The Best Leftover Chicken Recipes
Now that the holidays are winding down, many of us are looking forward to relaxing back into a bit of a slower pace and enjoying the shorter days, cozy nights, and “hunkering down” for the winter. Particularly if you did a lot of cooking over the holidays, you might also be looking forward to NOT cooking or getting back to basics rather than intricate holiday meals.
When it comes to easy meals, a little bit of meal prep or reusing your leftovers goes a long way. Leftovers are a great way to reduce food waste and can help streamline your days when you’re looking forward to simplifying life a little bit.
Here are some of the best ways to use your pasture raised chicken leftovers in salads, soups, and casseroles.
Paleo Chicken Salad
If you follow our posts regularly, you know that we often grab recipe inspiration from the Paleo Running Momma blog - her recipes are easy, healthy, and paleo friendly, and this paleo chicken salad is no exception. You can use leftovers from a whole rotisserie chicken or from boneless, skinless chicken breasts and you likely have the rest of the ingredients in your pantry.
Chicken salad is a really versatile way to use your leftovers, because it makes a great meal on top of greens as a healthy protein addition to salad, and is a healthy and filling snack when eaten with paleo crackers or raw veggies. If you don’t have any fresh herbs on hand (it is winter, after all), you can substitute dried herbs, just make sure that you lower the quantity accordingly. A rule of thumb is that 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. Since this recipe calls for teaspoon quantities of fresh herbs, a few sprinkles of dried herbs should provide more than enough flavor.
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1/4 cup onion diced
2 stalks celery diced
1 small apple diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries apple juice sweetened, or raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup homemade mayo or use store-bought paleo mayo
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh sage leaves minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Once you’ve prepped your ingredients, the combination is simple. In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, onion, celery, apple, cranberries and pecans. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice. Toss the “dressing” with the chicken mixture, then add a little more salt and pepper if you like, and serve over salad greens, in lettuce wraps, or as a dip with crackers or veggies.
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Casseroles are such a comforting, nourishing food, especially in winter when temperatures are colder and you want to warm up with a home cooked meal. This recipe for Healthy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole from realsimplegood.com calls for chicken thighs, but can be just as easily made with leftovers from thighs, breasts, or rotisserie chicken. There are several similar recipes on the web, but many paleo chicken broccoli casseroles call for making a creamy sauce with cashews. While this is a delicious paleo alternative to the typical casserole-y cream sauce, the point of this post is to offer easy leftover ideas, and pureeing cashews in a high powered blender adds a bit more work than you probably want to undertake for a leftovers-based recipe. This recipe uses coconut milk instead, but don’t worry, it doesn’t lend a strong coconut taste, the coconut milk provides a creamy base but the flavor blends in well with the other ingredients.
2 lbs chicken thighs (or leftover chicken) - note that the original recipe includes instructions for cooking the chicken. We’ve removed that here since you’re using leftovers, but you can access the original recipe from the link above if you need to include the chicken cooking step.
1 tbsp avocado oil
10 pieces bacon, diced
3 cups cauliflower rice
4 cups broccoli florets
2 cups mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
2 tbsp minced garlic
1.5 cups coconut milk
Salt and pepper, about 1 tsp each
1 tbsp butter, ghee or coconut oil
Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
Once you’ve prepared the other ingredients as noted above, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the diced bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to get crispy, about 6-7 minutes. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate.
To prepare the cream sauce, add the mushrooms and cook until just soft, approximately 2 minutes. Add in the arrowroot flour and minced garlic and mix with the mushrooms, stirring for about 1-2 minutes. When the mixture is combined, slowly add in the coconut milk, stirring constantly for 2 minutes until there are no lumps. Once the sauce begins to thicken, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.
In a greased 9×13 baking dish, layer the cauliflower rice, broccoli, chicken, bacon and creamy sauce and carefully mix to combine. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes and allow to rest and cool for a few minutes before serving.
Leftover Roast Chicken Soup
This soup is hands down, one of our favorite nourishing meals. Made with leftover rotisserie chicken, root vegetables, and savory herbs, it’s comfort in a bowl. If you want to simplify it a bit, feel free to use frozen vegetables in place of fresh (this cuts down on work especially where the butternut squash is concerned, since you’ll have to peel and roast it if you’re using fresh.) We love using bone broth instead of chicken stock to add some extra nutrient density, so we’ve made that change below. The original recipe comes from Against All Grain, which is an excellent resource for healthy paleo-friendly recipes.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed*
½ yellow onion, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups chicken stock or bone broth
2-3 cups leftover shredded chicken
¾ teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
1 cup water
2 cups baby spinach
If you’re using fresh vegetables, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the vegetables in the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until tender. While the veggies are roasting, bring the chicken stock or bone broth to a simmer in a large stock or soup pot. Add the chicken, herbs, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook while the vegetables are roasting, about 15 minutes.
The creaminess in this soup comes from pureeing some of the vegetables and adding the pureed veggies back to the pot. When you add your roasted veggies to the pot, add only half, and add the remaining vegetables in a blender with 1 cup of water. (If you’re using frozen vegetables in place of fresh, you can steam them in the microwave or on the stove until they’re soft enough to puree.) Add the vegetable puree back to the pot along with the baby spinach and simmer all ingredients together for 5-10 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the soup is hot.
Adjust seasonings to your taste.
Feel free to provide your favorite way to use leftover pasture raised chicken, in the comments!