Homemade Chicken Lunch Meat

We love this flavorful lunch meat – so much better then the watery store-bought versions. It is thinly sliced, garlicky, lemon chicken, spiked with dried oregano and seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper.  this recipe makes a great sandwich meat, is tasty on a salad, on crackers, or as a snack eat on it’s own.

My daughter can’t wait for me for me to make this again, as she ate up our batch quite quickly. For some reason the thinly sliced part of this recipe won her over. Whereas she wasn’t interested in eating the whole chicken thigh, once it was thinly sliced, she loved it (she said it was like “bacon” because it was so thin!).

While there are a lot of different ideas for nourishing lunches, sometimes it is nice to have lunch meat available. But it is expensive! Especially if you try to buy higher-quality. The lunch meat available to us that is humanely raised, antibiotic-free, nitrate-free is 12 dollars a pound. But it is not organic, and many nitrate free brands use celery juice, which has natural nitrates and can actually make the product even higher in nitrates than conventional brands (so beware if you are sensitive to nitrates!). I can make a pound of my own chicken lunch meat using organic chicken thighs (from Trader Joes) for around half the price. I call that a savings. Plus, it really does taste a whole lot better too.

The fun thing is that you can really use whatever type of seasonings you want. You could do a heavy pepper coating for a peppered lunch meat, you can make an Italian herb version or you could try smoked sea salt. There are endless variations here.

And whether you are packing a lunch for a child at school, or yourself or a hubby, this recipe pleases all ages in my family. To kill two birds with one stone, double the recipe, and serve half of it hot with rice and steamed vegetables for dinner, and then chill the rest for lunch meat! It is very tasty hot too.

This recipe is part of our Nourishing Back to School theme this month. Our first recipe was for Easy, All-Natural Caramel Apples. Yum!

 Homemade Chicken Lunch Meat

Makes 4-6 servings
Using chicken thighs or breasts on the bone will help keep chicken moist. However, I find that it is actually more expensive per pound considering how much meat you get off of them, then using chicken thighs (which are cheaper than breasts). To help keep it moist, the lemon juice and oil help, and then I also cook it covered. As long as you don’t overcook it, it will still be quite moist. However, if you’d like to use bone on breasts or thighs, simply cook for about ten or 15 minutes longer, and cut off the breast and remove the skin, once cooled. Oh, and save those bones for making chicken stock!
1 pound chicken breasts or thighs (skinless, boneless)
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through a garlic press
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of oregano (I used my wild oregano, which is very flavorful, so I only used 1/2)
Zest from half of one organic lemon
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
2 tablespoons of fat (melted) or oil of choice (olive oil, melted butter, ghee, etc).
Unrefined salt and freshly ground pepper

1.In a small casserole pan, combine all of the ingredients, including a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, and gently toss with your hands. Spread out chicken in pan so that the thighs/breasts don’t touch. Cover pan with foil (don’t let it touch the food), or cover with parchment paper, pressing carefully around the chicken in the pan. Let marinate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Cook for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. Check temperature, it should be at 165 degrees F. If not, cook for another 5 minutes and check again. (It is also done when the juices run clear when cut to the middle). Remove from oven. Cool for about 15 minutes. Then refrigerate, covered until very chilled. If you want to cut really thinly, freeze for twenty minutes.

3. Using a very sharp, large knife, cut into thin slices against the grain. Enjoy! This will stay good refrigerated for 3-4 days, so freeze any extra, if it will take longer for you to use it.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    Great idea! I just recently discovered my new favorite marinade and it tastes like classic Rotisserie chicken. Something magical about the addition of lemon I guess. Next time I’ll make extra and slice it like this to use like lunch meat. 🙂 I just covered the chicken parts in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then ground a TON of lemon pepper over it and sprinkled it with a little salt. Marinated it for awhile (okay maybe I forgot about it and it was three days) then pulled it out, sprinkled it with more lemon pepper and baked it like normal (20 minutes at 425 then 15-20 at 350) It was crispy, sizzling and succulent. (mixture of drumsticks and bone in breast) Anyways- thanks for all you do!

