The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Chicken
Easy skillets, pastas, salads and more await.
By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen
If you’re reading this article, rejoice: leftover chicken is like a gift to yourself. Light meat, dark meat: both are endlessly versatile. Although there’s nothing wrong with slicing it up and eating it with a side of plain roast veggies, we’re here to give you a dose of inspiration so the first and second days of leftovers are still interesting.
Below, you’ll find a list of our favorite leftover chicken recipes.
But first, here is a great trick for iterating leftover chicken ideas yourself: Any type of recipe that calls for rotisserie chicken can be made with your leftover chicken instead. We've also brainstormed ways to use up leftover chicken by thinking about three main buckets: sandwiching, mixing and topping. Let us explain.
Sandwiching is exactly what it sounds like: layering or wrapping up chicken in bread, tortillas, hard shell tacos or even lettuce. A simple chicken club sandwich with a chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo is a great example. So, too, are chicken tacos. Stuff leftover chicken into hard shells or roll it up in tortillas with chopped tomatoes, avocado, pickled jalapeno and your favorite toppings. Create chicken and cheese quesadillas by sprinkling the two ingredients over a tortilla, topping it with a second tortilla and baking until the cheese is melted. If you’d like a low-carb option, consider rolling up chicken, shredded carrots, cilantro leaves and a creamy salad dressing in large lettuce leaves.
By mixing, we mean stirring leftover chicken into dishes that are already in your repertoire. For example, if you’re making your favorite pasta dish, add chopped chicken at the end and cook it for a few minutes to warm it through. Shred leftover chicken into microwaved mac and cheese, drizzle in buffalo sauce and call it a day. Add it to your go-to casserole recipe. Throw it into soup and simmer until the flavors meld. Combine it with stuffed pepper filling... you get the picture.
Finally, try topping off dishes like pizzas, salads or even baked sweet potatoes with leftover chicken. Serve leftover chicken over cooked rice with some salsa on top. Shred it, toss it with some chipotle chili powder and sprinkle it onto nachos.
Hopefully by now you’re feeling inspired, and just to get those creative juices flowing, here are those recipes we promised.
This skillet casserole, which includes plenty of broccoli and plum tomatoes, rice, shredded leftover chicken and cheese, is a complete meal. Whisk all the ingredients together in the skillet, bake for about 20 minutes and finish it under the broiler for a golden, crusty top.
The secret ingredient in this simple recipe? Canned chipotles in adobo sauce, which you can find in the Mexican aisle of most supermarkets. You only need to use one of the smoky-spicy chiles to instantly infuse shredded chicken with flavor. Stash the rest of the can in your refrigerator and add to scrambled eggs, wing sauce and marinades galore.
Fun fact: Adding chicken to mac and cheese automatically means you can have thirds. Okay, maybe not thirds, but you can feel better about balancing out all of those cheesy carbs with some protein. This mashup dish combines leftover shredded chicken, buffalo sauce and blue cheese into an irresistible casserole.
Instead of smearing sweet potatoes with butter (again), try this: Fill halves with leftover chicken, cheddar cheese, avocado, salsa verde and scallion. Clocking in at about 400 calories, this protein-packed dinner (17 grams) is super satisfying and makes for easy cleanup.
Weeknight curry in a hurry, anyone? Stirring leftover chicken into a flavorful base of tomatoes, shallots, ginger and curry powder is a brilliant shortcut that gets this meal to the dinner table in just 40 minutes. Serve with naan to soak up all the broth.
No tortillas, no problem. Use a vegetable peeler to turn zucchinis into ribbons, which you’ll wrap around cheesy chicken filling instead of tortillas. Creative … and delightfully low-carb. Top off your creation with some big dollops of sour cream — you earned it.
Calling all crust lovers. Baking chicken pot pie in a sheet pan maximizes the surface area, meaning there’s much more flaky pastry. Chicken pot pie recipes are typically a great way to use up leftover chicken, and this recipe is a no-brainer because it calls for less than 30 minutes of hands-on time. Fabulous for a weeknight.
Last but certainly not least is Jeff Mauro’s five-star recipe for chicken salad. The creamy recipe plays on the sweet and tangy flavors of chicken salad with grapes, but swaps in dried cranberries for a more modern feel. Chopped toasted walnuts and celery add plenty of crunchy texture.