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Is chicken Kiev a Russian dish?

Chicken Kiev is a popular breaded cutlet dish consisting of chicken breast pounded and rolled around cold garlic butter, then breaded and fried or baked. While it is commonly associated with Russian cuisine, the origins of chicken Kiev are debatable.

What is chicken Kiev?

Chicken Kiev (also spelled Kyiv, Kieve, or Kyev) refers to a stuffed chicken cutlet made by pounding a chicken breast flat, rolling it around chilled garlic butter, coating it in eggs and breadcrumbs, and frying or baking it until golden brown and crisp. When cut open, the melted garlic butter oozes out from the center. It is usually served with a side of pasta or potatoes.

The dish is characterized by:

  • A flattened, pounded chicken breast
  • Chilled garlic butter stuffed into the middle
  • A crispy breadcrumb coating
  • The melting garlic butter oozing out when cut open

The combination of the crispy exterior and the rich, savory garlic butter makes chicken Kiev a very satisfying dish. It has a mild chicken flavor accented by garlic and herbs from the butter. The breadcrumb coating provides texture while keeping the chicken breast juicy and tender.

Origins and history of chicken Kiev

The origins of chicken Kiev are disputed. Some sources claim it was invented in the late 19th or early 20th century by French chefs who were working in high-end restaurants in Moscow, Russia. According to this account, French culinary techniques were combined with Russian ingredients to create what became known as “chicken a la Kiev.”

However, many historians believe that chicken Kiev was actually invented earlier in the 18th century in Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. According to this view, chicken Kiev was created by cooks working for Russian nobility and named after the city of Kiev, now the capital of modern Ukraine.

Here is a brief history of chicken Kiev:

Year Historical development
1700s Dish likely originated among cooks for Russian aristocracy in Kiev, Ukraine
Late 1800s French chefs in upscale Moscow restaurants may have adapted the dish
Early 1900s Chicken Kiev became popular on restaurant menus in Moscow and St. Petersburg
1917 After the Russian Revolution, many chefs fled Russia and brought the dish to Europe
1960s-1970s Chicken Kiev gained popularity in the United States as part of trendy continental cuisine
Today It remains a staple menu item at higher-end restaurants globally

While the precise origin is uncertain, what is known is that chicken Kiev was already famous and well-established in Moscow and St. Petersburg by the early 20th century. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Russian chefs who emigrated from the country brought chicken Kiev to Europe and other parts of the world.

Russian culinary influences

Whether chicken Kiev originated in Russia or Ukraine, it does reflect major Russian culinary influences:

  • Stuffing poultry: Stuffing chickens, ducks, and other poultry was common practice in Russian cooking. Chicken Kiev uses this technique but with butter rather than a meat or vegetable stuffing.
  • Pounding meat: To make chicken Kiev, the chicken breast must be pounded thin to allow rolling it up around the butter. This builds on traditional Russian methods of pounding veal or beef cutlets.
  • Breading and frying: Russians often breaded and fried cutlets and patties. The breadcrumb coating on chicken Kiev is prepared the same way, just wrapped around the chicken breast.
  • French techniques: If French chefs did adapt the dish, they may have contributed the stuffing with herbed garlic butter rather than a meat filling, and the method of chilling the butter first.

So while chicken Kiev may not have directly originated in Russia, it grew out of pre-existing Russian culinary traditions and was strongly associated with Russian restaurants and culture by the early 20th century.

Popularity of chicken Kiev in the Soviet Union and Russia

In the Soviet Union, chicken Kiev became a popular dish that was served in upscale hotels and restaurants. It was regarded as an elegant, fancy meal and was even included on the menus for banquets held at the Kremlin.

Here are some reasons for chicken Kiev’s popularity in the Soviet Union:

  • The stuffed chicken dish was well-suited for banquets and special occasions.
  • Professional chefs helped elevate chicken Kiev’s status by perfecting techniques for making it.
  • It represented the cuisine of major Russian cities like Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
  • The dish used simple, available ingredients but could be presented in an upscale way.
  • Chicken Kiev became a symbol of Russian culinary prowess and culture.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, chicken Kiev remained popular in Russia. New overseas influences led to some variations like using parsley or dill in the butter. But the classic version remains a staple in Russian restaurants and cuisine.

