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Lena Horne's East Indian Chicken

Author / historian Donald Bogle joined me to discuss his new book on Lena Horne.

Lena Horne was a singer, actress, dancer and activist. She began her career at the famed Cotton Club and became a popular nightclub performer. After arriving in Hollywood, she starred in the musicals "Cabin in the Sky" and "Stormy Weather". Her extensive career included Broadway, multiple albums and television. Horne was also very active in the Civil Rights movement. In 1984 she was given a Kennedy Center Honor for "For extraordinary talent, creativity, and perseverance". 


This recipe was attributed to Lena Horne in a 1947 issue of Ebony Magazine and written up by Freda DeKnight. She was the first food columnist for Ebony Magazine and wrote the cookbook "A Date with a Dish". It was the first cookbook written by an African-American for an African-American audience. Please read more about this extraordinary woman and hidden figure! You can find re-printed editions of her cookbook online.

Thank you to my friend Christina Rice for the Los Angeles Public Library for locating this edition of Ebony Magazine.


Chicken (Chicken breasts work well, as they don’t have to be de-boned.)

The recipe suggests 3 to 4 lbs., but you can adjust this based on how many people you are serving.

2 bay leaves

1 tsp rosemary

1 tbsp curry powder

2 chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery leaves

Chicken broth

1 green pepper

1 stalk celery

3 pods of garlic

1 bunch of green onions

½ cup chopped parsley

Sliced mushrooms

3 cups long grain rice

½ cup strained, crushed pineapple

½ cup melted butter




White sauce:

Chicken broth


Whole milk

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp curry powder

Paprika, salt and pepper to taste


Cook chicken (3 to 4 lbs.) in enough water to cover. Add 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp. rosemary, 1 tbsp. curry powder, 2 chopped onions, 1 cup chopped celery leaves. Cook hour and dice chicken. Cook broth 15 minutes with following chopped: 1 green pepper, 1 stalk celery,3 pods garlic, 1 bunch green onions, 1/2 cup chopped parsley.

When partially done, add diced chicken to vegetables and broth. Let simmer and add sliced mushrooms. Meanwhile cook 3 cups of long grain rice, add 1/2 cup of strained crushed pineapple, 1/2 cup melted butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Let steam over hot water until flaky.

Make 4 cups of extra thick rich white sauce seasoned with 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Add to chicken and vegetable mixture stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup chopped pimentos, 1/2 cup green stuffed olives cut up. Let simmer slowly, stirring to keep from sticking or place in pan of hot water.

Chopped salted almonds and parsley are added after chicken is placed around heart-shaped rice in the center of the plate.

Serve with with toasted bread hearts and cottage cheese and anchovy salad.

*Ruth and I skipped certain ingredients including mushrooms, pimentos and almonds. The great thing about this recipe is that you can customize it to your taste! You can always add more curry powder, paprika, etc.

Special Guest

Donald Bogle is an American film historian and author of six books concerning black history in film and on television including the definitive biography of Dorothy Dandridge. He is an instructor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and at the University of Pennsylvania. He was honored with the Robert Osborne Award at the 2023 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.


These are Donald Bogle's other books and they are well worth reading!

Ruth Mundsack really loves being a part of the TCM community and she's a co-creator of a Classic Film Club in Long Beach, CA. She has been to several TCM Film Festivals and it gives her absolute joy to meet friends and be part of the classic film community or #MyTribe. If you want to follow her on Social Media she's @Cary_Grant_Girl on the Twitter, GirlattheBch on Instagram and Silver Screen LBC on Facebook.

Final Result

This was FANTASTIC!!!! It was flavorful and delicious. I would encourage everyone to give this recipe a try and I will certainly be making it again.

There are Lena Horne films available on DVD, Streaming and Turner Classic Movies.

Please consider supporting Hollywood Kitchen on Patreon or Buy Me A Coffee!

Thank you for watching and stay tuned for more food, fun and film history.

Learn more about Ebony food editor Freda DeKnight!


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