The Clara Project: classic chicken croquettes.

Ahhhh, the croquette. That classic deep-fried combination of cooked meat, cream sauce and breadcrumbs. Now, that description doesn’t do the croquette justice, as we’ll see …

Many cuisines around the globe embrace some variation on the croquette (or croqueta) as a snack or street food: Spanish jamón croquetas, Indian potato aloo, the Scotch Egg, German potato croquettes. Here in the U.S., seafood croquettes made of shrimp, salmon or other fish are a southern staple. And, really, the Maryland crab cake is essentially a croquette.

Clara Shenefelt’s recipe box included a couple of iterations on the croquette: one with cod and the other a classic chicken croquette. Which is where we turn for this week’s installment of The Clara Project. (Read more about the project and the 1930s recipes that inspired it.) I fondly recall chicken croquettes from my childhood: creamy, intensely chicken-y, with a crunchy outer coating.

Croquettes are a great use for leftovers; in fact, I’d suggest you bookmark this recipe for post-Thanksgiving roast turkey and gravy. The premise is simple: cooked chicken, a bit of cream sauce to bind it, shaped into balls or patties, rolled in breadcrumbs and sautéed or fried. Clara’s recipe for classic chicken croquettes referenced a separate recipe for basic white sauce, which I’ll share with you here. (Note: This basic white sauce recipe is fantastic, and should be part of every cook’s basic repertoire.)

You can shape and cook these chicken croquettes in a couple of different ways. Divide the mixture into 6 or 8 portions, shape into balls or cylinders, bread as directed and deep fry in about 2 inches of oil heated to 350 degrees. Or make 4 portions and shape them into patties; these can be pan sautéed in about 1/4 cup of oil. (While I did not test this method, I think these croquettes could also be oven-baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so; spray the patties lightly with olive oil cooking spray before baking.) Clara’s original recipe called for onion juice (which strikes me as some kind of weird, artificial flavoring thing); I substituted very finely minced fresh onion.

As a main course, chicken croquettes sort of cry out for a simple green vegetable on the side; we enjoyed roasted broccoli with these. Rob and I both thought these were fantastic: flavorful, crunchy, comforting. 

basic white sauce recipe

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. salt

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter until it’s melted a foamy. Quickly whisk in the flour a tablespoon at a time; this butter-flour combination is called a roux. The roux will seize up and resemble something akin to wallpaper paste; this is OK. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, for about 90 seconds. Add the milk a little bit at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate. The first addition of milk will sort of curdle, but keep whisking and adding milk until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Whisk in the chicken broth and salt. Cook at a near boil for 2 or 3 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Set aside to cool. Use 1/2 cup of sauce for the croquettes. Reheat the rest of the sauce over medium-low heat and whisk in another 1/3 cup of chicken broth to make a sauce for serving.

classic chicken croquettes

(serves 4)

1 cup finely diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup basic white sauce (above)
1 Tbsp. finely minced parsley
1 tsp. finely minced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp. water (for dipping)
1 cup plain or panko breadcrumbs (for breading)

Mix together diced cooked chicken, sauce, parsley, onion, parsley, salt and pepper. Chill for 30 minutes or so. Divide the chicken mixture into 4 or 6 portions, and shape them into balls, cylinders or patties as desired. Roll each croquette in breadcrumbs, then in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs again. Set aside.

For deep frying: In a heavy stock pot, heat about 2 inches of canola or other neutral oil to 355 degrees. Carefully transfer croquettes to hot oil and cook, turning, until they’re evenly deep golden brown.

For pan sautéeing: In a heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup of canola or other neutral oil over medium-high heat; test the readiness of the oil by dropping a few breadcrumbs in (the oil is hot enough when the crumbs sizzle and brown almost instantly). Transfer croquettes to the pan; cook for 3 minute until golden brown, then turn and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve the croquettes, spoon some of the white sauce onto a plate, then top with a croquette and sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley.

About The Clara Project
Once a week, I’ll make and share a recipe from a collection of vintage recipe cards that were written in the 1930s by Clara Shenefelt. See all the Clara Project recipes.

16 thoughts on “The Clara Project: classic chicken croquettes.

  1. This really sounds delicious. Now I can hardly wait until I have some Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.

  2. I had just recently written this on a to a ‘make’ list for my grandkids. Thanks for confirming my commitment to retry the classics( maybe with a little tweek). Love this adventure we’re on with The Clara Project!

      • I gave the croquettes a test run on Friday. 2 of the four grandsons who tried them, said ” they taste better than regular chicken” and “I could eat the whole plate.” I am planning on making them again but using a 50/50 bread crumb-panko mix coating.PS- My hubby really liked them too. Keep those great recipes coming:)

      • Hi, Kathie — glad the chicken croquettes recipe got a thumbs-up from your grandsons! There’s no better test panel than a bunch of kids. Thanks for sharing your family’s review.

  3. sounds good. I do love the Clara project. does she say anything about brussels sprouts>? Trader Joes is selling them on the stalk!

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  7. About the onion juice, my trusty 1948 Fannie Farmer cookbook gives the following:

    “To Extract Onion Juice. Cut a slice from root end of onion, scrape juice from center with edge of teaspoon.”

  8. We use onion juice in recipes passed down from my grandmother (Clara’s age). Similar to Aaron’s comment above – Peel, then cut an onion in half and use the edge of a sharp knife to scrape the juice from a cut side of the onion. Continue scraping the knife down the cut side of the onion until you get the desired amount of juice. If more onion juice is needed, then cut approximately 1/2″ (removing the part of the onion that was just scraped) and scrape more. You get a slightly different result than minced onion.

  9. My mom made these when I was a kid many years ago but she ground the cooked chicken and added onion and celery I think she used cream of chicken soup on top and maybe aunt penny’s white sauce in the chicken all I know is these were the bomb my favorite thing ever your recipe is very close can’t wait to try these thank you!!

    • My mom made them with aunt Penney’s white sauce also served with mashed potatoes and I think also cream of chicken soup she also ground the cooked chicken added onion and celery they really were relish.