Other Kiev dishes

The close tie between chicken Kiev and Russia has led to the creation of other “Kiev” dishes that emulate the classic chicken recipe. Some examples of dishes named after Kiev include:

Pork Kiev

Made by rolling pork cutlets around herb garlic butter, breaded and fried.

Fish Kiev

Uses fish fillets like salmon or cod instead of chicken breasts.

Crab Kiev

Crabmeat rolled around garlic butter in the chicken Kiev style.

Lamb Kiev

Ground lamb patties stuffed with garlic butter.

These dishes follow the same basic preparation of chicken Kiev, substituting different main ingredients. The name Kiev has become synonymous with anything prepared “a la Kiev” style.

Preparing chicken Kiev

Authentic chicken Kiev takes some effort to prepare properly. Here are some tips for making it successfully:

Pound the chicken breasts

Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to gently pound the chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thickness. This ensures they cook evenly and can be easily rolled.

Chill the butter

The garlic butter must be thoroughly chilled to hold its shape when stuffed into the chicken. Allow at least 2 hours in the fridge for the butter to firm up.

Roll tightly

Roll the chicken tightly around the chilled butter to seal it inside. Use toothpicks if needed to hold the chicken closed.

Chill again

Let the stuffed chicken breasts rest in the fridge for another 15-30 minutes before breading to help set the shape.

Dip in flour, egg, and crumbs

Dredge the chicken in flour, then egg wash, then press into breadcrumbs to coat on all sides. Let sit 5 minutes before frying for crumbs to adhere.

Pan fry gently

Pan fry over medium heat in 1/2 inch oil for 6-8 minutes on each side until golden. The lower heat prevents the crust burning before the inside cooks through.

Bake cautiously

For baking, use 375°F for 30-40 minutes checking frequently to avoid drying out. Baking takes longer but can give a crisper coating.

Following this process closely results in the classic chicken Kiev with a moist interior and crunchy, golden crust that holds the butter filling.

Serving suggestions

Chicken Kiev makes an elegant entrée for a special meal. Here are some serving recommendations:

  • Slice the cooked chicken on an angle and fan out on plates to show the oozing butter in the middle.
  • Pair with buttery mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, or egg noodles to complement the rich butter flavor.
  • Garnish with fresh dill and parsley to brighten up the dish.
  • Offer lemon wedges to squeeze over the chicken before eating.
  • A chilled vodka martini or dry white wine are classic beverage pairings.

Taking care with the presentation elevates chicken Kiev from an everyday meal to a restaurant-quality dinner. The vivid yellow garlic butter and green fresh herbs make for an eye-catching dish.

Chicken Kiev around the world

While chicken Kiev clearly has Russian roots, it has spread around the world over the past century and taken on global influences:

  • Europe – Popular version in France stuffs chicken with Brie cheese and chives instead of garlic butter.
  • United Kingdom – Often served with roasted new potatoes or a fresh spinach salad.
  • Australia – Chicken Kiev with tropical mango chutney as a contrasting flavor.
  • United States – Mass-produced frozen chicken Kievs are readily available in grocery stores.
  • Brazil – Uses Parmesan cheese in the breading for added flavor.

The flexibility of chicken Kiev has allowed local chefs to put their own spin on the dish while retaining the classic stuffed chicken elements. Its popularity endures both in Russian restaurants and internationally.


While the precise origins are uncertain, chicken Kiev clearly emerged from the culinary traditions of Russia and Ukraine in the 18th-19th centuries. By the early 1900s, it was an iconic dish in Moscow and St. Petersburg restaurants. After the Russian Revolution, emigrants brought chicken Kiev to Europe and America, where it gained widespread popularity during the mid 20th century.

The elegant stuffed chicken delicacy remains tied to Russian cuisine and culture. It continues to be served in upscale Russian restaurants for holidays and special occasions. Yet the versatility of chicken Kiev has also allowed it to evolve globally, with each culture adapting it slightly to local tastes. So while chicken Kiev is strongly associated with Russia, its diversity shows how iconic dishes can transcend borders and take on global influences over time.