Tips for stretching a whole chicken, plus a variety of recipes to use your leftover chicken!
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Back to school schedule rhythms
We are back into fall routines, and we all know that means needing a little more rhythm to our meal plan! Many of us are back to busy schedules, after school activities, homework…and enjoying all of the fun fall events too! This felt like a simple enough post to write, but I felt very important, since this “using a whole chicken for multiple meals” thing is something that I rely on very heavily on a weekly basis during the school year.
My year ’round menu staple…
Learning how to cook a whole chicken was one of the very first things I learned how to make when I started my whole foods journey. I was actually quite sick at the time. After seeing doctor after doctor, I saw a more holistically minded practitioner that turned my focus to healing through food. I made my first whole chicken and my own bone broth, and over a period of a few months, and other diet clean-ups, I saw a significant change in my health. I was sold, and the practice of making a whole chicken and broth on a weekly basis became a household staple.
It isn’t as intimidating as it sounds!
Little did I know that years after I got into that rhythm of making a whole chicken and broth, and I started having children, that this simple kitchen task would actually end up becoming a budget and meal planning lifesaver! Whole chickens are less per pound than chicken parts, and you can really stretch that chicken into multiple meals. Of course if you have a larger family, you may need to make more than one chicken at a time to accomplish this! Here are a few posts to get you started on your own journey to making whole chicken! Use whatever kitchen appliance you have – I have a method for just about anything!
- How to Make a Whole Chicken In the Instant Pot
- How to Make a Whole Chicken In the Slow Cooker or Oven Roaster (an oven roaster allows for multiple whole chickens to be made at a time, by the way! If you like to batch up for a month, or you have a larger family, this is definitely worth looking into!)
- How to Make a Slow Roasted Chicken in the Oven
Onto the recipes!
Whether you plan to make a whole chicken specifically to use in a recipe like these, or you plan to make a whole chicken for dinner, and use the leftovers for another meal, I think you’ll find that the possibilities are endless when it comes to utilizing the whole chicken for your weekly meal plan!
Recipe #1 :: Chicken Noodle Soup (plus other chicken soup ideas!)
The quintessential leftover chicken recipe, and my “go-to” on many weeks, is soup. Whether that be chicken noodle soup, or something heartier like stew, it is truly a no brainer. Save the juices that you cook your whole chicken in (called meat stock), and you can literally make soup in the same pot as your whole chicken! Also! If you need some biscuit ideas to go with your soup, you can try my Grain Free Butter Biscuits, my Soft Fluffy Pumpkin Biscuits, or my Cheesy Spinach Biscuits! Here are some of our soup favs with chicken (all of these are gluten and dairy free!):
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Creamy Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup
- Autumn Harvest Chicken Stew
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Ginger & Leek Chicken Noodle Soup
- Chicken Pot Pie Soup
- Chipotle Chicken & Vegetable Soup
- Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder
Recipe #2 :: Chicken Fajitas
I can’t think of a way that I love using shredded chicken for more than fajitas. The texture from a whole chicken is out of this world, and I think you’ll find that the kids will love this on the meal plan rotation often! Go ahead and veggie load that fajita filling too (you can learn how to veggie load taco meat here, and use the same method!), and you can have the whole skillet as a meal to use in tortillas, shells, or on a big salad. If you need a fantastic fajita seasoning blend, you can find my recipe for fajita seasoning mix in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook! Or, if you prefer to buy, this is a good brand.
Recipe #3 :: Chicken Fried Rice
When my girls were little, fried rice was an easy lunchtime staple that I made often while they were home with me. Now that they are bigger, they love to take this savory meal in a thermos to school, but since they are bigger, the little bit of egg in the fried rice doesn’t go as far! I started adding chicken, and it is protein packed enough for a meal for big kids too! If your kids are sensitive to eggs, you can leave them out and add more chicken. This recipe is in my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings – the flavor will definitely remind you of a restaurant fried rice! So good!
Recipe #4 :: Chicken Pesto Pasta
*The* most requested pasta dinner in my house is this! I know, I know…it’s green. But hear me out! This creamy, dreamy pasta is SO, so flavorful and comforting. The recipe for my pesto pasta is in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, but if you have a favorite pesto recipe, you can toss that with pasta and chicken and make your own! The recipe from the cookbook has some hidden veggies in with the pesto that the kids will never know are there because the sauce is so creamy, so you can truly call this a one pot dinner!
Recipe #5 :: Chicken Salad
Whether you are super short on time, or the weather is too hot to cook, chicken salad is a fast, no-cook way to use up the leftover chicken from your weekly whole chicken! My kids love to scoop chicken salad with veggies and crackers, which makes for an easy lunchbox protein. You can make chicken salad with a simple mayo (I like this brand from Costco, or here is my Paleo Mayo, or my dairy based egg free mayo), or get fancy with yummy add-ins. There is a really delicious chicken salad pinwheel recipe in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook that the kids will love, or you can try this Mexican Chicken Salad! (PS! If you want to try another “cold” chicken sandwich idea, try my shredded BBQ chicken sandwich recipe!)
Recipe #6 :: Chicken Stir Fry
Clean out the veggie bin at the end of the week and toss it with your leftover chicken! It can be as simple as that, or you can dress it up with some yummy stir fry sauce! Here are some recipes to get you started:
- 20 Minute Ginger Almond Crispy Chicken Stir Fry with Bone Broth Rice
- Sweet & Sour Chicken Sauce for Stir Fry
- Teriyaki Stir Fry Sauce
- The *Best* Asian Take-Out Copycat (In my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook)
- Chicken & Kale with Garlic Sauce Stir Fry
- Spring Chicken & Pasta Stir Fry
Don’t forget the bone broth!
If you are investing in a whole chicken, you might as well squeeze the most out of it that you can! Having the bones leftover after pulling the chicken apart is like the gift that keeps on giving. My usual routine is to toss the bones/carcass into my Instant Pot or Slow Cooker as I am de-boning the chicken and make the bone broth right there. You can leave it to cook in the slow cooker over night, or pressure cook it it a couple hours using your Instant Pot (a lot of the times I end up pressure cooking after dinner, and then leave it it in the pot over night since it is so incredibly hot – it cools off by the morning and then I strain and freeze it.
So tell me!
What are your favorite things to do with leftover chicken? Also! I would love to hear from you if you try making a whole chicken for the first time after reading this post! Let us know how it goes!