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. 

How to Make Shredded Chicken in the Slow Cooker

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.

Chicken Piri Piri

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.

So, without further ado: here’s what can be made from shredded chicken!

24 Recipes Using Shredded Chicken

Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup

Lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, rice noodles all come together in one of my favorite seasonless soups.

Spicy Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Some kick, how much depends a bit on your poblanos. You will definitely want to make extra chicken for the sole purpose of making these cheesy enchiladas.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas

A chicken quesadilla recipe to keep changing up. 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. Such an easy weeknight dinner.

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

This divine soup is scented with chili, cumin and coriander, and topped with all kinds of deliciousness, like avocado and tortilla crisps. This is one of my favorite soups of all time. 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.

Late Summer Cobb Salad

The salad to keep up with the end-of-summer influx of produce. 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.

Pasta Salad with Chicken and Chipotle Dressing

Leftovers join forces to become this better-than-I-expected salad. The dressing packs some light heat, and the add-ins can vary according to your mood, and your pantry.

Chicken Marsala Pasta

Pick up some mushrooms and a rotisserie chicken and have this pasta for dinner in about 30 minutes. 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).

Chicken Sate Salad / Laura Agra / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Chicken Satay Salad

The salad for anyone who can't get enough of that great peanutty chicken satay dressing. A serious salad meal. 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.

Shredded Chicken Tacos

The chicken taco filling is pulled together with a tomato sauce that has piquancy and depth.

Herbed Chicken Salad

Herbed mayo turns some simply shredded chicken breasts into an amazing chicken salad.

Southwestern Chicken Taco Salad Bowl

This salad is a full-on festival of color and texture and flavor — a joy to look at and a joy to eat.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

If you like Caesar Salad, and you also like pasta salad this is your lucky day. This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is the best of both worlds.

Barbecued Chicken Quesadillas

This is 100% worth saving some leftover cooked (or rotisserie!) chicken to make—so easy, super kid-friendly, and you can use bottled sauce and have them ready in minutes.

Smoky Chipotle Chicken Salad

This chicken salad has a little heat and a lot of crunch.

Chicken and Avocado Salad

Chunky and creamy and satisfying. This, like pretty much all salads, is a super flexible recipe.

Pasta Salad with Chicken, Avocado and Tomato

Summery, colorful, delicious. Perfect for entertaining, packing for an office lunch, picnics, you name it.

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Comfort food, but on the lighter side.

Easiest Baked Chicken Quesadillas

When you are making quesadillas for a crowd, baking them is the way to go. These are super cheesy and flavorful, and stuffed full of great things.

Overstuffed Chicken and Vegetable Quesadillas

I would much rather have a few wedges of a generously filled quesadilla than multiple wedges of a skimpy quesadilla.

Pasta Salad with Chicken, Green Olives, and Ramp Vinaigrette

Chicken salad meets Spring. This pasta salad is heavy on the chicken.

Chicken, Onion and Mushroom Quesadillas

These are really nicely stuffed, and filled with all the good stuff. These could definitely function as an appetizer, but also seriously qualify as a meal.

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Dip

Some shredded chicken, a couple of cheeses, a generous glug of hot sauce, and you have a crowd-pleaser of a hot dip.

Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chicken Enchilada Cups

While I am never about cuteness in food for cuteness’ sake, in this particular case it really works.

Indonesian Chicken Salad

This is the salad for people who might not think a main-course salad is really a thing. (And if you’ve ever ordered Chinese Chicken Salad on a menu, this is for you.)

Best Chicken Salad

A few flavorful and crunchy add-ins turn everyday chicken salad into something you would pay hard-earned cash for at a really nice deli or specialty food counter.

Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti

This is pure Italian comfort food, Chicken Parmesan translated into a pasta casserole.

Chopped Salad with Chicken, Tomatoes and Lemon Thyme Dressing

This was one of the best lunches ever, just that perfect chopped salad.

Chinese Chicken Salad

The colorful, classic restaurant salad is yours to make at home, savory and sweet, with lots of crunch.

Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Spread Sandwich

A creamy avocado spread turns a chicken sandwich into a lunch to remember (and the bacon doesn't hurt).

Chopped Salad with Chicken and Blue Cheese Dressing

A perfect chopped salad, with a terrific assortment of ingredients; every forkful is a good one.

Easy Rotisserie Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas

With a rotisserie chicken, a bag of shredded cheese, and some tortillas on hand, a quesadilla lunch or dinner is but minutes away.

Greek Chicken Pasta Salad

This is so, so pretty, and can be made ahead, which is great when you have a crew of guests.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

Instead of buying this at Le Something Or Other, it’s a very easy wrap to make at home!

Hashbrown Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie Casserole

Chunks of tender chicken, copious amounts of vegetables, all bound together with an savory sauce.

Lemony Chicken, Barley and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

This is truly a meal of a soup, perfect for a cold weekday night or a break from holiday overindulgence.

Chicken Recipes That Make Good Leftovers:

Also see: How to Safely Thaw Frozen Chicken.

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