Coronation Chicken–A Sandwich Fixing Fit for a Queen

Depending on the quality and amount of curry used, the color of coronation chicken can range from acid yellow to subtle ochre. I like to think mine is the latter

Coronation chicken isn’t so well known in these parts (i.e. the U.S.) but in the U.K., this dish has a fabled history.

A humble dish with a regal name, coronation chicken was invented by Rosemary Hume, the founder of Le Cordon Bleu, joining the ranks of its Anglo-Indian brethren, chicken tikka masala and mulligatawny soup. It’s basically chicken salad’s gussied up little sister–shredded chicken dressed with a curry- and chutney-spiked mayo and studded with raisins–served over basmati rice or between bread.

According to this Guardian Newspaper article (where you can also read more about its provenance and permutations), coronation chicken was originally called poulet reine Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth chicken). And since Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year (she ascended the throne 60 years ago on February 6th, and her coronation took place June 2, 1953), why not pay tribute to my colonial heritage?

And besides, I had leftover chicken, curry powder, and preserves just waiting to be used up. Operation “Cook Down My Kitchen” cracks on!

Do you have a favorite way with coronation chicken?


Coronation Chicken

I first discovered Coronation Chicken when I was living in England. A friend ordered a coronation chicken sandwich for lunch one day. (This was one dish that didn’t quite catch on in the colonies, at least not Singapore). I wasn’t enticed by the turmeric yellow-tinged chicken but she coaxed me into having a bite and I’m glad she did! That first bite was an intriguing mélange of tender chicken, spicy curry, and sweet raisins. I’ve had many versions since then, not always tasty and often not pretty. I came up with a dressing that wasn’t too sweet, doing away with the requisite raisins/dried apricots of many recipes, and cut the greasy mayo with the lighter texture of yogurt. Plus, I added some celery (another refrigerator legacy!) for a nice crunch. The result–a light and bright filling I enjoyed sandwiched between hearty slices of herb bread.

Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 appetizer servings, or enough filling for 2 to 3 sandwiches

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 4 drumsticks or 3 breasts worth)
2 stalks celery hearts, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon preserves (I used a tropical mix but try apricot) or mango chutney
2 tablespoons yogurt (whole milk or lowfat is fine)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
A few squirts of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Place the chicken and celery in a medium bowl.

In a small cast iron skillet, toast the curry powder until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Combine the curry powder, chutney, yogurt, mayo, and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Fold the curry dressing into the chicken until the chicken is well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld. Serve the chicken on a bed of lettuce leaves or between slices of freshly baked bread.


4 thoughts on “Coronation Chicken–A Sandwich Fixing Fit for a Queen

  1. Thank you so much for your helpful comments, in the UK today and over the next few days, the nation will be celebrating the Queens Diamond Jubilee with over 10,000 street parties taking place. I’m attending 2 today and Coronation Chicken will be my offering, as well as a variation of minted chilli peas I had in Nandos recently. The mayo has been minimised with Greek natural yoghurt and some fromage frais for creaminess! Nothing stays still, nor should it, and in this diverse world we live in our food adapts with us. Happy Days!

  2. Coronation Chicken is a new one for me! I do, however, make a curried chicken salad/sandwich which varies each time I make it. It always includes white chicken meat, shredded or cubed, mayo with curry powder and sweet chutney. The addition of yoghurt to the mayo is a good idea for a less fatty product. Currants can be used instead of raisins if the cook wants a more acerbic taste. (I’ve been told that rinsing and drying well both raisins and currants helps to get rid of some of the sulphite. Coronation Chicken could be toothsome on naan bread. Thanks for bring this historical piece of gastronomica to my attention.

    1. Hi Lesley, Your version sounds exactly like coronation chicken. You must have English blood! Thanks for the tip about rinsing currants (another very English ingredient!) and raisins. I keep my raisins in the fridge and I usually soak them first (either in water or sherry, depending) to soften them up. It’s good to know it serves another purpose. Cheers, Pat

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