Cooked shredded chicken and cooked diced chicken are listed as ingredients in many recipes, but have you ever had a recipe that called for them, without any direction for how to go about cooking the chicken in the first place? This step-by-step tutorial for how to cook shredded chicken is your answer! I’ll go over the easiest way to make shredded chicken breasts. This simple method works for shredded chicken thighs too.
Whether you need to know how to make shredded chicken for chicken enchiladas (like these Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas), chicken tacos, chicken sandwiches, Greek yogurt healthy chicken salad (or Whole30 chicken salad), shredded chicken enchilada dip, or just to munch straight from your refrigerator when you’re hungry and in total desperation mode, this is the post for you!
While you can cook shredded chicken in the oven or slow cooker, the method I show step-by-step below (cooking the chicken in a pot on the stove) is by far the fastest and easiest way to make it. The chicken comes out perfectly moist and juicy every time.
You can also refrigerate the chicken for up to 4 days or freeze it, so it’s perfect for meal prep too!
While there are a variety of different methods to cook chicken for shredding or dicing, poaching (gently cooking the chicken in water) is the one I’ve found to be the quickest and easiest, with the smallest amount of clean up. You don’t need any equipment other than a pot to make it (though if you own an Instant Pot and prefer that route, check out this post for how to cook Instant Pot chicken!)
In today’s post, I’ll be reviewing:
How to cook shredded chicken via the poaching process
Ideas for ways to use shredded (or diced) chicken
How to make shredded chicken for a crowd
Serving size and yield
You scroll down to see step-by-step photos, check out the video with a how-to after the photos, and finally you’ll find a recap for the steps at the very end of the post.
How to Make Shredded Chicken: Recipe Step-by-Steps
- STEP ONE: Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) in the bottom of a large pot, then season them.
- For seasoning, I opt for a generous pinch of salt and pepper. If you like, you can add other seasonings, such as a bayleaf, poultry seasoning, or a few springs of fresh herbs.
- This shredded chicken recipe is meant to be more of a blank canvas to add to a wide range of recipes. Because I know I have some fellow Tex-Mex fans, if you are looking for Mexican shredded chicken options, I recommend these Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos and this Instant Pot Mole Chicken.
- ARRANGING THE CHICKEN : If you are cooking a larger number of chicken breasts or thighs, you can overlap them slightly.
- If you have a lot of overlap, I’d suggest upgrading to a larger pot or using two separate pots.
- STEP TWO: Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water (not broth!).
- YES, water! If you like you can use chicken broth, though I find that with this cooking method, you don’t need it. Unless you have some that you need to use up, save yourself an ingredient and make this shredded chicken without broth.
STEP THREE: Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a gentle boil.
Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer for 8 to 16 minutes, depending upon the size and number of chicken breasts that you are poaching.If the idea of boiling chicken sounds unappealing, I promise this gentle simmer method will turn out for you. As long as you check the chicken and remove it once it reaches the magic temperature, your chicken will be perfect every single time.STEP FOUR: Check for doneness.The chicken is done when the center reaches 165 degrees F (use an instant-read meat thermometer for guaranteed safety and accuracy—I love this one and use it regularly).Check your chicken OFTEN towards the end. If your chicken is dry or tough, it is because it is overcooked. You can even remove the chicken as soon as it reaches 160 degrees F. Place it on a plate, cover it, and let rest for five more minutes. Check for doneness once more. The carry over should cooking finish the job.
That’s it! From here, you can use the poached chicken however you please
My Secret Tip to Easily Shred ChickenThe easiest way to shred chicken is with a hand mixer! Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl, then use a hand mixer on low speed to break the chicken into shreds. It’s a complete timesaver, especially if you are making a larger amount.No mixer? No problem. You can shred the chicken the old fashioned way with two forks, or my other favorite method: your fingers. Just be sure to let the chicken rest until it is cool enough to handle safely first.Instead of shredding the chicken, you can also slice or dice it, which is even faster and perfect for green salads, pasta salads, and wraps.
- 1 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts — 8 to 12 ounces each
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
- Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot, then season them lightly with salt and pepper. The amounts in the recipe are just a suggestion, so don’t feel pressured to measure. Give each breast a nice sprinkle. If you are cooking a lot of chicken breasts, you can overlap them slightly. If you have a lot of overlap, use a larger pot.
- Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water.
- Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer or is no longer pink in the center, about 8 to 16 minutes, depending upon the size and number of chicken breasts that you are poaching. A 10-ounce chicken breast will need to simmer for about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the chicken from water and let rest until cool enough to handle. Dice, slice, or shred as desired.