City Chicken a Polish-American Recipe (2024)

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City Chicken isn’t actually chicken; it’s also been known as mock chicken. It’s sometimes thought of as a Polish recipe, although it’s not actually from Poland. What’s up with this dish?

Dating back to the turn of the previous century, City Chicken, a Polish-American recipe, has roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio and spread to Great Lakes cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Buffalo, New York. Nostalgic comfort food from the Rust Belt.

Made of small bits of meat, usually pork and veal because during the Great Depression, they were less expensive than chicken. The meat used was often scraps, placed on a wooden skewer and formed to resemble a chicken leg. It was breaded and fried and/or baked.

I made City Chicken over the weekend, it was the first time I’d sampled the mock chicken, and I have to say the experience is very similar to eating fried chicken. My husband, Ed, grew up near Pittsburgh, and is a more experienced connoisseur of City Chicken than I. When I said I was going to make it, he knew what I meant. 🙂

He told he that the last time he’d had City Chicken was probably in a restaurant in the Strip District, at the foot of Polish Hill (home to the Immaculate Heart of Mary church), on a visit to Pittsburgh. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a stop in the Strip District.

Wonderful food markets and restaurants. There’s a Polish Deli, Wholey’s (an amazing fishmonger). This is where I first visited a Penzey’s Spice store (long before they had a location in Tucson), first sampled the Pittsburgh classic of steak strips and french fries garnishing a green salad, but that’s another story.

Ed remembered seeing City Chicken the grocery stores when he was growing up, packs of stew-like meat with skewers included, but his family usually ate chicken. I think by that time, the price pendulum had swung the other way because even though money was tight, his mother fried a huge platter of chicken every Sunday as they hosted extended family.

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Like most recipes, there are many variations. You have many cooking options: deep fry, pan fry, fry and then bake to finish, or just bake. Some like to serve City Chicken with some kind of gravy, we had it with my mushroom sauce.

If you’d like to make this a low carb recipe, try any of these substitutions for the bread crumbs; all are tasty and satisfying ways to get the desire texture in the coating:

  1. ground almonds
  2. ground almonds & Parmesan Cheese
  3. ground pork rinds

City chicken is a tasty nostalgic dish that I think you’ll enjoy. Can you think of other recipes with such misleading names? I’m sure this isn’t the only one.



PS – I found a vintage city chicken mold, an advertising item for a butcher supply company, and did a taste test using ground pork, a mix of cubes and ground pork, and the only cube version that I have written up below. Ed and I have given up meat for Lent, but we had a friend over for dinner, and Jeff was the official reviewer even though he had never had city chicken before.

As I suspected, the mold shapes the meat best when using just ground pork, and that was Jeff’s favorite version. He just liked the texture best. If you want to give it a try, I mixed the ground meat up much like meatloaf: 1 pound ground pork, 1 egg, 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Then I breaded the skewers as described below. I just baked them at 350 for 25 minutes, but you could pan fry and bake as below.

City Chicken a Polish-American Recipe (3)

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City Chicken a Polish-American Recipe (5)

★★★★★4.5 from 18 reviews

  • Author: polishhousewife
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 - 6 1x
  • Category: Meat
  • Method: fried
  • Cuisine: Polish
Print Recipe


A nostalgic comfort food




  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Season pork with seasoning salt, and thread onto 4 inch skewers
  3. Set up three bowls or plates with rims in a row (fill one with flour, one with the eggs, and the last with breadcrumbs)
  4. Roll the pork skewers in flour, dip in the eggs coating all side, roll in the bread crumbs
  5. Heat oil to 350, even brown the pork skewers in the hot oil
  6. Place the skewers in a baking dish and cover with foil, bake for about 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for 5 minutes to crisp breading


If you have a wire rack that fits in your baking dish, you might use it and add a little water to the bottom of your dish to steam your chicken city and keep it moist as it bakes.

Another possibility is to place the skewers on top of crumbled foil (to keep it out of the water) or on top of vegetables that you’re roasting at the same time. Because the “chicken legs” are only in the oven for 20 minutes or so, the vegetables will 1. need to be in thin pieces to cook during that time, 2. or they will be al dente, 3. or you could bake the veg a bit before or after the meat.

Keywords: City Chicken, mock chicken

Lois Britton

An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.

