How can you turn leftover chicken into a new meal?
Chicken is a versatile meat and while many recipes call for chicken breast or thighs, you can often substitute this with cooked chicken. We covered 28 ideas for mince here and 20 ideas for leftover sausages, now here are ideas for chicken!
For the following ideas, I have listed what I do or linked to a recipe I’ve used. Feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand though. A lot of the recipes and variations can be found in 26 Ingredients for only $4.95.
Quick tip: because so many have asked, yes, you can change recipes to suit what you have in the cupboard or specific goals such as weight loss. Check out BodyNutrition.org to learn more about how you can make any meal healthier.
Considering how many soup variations there are, soup can be either an entree or a main meal. Plus many soups freeze well or can be used in a thermos for work and school lunches. To make soup go further or be more filling serve with bread, rolls or damper. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Make as much or as little as you like. Simply bring some stock to the boil, add vegetables such as carrot, celery, corn, onion and add your chicken. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked and serve. You can also add rice noodles or any other noodles to make it chicken and vegetable noodle soup.
2L of stock to 1 to 2 cups of vegetables and 1 cup of cooked, shredded chicken would feed 6 people easily. Simple bring it to the boil over medium heat in a saucepan, reduce the temperature to low and cook until the vegetables are soft then serve.
2. Chicken and corn soup
Stock, potato, onion, chicken and corn is all you need. When I make it, I chop up potatoes and cover them with stock (usually 4 potatoes to 2L of stock). Add 1 diced onion, 1 tin of corn and whatever shredded chicken is on hand. Bring to the boil then simmer until the potatoes are soft then puree the soup and serve.
The stock for Pho is delicious. It takes a little more effort than standard stocks but it’s worth it! You can find our favourite recipe here. Instead of the meat in the recipe, simply use the cooked chicken you have leftover and either shred or finely cut it. I’ve used this recipe, swap the beef stock and beef in the recipe for chicken stock and chicken.
A double whammy leftover meal, you can either make risotto from scratch or use leftover soup to make a risotto! Use the soup instead of stock in a risotto recipe with arborio rice and there you have it. Plus, leftover risotto can be turned into arancini balls you can serve with vegetables or salad.
5. Basic Risotto
With arborio rice, stock (or soup) and some vegetables, you have risotto. You can find a basic risotto recipe here which you can add anything you like to. Alternatively, a recipe for risotto and loads of variations from simple ingredients, plus the following arancini balls recipe is in 26 Ingredients for only $4.95.
6. Arancini Balls
With the risotto already made above, use any leftovers to make arancini balls. These are essentially risotto, mixed with an egg, wrapped around cheese or similar and dipped in breadcrumbs then cooked. Delicious as part of antipasto platters, great with a salad or vegetables as a meal on their own or they can be used as a snack. Check out a recipe here and skip through making the risotto to get started on the arancini balls.
Leftovers can be turned into a new meal by making pies and you don’t need a pie maker to do it (although you can get them cheaply at Kmart). All you need is shortcrust pastry, then choose your fillings.
A great base for pies, quiches and tarts, you can make this in bulk and freeze it to use in portions as you need it. Add sugar for sweet dishes or omit sugar for savoury pies. A basic recipe is here or also in 26 Ingredients, along with various pie recipes found below and other suggestions.
7. Simple Chicken Pie
With the shortcrust pastry, make and bake your pie base, then add your fillings. Leftover roast chicken and vegetables can be covered with a thick gravy, white or cheese sauce. Or add some garlic butter to the white sauce for an extra flavour kick.
8. Chicken and Leek Pie
I’ve never made one, but know of many people who love them. You can find a basic recipe for it here.
Make a base or buy one, add sauce, cheese and toppings. Pizza is an easy one to use leftovers with. Bases can be made from either of the recipes below or use tortillas, toast, pide bread, even crumpets for your base, all of which can be found in 26 Ingredients if you want to make your own.
With flour, yeast, water, sugar and oil you can make a simple pizza base. If you have a bread maker it’s even easier because it does the kneading and rising for you. All you have to do is roll it out and use it when ready.
