Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive and it definitely doesn’t need to sacrifice flavor. But even when we WANT to eat healthy foods, prepackaged processed foods and fast food just seem so… convenient. When dinnertime rolls around, and you’re hungry, it’s easy to give in to those unhealthy cravings because of how fast they can satisfy your hunger.
But what if healthy meals made themselves? What if healthy eating was just as fast and easy as the prepacked junk?
If you’re on this page, you know exactly how we’re gonna make that happen… meal prep!
When you have your protein prepped and ready to go, the rest of the ingredients come together in a sinch and… BOOM! with cooked chicken stored in the fridge, your healthy meal will require little to no effort on your part. If meal prepping chicken seems daunting, don’t worry. Below I detail just how simple and life-changing it can be to prep chicken ahead of time. There are two main approaches for how to season your chicken for meal prep. So read on, and “prep” for an entire week of delicious, healthy, AND EASY meal options.
Best Way to Cook Chicken for Meal Prep – Method 1
You can cook the chicken for specific recipes.
In this method, you follow recipes using the seasoning or marinade and the cooking method for those recipes, but you just make the chicken several days ahead of making the rest. After you have your chicken breasts or thighs marinated or seasoned, keep the process simple with an easy cooking method of your choice. If you’re a meal planner, this approach is right up your alley. The benefits of this method are that you get a variety of flavors and eliminate the questions later in the week about what you should make. You choose an ideal time for cooking. Weekends may be better time for cooking than weeknights, so by moving the bulk of your meal prep to a more convenient time you’ve made healthy eating more convenient.
To get started, find some easy chicken recipes you enjoy. If you need some ideas, here’s a chicken breast recipe you’ll want to try. Pick a day of the week when you have a bit more time to be in the kitchen – again, usually the weekend. Then pause the recipes after the chicken is prepped and finish the recipe off later in the week when you’re ready to eat. Even though you’re doing the same steps you could have done throughout the week, you’ll be amazed at how this will reduce your total time in the kitchen, and you’ll be so much more empowered to make healthy eating choices when you have quick chicken on hand! Save on prep, cooking, and cleaning time when you knock out multiple meals at once.
FMC Tip: Double each recipe and freeze half for future use!
Healthy Chicken Meal Prep Ideas – Method 2
You can use a neutral seasoning and cooking method to cook chicken in bulk.
If you’re more of a spur-of-the-moment person and meal planning isn’t your thing, then keeping life flexible with this approach is the way to go. Without locking yourself into recipes, meal prepping one neutral flavor of chicken can give you lots of options throughout the week. Use this method to get started if you’re a beginner at prepping. Or if you’re an experienced prepper, this is a great approach for large batches of meal prep. If you are looking to substitute your prepped chicken into various recipes, it’s good to have a few in mind that you know are great options – this way, you don’t find yourself stuck in the middle of the week without any ideas and that junk food calling to you! Check out these options for more ideas.
Grab your favorite spice combo – something that can compliment your favorite recipes or that would be good on its own. For spice ideas, try our Everyday Blend as a starter and experiment until you find what works best for your taste. If you plan on eating the chicken with a side of veggies or a complex carb, other great starter options for flavor are cajun chicken, bbq chicken, lemon pepper, or just throwing on a little bit of olive oil and some ground black pepper and sea salt. Remember that the purpose of meal prepping is to make life easier for YOU. Mix things up from one week to the next until you figure out what fits into your schedule and style.
If you’re looking for a low-carb weekday meal, chicken and vegetables can hit the table in under ten minutes on those busy nights with chicken meal prep.
Whether you’re prepping for a specific recipe or keeping your seasoning neutral, getting your chicken cooked and in the fridge is super simple – anyone can do it! – with these six easy steps…
Chicken Recipes for Meal Prep in 6 easy steps:
- Whether you season chicken in one flavor profile or you prep multiple flavors at once, go ahead and marinade or season your chicken. Don’t forget the salt and pepper.
- Choose your preferred cooking method or follow your recipes. Again, this is all about creating a routine that fits you. So if you pull out the instant pot, use an air fryer, or get those baking sheets ready for baking chicken, any and all cooking methods will work.
- Cook the boneless skinless chicken breast or chicken thigh following standard cooking directions for your cooking method. Remember to hit 165°F for a safe internal temperature to avoid raw chicken.
- Give the chicken about 10 minutes to rest after cooking to lock in those juices, then go ahead and dice or shred.
- Package your chicken in an airtight container. Place containers in the fridge for use later that week or pop them in the freezer for long-term storage.
- Reheat chicken for a super quick and easy chicken dinner!
FMC Tip: If you want to know how to meal prep chicken without it getting dry, the secret is cooking the chicken pieces whole. When you dice the chicken before cooking you lose a lot of the juices in the process. So keep the pieces whole until after the cooking and resting periods, then chop away!
How Long Can You Keep Chicken for Meal Prep in the Fridge?
According to the USDA, you shouldn’t let your chicken hang out in the fridge for more than 3-4 days. After that, you’re on your own to decide if the chicken is still safe to eat. But remember that not all spoilage gives you clear warnings that you can see or smell, so when in doubt it’s best to throw it out! If you do notice any changes in smell, taste, or looks throughout the week, these changes are especially good warnings that your chicken may need to be tossed. Slimy chicken or any signs of mold mean the chicken has gone bad and shouldn’t be eaten.
FMC Tip: Lots of meal preppers split their weekly prepping into two days (often Sundays and Wednesdays) to make sure their food stays fresh. You can also stretch your meal prepping times by popping some of the chicken into the freezer. Chicken can last up to three months in the freezer when stored correctly. If you’re looking for a great meal prep container, check out our stainless steel lunch box.
How to Reheat Chicken Meal Prep
Most people prefer the convenience of the microwave for reheating. You’ll want to zap your chicken on medium-high heat for 1 minute. If you find your chicken drying out a bit during reheat, adding a small drizzle of olive oil to the chicken before microwaving can help lock in the moisture and flavor. You can also reheat in an air fryer, on the stove top, or in the oven.
FMC Tip: If you’re looking to avoid the extra olive oil but you still want to know how to meal prep chicken without it getting dry, lightly covering your chicken using a microwave-safe lid can also help keep your chicken moist during reheat. Make sure that you don’t close the lid completely, so there is a way for steam to vent.
Can You Eat Cold Cooked Chicken?
Yes! If you don’t have access to a microwave or the patience to preheat the oven, you can also enjoy your chicken cold.
Tip: Chicken salad is a great option to use leftover cooked chicken when you don’t have an easy way to reheat.
Let’s Get Started!
Meal prepping is great for anything from simple meals like chicken and rice to more complicated meals where you substitute your prepped chicken into another recipe.
Whether you go for a burrito bowl, teriyaki chicken, or a chicken taco, I hope you’ve been convinced just how simple, flexible, and delicious meal prepping can be on your journey to healthy eating. Now that you know how to make meal prep chicken taste good, let’s get started!
If you need a new meal prep recipe, here are a few that should get your mouth watering and motivate you to give prepping a try: