10 Weeknight Meals To Make With A Rotisserie Chicken

I was just reading an article (in a magazine that shall remain nameless) which had a variant on the headline I've seen countless times as a busy parent: "Easy Weeknight Meals." However, all of the recipes require at least 30 minutes of prep or cook time, and by the time we get home from tae kwon do or whatever, no one's been home all day to have prepped anything. The kids are melting down and, frankly, I am too. I need dinner on the table STAT!

This is why I often buy a rotisserie chicken at the store (even though, news flash, it's not the healthiest option in the universe). These chickens are famously five bucks at Costco, but are usually under ten at regular grocery stores. Since it comes already seasoned and cooked, I've learned to build a lot of meals upon the foundation of a rotisserie chicken.

You might say this list of meals is too easy. Consider it as a reference point for when your brain stops braining at the end of the day and you need a list of things that can get in your belly with hardly any thinking.

Preparation

First, a note on preparation. I've found the best way to separate the meat from the bone on these chickens is to do it when it's warm, and to do it with your (clean) hands. Once your chicken is picked clean, you can freeze the meat if you know you won't eat it all, and I do like to separate the light from dark, but it's not necessary. If you're really on top of your game, you can put the carcass to use in a batch of homemade chicken stock, which is great for soups and can be frozen for later use.

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Salads

This is the fastest and easiest way to get dinner happening immediately on weeknights. I even opt for bagged salads because then there's no chopping or deciding on what to put in it—I'm too hungry to make executive decisions. Just dispense the salad into a bowl, toss with your dressing of choice, and plop some of your shredded rotisserie chicken on top. Done.

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Wraps

The easiest version chicken wraps is to take the directions for rotisserie chicken salad above and place it in a rolled-up tortilla, pita, or lavash. This works well with chicken Caesar salad; you can also go with a combination of chicken, hummus, and lettuce; make a club with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and bacon if you have it; or do one with tzatziki, peppers, crunchy romaine, tomatoes, and slightly warmed chickpeas, like these pre seasoned ones from A Dozen Cousins or the harissa lemon ones from Heyday Canning. You can use whatever you have in your fridge that vaguely goes together. Wraps, unlike burritos, can be served cold, making this a nice low-effort meal.

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In a bowl

You can take the chickpea chicken wrap from above, warm it up a bit more, stick it in a bowl, and call it dinner. During the pandemic when groceries were weird I made infinity bowls with whatever we had on hand. A Dozen Cousins and Fillo's have great Cuban black beans that can be paired with the rotisserie chicken and some rice; if you don't have a rice cooker or Instant Pot, a lot of flavorful rice dishes (like this kind from Trader Joe's or this one from A Dozen Cousins) can be steamed in the microwave. Top with some salsa, cheese, and peppers and onions if you have them, and you'll have a restaurant-quality burrito bowl.

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Burritos

Follow the previous instructions for a black bean chicken bowl and stick it in a tortilla. If you're feeling fancy you can pop the rolled burrito in a frying pan for a minute to seal the edges, giving the whole thing a warm, toasty crunch. You can also make tacos, but after leaning on them pretty heavily as a weeknight option, I'm personally sick of tacos.

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Quesadillas

Chop or shred the rotisserie chicken into small pieces and mix with cheese (along with fresh peppers, if you have any) to make a quesadilla in under five minutes. Top with salsa and sour cream; plain Greek yogurt works great as a sour cream stand-in if you don't have any. I don't expect you to have guac or even acceptable avocados at the ready, but if by some miracle you do, this is the moment to use them.

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Trader Joe's pairings

Trader Joe's has seemingly endless prepared sides. Toss the chicken with any of TJ's bags of frozen vegetables or veggie-and-rice mixes or quinoa and you have a protein infusion for the previously vegetarian fare. Adding fresh rotisserie chicken to any of TJ's pastas also beefs chickens them up.

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Pizzas

Seasoned chicken on a pizza, especially when paired with some peppers and onions and a lot of garlic, is a great weeknight flavor combination. You can use a premade pizza crust, or roll out a bag of prepared pizza dough from the store, or even add these toppings to one half of a frozen cheese pizza (since at least one of the kids is inevitably going to opt for a plain cheese pizza, and you can't win 'em all).

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Dip it

My kids are most likely to eat rotisserie chicken with a side of barbecue sauce or sometimes ketchup. I like any number of other dips, and, who knows, maybe a kid will accidentally eat a vegetable if it's served along with some interesting sauces. Bottled marinades are your friend here: they can create any number of two-ingredient dips that your kids can taste test with their poultry like they're judges on an episode of Chopped. To infuse extra flavor into the chicken itself, you can toss it with some marinade and heat it on the stove before serving.

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Stir-Fry

You can add shredded or sliced rotisserie chicken to any stir-fry you make on the stove, either one composed of your own fresh veggies and sauce or one that you've prepped from a bag. However you make your stir-fry, it's a good way to use up some of that hoisin sauce.

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Soup

Remember in the preparation step when I told you to make chicken stock? If you did, now's the time to use it. Or just use store-bought stock; it's fine. The first time I got COVID, I had a bunch of frozen broth and rotisserie chicken on hand, so I made chicken noodle soup with whatever else I had in the kitchen: chopped-up baby carrots, random egg noodles, etc. It was pretty good, but then I lost my appetite because COVID sucks. Anyway, not having to cook chicken when prepping a scratch soup saves a lot of time, which is great not only when you're sick, but when you're in the throes of a new school year.

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