We're talking mere moments, here.

By Stacey Ballis
June 23, 2021
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When it comes to pulling together fast and easy meals, the piece of the puzzle that is usually the obstacle is the protein. Remembering early in the day to thaw a piece of meat from the freezer, having to figure out and execute the best cooking method for something that is raw, or realizing you have neither option available. But man cannot live on cheese and hummus alone, so figuring out how to simplify your spontaneous meals without having to always rely on takeout or snacks can be a godsend.

The solution? Shredded cooked chicken! 

In the past, I have often either roasted a chicken or picked up a rotisserie chicken to keep around in the fridge for these moments, but let's be honest, a whole chicken can be an unwieldy thing, and unless you are just eating a piece of chicken, processing it into usable parts can be more than you want to tackle at 7:30 after a long day of work. So, no one was more excited than I was to discover that no fewer than four of my local grocers are now selling pulled or shredded rotisserie chicken meat! Generally, each tub contains the meat of one whole rotisserie chicken, bones and skin removed. And this tub has become my dinner savior.

Shredded Chicken
Credit: Getty / Chettarin

How to turn shredded cooked chicken into dinner

Shredded cooked chicken, especially a rotisserie chicken that has usually been brined and seasoned to give it great flavor, is the start to so many simple to toss together meals. Here are a few ways to go from fridge to dinner in just a few minutes:

  • Stir in some bottled BBQ sauce for pulled chicken dinner
  • Toss with jarred salsa, mole, or adobo for chicken tacos
  • Stir with a simmer sauce like tikka masala or tagine
  • Toss into a stir-fry
  • Toss with pasta
  • Top a salad for a burst of protein
  • Stuff into a pita with tzatziki sauce 
  • Toss with sauteed onions and peppers for easy fajitas
  • Whip out a chicken salad in seconds -- then make sandwiches or stuff into halved avocados or hollowed tomatoes

Bonus tip for shredded cooked chicken

Even better? If you think you will get sick of chicken before using it up, try this tip: Pack up leftovers in one-person portions in freezer bags, so you can grab and thaw quickly when you don't have fresh on hand. Pre-cooked chicken, since it is already in small pieces, can be added to recipes straight from frozen, like frozen vegetables, or thawed quickly with a zap in the microwave.

Next time you are at the market, keep an eye out for the shredded rotisserie chicken, and let your imagination run wild. You'll have all sorts of last-minute meals that satisfy like you planned them for days.