What Is “Engagement Chicken,” and More Importantly, Does It Work?

According to some foodies, this culinary urban legend might have a ring of truth to it.
The fabled dish might be the quickest way to someone's heart after all.
The fabled dish might be the quickest way to someone's heart after all. / Carlo A, Moment Collection, Getty Images

Ready to get engaged? You could buy a ring, propose, and start wedding planning. Or, you could bypass the traditional methods and potentially coax a future spouse into tying the knot with this legendary chicken recipe instead.

Oft-reported as a trigger for settling down, “engagement chicken” is essentially just a roast chicken. But it is reportedly so delicious that after enjoying it as a duo, you have no choice but to get married. And no, it’s not served with a ring dangling off the drumstick. Rather, it’s more of a basic, easy-to-execute recipe, roasting the bird at a high heat for crispy skin and juicy interiors, and maybe—just maybe—charming someone into embarking on a lifetime partnership together.

The Origins of “Engagement Chicken”

Roast chicken is a classic, so what makes this one so special? Urban lore, specifically.

“Engagement chicken” was given its romantic title in 1982 when Kim Bonnell, a former fashion editor at Glamour magazine, shared a roast chicken recipe with a colleague. The recipe was based on an earlier dish by chef Marcella Hazan. The colleague subsequently made it for a boyfriend and became engaged a month later, and the recipe’s reputation at the magazine grew from there. “I started sharing this recipe, and then next thing you know, people started getting engaged,” Bonnell told The New York Times in 2023.

The recipe became canon in the mid-2000s when Glamour published it. While cooking for someone is a true act of love, of course, it’s hard to determine if this specific recipe directly correlates with a partner getting down on one knee and declaring a desire for lifelong commitment.

Still, the legend and tasty recipe lives on. Ina Garten has put her own spin on it (though it’s worth noting she married Jeffrey in 1968, years before her culinary career began). Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry also followed her making a certain chicken dish

Even Emily Blunt is reportedly a fan. “The roast chicken I love is Ina Garten’s roast chicken, it’s called her ‘engagement chicken.’ When people make it for people, they get engaged or something,” she told iHeartMedia’s River Cafe Table 4 podcast in 2021. Blunt revealed that she made it for her husband, John Krasinski, early on when they started dating. “That’s it,” she added. “All it took!”

The Allure of “Marry Me” Dishes

Poultry probably isn’t the key to a happy relationship. Still, a good meal can be transcendent, evoking important conversations, memories, and even realizations. This is perhaps why the concept of “engagement chicken” evolved with social media in a new recipe called “Marry Me Chicken,” which recently went viral on TikTok.

Dubbed one of the most popular recipes of 2023 by The New York Times, it was created in 2016 by Lindsay Funston, then an editor at Delish. This decadent recipe calls for chicken breasts to be seared in butter, then simmered in parmesan tomato cream sauce. It’s rich and photogenic and, according to commenters, the Tuscan-style meal pleases newlyweds and divorcees alike. It has also been adapted into other forms, including “Marry Me Chicken Pasta,” “Marry Me Pasta,” and several other variations. Because hey, marriage is romantic—and who doesn’t like a cream sauce?

But all this begs the question: Do any of these pre-proposal dishes actually work? Skeptics will say no, and if you’re on the brink of getting engaged, it will probably happen whether you cook a special meal or not. But if you eat meat (or pasta), want to enjoy a nice meal for two at home, and you’re up for a little kitchen witchcraft, why not crank up that oven to 425°F and see what happens? 

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