2 ingredients pizza base
Greek yoghurt and flour is all you need for the famous 2 ingredient pizza dough. Others have also used flour and water when in a pinch, though it produces a slightly harder base.
9. Chicken Pizza
Chicken is great with bacon, pineapple, tomato, feta cheese, spinach, leftover vegetables, anything really. Check what you have in your fridge and use it!
Fold your pizza in half and voila! Ok, it’s a little more than that. With the pizza dough rolled out, add toppings only to one half, leaving a gap at the edge. Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the toppings and press the edges together to seal it then bake like you would a pizza.
Pasta dishes are cheap and filling. Pasta bakes can be as simple as cooking a packet of pasta, stirring through a jar of sauce and shredded chicken then top it with cheese. Or you can make sauces from scratch, use a dip or anything else you like. Here are a few of our favourites.
11. Chicken Carbonara Pasta Bake
Cream, cheese, bacon, eggs and pasta is essentially all you need for a great carbonara. Chicken adds a different flavour, you can also add vegetables if you like. For a carbonara pasta bake use pasta shells, penne or similar instead of fettucini or spaghetti. Place it is a tray, cover with cheese and bake until golden brown. For a basic carbonara, check out this recipe.
12. Chicken Dip Pasta
Years ago I had virtually no money and picked up one of those chunky dips reduced to 75 cents. it was a pumpkin flavour, but pesto or similar dips work well too. I cooked up a batch of pasta, then while it was still hot I stirred the dip through and it melted into a great sauce. I added some leftover chicken we had and everyone loved it.
Any time you see chunky dips or dips you like reduced to clear, you can use them for this pasta or freeze them to use later.
Quiches are a great way to use up leftovers. Any meats, sad or leftover veggies, cheese and eggs is all you really need. Some quiches have a base with shortcrust pastry, others use stale bread as the crust and some are crustless. You can make them as a round quiche, a slice or individual quiche muffins which make great snacks for school.
13. Basic Quiche
Eggs, spinach, chicken or pumpkin, potato and cheese make a great frittata but you can use any combination of vegetables. Remember, you can swap ingredients around, bake them in the oven or do a frittata in a skillet.
14. Basic Frittata
A simple frittata recipe can be found here. Our favourite is simply leftover vegetables (usually potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn, covered in whisked eggs and cheese. Baked in a moderate oven for 30 minutes or until set.
Curries are usually coconut or tomato based. Chicken goes great with either option. You can also simply use a jar of sauce if you prefer. Popular chicken curries include Thai green curry, korma and butter chicken.
15. Simple Coconut Curry
Coconut milk, chicken, veggies and curry paste or powder is all you need. If you have curry paste, follow the instructions on the packet. Otherwise, a really easy option is to do the following:
– Fry an onion in a saucepan with a little butter until soft.
– Add whatever vegetables you want to use (cauliflower, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato and carrot are our preferred ones) and your leftover chicken.
– Cover with coconut milk and 1 to 2 tablespoons of curry powder. Bring to the boil then simmer until the vegetables are soft, stirring regularly. Serve with rice.
16. Tomato Curry
Tinned tomatoes, lentils (presoaked or tinned are easiest), chicken and curry powder make a simple tomato curry. Fry a diced onion in a saucepan and fry until soft. Add the lentils, curry powder and tinned tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Add the chicken and if you want, add vegetables. Top with stock if you need then simmer until the lentils and vegetables (if you used them) are soft. You can find a more in-depth recipe here.
Chicken Stew Dishes
Chicken stews can be gravy, tomato or white sauce based, depending on what flavour you want. Chicken, vegetables and a sauce are all that’s needed. Slow cookers are great for making stews in winter or do them in a pot over the stove with dumplings.
17. Chicken and dumplings
Growing up, many of my friends and I had a version of chicken stew with dumplings. The dumplings were simply dough rolled into balls and cooked in the stew to make it all go further. Find a recipe for them here.
Sandwiches and wraps
Hot or cold chicken can be used with salad in sandwiches, toasties and wraps. Here are a few topping combinations.
18. Chicken Salad Sandwich
Bread, chicken, lettuce, beetroot, grated carrot, tomato, cucumber and mayo or whatever sauces and salad you have on hand work well. When making the sandwich use the lettuce on a top layer and cheese or the meat on the bottom layer, with the ‘wet’ ingredients placed between to prevent the bread going soggy.
