Originally created and served for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, Coronation Chicken has remained a popular dish in Great Britain ever since. This Coronation Chicken recipe bumps up the flavor several notches for a truly delicious meal that can be enjoyed as a salad, with rice, on baked potatoes, or as a delicious sandwich filling!
In thinking about Prince Philip’s passing earlier this year and Queen Elizabeth’s advancing years, I was clicking through photos from our most recent trip to England, including the ones of Windsor where the royal castle is. Feeling sentimental I went to work re-creating a famous dish attributed to Queen Elizabeth: Coronation Chicken.
Growing up just outside of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, one of the places my mom and I liked to go to shopping was King’s Lynn, about 45 minutes northeast. For lunch a favorite stop was a bap (sandwich) shop that I understand is now closed, unfortunately. But they served baps with your choice of fillings and there were a good many to choose from. One my favorites was coronation chicken. Though not originally served with bread, it has become a popular sandwich filling in the UK and has remained one of my favorites.
What is Coronation Chicken?
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953 and for that special event a menu was put together that included an original recipe created by Le Cordon Bleu co-principal Rosemary Hume in honor of the special occasion. It is a cold chicken salad with a creamy mayonnaise sauce flavored with curry and apricot. On the original menu it was called Poulet Reine Elizabeth (French for “Chicken Queen Elizabeth”) and was served on a bed of lettuce. It has since become known as Coronation Chicken.
With England having just recently pulled itself out from the ravages of WWII, Coronation Chicken was quite exotic for its time when ingredients were only just becoming available again after post-war rationing. Nevertheless, only a very minimal amount of the more extravagant ingredients was used, i.e. the curry powder and pureed apricots, but that was also in part because the luncheon was catering to a large group of people including many with conservative tastes. And while the original recipe is good (certainly good enough for the queen at the time), tastes evolve over time and many feel, myself included, that it lacks flavor and that the mayonnaise is overwhelming. I’ve made some changes that curb the mayonnaise, “freshens” it up, and adds a lot more depth and flavor.
You can use either apricot jam or mango chutney and if you don’t have creme fraiche you can substitute whole milk Greek yogurt. We’re also going to bump up the curry a bit and if you like a bit of kick feel free to use Madras curry powder. If you’d like to make your own curry powder, which I always highly recommend for the best and most vibrant flavor, check out my recipe for homemade Curry Powder.
We’re also adding some toasted sliced almonds for both flavor and crunch and we’re going to top it off with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro for flavor and color. Feel free to omit either of these if you prefer though we highly recommend them.
Easy to make and deliciously flavor-packed, we’re confident you’re going to love this Coronation Chicken!
How to Serve Coronation Chicken
Originally Coronation Chicken was served as a salad on a bed of lettuce. Since then however it has become very popular as a sandwich filling, with rice, or with baked potatoes (“jacket potatoes”).
You can serve it cold or at room temperature and it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Before we get to the recipe I have a brief photo tour for you. Whenever we visit England, Windsor has become our traditional “last stop” before flying out. It’s near the airport and it’s a great place to relax after our itinerary-packed vacations where we normally cram in far more than we should. Dating back to the 13th century, Windsor Great Park offers 5000 acres of lush lawns, old growth trees, beautiful flowers at Savill Gardens, and Victoria Water Lake. The town of Windsor itself is delightfully charming very walkable. Our kids like to feed the swans at the river, the boat rides along the Thames are scenic and relaxing, and of course no visit to Windsor is complete without a visit the Windsor Castle.
While Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony was held in Westminster Abbey, her favorite retreat isn’t London, it’s Windsor. Windsor Castle has always been her favorite home which she escapes to on the weekends and it remains the largest occupied castle in the world. And so in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, I’m sharing some pictures of Windsor Castle from our most recent trip along with my recipe for the Queen’s famous Coronation Chicken.
And without further ado….
Let’s get to the Coronation Chicken!
Coronation Chicken Recipe
Let’s get started!
Place the chicken breasts in a small pot and cover with chicken broth (you can use water but we recommend chicken broth as it will infuse the chicken with more flavor). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the chicken for about 10-15 minutes or until completely cooked through.
Drain the chicken and let it cool completely. Chop it into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller if you prefer. Set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the creamy curry sauce.
For optimal flavor, first briefly toast the curry powder in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until very fragrant. Be careful not to scorch it or it will become bitter.
Place all the sauce ingredients in a large bowl, reserving the toasted almonds and cilantro until last, and stir to thoroughly combine.
Once the chicken is cold, pour over the sauce and carefully fold until the chicken is even coated.
Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and some chopped cilantro. Serve on a bed of lettuce, on baked potatoes, with rice, or as a sandwich filling.
For more delicious British favorites be sure to try our:
- Bangers and Mash
- Yorkshire Pudding
- Cornish Pasty
- Fish and Chips
- Mushy Peas
- Toad in the Hole
- Treacle Tart
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Spotted Dick
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (for a quicker method you can use roast chicken from the store)
- For the Creamy Curry Sauce:
- 3/4 cup quality mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam or mango chutney
- 1 tablespoon quality curry powder (use Madras for a bit of spicy kick)
- Homemade Curry Powder (click recipe link to make your own for the best flavor results!)
- 3 tablespoons very finely chopped dried apricots
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (toast them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Place the chicken breasts in a small pot and cover with chicken broth (you can use water but we recommend chicken broth as it will infuse the chicken with more flavor). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the chicken for about 10-15 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain the chicken and let it cool completely. Chop it into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller if you prefer.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare the creamy curry sauce: For optimal flavor, first briefly toast the curry powder in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until very fragrant. Be careful not to scorch it or it will become bitter.Place all the sauce ingredients in a large bowl, reserving the toasted almonds and cilantro until last, and stir to thoroughly combine.Once the chicken is cold, pour over the sauce and carefully fold until the chicken is even coated. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and chopped cilantro (see NOTE). Serve on a bed of lettuce, on baked potatoes, with rice, or as a sandwich filling.