Once you start buying chicken in bulk and doing bulk cooking, you’ll eventually wind up with some serious chicken leftovers. In an ideal world, you’ll even plan to! Leftovers are your friends: they save you time and effort, and they help keep the grocery bill down. Here’s how to get creative with your new “friends,” so that you can get the most out of your time with them.
1. Make them into something else.
We all have different “food variety thresholds.” Some of us can eat the same meal every night for a couple of weeks at a time, and some of us need to change things up more often. Fortunately, chicken lends itself to “changing things up.”
The easiest thing to do is to cook a whole chicken with some unobtrusive seasonings, as in this chicken soup or this slow cooker roast chicken. Use the soup for lunches or serve the roast for dinner. Then take the leftover meat from either recipe and do other things with it. Try any of the following:
- Casseroles: Some chicken casseroles, like this Enchilada Bake or this Baked Italian Chicken, already call for cooked chicken. Others can usually be adapted by reducing the baking time.
- Soups or chilis: If you didn’t start with soup, be sure you make some at some point. The soup recipe linked above can easily be adapted to pre-cooked meat. And most no-bean chili recipes can be adapted to use chicken, or you can find specific chicken chili recipes online.
- Chicken salad: Great for spring and summer! Use for lunches, or serve on a bed of fresh greens for a light supper. Just make sure you’re using sugar-free mayonnaise, then mix it up and enjoy!
- Barbecue: Of course we would all rather have barbecue fresh from the grill. But if the chicken has already been cooked, go ahead and soak it in some sauce anyway. If you have whole chicken parts, put the sauce on them and then bake. For pulled chicken you can bake it or heat it in a skillet or pan.
- Dips: This Buffalo Chicken Dip could easily be made with pulled leftover chicken. A Google search will turn up dozens more recipes.
2. Freeze the leftovers for later.
If you’re bulk cooking, you’re probably already doing this. The rest of us might need to get into the habit. Don’t just freeze plain leftover chicken to use in other dishes. Freeze those casseroles, that fried chicken–anything that you’ve eaten enough of for now. Cooked chicken will store in the freezer for four to six months; you’ll probably be ready for those flavors again long before the time runs out. (The one exception here is chicken salad; mayonnaise just doesn’t freeze well!)
3. Save them for broth or stock.
You don’t have to start with an uncooked chicken to make broth or stock. Place bones and meat from plain or lightly seasoned chicken in the freezer until you have enough to roughly equal all the bones from a chicken carcass and about one quarter of the meat. Then grab a stock pot or slow cooker, look up a good stock recipe, and simmer for about half the time required for uncooked chicken. (Or simmer for the full time for a richer stock.) Freeze the resulting stock, throw away the bones, and save any leftover meat.
4. Use leftovers on sandwiches or salads.
You’re probably already doing this with plain chicken. But what about with your leftover casseroles or other dishes? Make a wrap using romaine lettuce, or make a sandwich on some homemade flax bread. And there’s nothing wrong with throwing some barbecue chicken or other leftovers over some greens for a quick and different salad. (Use the right leftovers, and you might not need any dressing.)
Chicken is one of the most inexpensive and versatile meats available to us on a low carb diet. Planning and using leftovers can help us get the most out of this healthy food, and it doesn’t have to leave us bored.
This list of ideas only scratches the surface: what do you do with your leftover chicken?
Frugal Jen is a low carber and penny-pincher who can often be found sneaking leftovers for breakfast. Jen blogs about living low carb on a budget at The Frugal LowCarber (http://www.flowcarber.com).