Freezer Meals: Cooked Shredded Chicken (+10 Super Easy Dinner Ideas!)

Cooked shredded chicken is one of the most versatile things you can have on hand for quick and healthy weeknight dinners. It only takes about 15 minutes of hands-on time to prepare and package, and it's an easy way to set yourself up for quick meals throughout the week.

I prepared several pounds of this delicious shredded chicken to freeze for a friend who was expecting, but it's just as handy for anyone who is low on time.

The shredded chicken thaws or can be reheated quickly, and can be used in a number of easy dishes. 

Here are some basic ideas to get you started:
1. Quick Chicken Quesadillas: tuck thawed shredded chicken and grated cheddar or jack cheese between two tortillas. Crisp on a hot skillet or pop in the microwave for a minute until cheese has melted. Slice into triangles and serve with salsa, sour cream, or guacamole.

2. Quick Chicken Salad: Add one tablespoon of mayo and one tablespoon of plain yogurt per cup of thawed cooked shredded chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of oregano. Eat over mixed greens or in a sandwich.
3. Chicken Caesar Wrap: Toss thawed chicken salad with caesar dressing (use your favorite bottled kind or make my super quick homemade caesar dressing recipe). Layer into a wrap with chopped romaine lettuce and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Roll it up and enjoy!
4. Chicken Soup: Add shredded chicken to your favorite homemade or boxed chicken broth. Add diced frozen or fresh carrots, peas, or other veggies, if desired. Let simmer until hot and veggies are cooked through. Season to taste and serve! BONUS: Add egg noodles for a super quick chicken noodle soup!

5. Chicken Pasta Sauce: Combine your favorite homemade or jarred marinara sauce with a couple cups of cooked shredded chicken and simmer on the stove until heated through. Toss with your favorite cooked pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan on top.

6. BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches: Toss heated shredded chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce. Serve on soft burger buns with pickles and coleslaw on the side.
7. Chicken Fried Rice: Follow these directions, substituting the leftover turkey with the cooked chicken for a quick and easy fried rice.
8. Quick Chicken Tacos: Heat thawed chicken on a skillet with a few pats of butter, and season with chili powder and a dash of cayenne pepper, tossing to coat. Place hot chicken into taco shells or soft corn tortillas, and top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. 
9. Grilled Cheese with Herb Chicken: Heat a skillet or panini press. Spread your favorite bread with butter and add a few slices of swiss cheese, a few fresh basil leaves, and a handful of shredded chicken. Top with bread and grill sandwich as you would any grilled cheese until heated through and cheese is completely melted. Serve immediately.
10. Quick Chicken Pizza: Start with a premade pizza crust or flatbread. Spread with your favorite tomato sauce, then sprinkle with thawed shredded chicken. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in preheated 350 degree oven until cheese has melted and is bubbling, and crust is heated through.
Do you keep frozen shredded chicken around for quick meals? Let me know some of your favorite recipe ideas in the comments below!

Cooked Shredded Chicken Recipe (for freezing)

5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (or both)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 3 large lemons
1 tablespoon paprika (optional)
2 tablespoons oregano
4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from package and place in a large roasting pan in a single layer. In a separate container, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour over chicken and use a fork to turn chicken  a few times so it's completely coated in marinade. Bake uncovered on middle rack 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove from oven and let cool 20 minutes. Use 2 forks or a knife and fork to shred OR place in the base of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the paddle on medium speed for a few minutes until the chicken is shredded.

Divide into 10-15 small sandwich-size freezer bags, remove the air, seal, and roll up tightly. Place these smaller portions into larger gallon freezer bags, and label accordingly. Freeze. Will keep well up to 1 year.

To use, simply remove the amount of smaller portions you need and transfer to refrigerator for thawing, heat in microwave, or add to your dish.

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