Meal prep is a great way to give yourself the gift of time during the week.
Imagine walking in the door to a fridge full of homemade heat-and-eat meals or ready-to-cook ingredients instead of scrambling to figure out what's for dinner. Preparing ingredients or meal components in advance cuts down on time spent cooking after the busy work day, reduces dinnertime panic, and can support a healthy lifestyle by making nutritious foods more convenient than less-healthy alternatives.
There are a variety of ways to meal prep. One method is to batch-cook a main ingredient in advance-like a whole grain or protein-to be used in multiple meals throughout the week. To help you get started, we're featuring one of our favorite meal prep proteins: chicken thighs. We'll share chicken thigh meal prep ideas, easy chicken thigh recipes you can prepare on Sunday, and 10 different ways to use meal prep chicken thighs in dinners all week.
Why We Love Chicken Thighs for Meal Prep
Chicken thighs are a versatile protein option for quick meals. They're perfect for meal prep because they are easy to prepare and stay moist and tender even after reheating. Chicken thighs can be eaten warm or cold, and pair well with a variety of flavors and seasonings. Cooked chicken thighs are delicious when prepared simply and served alongside a cooked whole grain and a vegetable, and there are endless ways to incorporate them into quick meals.
Chicken Thigh Meal Prep Recipes
Chicken thighs can be baked, pan-seared, grilled, and even cooked in the slow cooker. We suggest using one of the following meal-prep recipes to cook a batch (or double batch) of chicken thighs during Sunday meal prep. Then, use the cooked chicken thighs for quick meals throughout the week.
"Just as the title says crispy and tender!Love this recipe and I didn't change a thing!Only thing I did do was loosen the skin a little to sprinkle the seasoning right onto the meat.I will make this again and again!Thanks for the recipe." -- Jac75
Crispy and Tender Baked Chicken Thighs In this video, you'll see how to create a spice rub out of garlic and onion salt, oregano, thyme, paprika and black pepper. We'll use the rub to generously season bone-in chicken thighs and roast in the oven until the skin gets nice and crispy and the chicken is tender.
"I made this for dinner tonight, and it was a huge hit! Even my picky 2-year-old destroyed every last bite :-), My husband could not stop raving about it, and kept telling me how delicious it was while he was eating." -- Marissa Aniel Johnson
"Having been to India, and living in Malaysia which has a very large Indian population, I know good Tandoori. This is an excellent recipe, considering you are not using a Tandoor oven." -- CINDYG99
"Easy to make and uses pantry staples. Always a very good thing! I doubled the chicken thighs (but not the rest of the ingredients) and put half in the freezer for a quick meal when I need it." -- Paula
Honey-Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs In this video, we'll show you how to cook up tender and flavorful chicken in a slow cooker. The secret in this easy recipe is the sweet and zesty sauce made out of soy sauce, ketchup, honey and garlic.
10 Ways to Use Chicken Thighs for Quick Meals
All of these recipes call for cooked chicken, and most are ready in 30 minutes or less-making them perfect for quick meals. Feel free to swap in cooked chicken thighs wherever cooked chicken breast is listed in the ingredients.
1. Main Dish Green Salads
Lettuce salads are the perfect foundation for meal-prep chicken. Use these recipes as inspiration, then customize with anything you have in the fridge. These salads come together in 20 minutes or less.
2. Main Dish Cold Noodle and Grain Salads
Unlike lettuce salads, chilled pasta and grain salads taste better after the ingredients have had time to mingle, so you can make a batch and enjoy for several days. Here are just two examples of noodle and grain salads where you could use your meal prepped chicken thighs:
Sesame Pasta Chicken Salad In this video, we make a pasta salad shine with a flavorful sesame seed dressing. The dressing has soy sauce, rice vinegar and ground ginger. And the best part? You make it directly in a jar. Add cooked chicken and your favorite vegetables, and the salad is ready.
3. Tex-Mex Dishes
Mix shredded or diced cooked chicken thighs with cheese and warm between flour tortillas for quick quesadillas. Or try these other easy recipes to turn chicken thighs into a weeknight fiesta.
4. Bowls and Jars
Combining a hearty whole grain, some cooked or raw vegetables, and chicken thighs in a bowl or jar makes for a satisfying, wholesome lunch or dinner. An easy dressing or sauce pulls it all together.
Asian Chicken Salad in a Jar Make it a great lunch day with this simple, colorful and flavorful layered salad in a convenient Mason jar to-go container! Layer up the carrots, juicy red bell peppers, crunchy chow mein noodles, tender chicken breast and fresh romaine lettuce. Top with a lid and grab when you’re headed out the door. Don’t forget to bring a side of delicious dressing made with peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil, sugar, rice vinegar and coriander.
5. Soups and Chilis
Get comfort food on the table fast by using chicken thighs in soups and chilis. It's also a great way to stretch a small amount of leftover chicken into a full meal.
Chicken Zoodle Soup When the cold outside won’t let up or the kids come home with the sniffles, put a pot of this “zoodle” soup on. Besides being a clever way to sneak in some more vegetables with the zucchini-spiraled noodles, the rich, herbed broth is delicious and loaded with onion, celery, garlic, carrots and of course, chicken. Settle back for some great comfort.
Photo by Allrecipes
6. Wraps and Sandwiches
Dice or shred meal prep chicken thighs to use as a filling for wraps or sandwiches. Or consider transforming them into a delicious and creamy chicken salad for sandwiches.
7. Flatbreads and Pizza
Swap out the pepperoni for cooked chicken and open up a whole world of pizza possibilities. Use store-bought pizza dough, tortillas, or pre-baked pizza crusts to cut down on prep time.
8. Asian-Inspired Dishes
Asian dishes are often quick to prepare, especially when using cooked chicken thighs. And because they're loaded with vegetables, these recipes are ideal for stretching a small amount of leftover chicken into a full meal.
Spicy Chicken Noodles Shred a chicken breast, then combine a medley of vegetables: julienned carrots, shredded cabbage, sliced red bell pepper, jalapeno, green onion and crushed garlic. Create a sauce with hoisin, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, rice vinegar, hot sauce, Korean red chili flakes and chicken broth. Cover some rice noodles with boiling water, stir and soften over the course of 10 minutes. Add drained noodles to a bowl with the shredded chicken and some sesame oil. Add vegetable mixture to a hot pan, and when wilted, add sauce, then add noodles and chicken and stir. When done, serve with fresh cilantro and green onion.
9. Pot Pies and Casseroles
Make the most of leftover or meal prep chicken thighs by transforming them into a classic comfort food pot pie or casserole. While these may take a bit longer to cook, the majority of the time is hands-off while the dish is baking.
You really can't go wrong when pasta is on the menu. Adding a lean protein, like cooked chicken thighs, to pasta dishes is an easy way to create a balanced, nutritious meal.
Greek Chicken Pasta A simple Greek chicken pasta dish starring so many of the bright flavors of Greece-marinated artichoke hearts, tomatoes, feta cheese, and oregano.