33 Easy Ideas for Turning Leftover Chicken into Dinner

updated Apr 26, 2023
The Kitchn received compensation for this post, which was written and edited independently by our editorial team.
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.

Read more: Here’s How Long Cooked Chicken Lasts in the Fridge

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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Herby Chicken Grain Bowl with Feta Dressing

The beauty of grain bowls is that anything goes! Pick your favorite grain, a protein (looking at you, leftover chicken), a mess of cooked and/or raw veggies, and a creamy dressing, and you’ve got a meal.

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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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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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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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Japanese Chicken and Vegetable Curry with Rice and Quick Cucumber Pickles

Stay home tonight and make a homemade version of a beloved Japanese comfort meal in a flash. Just stir the chicken with the veggies and give it a nice simmer.

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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 Enchiladas

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

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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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Honey-Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry

Since the chicken is already cooked, it just needs to be reheated, so wait to toss it into the wok until the last minute or two of cooking.

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Rotisserie Chicken Tacos

Leftover chicken is the start to the easiest taco Tuesday. Shred the meat and pile it into warm tortillas, or give the meat even more flavor by simmering it with some of your favorite salsa. You can also bulk up the tacos with beans or slaw.

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Easy Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowls

Whether you stuff all the ingredients in a tortilla or pile them in a bowl, a bit of leftover chicken is just the thing to give your burrito a little more substance.

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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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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 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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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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Add Chicken to Stuffed Shells

It might not be traditional, but it certainly is delicious! Shred or cut up the leftover chicken into small pieces, mix it with the ricotta, and cook according to your favorite stuffed shell recipe.

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Easy Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Leftover chicken (along with your cast iron and some frozen pie crust) is the key to a creamy, comforting pot pie that’s easy enough to pull off on a weeknight.

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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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Honey Mustard Chicken Tender Salad

On its own a leafy green salad isn’t always super filling, but toss in a few pieces of chicken and it’s a totally different story. Any type of chicken, regardless of how it was prepared, is fair game here.

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Chicken Ragù with Bacon and Fennel

Turning chicken into a saucy ragù brings life to leftovers. Spoon it over pasta, rice, polenta, or gnocchi.

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Chicken and Broccoli Penne

Chicken and pasta are great on their own, but when combined they’re a force to be reckoned with.

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Copycat PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Most recipes for lettuce wraps start with ground meat, but you can easily use leftover chicken as an alternative. Chop it into small pieces, then mix with the condiments, sauces, and add-ins in the recipe.

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Cold Sesame Chicken and Noodle Salad

This is one of the easiest ways to repurpose those leftovers when you don’t want to turn on the oven.

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Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

When this comfort food is in the meal plan mix, stirring in some leftover chicken is a quick way to bring a little more protein to the table.

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Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken

Your slow cooker is used mainly as a warming device and to help the flavor of the shredded chicken and tangy sauce.

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Chicken Summer Rolls

Starting with leftovers makes this an easy no-cook dinner. All that’s left to do is prep the veggies and stir together the sauce.

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20-Minute Chicken and Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls

Bonus points if you also have roasted vegetables or any sautéed greens on hand, because it mean your noodle bowl comes together even faster and easier.

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The beauty of frittatas is that anything goes. Any veggies, herbs, meat and cheese you have in the fridge are all fair game, and that includes chicken, too. This versatile egg dish is a great way to stretch just a tiny bit of leftover chicken into a full meal.

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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 Shawarma

There’s no better way to bring some fun into a weeknight family dinner than a recipe where the only thing you truly cook is chicken on a sheet pan. A quick marinade allows cumin and warm spices to work their magic to bring life back to leftover chicken. Fold into a warm pita and pile sky-high with your favorite toppings.

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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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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.