The 10 Tastiest Recipes for Leftover Chicken: Quick and Easy

Image: Cardinale. Grace. Leftover Chicken Recipes Graphic. PNG. April. 2021

Short on time but still want to put a delicious meal on the table? I’m here to give you recipes for leftover chicken that are quick and easy. Leftover chicken of any kind is a fundamental ingredient with unlimited potential in the kitchen. These are also great recipes for the rotisserie chicken you aren’t sure what to do with. They are easily adaptable and you’ll be able to adjust them based on what you have on hand.

The Best Recipes For Leftover Chicken

Here are 10 recipes for leftover chicken, use them based on your personal taste and what it might already be seasoned with. These are terrific recipes for rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, shredded chicken, roasted chicken, or another cut of chicken. These recipes are aimed towards saving you time, money, effort, and resolve a common household dilemma –  food waste.

1. Chicken Tacos

soft chicken taco with chicken, avacado, corn, tomatoes and red onions
For this meal, all you really need is a tortilla and some well seasoned chicken. Add depth to this simple meal by including avocado, beans, corn, onions, cheese, leafy greens, peppers, cilantro, sour cream, and salsa. To avoid cooked chicken from getting dry when reheating, heat it up in a taco sauce or marinade that adds flavor and moisture to your meal. My go-to recipe for chicken tacos is this “easy chicken tacos” from Damn Delicious. Instead of marinating raw chicken, I simply heat the leftover chicken in the marinade over a pan on medium-low heat.

2. Chicken Wraps

Leftover chicken in a wrap with vegetables and avocado

Wraps are incredibly versatile. In general, they only call for a few basic ingredients most of us already have at home. Add some sliced leftover chicken with a leafy green, a sauce or dressing, and cheese. Then, wrap it all up into your tortilla of choice and you have a full blown meal in under 30 minutes. Honestly, this is the poster child recipe for leftover chicken. For inspiration, these “chicken Pesto Wraps” from Epicurious are super tasty, only use 6 ingredients, and take under 10 minutes to make.

3. Chicken Curry

Tasty and hot leftover chicken curry with white rice
This is an insanely flavorful recipe for leftover chicken but calls for a bit more ingredients. Nonetheless, if you already have a considerable variety of spices and pantry essentials at home, chicken curry is an excellent way to use leftover chicken. The curry sauce keeps the chicken moist even if it’s been in the fridge for a few days. Pair it with some jasmine rice for an even more comforting meal. I’ve been making this “Coconut Chicken and Lentil Curry” from Slimming Eats on a weekly basis and still haven’t gotten tired of it. Plus, it accommodates my busy schedule and I can put a healthy and balanced meal on the table in less than an hour.

4. Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice with chicken and vegetables in a non-stick pan
To make your life even easier, this recipe is not only perfect for leftover chicken but leftover rice as well. On top of that, you can make it with any vegetables you might have close by, and an egg. Typically, I add onion, carrots, zucchini, peas, broccoli, or any other vegetable I have that needs to be used up. Then, I’ll add some teriyaki or soy sauce to bring the meal together. This recipe for chicken fried rice from Averie Cooks only takes about 20 minutes to make and uses simple ingredients. You can always swap ingredients you don’t have for the ones you do. You can practice resourcefulness in the kitchen and utilize all the leftover chicken, vegetables, and even that leftover rice with this chicken fried rice recipe.

5. Chicken Pasta

homemade pasta with leftover chicken and broccoli
Incorporating leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken into a pasta recipe is pretty straightforward. Boil your pasta of choice, create a sauce or use one you already have, then, simply heat all of your ingredients up in a single skillet for a super easy and delicious meal. A leftover chicken recipe with pasta has endless possibilities and includes a sauce that will keep the chicken moist. I usually make something similar to this “creamy tuscan chicken pasta” from, A Spicy Perspective. However, I swap the heavy cream for almond milk and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch for a healthier version that’s just as creamy. Alternatively, you could use zucchini noodles instead of wheat pasta and add them to the skillet after you’ve made the sauce.

