What to Do with Leftover Chicken
What do to with those leftover chicken breasts? Those leftover chicken thighs? Shred them! Leftover cooked shredded chicken is one of the most perpetually useful things to have in your fridge. Whether it’s from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, or just extra chicken from a dinner earlier in the week, whether the chicken has been poached, grilled, roasted, baked or steamed, it’s a goldmine of future recipes and meals waiting to happen. (Psst….anything on this list also works with leftover shredded turkey! Which many of us will have in our fridges right after Thanksgiving.)
If you’re super smart, you’ll plan ahead and make a few extra pieces of chicken whenever you cook chicken and then you’ll have this springboard for all sorts of great meals later in the week. You can plan for leftover chicken breasts or thighs, or even a whole extra roast chicken. I often buy a rotisserie chicken at the market if I’m not sure what the week’s meal plan is, because there will be a dinner one way or another. There are so many leftover chicken ideas, easy shredded chicken recipes just waiting to happen.
How to Shred Chicken
You can shred chicken while it’s still warm, once it’s cooled to room temperature, or when it’s cold from the fridge. You can use your fingers, which is the easiest way to shred chicken, or you can use two forks to pull apart the meat. And, you can shred the chicken as roughly or as finely as you like, in pieces large or small, depending on the texture you are looking for and how you’re using it. I like smaller pieces for soups and enchiladas and burritos, and larger chunks for stews and salads.
How Long is Cooked Chicken Good For?
Leftover cooked chicken will last in the fridge will last for 3 or 5 days, depending on how fresh the chicken was when you cooked it. Keep it tightly sealed in a container or well-sealed zipper top bag.
10 Great Leftover Shredded Chicken Recipes
You will definitely want to make extra chicken for the sole purpose of making these cheesy enchiladas.
You can vary the vegetables in a chicken-based quesadilla based on what you have in the fridge (another great way to use up leftovers!). Shredded chicken gives these quesadillas real substance and turns what could be just a snack or an appetizer into a real meal.
It’s bursting with flavor, and if you have leftover shredded chicken at the ready it comes together very quickly. Another soup that can easily hold its own as the main course. Serve with Roasted Garlic and Tomato Bread if you like.
Lay down a bed of crunchy lettuce, and then create rows of whatever ingredients you’re craving, with a row of shredded chicken going right down the middle. I like leftover chicken breasts for this one. Tomatoes, chickpeas, onions, avocados, bacon….anything you’d like to see in your salad is fair game.
Adding some shredded chicken to nachos gives them heft and texture and protein and turns them into a meal. So, for a party (especially if there are teenagers as part of the mix) and want a surefire hit, you will be hard pressed to find something more crowd pleasing than a nacho bar, and offering shredded chicken as one of the toppings is a great idea.
A perfect topping for baked potatoes. How about shredded chicken, diced avocado, and either creamy, mild Monterey Jack or tangy goat cheese crumbles?
The dressing packs some light heat, and the add-ins can vary according to your mood, and your pantry.
This is the very definition of an easy weeknight dinner, with a sauce anchored by a bit of richly flavored marsala wine and a generous amount of sautéed mushrooms. And guess what—only 5 ingredients (not including the pasta and olive oil, which I hope you’ll think is fair).
And there you have it—10 things to do with leftover chicken. 10 solid reasons to make extra chicken, and use it all week long.
Chicken Recipes That Make Good Leftovers:
- Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lime, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herb Marinade
- Baked Chicken Legs with Herbs and Lemon
- Greek Roasted Chicken Thighs
- Greek Roasted Chicken Breasts
- Garlicky Roast Chicken with Shallots and Potatoes
Also see: How to Safely Thaw Frozen Chicken.