19. Chicken Toastie
Chicken, cheese, bread and butter is all you need. Butter the bread, place in a frying pan or sandwich press. Add the cheese and chicken (or add tomato and other ingredients too), add the top slice of bread and toast it until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
20. Chicken Wrap
Chicken, lettuce, cucumber, beetroot, tomato, mayo and similar ingredients to the chicken sandwich work well. Again, place the lettuce against the wrap and other ingredients on top to prevent the wrap from going soggy.
Spinach or lettuce based salads are the first types most think of, but there is also coleslaw, bok choy salad with fried noodles and so many other options.
21. Fried Noodle Salad
As a teen, I loved this. You can find a recipe on the back of the fried noodles packet. Essentially, thinly sliced Bok Choy, spring onions, noodles and chicken if you like are mixed together with a dressing and pine nuts or slivered almonds. You have to eat it the day it is made as it goes soggy.
22. Chicken Caesar Salad
One of the most commonly ordered salads at restaurants, a chicken caesar salad is an easy option. Cob lettuce leaves, croutons, bacon, egg, parmesan cheese and caesar dressing are all you need for a basic one.
23. Rice Dishes
Aside from risotto, paella and fried rice are two other options. The important thing with rice dishes is to make sure you use the correct rise – arborio for risotto, white rice for paella and fried rice.
Often associated with seafood, paella can be a chicken dish. You can find a simple recipe for it here.
25. Fried Rice
We have a basic fried rice recipe here. Essentially, using leftover rice, 2 whisked then fried/scrambled eggs along with mixed vegetables, leftover chicken (or any other meat) and soy sauce, you can whip up fried rice with next to no ingredients.
Often when we have a meal with rice I make extra and freeze it. I also freeze leftover meat, have frozen veggies in the freezer always and soy sauce in the cupboard. This means it’s usually only a matter of doing the eggs, then frying everything else together to be able to make fried rice. Making it one of the quickest and easiest meals we make here. My daughters know how to make it too.
Omit sugar from a crepe or pancake recipe and you can have delicious savoury crepes or pancakes which are great anytime! It’s your choice what you fill them with such as meats, vegetables and cheese.
26. Cheesy Chicken Crepes
Loads of Mexican recipes can be made with leftover chicken and are absolutely delicious.
27. Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
This is based on a recipe I got years ago and it a little fiddly, super fatty but amazing! I tend not to make it anymore but it’s great for feeding a crowd.
2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded
Lebanese bread or tortillas (if using Lebanese bread, separate it so you have two thin circles instead of one thick one)
2 x tins of condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups of cheese
Preheat the oven to 180C. Get a large tray for the enchiladas.
Get the Lebanese bread or tortillas, place the chicken down the middle and wrap them like burritos. Place them one next to the other on the tray. Using a knife, poke some holes in each one.
In a bowl, mix together the soup and cream. Pour this over the wrapped up chicken in the tray, making sure it goes into the holes as well.
Cover it all with the cheese then bake for 20 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.
You can add other vegetables with the chicken such as capsicum, zucchini or grated carrot.
28. Chicken Tacos
Taco shells, chicken, salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce and anything else you want to include is all you’ll need. Since the chicken hasn’t been cooked with seasoning it won’t have as much flavour but you could choose to cook the chicken in a taco sauce in a pan to reheat it then serve with the tacos.
Tortillas, cheese, chicken and a frying pan is all you need to make quesadillas. You can add onion, capsicum or anything else you like as well. Place a tortilla in a lightly oiled pan or sandwich press. Add the chicken, cheese and anything else you want. Place another tortilla on top then cook. If you’re using a frying pan, cook until it’s lightly browned then flip and cooked the other side. With a sandwich press, make sure they are lightly golden or browned before serving.
Serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole if desired.
What do you do with leftover chicken?
Remember, most of the above recipes, plus numerous other recipes and tips can be found in 26 Ingredients for only $4.95. Get creative, don’t worry about having exactly what the recipes call for when it comes to meat and veg, instead use what you have!