  2. Lesley Carol Prince says

    A lovely way to make chicken for sandwiches or a cold tray. I like the combination of ingredients. Thank you.

  3. Kelsey says

    Oh yum! This is a great idea. You’re right, lunch meat is super expensive and usually full of yucky things. I’m going to try this! I like the idea of freezing the chicken for a few minutes to be able to slice it thinner. I like my lunch meat sliced thin. Thanks!

  4. Tammy says

    I find that skin-on, bone-in is always the best buy, as long as you make sure to use the whole thing. Pull the skin off and toss into a freezer bag; once the bag is full you make schmaltz in the crockpot, this saves a ton of money as fat is one of the most expensive things that we buy at the store. Use a good boning or filet knife to remove the larger portion of meat (I highly recommend Jacques Pepin’s book “Complete Techniques” if you are unfamiliar with this or any other kitchen skill), use this for your dish (in this case, lunch meat). The bone and attached meat go into a pot for soup or broth. Hope that helps!

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey There,

      I imagine that it depends on where you buy your chicken. 🙂 It certainly costs more for me to buy bone in chicken, unless it is a whole chicken.

    • ~Kate F. says

      Thank you so much for the tip about what to do with the skin! It’s a revelation for me. Haha. I always just fried it up like cracklins for me and the kids (and then discarded the extra oil in the pan). Now we get even more cracklins and save the oil. Woohoo. 🙂

  5. Jen says

    I just started a new job and now I have to pack lunches two days a week for my kids – they love lunch meat but I know it can have some nasty ingredients so this will be great.
    Plus I noticed organic chicken breast is on a really good sale at our local store this week.
    Don’t you just love it when it all comes together like that!

  6. Lisa says

    Thanks for posting this! I agree it is better to find other options than store bought lunchmeat. I have 5 kids and organic/humanely raised becomes quite expensive. I just made my own corned beef from our local grass fed beef from brisket which is a cheap cut. You can also use a chuck roast for it. Then I made our reuben sandwiches with it. The kids were begging for more!

  7. Jackie says

    Hi! I am new to your blog and didn’t know where I could leave this post. I have been struggling with severe adrenal fatigue for a long time and found your posts on Keeper Of the Home very encouraging! Thank you for sharing your heart. So hard to heal while raising a family of little ones but your posts gave me hope! THANK YOU!

  8. says

    Wow! This is one of those things that makes me think – “of course! Why didnt I ever think of that!”

    Buying a low sodium, nitrate free deli meat costs me more than twice the cost of organic chicken breast here in Mexico. Mking my own – solution solved! I imagine I could do the same with turkey breast, off to google some more… 🙂 thanks for all the great recipes and tips, love these sites (all the nourishing family!) like nobody would believe. <3

  9. Karen says

    We learn something everyday! I looked up “schmaltz”. Of course, I’ve seen it but not known what it was called. Wikipedia had great information to help me understand. Should I admit that I have always thrown that fat away? I’ll be on a new tangent this year. More research coming up.

    The recipe sounds great too. My husband is on low fats and low sodium due to heart condition but try to use “healthy” fats for him.

  10. Renata Cantave@Nu Living Solutions says

    Oh my gosh, I was just looking for an alternative to a store-bought ham, this is great and I’m trying it tomorrow! Thanks for sharing.

    • Molly says

      From pointyish end to pointyish is with the grain. Against the grain on a breast would be cutting through the width of the pieces.

  11. Dr Lubna says

    Thanks. Loved the recipe. But in pakistan I don’t get the organic chicken and herbs so have to do what’s available. Still thanks for a healthy lunch substitute.

  12. Felony says

    I can’t thank you enough for posting this recipe! I have been enjoying it for about 2 years now! I make it ahead and freeze it so I can I put 1/2 a breast in my husband’s lunch bowls all week! We also love it on sandwiches as well with lots of garlic mayo! THANK YOU!

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