Chicken Pie Vs Chicken Pot Pie: What's The Difference?

There's a pretty good chance that anyone browsing recipes for some ideas for a warm, hearty, and comforting meal has come across chicken pot pie recipes. There's probably a million and one different versions out there, but your search may have also returned some chicken pie recipes, too. Surely, they're the same thing, right? Pie filled with some kind of chicken? Not quite, and here's the thing: The terms are often used interchangeably, even though they're technically two different dishes. That makes figuring out which recipe is really referring to what meal kind of difficult, but we've done the legwork for you.

So, let's talk about the difference between a chicken pot pie and a chicken pie. There's some good news that comes along with this. Once you know what distinguishes the two, it's pretty easy to remember which is which — and that means you'll be able to correct anyone who uses the terms wrong ... much like it's easy to correct anyone who's referring to shepherd's pie and cottage pie as the same dish without taking into account the differences between the two. (You are doing that, right? Good!)

They became separate dishes in America

Chicken pie and chicken pot pie share a history that goes back a long, long way — and that's not an exaggeration. The earliest representations of pie are depictions left behind on the ancient Egyptian tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and if you really like pie? You're in good company. While those were generally fruit pies, the ancient Greeks and Romans were among the first to make savory meat pies, which became even more popular in Europe as farming livestock became a livelihood for much of the continent. That's also where wheat crops allowed for the creation of crusts that were much more delicious than previously inedible pie crusts, which were treated more like cooking vessels.

Now, here's an interesting tidbit: Since early meat pies not only contained, well, meat, but occasionally birds that were still alive, they weren't called pies. They were called coffins. There. That's something you know now. 

So, where did chicken pie and chicken pot pie turn into different dishes? In America. When early American settlers needed to find creative ways to make the most out of all of their leftovers, they invented the pot pie. More ingredients — specifically, vegetables — were added to the traditionally more straightforward meat pie in order to make food scraps of all kinds go further. Today, it remains a major comfort food for the entire nation.

Crust is key

While there's no denying that homemade pie crust is the best, there's nothing wrong with opting for the store-bought stuff either. Life is busy, after all, and if you're already making a comfort food sort of dish for dinner, why make it more complicated? That said, the crust is one of the major differences between a chicken pie and a chicken pot pie.

There are plenty of recipes that use the terms interchangeably, but a true Southern-style chicken pie has a homemade crust. That crust is similar to what you might expect to see in a sweet fruit pie, meaning it's on the top and bottom. And that kind of makes sense: If there's a lot of crust, you're going to want it to be just as amazing as the filling, right? 

Chicken pot pie, on the other hand, often has just a top crust. And that's pretty logical, too — it means that there's enough to mop up all that creamy filling, but not too much that it's going to get too heavy. (No matter which version you're making, here's some good news: You can absolutely make pie dough in bulk ahead of time and freeze it to use later.)

One's a great way to get your veggies

Initially, pies were a pretty straightforward dish that leaned heavily on the meat of choice. That changed when early Americans decided to use pies as a way to stretch all the food they had available to them, and that led to another difference. Pot pies include vegetables, and just which vegetables that might be varies wildly based on the recipe. Carrots, corn, peas, celery, and potatoes are pretty standard, but the sky's the limit: This Tex-Mex chicken pot pie recipe uses bell peppers, poblano peppers, and chipotle peppers in addition to black beans with the chicken, and that sounds pretty amazing, right? It's still a chicken pot pie!

Chicken pie, on the other hand, doesn't have any vegetables. If you're talking about an authentic meat pie, the filling is going to be chicken only ... with a slight caveat that if there are vegetables, it's the sort of sneaky, under-the-radar veg that someone might add to get past a picky 5-year-old.

Creamy chicken breast vs. non-creamy chicken thighs

This difference isn't a hard and fast rule because, as we mentioned, chicken pie and chicken pot pie are used interchangeably in a lot of recipes — and that can lead to some major confusion. That said, we did notice that many chicken pie recipes call for chicken thighs and chicken broth. But what if you're looking at using chicken breasts? You might be better off opting for a chicken pot pie because of key ingredients. (And again, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule; it's more of a general sort of observation. If this doesn't apply to your favorite recipe, consider this your disclaimer!)

Chicken pot pies tend to have a creamy ingredient and call for turning chicken broth into a gravy — like in this old fashioned chicken pot pie recipe or this easy chicken pot pie recipe. Both recipes call for rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken, including the breast. That's a typically drier cut of chicken, so it makes sense that putting it in a creamy pot pie would help make sure you're not getting a dried-out pie.

Many chicken pie recipes, on the other hand, call for chicken thighs. There's usually more moisture and fat in thighs, so including them in a less creamy, two-crust pie works as they're not going to dry out as quickly.

They're served differently

The differences in the way that chicken pies and chicken pot pies are prepared means that they're typically served in a different way. Since a chicken pot pie has a creamy filling and no bottom crust, that means it's going to be easiest to eat when it's scooped out of a baking dish and transferred onto another dish. The crust is perched on top, and it's easy to break up and dunk into that creamy gravy goodness that oozes out.

Chicken pie, on the other hand, holds together like a fruit pie and keeps its shape. The center isn't as runny, and with the bottom crust, it can be cut into neater slices and served on a plate. Some of the filling might come out in the process — many recipes use broth to keep the meat from drying out — but for the most part, you're going to be getting a slice of chicken pie, whereas your chicken pot pie is being dished out by the spoonful.

Chicken pie is delicious when cold

We've all been there: It's the middle of the night, everyone's asleep, but we're hit with a case of the hungries that's just so bad that there's no way we're going to be able to get back to sleep with our stomachs rumbling. Hit the kitchen, open the fridge, and there are leftovers ... but the microwave is going to wake everyone up. The answer? Chicken pie.

Without the creamy center, chicken pie is absolutely delicious to eat when it's cold — so much so that some recipes actually call for it to be made ahead of time and served cold the first time. Think of it as being like other traditional British pies, like a pork pie. They're better when they're cold. And honestly? We kind of love that. Since chicken pie is so easy to make, it's a great option for one of those nights that you actually have some time to spend in the kitchen. Know you've got a busy few days coming up? Make a chicken pie, throw it in the fridge, and you're set for the next day. While you can definitely eat chicken pot pie cold, it's just not nearly as good.

Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie is a very different dish

We've talked about chicken pie and chicken pot pie, but what about Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie? It's also called Amish chicken pot pie, and it has certain characteristics that make it completely different. While you might think of chicken pot pie as that dish of creamy goodness filled with carrots, peas, and potatoes, this particular kind of pot pie adds a different carb: noodles.

They're called bott boi noodles, and this dish is more properly called chicken bott boi. Why? It's from an area of Pennsylvania that still maintains a close relationship with its 17th-century German and Swiss roots, including through the use of words rooted in European languages. German words became anglicized as they spread outside of their immediate communities, and those words are still used today. 

There's another difference, too. Pennsylvania Dutch bott boi uses saffron, the incredibly expensive, incredibly labor-intensive ingredient that ... well, it might not seem like it's something that would traditionally pop up in pot pies, but thanks to a swath of Pennsylvania countryside dedicated to growing saffron-yielding crocus flowers, it's a must-have in a truly traditional bott boi. Delicious? Try it and find out — and then, check out these non-traditional pot pie recipes that are just what the doctor ordered for a chilly winter night.