If you are looking for a great way to use leftovers, look no further. This quinoa chicken bowl with salsa verde and kale can be made from scratch or using leftover roast chicken. It’s spicy, tangy, and good for you!
The Million Dollar Question: What to do with Leftover Chicken?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve typed this very question into Google. I love making a whole roast chicken on Sundays, but come Tuesday, I’m scrambling to find a creative way to turn those leftovers into a healthy meal.
During one of those desperate times, I turned to Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman’s wonderful cookbook “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” (link at the end of this post) and came across a super yummy recipe for chicken tacos with kale and salsa verde. The original recipe is great, but I wanted to simplify it a bit and turn into a bowl because I often have quinoa laying around in the fridge as well. The original recipe calls for kale, and I happened to have some, but you could also use spinach or even collard greens.
If you are looking for other ways to use leftover chicken, make sure to check out these spicy chicken loaded sweet potatoes.
Also, if you are looking for a recipe for roast chicken, make sure you read this one from Serious Eats. It will change your roast chicken game forever.
A Nifty Trick for Cooking Quinoa
I didn’t really get into quinoa until recently, and I really struggled to learn how to cook it properly at first. I always had too much water left over and when I tried to cook it longer, it would get mushy. The extra water is not a huge problem because you can always drain the excess after the quinoa is done cooking. The issue for me is that I’m accident prone, so I always end up burning myself or spilling a bunch of quinoa everywhere when I try to do this.
After reading what felt like a million articles on the topic, I ended up doing a variation of a trick suggested by another blogger whose name I have unfortunately forgotten since. She recommends cooking your quinoa uncovered until all the water evaporates and then covering the pot for 10 mins and letting it steam to make sure the quinoa “pops.” If you try this technique, your quinoa will likely take less time to cook than normal, so be careful not to burn it.
I like this trick, but I found that my quinoa was sometimes slightly undercooked, even after letting it steam. My solution is to cook it covered until it’s done and then uncover it and letting it cook uncovered until any extra water evaporates. It only takes 2-5 minutes because there is usually not that much water left anyway. I’ve also never had to steam my quinoa when I cook it this way; by the time the water evaporates, the seeds have puffed up. Cool, huh?
Ideas for Topping your Quinoa Chicken Bowl
My favorite toppings for this quinoa chicken bowl are minced white onions and cilantro, but the sky is the limit. A little bit of sour cream always makes things better, as does some pico de gallo.
If you really want to go crazy, why not throw some homemade tortilla chips on top? Yum!
Quinoa Chicken Bowls with Salsa Verde and Kale (GF)**
These quinoa chicken bowls are spicy, tangy, and good for you. They can be made with leftover roast chicken or from scratch, and all of the components for the bowls can be made in advance.
- For the salsa verde (yields about 2 ¾ cups):
- 7-8 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
- Half a medium onion, halved
- One large clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- For the chicken:
- 2 cups of shredded homemade or store-bought roast chicken, OR
- 1 ½ pounds of bone-in chicken thighs with skin on
- Grapeseed or canola oil for rubbing the chicken
- Half a bunch of your favorite type of kale, stemmed and shredded (about 1 ½ cups)
- For the quinoa:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ cup of onion, finely chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of tricolor quinoa (or your favorite quinoa)
- 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
- ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
- To top the bowls:
- Finely chopped onion
- Finely chopped cilantro
- More salsa verde
- Sour cream
- Queso fresco
- Step 1 Make the sauce first. Fill a medium-size pot with enough water to cover the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeño pepper. The tomatillos and the vegetables will float, but that’s OK. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the tomatillos and jalapeño turn a lighter shade of green and soften, about 10 minutes.
- Step 2 Drain the tomatillos and the vegetables and let them cool for 10 minutes. Put them in a blender with the rest of the salsa verde ingredients and blend on high until smooth. Set aside.
- Step 3 To make the chicken from scratch. Preheat your oven to 350℉. Place the chicken thighs on a rack on top of a baking sheet and rub with the oil. Season generously with salt. I like to get it under the skin as well to make sure that the chicken is well seasoned.
- Step 4 Roast the chicken for 30-40 minutes, until a instant-read thermometer reads 165℉ when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Step 5 Turn the broiler on and move the chicken to the upper rack in your oven. Broil the chicken for 3-5 minutes or until the skin is nice and crispy.
- Step 6 Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
- Step 7 Remove the skin and chop it finely. Set aside.
- Step 8 Shred the chicken and set it aside.
- Step 9 To make the quinoa: while the chicken is resting, rinse your quinoa under cold water for several minutes to remove any bitterness.
- Step 10 Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium-sized pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook it until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook it for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the quinoa to the pot and mix it with the rest of the ingredients. Then, add the vegetable or chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Step 11 As soon as it boils, turn the heat to low and place a lid on your pot. Simmer the quinoa for 12-15 minutes. If after 15 minutes, you still have water left in the pot, uncover it, bring the heat back to medium, and boil for another 3-5 minutes or until the water evaporates. Your quinoa will be ready when it looks like it “popped,” like there are little curls sprouting from the quinoa seeds. Set aside and keep warm.
- Step 12 To put it all together: Set a medium-sized pot over medium heat and add about a cup of the reserved salsa verde. When it comes to a simmer, add the kale and cook it until it starts to wilt. Add the shredded chicken and chopped chicken skin (if you are using leftover chicken and you didn’t save the skin, skip this step) to the pot and cook it until it heats through. If the mixture looks dry, add a bit more of the salsa verde. Taste the chicken mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Set aside.
- Step 13 Add some quinoa to the bottom of a bowl and top with chicken and kale mixture. Top the whole thing with your favorite toppings and some extra salsa verde if you want. My favorite toppings are onions and cilantro.
**This recipe is adapted from Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman’s “Chicken Tacos with Kale and Salsa Verde” from the cookbook “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations.”
- All of the components for these bowls can be made in advance. The chicken and quinoa will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days, but the salsa is best when eaten within a day or two.
- This recipe tastes better when made with roast chicken, but it can also be made with poached and shredded chicken breasts.
- If you didn’t save any of the chicken skin when you roasted your chicken or if you don’t enjoy the flavor of it, you can omit it.