Having leftover dry chicken pieces can seem like an inconvenience, but there are actually many delicious ways to use them up. With a little creativity, you can transform those dry leftovers into tasty new dishes for dinner or lunch. Here are some ideas for making the most of dry chicken pieces.
Reasons for Dry Chicken
There are a few common reasons chicken might end up dry:
- It was overcooked – Chicken cooks quickly and can go from juicy to dry quite fast if cooked too long.
- It wasn’t properly seasoned – Lack of seasoning or marinade means the chicken has less flavor and moisture.
- It was reheated improperly – Reheating chicken, especially in the microwave, can make it dry out.
Tips to Rehydrate Dry Chicken
If your chicken is only slightly or moderately dry, there are some tricks you can use to reintroduce moisture:
- Cover it with an acidic liquid like lemon or lime juice, wine, vinegar, tomato juice or yogurt. The acid helps break down the muscle fibers.
- Soak it in broth, coconut milk, buttermilk or water for at least 30 minutes. Up to 24 hours in the fridge can make it very moist.
- Steam the chicken pieces over a pan of simmering water with aromatics like garlic, herbs and citrus slices. The steam keeps the chicken tender.
- Braise the chicken slowly in a sauce or gravy. This long moist cooking renders it fall-apart tender.
Turn Dry Chicken into Crispy Bits
If your chicken is too far gone to rehydrate, you can embrace the dry texture and turn bits or shreds into crispy, crunchy toppings and mix-ins:
- Toss shreds of chicken with breadcrumbs, parmesan, spices and egg. Bake until crispy for chicken parm or cutlets.
- Fry shreds in oil until browned and crispy. Use as taco topping or salad booster.
- Grind bits in a food processor into crispy “breadcrumbs” to coat fried chicken or fish.
- Make Ritz cracker-crusted chicken tenders or nuggets by coating dry chicken pieces and baking.
Use Dry Chicken in Casseroles & Soups
Pairing dry chicken with plenty of moisture from sauces and other ingredients is an easy trick. Some options include:
- Chicken Casserole – Mix chicken pieces with cream of mushroom/chicken soups, veggies and rice or pasta. Top with cheese and bake.
- Chicken Noodle Soup – Simmer chicken and vegetables in broth. Shred chicken and serve over egg noodles.
- Chicken & Dumplings – Boil chicken pieces in seasoned broth. Drop biscuit dumplings on top and simmer.
- Chicken Pot Pie – Make a creamy sauce with veggies and broth. Add chicken and top pie crust.
Shred Dry Chicken for Tacos, Salads, etc.
Shredding dry chicken is an easy way to take advantage of the texture in other dishes. Ways to use shredded dry chicken include:
- Chicken tacos or burritos with salsa, cheese, beans, rice, etc.
- BBQ chicken sandwiches or wraps with chicken soaked in sauce
- Chicken salad with mayo, celery, onion, Craisins, nuts, etc.
- Chicken pasta or grain bowls loaded with veggies and sauce
Cook Dry Chicken in Sauce or Gravy
Cooking dry chicken pieces in a flavorful sauce infuses moisture and makes it tender. Some sauce ideas:
- Tomato Sauce – Braise chicken in a marinara or pizza sauce. Use in pasta, on pizza, etc.
- Coconut Curry – Simmer chicken in a Thai red or green curry sauce with coconut milk.
- Creamy Gravy – Make sausage gravy, mushroom gravy or chicken veloute sauce. Serve over biscuits, rice or mashed potatoes.
- Barbecue Sauce – Cook chicken in bbq sauce for shredded bbq chicken sandwiches and more.
Use it for Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Chicken salad is a classic way to use up dry chicken pieces. To make:
- Shred or chop chicken.
- Mix with mayo, Greek yogurt or dressing.
- Add any extras like celery, onion, relish, lemon juice, mustard, etc.
- Serve on bread, lettuce or in a tomato bowl.
Make Simple Skillet Meals
Dry chicken can easily be sautéed into quick skillet meals:
- Stir fry – Toss chicken with veggies and teriyaki or stir fry sauce. Serve over rice.
- Fajitas – Cook chicken with bell peppers and onion. Wrap in tortillas.
- Chicken Parmesan – Sauté chicken and top with tomato sauce and cheese. Serve over pasta.
Add it to Soups
Chicken soup is a classic, easy meal. Some soup ideas with dry chicken include:
- Chicken Noodle Soup – Simmer chicken in broth with veggies. Add noodles towards the end.
- Chicken Tortilla Soup – Cook chicken in tomato broth with corn, beans, spices and tortilla strips.
- Chicken and Dumplings – Boil chicken in seasoned broth then add biscuit dumplings.
- Chicken and Wild Rice Soup – Cook chicken in creamy soup with wild rice and mushrooms.
Make Simple Chicken Salads
Chicken salad is an easy way to repurpose dry chicken. Options include:
- Classic Chicken Salad – Shred chicken, mix with mayo, celery, onion, spices and seasonings.
- Waldorf Salad – Combine chicken, apples, grapes, walnuts, lemon juice and mayo.
- Buffalo Chicken Salad – Toss shredded chicken with hot sauce, serve over greens with ranch or blue cheese dressing.
- Thai Chicken Salad – Mix chicken with cabbage, carrot, peanut dressing and cilantro.
Dry chicken pieces don’t have to go to waste. With smart use of sauces, shredding, sautéing and simmering, you can give leftover chicken new life in casseroles, salads, soups, pastas and more. A little creativity can turn dry chicken into delicious new meals your family will love.