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Big-Batch Meal Prep Plan: Chicken Edition

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Do you meal prep? (Do you want to?) Make your life so much easier with our chicken meal-prep guide. We’ll show you how to prep a big batch of freezer-friendly chicken, how to store it, and how to use this versatile and protein-packed ingredient to make a week+ of easy dinners and lunches. Do it for Future You! MORE+ LESS-

How It Works

The internet’s really onto something with those meal-prep plans that are popping up everywhere. And the only thing easier than having one meal prepped ahead of time is having a whole bunch of them prepped ahead of time. That’s where our secret weapon comes in: big-batch, freezer-friendly ingredient prep.

How it works: 

  • Pick your ingredient (we picked shredded chicken breast) and prep a whole lot of it
  • Divvy chicken into storage containers that each hold one recipe’s worth
  • Fill your freezer with prepped, cooked chicken that Future You will turn into easy dinners 
  • Defrost as needed to make a whole lot of recipes
  • Marvel at how your life is about 1000x easier

Ready? Let’s meal-prep a ton of chicken!

What You'll Need

Food:

  • 8 chicken breasts (or more; this is a choose-your-own-chicken-adventure!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or more depending on how much chicken you’re making)
  • Salt and pepper

Not Food: 

  • Oven
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels
  • Large rimmed baking sheet
  • 2 forks
  • Food storage bags and/or containers
  • Permanent marker and/or masking tape, for labeling

How to Cook Chicken Breasts

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Arrange chicken breasts on a large cutting board and pat completely dry with paper towels. Brush both sides of chicken breasts with olive oil (or drizzle and use your fingers to coat the chicken).

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Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper to taste, and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. (We were able to fit 8 chicken breasts on ours; if you’ll be cooking more than 8 breasts we recommend working in batches with a single pan rather than cooking multiple pans at once.)

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Cook 15-18 minutes until chicken breasts are cooked through (internal temperature of 165°). Remove to a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices can redistribute. (This keeps the chicken from drying out when you shred it.)

How to Shred Chicken Breasts

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After your chicken has rested, grab a couple of forks and start shredding the chicken. Stick one fork into the chicken and hold it in place as an anchor, and use the fork in your other hand to pull the meat apart into shreds.

How to Store, Freeze + Defrost Shredded Chicken

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TO STORE: Make sure to let your chicken cool completely before you store it. Warm chicken will still give off some moisture, and that’s freezer burn waiting to happen.

We recommend dividing the chicken into amounts you’re likely to use in recipes. Choose containers that are similar in size to the amount of chicken you’ll be storing, so there’s not a lot of extra air around the chicken. If you’re using freezer bags, seal them almost all the way after filling them, and then squeeze out as much excess air as you can.

Make removable labels for your containers with a piece of masking tape and permanent marker. If you’re using freezer bags, label them prior to filling for the most legible results. Definitely include what you’re freezing and how much (“Shredded Chicken, 2 cups”) and if you’re prone to losing things in the back of your freezer, write the date on there as well.

TO FREEZE: Put in the freezer, and walk away! Cooked chicken should freeze solid in 4-6 hours, or overnight. Frozen chicken will keep up to 6 months, but we recommend using it within 3 for the best texture and flavor when you defrost. Speaking of…

TO DEFROST: As with any meat (and extra especially with cooked meat), the best way to defrost shredded chicken is to transfer your container to the fridge and let it defrost overnight. Using any heat (either your microwave or running water) can cause the meat to defrost and heat unevenly, even overcooking it in parts. Just move it from the freezer to fridge the night or even morning before you plan to use it, and you’ll be golden.

5 Meal-Prep Recipes to Make with Shredded Chicken

Now that you’ve stocked your freezer with this super versatile meal starter, here’s what Future You can look forward to eating.

Recipe #1: Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

When you start with 2 cups of prepped chicken, this dinner will only take you 20 minutes, start to finish.

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Some frequently asked questions: 

  • So you really make them in the microwave? That’s right.
  • And a microwave recipe can taste this legit? You know it. 
  • Is this recipe magic? MAYBE.


Recipe #2: Mediterranean Chicken Pita Bowls

Mediterranean Chicken Pita Bowls

These colorful protein and veggie bowls will make you feel like a health queen. They’re equally awesome as a dinner or lunch, and they travel like a dream.

Meal Prep Bonus: They only take 40 minutes start to finish, but you can speed that up even more if you prep the rice ahead of time, too:

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Then all you need to do is heat up the rice (and even that’s optional, tbh) and assemble—we’re talking maybe 10 minutes.

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Looking good, bowl!


Recipe #3: Southern Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Southern Chicken and Dumplings Soup

This deluxe version of chicken noodle soup tastes how sweatpants feel—we’re talking maximum comfort food. Even with the homemade (!!!) dumplings, it’s ready to eat in 40 minutes.

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Meal Prep Bonus: The recipe includes instructions for prepping and freezing all the parts of this recipe ahead of time, so you can throw ‘em together later. You’ll have homemade chicken and dumpling soup in just 15-ish minutes.


Recipe #4: 5-Ingredient Chicken Alfredo Bubble-Up Bake

5-Ingredient Chicken Alfredo Bubble-Up Bake

This 5-ingredient dinner hack is going to SAVE you on weeknights.

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An excellent case for always having a can of biscuits on hand, no?


Recipe #5: Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Make this healthier chicken salad on Sunday and pack lunches for the week! Just keep the pita separate from the chicken salad, and assemble the sandwiches when it’s time to eat.

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Grocery List

Besides the chicken you’ve made ahead, here’s what you’ll need to make each recipe. (Note: We’re assuming you already have salt, pepper and olive oil in your pantry.)

Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

  • 1 can (19 oz) Old El Paso™ mild enchilada sauce 
  • 1 packet (0.85 oz) Old El Paso™ chicken taco seasoning mix
  • Shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 8 corn tortillas (6 inch)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro 
  • Sour cream

Mediterranean Chicken Pita Bowls

  • Rice
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Basmati rice (uncooked)
  • Turmeric
  • 1 carton (32 oz) Progresso™ chicken broth

Toppings

  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Hummus 
  • 1 jar roasted red bell peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • 1 bottle (8 oz) Annie’s™ Organic goddess dressing
  • 4 pita rounds

Southern Chicken and Dumpling Soup

  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • 1 carton (32 oz) Progresso™ chicken broth

5-Ingredient Chicken Alfredo Bubble-Up Bake

  • 1 bunch/bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 jar (15 oz) Alfredo pasta sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury™ Grands!™ refrigerated Southern Homestyle Buttermilk biscuits

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cucumber
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Kalamata olives
  • White wine vinegar
  • Dried basil
  • Pita pockets

Even More Things to Make with All That Chicken

Got an extra-full freezer? Here are even more meals you can make with cooked shredded chicken.

Knowledge is power! More cooking how-tos are right this way.


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