A Shredded-Chicken Kitchen Hack (And Two New Recipes to Use it in)
One shortcut, and you're ready to make these great new recipes: Caprese Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake, Salsa Verde Chicken Nachos, and more favorite recipes
Story, recipes, and photos by Ashley Strickland Freeman
What’s the protein you think of when faced with the “what’s for dinner” dilemma? For me, it’s chicken. A lot of times, that equates to store-bought rotisserie chicken — whether to eat as-is or to shred and use in casseroles — especially at the end of the day when I’m tired from work and haven’t even thought about dinner yet. And while those deli-roasted chickens are convenient, they’re on the pricey side.
Enter a hack I learned a while back to save the day (and some money): Instead of fork-shredding pricey rotisserie chicken to get shredded chicken, I batch-cook chicken breasts and shred them using a stand mixer. It's faster and cheaper.
Prepping ahead is a lifesaver for hectic weeknights, and this little trick is one everyone should know. I keep my eye on the grocery store sales and grab a package or two of the family-size packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts when they’re on special. And you can guess which aisle I head to when we visit our big-box warehouse club.
Then I bake the chicken, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and shred it while still hot using my stand mixer.
After the chicken is cool, I divide it into 3-cup portions and freeze it in zip-top plastic bags. When I’m ready to use the chicken, it takes very little time to thaw, and I’ve got what I need to make a quick casserole, dinner salad, or my two new favorite recipes: Caprese Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake and Salsa Verde Chicken Nachos.
Here’s the technique for cooking and shredding the chicken. One batch will make enough for 3 recipes that each call for 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts.
After you’ve portioned out the chicken, you’ll be set for making a multitude of dishes. We are a pasta-loving family, and Caprese Pesto Chicken Pasta Bake is one we’re going to be enjoying all year long. The tomatoes are pan-roasted and slightly sweetened to pair perfectly with herby pesto, chicken, and fresh mozzarella. The addition of fresh basil leaves not only adds more flavor, it also makes the meal feel special. Pair this dish with a simple salad, and dinner is done in less than 45 minutes.
If you’ve got a craving for Mexican flavors, Salsa Verde Chicken Nachos will fit the bill. You can serve them family-style with the cilantro, jalapeño, and avocados on the side, too, if some members of the family only like certain toppings.
More easy recipe ideas with shredded chicken
Once you have your stash of shredded chicken, there’s so much more you can make.
Barbecue chicken pizza: Top store-bought pizza dough with barbecue sauce, shredded chicken, shredded cheese (mozzarella and Monterey Jack are great), thinly sliced red onion, and sliced red bell peppers for an easy pizza night option.
Quick curried chicken salad: Mix the shredded chicken with a little mayonnaise, honey, curry powder, toasted almonds, green onions, and sliced grapes or dried cranberries for yummy curried chicken salad to serve with crackers or over mixed greens.
Cheater’s chicken pot pie: Mix together cream of chicken soup with a little milk, some (thawed) frozen mixed vegetables, and shredded chicken, and bake topped with frozen puff pastry rounds or refrigerated pie dough circles.
Whether you add shredded chicken to quesadillas, make a Greek chicken wrap, or toss some meat into an Asian chicken noodle soup, this handy trick will take the guesswork out of weeknight meal planning. And speaking of planning, you might want to add these shredded chicken recipes to the Yummly Meal Planner.