6. Soup

hot homemade lentil soup with chicken, vegetables, and herbs
You can easily shred or cube leftover chicken and add it to a broth with vegetables and a grain of choice to make a hearty and comforting soup. For a healthier soup, use wild rice or lentils instead of wheat pasta with a bounty of vegetables. This is a low-effort recipe for leftover chicken that uses up vegetables in your fridge on the verge of going bad. My go-to recipe for soup with leftover chicken is chicken noodle soup. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and you really only need broth, leftover chicken, pasta, and whatever veggies you like. Check out our article, “Healthy Soup Recipes Guaranteed To Keep You Warm This Winter” for some inspiration on how to make a healthy soup with leftover chicken.

7. Healthy Grain Bowl with Chicken

grain bowl with cooked chicken, tomatoes, broccoli, pesto, and a grain
Grain bowls are a healthy and nourishing way to use that leftover chicken from your meal the day before. Choose a grain-like, rice, quinoa, farro, or a similar alternative. I like to use farro, sliced leftover chicken, cherry tomatoes, avocado, feta cheese, and a touch of balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Moreover, make this recipe your own with your favorite veggies, grain, and dressing. Check out this enticing Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice Bowl recipe from Delish to give you some inspiration on how to create a healthy grain bowl with leftover chicken.

8. Grilled Flatbread Pizza

hot flatbread pizza with cooked chicken, olives, onions, marinara, and mozzarella cheese
If you’re craving a healthy version of a classic comfort food, a flatbread pizza is a phenomenal recipe for leftover chicken or even rotisserie chicken. You can make flatbread at home, or buy some from any grocery store. Spread a tomato sauce or alfredo sauce on the base and add a sprinkle of cheese. Then, top it with your leftover chicken and any of your favorite pizza toppings. Put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees and you have a pizza with leftover chicken in less than a half hour. I am a huge fan of this “BBQ chicken flatbread pizza” from Life in the Lofthouse.

9. Summer Rolls with Chicken

Spring sliced summer rolls with chicken, cabbage and carrot on a wooden cutting board
Summer rolls are a healthy and refreshing meal idea that works well with leftover chicken. You’ll need some rice paper to wrap vegetables like cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and lettuce in along with some leftover chicken. I like to eat mine with a peanut sauce, but a vinaigrette dressing is an excellent alternative. The rice paper might intimidate you, but with a little practice, summer rolls could be a weekly recipe for leftover chicken. Here’s a recipe from Kroll’s Korner for summer rolls with rotisserie chicken.

10. Salad with Leftover Chicken

Salad with sliced grilled chicken, greens, tomatoes, and feta cheese

At times, you might be looking for something light and nourishing. When figuring out what to do with leftover chicken, a salad works great as a side or meal. You can incorporate leftover chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken to your favorite leafy greens, healthy fats like nuts and seeds, and a dressing of choice for a super quick and nutritious meal. I use arugula with sharp cheddar cheese, avocado, rotisserie chicken, and toss with a vinaigrette dressing. Making a salad with leftover chicken is especially convenient if you also have lots of greens and cheese about to go bad.

