33 Ideas for Turning Leftover Chicken into an Easy Dinner

published Sep 19, 2023
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Herby chicken grain bowl on countertop
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Anytime you find yourself with leftover chicken, consider it a very good thing. You can certainly go for a second round of last night’s dinner, but the wonderful thing about this mild-mannered meat is that it’s so easy to repurpose it into an entirely different meal. It doesn’t matter what cut you have handy: Boneless or bone-in breasts and thighs are all fair game, as is whatever you have left over from a rotisserie chicken. It also doesn’t matter how you cooked it the first time around. All it takes is a little inspiration.

If you have a whole lot of leftovers, great. But even if all you’ve got is a scant cup of leftover chicken, you’ve still got a lot of options. We’re here to share a plethora of ideas and dinner essentials that will help you stretch your leftover chicken into a brand-new meal. Here are 33 leftover chicken recipes to try tonight.

How Long Does Leftover Chicken Last?

While leftovers are a saving grace, they don’t stay fresh forever and can be unsafe to eat if held onto for too long. Leftover chicken should be eaten within four days of cooking it.

How Should I Store Leftover Chicken?

After chicken is cooked, it should sit out at room temperature no more than two hours before being refrigerated to slow down bacteria growth. Leftover chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you think you won’t use it within three or four days, you can also freeze it to use at a later date.

Ways to Use Leftover Chicken

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Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

Some chopped or shredded chicken instantly moves nachos firmly into dinner territory. This is a perfect opportunity to use up that last bit of leftover chicken, no matter how much you have!

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Chicken Pot Pie Casserole
Store-bought buttery biscuits bake over chicken and veggies in a rich, creamy sauce.
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Chicken Salad with Grapes

Whether you prefer the classic creamy version or opt for tangy or herby, you can never go wrong with chicken salad.

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Chicken and "Clunkers" Soup
This weeknight recipe starts with boxed chicken broth and a rotisserie chicken for ease and convenience.
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Chicken Sliders
For the best-ever chicken sliders, mix shredded chicken with mayo, sour cream, and scallions. Melty cheese and buttery rolls take things to the next level.
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Classic Cobb Salad
This classic Cobb salad recipe hits that sweet spot of just the right ingredients made in the easiest way possible.
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Enchiladas Suiza
Baked in creamy salsa verde sauce and topped with gooey Oaxaca cheese, these chicken enchiladas are unbelievably delicious.
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White Chicken Chili Skillet Dip

A warm dip can absolutely become dinner when you fill it with chicken and serve it with lots of veggies (and chips, too, of course).

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Dump Chicken Pot Pie
Make a cozy chicken pot pie with just 4 store-bought ingredients and one dish.
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Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Spicy Buffalo chicken plus gooey, crispy pizza is a culinary mash-up masterpiece.
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Instant Pot Congee
The Instant Pot makes delicious congee with minimal effort. Enjoy it plain, or load it up with mix-ins and garnishes for more of a one-pot meal.
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French Chicken Casserole
Layer buttery mashed potatoes over French-inspired chicken pot pie filling for the ultimate comfort food.
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French Bistro Salad with Rotisserie Chicken
A 20-minute dinner salad inspired by the roasted chicken salad at Buvette, a French bistro in NYC’s West Village.
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Chicken Enchiladas

Starting with leftover chicken means a large batch of saucy enchiladas comes together in next to no time.

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Roasted Red Pepper, Chicken and Mozzarella Sandwich

Sandwiches are a quick and easy way to repurpose leftover breasts or thighs into a nearly effortless dinner.

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Chicken Fried Rice

When you don’t quite have enough meat for it to be a meal on its own, this is a cheap and easy way to turn leftovers into dinner for the whole family.

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Cilantro-Lime Chicken Quesadillas

This is my favorite reason to hang on to leftover chicken when there’s just a few bites or the tiniest of pieces remaining. Grab a couple of tortillas and some cheese, and that tiny bit of chicken is suddenly a meal.

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Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Chicken on pizza is always a good idea — especially when alfredo or BBQ sauce are involved.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

If you don’t love leftovers, a casserole is such a great solution for repurposing chicken into a totally different meal. This works well with chicken that wasn’t cooked with a marinade or sauce. Expect most casserole recipes to call for about two to three cups of cooked chicken.

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Weeknight White Chicken Chili

Whether you lean towards white chili, beef chili, or one packed with beans and lentils, there’s always a place for chicken in the pot. Since it’s already cooked, stir it into the pot in the last few minutes of cooking to prevent it from drying out.

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Costco Chicken Bakes

Leftover chicken bodes very well in the company of gooey cheese and smoky bacon bits all wrapped inside the crispy, tender bread of this copycat Costco chicken bake.

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Chicken Lentil Soup

The easiest chicken soup starts with a rotisserie bird from the grocery store or, in this case, whatever leftovers you have handy!

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Rotisserie Chicken Panzanella

Panzanella originated in Italy as a means to let stale bread rub shoulders with fresh ingredients and in turn, build a dazzling bread salad. But this flexible dish is inherently a clean-out-the-kitchen dish – in other words, you can totally add leftover chicken into the mix!

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Enchiladas are one of those perfect meals where you get a little bit of something delicious in every bite.
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Chicken Bog

Starting with cooked leftover chicken lets any skillet dinner come together in a fraction of the time. The example below is a cozy Southern-style meal that calls for rotisserie chicken and sausage, but you can swap it for whatever kind of chicken you have in the fridge.

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Chimichangas are a quick and easy weeknight dinner treat.
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Chicken Spaghetti
Here’s our version of chicken spaghetti that requires no creamed soups but still delivers on big flavors the whole family will love.
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Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This might be the ultimate simple-yet-satisfying dinner. Repurpose leftovers while enjoying one of those potatoes you baked during your weekend meal prep session.

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Brunswick Stew
This flavor-packed stew gets its kick from a mustard-based sauce.
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Curried Chicken Salad
A few hints of sweetness take this classic curried chicken salad into a winner that you can stuff into bread or eat as lettuce wraps.
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Credit: Lauren Volo

Bonus idea: Bulk up a bowl of ramen.

Whether you’re starting with the instant stuff or making it from scratch, you won’t regret bulking up your noodle soup with some chicken. Here are 10 quick and tasty instant ramen upgrades.

This article originally published on The Kitchn. Read it there: 33 Easy Ideas for Turning Leftover Chicken into Dinner