, or really, whatever shape you desire. Once they cook in the chicken soup, absorbing the chicken fat, they become pillowy, tender dumplings. Additionally, these pot pies are flavored with a pinch of saffron or a touch of ground turmeric, which also gives the dish a golden yellow color.

The base of the pot pie itself is like a chicken soup, made with chicken, onions, carrots, and other aromatics, but it is left brothy instead of being thickened with flour to create a gravy consistency. The noodles or dumplings are what give this dish its heft, making it one of the most comforting meals you can create.

A one-pot wonder

Making Pennsylvania-style chicken pot pie is not difficult, even when you factor in the homemade noodles, because pretty much everything is cooked in the same pot. There is no need to roast your chicken, make your soup, and then bake everything in a pie dish as you would for a traditional pot pie. Basically, you boil chicken in enough water to cover it, along with bouillon flavoring, your saffron or turmeric, and any other spices you wish to include. You can use boneless chicken, but using bone-in, skin-on chicken will provide tons of flavor from the bones and some chicken fat, which makes the noodles taste great.

Once the chicken is cooked and removed, you essentially have a delicious chicken broth ready in which to simmer your vegetables and poach your homemade noodles. However, if you prefer to use purchased dried or frozen flat dumplings instead of homemade, that's okay too.

Where's the pie in Pennsylvania-style pot pie?

This dish raises the question of how it ever came to be called a "pie" in the first place. There is no crust, and there isn't even any baking involved, which is generally what characterizes pies, whether they're fruit, pizza, or chicken pot pies. The answer lies in the very community that created this particular type of pot pie, the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are, in fact, not Dutch at all, but descendants of immigrants from Germany and Switzerland. They traditionally speak a German dialect called Deitsch, and one of their most notable dishes is called "bott boi" or "pot pie." Bott boi came about as a way to transform leftovers into a new meal; leftover meats and vegetables were turned into a soup that was topped with square-shaped egg noodles.

Regarding the addition of saffron, some German immigrants brought saffron bulbs with them when they came to America and planted them where they settled. Today, there is still a section of Pennsylvania Dutch country known as "the yellow belt" or "the saffron belt," where this expensive ingredient is grown.

If you can get past the lack of traditional crust, you'll find that this distinctive type of pot pie features everything you love about chicken pot pies. It's rich, warm, comforting, and hits all the right flavor notes, not to mention its bougie hint of saffron.