Tips on Using Leftover Chicken Featuring Ari Laing

Here are some tips for making quick and easy meals with leftover chicken featuring an interview with Ari Laing. Ari is an expert on cooking restaurant worthy meals with minimal effort. Check out her website, Well Seasoned Studio for inspiration to find show stopping recipes that won’t have you spending all day in the kitchen.
Be Resourceful
When deciding on a recipe for leftover chicken, look at what you already have at home. Use what you have leftover in your fridge. What recipes do you have most of the ingredients for? What substitutions or adaptations can you make? According to Ari, cheese and condiments are great ingredients to incorporate in a recipe for leftover chicken. The fat from the cheese will add intense flavor and bring the chicken back to life. You don’t need every single ingredient a recipe calls for to make a delicious meal. Get creative and make it your own with what you have. Like Ari says, you can create simple, reimagined meals just by using leftovers.
Avoid Recipes that Rely on Intense Flavor
It is difficult to season chicken effectively when it’s already cooked. That’s why soups, salads, grain bowls, and pasta are foolproof ways to use leftover chicken. These recipes for leftover chicken integrate chicken in a manner that won’t totally rely on it. In other words, recipes, where chicken is the star of this dish, aren’t advantageous with leftover chicken. Overall, flavor-intense recipes won’t help you make the most out of your chicken.
Choose Recipes with Moisture
Anything that helps preserve or adds moisture to your leftover chicken will have you forgetting you’re using chicken that’s been in the fridge for a few days. So, choose recipes with sauce or dressing like pasta, curry, a grain bowl, or salad. Another way to add moisture to your leftover chicken is in a soup, or by heating it back up in a sauce.
Adapt Your Recipe Based on the State of Your Chicken
Throughout the week, adapt your recipes to make the most of the state your chicken is in. For instance, if it hasn’t been in the fridge long and still has lots of flavor and moisture, you could make tacos, a wrap, or salad. Later in its life, make recipes with more moisture like soup or curry that restore its integrity.
Reheat Chicken with a Bit of Liquid
Reheating cooked chicken often dries it out more. Avoid this by reheating it with a bit of moisture. Whether that be water, a broth, or a sauce.
Use Chicken on the Bone
Ari recommends if you plan on meal prepping chicken to use in recipes throughout the week, choose chicken that’s still on the bone. Cuts that are still on the bone stay moist longer. So, cuts on the bone create more flexibility when it comes to choosing a recipe for leftover chicken.

How Long Can You Keep Cooked Chicken in The Fridge?

So, how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? Once cooked, chicken that is stored in the fridge should be good to eat for 3-4 days. Check out this cold food storage chart from foodsafety.gov to see how long leftovers last in the fridge or freezer. 
glass container with a grilled chicken breast on top of a bed of brown rice

In general, use your senses when determining how long cooked chicken lasts in the fridge. Inspect it for any unusual discoloration or a slimy film. Along with a visual inspection, smell leftover chicken to make sure it’s still safe to eat. If it smells rancid or very different from when you originally cooked it, you shouldn’t eat it.

How to Store Leftovers in the Fridge

When it comes to storing leftover chicken in the fridge, follow these suggestions to maximize its use. Proper storage means you’ll avoid food waste in the kitchen and save time and money by making the most of the food you buy.
  • Keep your leftovers in an airtight container.
  • To avoid leftovers from getting forgotten about, keep them in a designated place in the fridge that’s easy to see.
  • Store leftovers in a clear container. This way, you’ll know exactly what you have on hand every time you open the fridge.

Food Safety and Chicken

If you plan on cooking chicken to store in the fridge for a few days to make weeknight meals easier, be sure to follow all safe handling instructions for chicken. Chicken can make you sick when handled incorrectly. When handling chicken, follow these guidelines:
  • The temperature of cooked chicken should be 165 degrees fahrenheit (USDA).
  • Leftovers that are being reheated should also be 165 degrees fahrenheit (USDA).
  • Refrigerate cooked food within two hours of it being cooked.
  • Raw chicken will last 1-2 days after being unwrapped (USDA).
  • Keep raw meat separate from everything else you handle or cook to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw meat.
  • If you plan on cooking chicken to meal prep for the week, check out this table for the approximate cooking times for each cut of meat you might be preparing.
  • If you have chicken that’s about to go bad, store it in the freezer to prolong its life and avoid food waste. Here’s a guide on reheating frozen chicken from Love Food Hate Waste.
  • If you need guidance on how to store food and drinks to optimize their life, check out the foodkeeper app. The app tells you how long the item in question is good for and how it should be stored.

Recipes For Leftover Chicken: The Bottom Line

Leftover chicken sliced on a cutting board with lime and cilantro
Use these tips and recipes for leftover chicken to make the most of your leftovers throughout your busy week. Leftover chicken is super convenient for a quick, easy, and healthy meal. It is an incredibly versatile protein and easy to incorporate into most meals. Choose recipes for leftover chicken that preserve or improve its moisture and aren’t centered around the chicken. Avoid letting food go to waste and make delicious meals by being creative in the kitchen. Use what you have handy to save time, money, and resources.

Do you aspire to be less wasteful and more resourceful?

Try one of these recipes for leftover chicken as the perfect place to start.

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Olivia deGregory

Written by Audrey Madison