Sure, pulling together an impressive dinner is easy if you have an endless grocery budget. But if you're like most of us, champagne and caviar just isn't making an appearance on your Tuesday night dinner table. Enter the humble yet reliably delicious chicken. Chicken is a blank-canvas and an affordable protein, so it’s the perfect base for a budget meal. Pulling off a tasty and cheap dinner is a great skill to have, whether you are cooking for one (and love some leftovers) or a crowd. These chicken recipes are all cost-conscious but also manage to incorporate big flavors from the likes of chipotle peppers, smoked paprika, or shoyu, to keep your dinners interesting.
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Chicken thighs are the unsung hero of a delicious dinner, especially if they are slowly braised like in this shoyu chicken recipe. The higher fat and collagen content of chicken thighs makes for a more flavorful bite and braising turns the meat into a fork-tender experience that may make you double-take and ask, “is this really just chicken?” The sauce is ginger packed and gets a punch of umami from the shoyu. The Instant Pot variation at the bottom of the stove top recipe makes this a weeknight no-brainer.
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What’s better than braised chicken? Not a lot. But braised-and-then-fried chicken is a strong contender. This adobo chicken comes together with just a few ingredients, but the combo of the tender, slow-braised, bone-in chicken that gets a final dip in a deep fry to crisp up the skin, is a winning combination. The cane vinegar called for in this recipe is easy to find in most Asian markets, but the subtlety of apple cider vinegar will work in a pinch.
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BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
These stuffed sweet potatoes are a great way to stretch just a bit of chicken breast to feed a few. To make it even easier, I would buy a rotisserie chicken and use just some of the breast meat to make this recipe. The rest of the rotisserie chicken can be added to a soup or turned into a chicken salad for lunches.
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Ritzy Chicken Casserole
No respectable cheap chicken dinner line-up would be complete without a casserole, and this cheesy, buttery, Ritzy chicken casserole is the winner among our endless catalogue of casserole content on our site. I could tell you to “round-out the dinner with a side salad,” but instead I’ll tell you to do what I do and eat this by the spoonful out of a bowl while streaming your newest obsession on TV.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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This recipe comes together with straight-forward ingredients, including three whole onions and loads of shredded carrots. The magic comes in the cooking process: the vegetables are sautéed in a Dutch oven until softened, then you layer on the chicken, and then finally the rice. The layers cook with little disturbance until ready to eat. The result is a deeply satisfying one-pot chicken dinner!
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Crispy Fried Chicken Drumsticks
Another comfort food classic that also falls into the wallet-friendly category are these fried chicken drumsticks. If the notion of deep frying is intimidating, the oven-fried variation at the bottom of the recipe is still crispy delicious.
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These crispy baked tacos can be made even easier if you have leftover chicken on hand (or some of that trusty rotisserie chicken I sang the praises of before). Though the recipe calls for chicken breast, any leftover chicken meat will work. Salsa and sour cream are the more affordable options of the optional garnishes.
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Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs
These saucy honey mustard chicken thighs rely on pantry staples to come together in under 30 minutes. Spoon over mashed potatoes or rice for comfort in a bowl.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Arroz con Pollo
One pot braised chicken and rice, but make it Mexican, in this version of arroz con pollo. Use any cut of boneless, skinless chicken you like, but I prefer thighs. They are loaded with flavor and are often a fraction of the price of breast meat, plus the cut takes perfectly to braising.
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Tinga de Pollo
The magic of this recipe is both in the simplicity of the ingredients and how they are prepared. Pan-roasting fresh tomatoes and onions give this dish a charred flavor and slowly braising the chicken yields wildly tender meat. This is a budget chicken taco recipe that is perfect to scale up to feed a larger crowd and for dinner parties.
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Instant Pot Pulled Chicken
This pulled chicken recipe comes together in under 30 minutes thanks to the Instant Pot. If you aren’t feeling inspired to make the homemade BBQ sauce in this recipe, you can easily use a cup of your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce or make this mustard-based Carolina gold style sauce instead.
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Consider this chicken meatloaf recipe as a great jumping off point. I would skip the Parm cheese and individual spices called for in the loaf and swap in a Ranch dressing packet for an easy umami flavor punch. (And since no one asked—I would also add a lot of shakes of Frank’s hot sauce into the glaze for a buffalo chicken-inspired loaf). If you are feeding fewer people, this recipe will yield a bunch of leftovers that make perfect meatloaf sandwiches for the week ahead.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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Sheet Pan Chicken
Sheet pan chicken, with whatever veggies you have on hand (or like best), is another clear winner for a budget-friendly and weeknight-easy meal. This recipe calls for a mix of sweet potatoes and broccoli, but feel free to use any combo of veggies including cubed potatoes, Brussels sprouts (cut in half), or carrots.