City Chicken a Polish-American Recipe (2024)


What is Polish city chicken made of? ›

Traditionally, city chicken consists of cubes of pork, veal, or both, which are threaded onto skewers, battered with flour and breadcrumbs, and baked or deep-fried to tender perfection. Cooks often shape the skewered meat to mimic chicken drumsticks, and the dish indeed tastes like chicken.

Where did city chicken originate? ›

The reason city chicken came to be goes back to the early 1900s when cuts of pork and veal were far more affordable to city workers in meat-packing hubs like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Louisville than chickens, which were largely found in the country.

What is the history of mock chicken? ›

History. A similar dish once known as "mock chicken" was described as early as 1908. The first references to city chicken appeared in newspapers and cookbooks just prior to and during the Depression Era in a few cities such as Pittsburgh.

What is mock chicken? ›

Mock chicken can be made from a variety of plant-based ingredients such as soy, wheat, or pea protein, and is typically seasoned and processed to resemble the texture and flavor of real chicken.

What is the most eaten meat in Poland? ›

Pork accounts for the largest share of meat consumption in Poland and is also the most commonly used for meat products. Thanks to its universality, pork is used in a variety of dishes, and the culinary tradition of Poles further favours its consumption.

Why do they call city chicken chicken? ›

“It was called 'chicken' because chicken was once more expensive and more desirable; families would have a chicken for Sunday dinner,” says Barbara Johnstone, a professor of rhetoric and linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the book Speaking Pittsburghese.

Why do they call it City Chicken when its pork? ›

City dwellers longed for chicken, that fancy delicious bird that only farmers got to eat, the lucky devils. But the elusive fowl were raised in the country, and were hard to obtain in the city and expensive when found. So city mice fashioned a pork-veal dish as a sort of mock chicken.

Who brought the first chicken to America? ›

Europeans arriving in North America found a continent teeming with native turkeys and ducks for the plucking and eating. Some archaeologists believe that chickens were first introduced to the New World by Polynesians who reached the Pacific coast of South America a century or so before the voyages of Columbus.

What state does chicken come from in the US? ›

The state that produces the most chickens is Iowa, followed closely by Ohio and Indiana. Not only does Iowa produce loads of broiler chickens, but it also contributes significantly to the egg production of the US. Here are a few interesting facts.

Is mock chicken healthy? ›

A nutritional comparison

As mentioned above, traditional mock meats tend to be highly processed, offering minimal nutritional value and using considerable amounts of unhealthful additives and salt. Some have even been found to contain animal-derived ingredients.

Does mock chicken taste like chicken? ›

It tastes like chicken, although the exact flavour varies between brands and what type of product it is. Generally, like animal-based chicken, vegan chicken doesn't have a strong flavour on its own, and will often be seasoned.

Is mock chicken real meat? ›

First mentioned in 1908, mock chicken is a mixture of coarsely chopped pork and veal shaped to resemble chicken legs or cubes of pork and veal arranged on skewers, seasoned and cooked like chicken.

Why is it called beggars chicken? ›

Beggar's Chicken used to be a dish for the poor. Legend has it that the dish was invented when a beggar stole a chicken. Because he had no pot to cook it in, the beggar supposedly wrapped the chicken in lotus leaves and packed it in mud before lighting a fire in the ground and burying it.

What is the ghost chicken? ›

Our original crispy fried chicken sandwich covered in our Ghost Pepper Sauce with spicy mayo, pickles and ghost slaw on a toasted Martin's roll.

Why is city chicken made from pork? ›

City dwellers longed for chicken, that fancy delicious bird that only farmers got to eat, the lucky devils. But the elusive fowl were raised in the country, and were hard to obtain in the city and expensive when found. So city mice fashioned a pork-veal dish as a sort of mock chicken.

Is my Polish chicken a hen or rooster? ›

Because Polish male chickens tend to be bigger, they're also heavier. Polish roosters usually weigh in at around 6 pounds (2.7 kg). Hens are a little bit smaller, and typically weigh around 4.5 pounds (2 kg).

What are 3 characteristics of Polish chicken? ›

Polish chickens are calm, gentle, friendly, and active birds. But they are easily surprised or frightened and may have a nervous disposition. It is because they can't see properly because of their large crests. Poultry handlers always talk to them when they're closer, so they don't get scared and fly off.

Are Polish chickens good meat chickens? ›

Basic Description. The Polish chicken is classed as a soft feather lighter breed and this description does mean exactly what it says, they are no use as a meat bird and although they do lay a decent white egg they are not a prolific layer.

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