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Leftover cooked chicken can make a quick meal or be transformed into a delicious new recipe. Find out how long cooked chicken lasts in the fridge along with tips for storage and use!

Perfectly cooked chicken breasts on a sheet pan with broccoli and carrots

Whether it’s been fried, baked or roasted in a rotisserie, cooked chicken is a versatile leftover to have on hand in the fridge. You can use it to make a soup, salad, sandwich or casserole. But it also makes a quick and easy meal by itself!

How to Store Cooked Chicken

To maintain the quality of cooked chicken, store it in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. You can also wrap tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Then make sure to refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking.

Bacteria can grow rapidly at 40-140°F (4-60°C). So if your cooked chicken has been at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it should be discarded.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?

According to the USDA, refrigerated cooked chicken is safe to eat for 3-4 days when stored properly. This applies to homemade chicken as well as store-bought and restaurant takeout. The only exceptions are chicken nuggets and patties, which are more perishable and only last 1-2 days in the fridge.

If you want the cooked chicken to last longer, you can freeze it for up to 3 months in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Press out excess air before sealing and then label with the date for ready reference (I use masking tape and a marker). The night before you need it, remove from the freezer to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Airtight containers in the refrigerator as the proper way to store cooked chicken

How to Tell Whether Chicken Has Gone Bad

When chicken has gone bad, it often has a sour smell and takes on a gray color. However, it’s sometimes difficult to tell from the smell or appearance. Don’t taste it when you’re in doubt.

To be safe, discard cooked chicken that’s been at room temperature for more than 2 hours or in the fridge for more than 3-4 days (1-2 days for patties and nuggets). Bacteria such as salmonella may be present and cause food poisoning especially if the chicken was not cooked properly.

Note that uncooked or raw chicken only lasts 1-2 days in the fridge.

Recipes using leftover chicken:

Editor note: Published Feb 9, 2018 and updated Dec 11, 2019