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You can save a ton of money and time buying one whole chicken and making it into three wonderful leftover chicken meals. It’s easier than you think. And you’ll have multiple easy dinner ideas at your fingertips.
Buying whole chickens is much more economical than just getting boneless skinless chicken breast. Whole chickens have a better variety of meat and nutrition available as well. Making delicious meals from leftover chicken is super easy.
Dark meat actually has more flavor than white meat and stays moister when cooked. People who only eat the breast are missing out on a lot of wonderful eating. I love the idea of not wasting any part of the chicken, so we are being respectful of the life of the animal. Click here to see more ways to cut down on food waste and save your money!
It’s so important to feed our families healthy meals. For help in how to transition to more real food meals, click here.
What to do with leftover chicken
These recipes can be used for leftover chicken or the leftover turkey you froze after the holidays. Every time I used to roast a turkey for my husband’s family, my mother-in-law would sit at the kitchen table after dinner and tear all the meat off the bones and bag it up for me. It was such a blessing not to have to deal with all that later.
Since she taught me that, I have tried to continue to do it right away so I don’t have to find a place in the fridge for that big ole pan the turkey cooked in. It was a great tradition she started. I miss her.
I hate wasting food, so I try to use up every bit of what I buy. As soon as the meat is picked off of the bones of any whole bird I cook, I throw them in a stockpot of water and boil it up with some aromatics to make my own broth. Click here to see how to make your own broth for the freezer. I love using homemade broth in my recipes. It’s so much healthier and I know what’s in it.
I save vegetable peels and scraps in a bag in the freezer so I’m not throwing them away. Then, I dump those in with my bones to make a super flavorful and nutrient-dense broth. I love saving money on food by using up everything I buy. Click here to see more about how to save money by wasting less.
Back to our leftover chicken. You can either roast a chicken in the oven like you do turkey, cook it in the crockpot or even the instant pot.
Cooking a whole chicken in the Instant Pot
To cook your whole chicken in the instant pot:
- Place a cup of water in your instant pot.
- Place the steam rack inside the pot.
- Place your chicken on the rack.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper or other seasonings you’d like.
- Lock the lid and make sure your steam vent is closed.
- Set the instant pot to chicken and add 6 minutes for each pound of chicken.
- Allow the steam to release naturally. (15 minutes)
I love the instant pot because you just set it and walk away. That’s the same reason I love my crockpot. The instant pot can pressure cook or slow cook, so it’s a super cool tool to have. I use both all the time. Click here to see how to cook your chicken in the instant pot when it’s fully frozen.
Cooking a whole chicken in the Crockpot
This time I cooked my chicken in the crockpot because it was already out. I just threw some cut-up carrots, potatoes, and onions in the bottom of my crockpot. Added my chicken, salt and pepper and put on the lid. Cook it for 4 hours on high or 6-8 on low.
Roast a whole chicken in the oven
If you want to roast a whole chicken in the oven, it’s a similar technique. Just place veggies in the pan, set the chicken on top and add seasonings. Roast chicken in the oven uncovered at 350 for about an hour and 15 minutes.
Any way you decide to cook your chicken, make sure the internal temperature of any poultry is 165. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, consider getting one. They are inexpensive and you can avoid illness from underdone meat. Just stick it in the thigh of the bird and see what’s up. Don’t touch it to the bone in there though, the bones are hotter than the meat. You can also wiggle the leg and if it’s loose in the socket, it’s probably done.
Once we cooked our whole chicken, we cut a few pieces off for dinner. We had chicken, the cooked vegetables from the bottom of the crockpot, and a side of other roasted vegetables we had on hand. It was super-duper delicious.
After dinner, in mother-in-law style, I pulled off the rest of the meat from the leftover chicken and put it in two freezer bags in the freezer. I like to freeze my meat so I don’t feel rushed to cook it. I hate the thought of letting anything spoil, so I freeze a lot of things.
Whole chicken on sale
When whole chickens are on sale, you can save a ton of money by buying one and stretching it in different ways. There are a million and one things you can do with the rest of that chicken that are sure to be crowd-pleasers for your family. Shredded chicken is great for tacos, enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, pot pie, fried rice, stir fry, and a ton of other things.
You can make pasta salads, pasta dishes, chicken spaghetti, and chicken salad. Chicken nachos are great, chicken chili, chicken soup, the list could go on forever. Chicken is so versatile! We made chicken fried rice and chicken enchiladas out of our leftovers. Leftover chicken is super versatile.
Leftover chicken fried rice
Chicken Fried Rice
- 2 cups brown rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 3 T coconut oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 sliced carrots
- 1 small diced hot pepper of choice
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 crowns broccoli cut up
- 1 cup leftover shredded chicken
- 4 beaten eggs
- ½ bag frozen peas thawed
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 T. soy sauce
- Place rice and stock in rice cooker.
- Set rice cooker for 90 minutes.
- In a skillet, put coconut oil, onion, carrots, hot pepper, and ginger.
- Cook until ingredients are tender.
- Add broccoli, chicken, and eggs.
- Cook and stir until eggs are done.
- Add peas, garlic crushed, and soy sauce.
- Cook and stir one minute longer.
Note: When cooking recipe in skillet, heat should be on medium.
Leftover chicken enchiladas
Leftover Chicken Enchiladas
Creamy chicken enchiladas with leftover chicken.
- 3 T. butter
- ½ large onion chopped
- 2 small hot peppers chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 T. flour
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 2 cups cheese I used mozzarella and cheddar because that’s what I had on hand
- 12 corn tortillas
- Melt butter in skillet
- Add onions, peppers, salt, pepper and garlic
- Cook until onions are tender
- Add flour and stir until flour is slightly brown
- Add sour cream and stock all at once
- Cook and stir until thick and bubbly
- Add chicken and 1 cup cheese
- Stir until combined
- Heat tortillas for one minute in a moist towel in the microwave
- Place a spoonful of filling in tortillas and roll them
- Place them in a casserole dish, seam side down
- When all the enchiladas are rolled, dump the remaining filling on top
- Sprinkle another cup of cheese on top.
- Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until heated through and top is bubbly
I love how I can buy one meat product and stretch it to make so many great dishes. A whole chicken is fairly affordable and gives you a ton of options. I also love how much time I save when I leftover cook like this.
Once you get in the habit of doing it, a world of imagination will open up for you. You’ll think of all kinds of things you can do with less. And save a ton on your groceries. Click here to see how I made one pork roast stretch to five meals. And for more ways to cook a whole chicken, turkey, or duck, and even cornish hen, check this out.
For more ways to use leftover chicken, check this out:
Kids love these and for more kid-friendly chicken recipes, click here.
If you need basic cooking skills, check this out. It can help!