Coronation chicken was created in 1953, when renowned florist Constance Spry and cordon bleu chef Rosemary Hume catered for a banquet to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II. ‘Poulet Reine Elizabeth’, more commonly known as coronation chicken, is believed to have been inspired by the ‘Jubilee Chicken’ created for George V’s silver jubilee in 1935.

The coronation chicken recipe was widely published at the time so that it could be enjoyed at street parties across Britain. But, with postwar rationing still in place, the ingredients would have been hard to come by. The original version has many more subtle wine and herb-infused flavours than the bright yellow, sultana-laden, modern sandwich filler!


For the chicken

  • 2 Roasting chicken
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Bouquet garni
  • Water
  • White wine (a splash)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 Peppercorns

For the sauce

  • 2oz Onion (chopped)
  • 2tsp Curry powder
  • 1tsp Tomato purée
  • 100ml Red wine
  • Water
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Lemon
  • Lemon juice
  • 3tbsp Apricot purée, or apricot jam
  • ¾pint Mayonnaise
  • 3tbsp Whipped cream, plus a little more
  • 1tbsp Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sugar


For the chicken

  • STEP 1

    Poach the chicken with the carrot, bouquet garni, salt and peppercorns in water and a little wine, for about 40 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool in the liquid and remove the bones.

For the sauce

  • STEP 1

    Fry the onion in oil for 3-4 minutes, then add curry powder. Fry for a further 1–2 minutes.

  • STEP 2

    Add tomato purée, wine, water, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, add lemon slices and juice, pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer uncovered for 5–10 minutes. Strain and cool.

  • STEP 3

    Add mayonnaise and apricot purée in stages. Season, and add more lemon juice if necessary. Mix in the whipped cream.

  • STEP 4

    Coat the chicken in the sauce and mix in a little extra cream and seasoning. Serve with salad and a little extra sauce.

Based on the original 1953 recipe from The Constance Spry Cookery Book by Rosemary Hume and Constance Spry

This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

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