How to Cook Shredded Chicken

Have you ever had a recipe that called for cooked shredded chicken or cooked diced chicken, without any direction for how to go about cooking it in the first place? Today’s step-by-step tutorial is your answer. Whether you need cooked chicken to prepare chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or chicken dip, or just to munch right out of your refrigerator when you’re hungry and in total desperation mode, this method is by far the fastest and easiest way to cook chicken that comes out perfectly moist and juicy every single time.

How to make shredded chicken. Use this easy method anytime a recipe calls for diced or shredded chicken. Perfect for adding to chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, and more! @wellplated

While there are a variety of different methods to cook chicken, 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.

In today’s post, I’ll be reviewing how to cook shredded chicken via the poaching process, as well as giving you a few suggestions for yummy ways to use it. You can watch the above video to see the entire process or scroll down to see step-by-step photos, and finally you’ll find a recap for the steps at the very end of the post.

How to Cook Shredded Chicken in Three Easy Steps:

1) Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot, then season them generously with salt and pepper.

How to cook shredded chicken breasts. @wellplated

If you are cooking a larger number of chicken breasts, 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.

2) Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water.

Poached chicken: How to cook easy poached chicken that’s perfect for salads, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, and more! @wellplated

3) 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. 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).

That’s it!

Use this method for how to cook shredded chicken anytime a recipe calls for cooked chicken or shredded chicken. @wellplated

From here, you can use the poached chicken however you please. Shred, slice or dice it for salads, shred it for chicken enchiladas, bake it into a cheesy chicken frittata, or use it to make chicken salad.

Shredded chicken is perfect to keep on hand in the refrigerator during the week to cut down on meal-prep time too. I’ll often store it to mix into leftover pasta, or add it to an omelet for a fast, healthy lunch.

How to cook poached chicken in 3 steps: Perfect for adding shredded chicken or diced chicken to any recipe. @wellplated

I also use this method for how to make shredded chicken anytime a recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken. Instead of the store-bought rotisserie chicken, I swap in an equal amount of shredded chicken breasts that I poach myself. Shredded chicken that you make at home is almost guaranteed to be lower in sodium and fat than store-bought rotisserie chicken, and I like that I can choose all-white meat as well.

This cooking method also works for making shredded chicken thighs. The meat may cook more quickly depending upon their size, so I recommend checking a few minutes early to ensure that you have moist, juicy diced or shredded chicken.

Tools I used to make this recipe:

For a step-by-step of how to cook shredded chicken, watch this short video:


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How to Cook Shredded Chicken

Use this easy method for how to cook shredded chicken anytime a recipe calls for diced or shredded chicken. Perfect for enchiladas, chicken salad, and more!

Yield: 1–4 chicken breasts

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (8 to 12 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot, then season them lightly with salt and pepper. 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.
  2. Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water.
  3. 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.
  • This method for how to poach chicken is intended for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I think that it would work well for boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken breasts too, though you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If dicing the chicken, I prefer to cut the chicken just before serving. If shredding, I find that the chicken is the easiest to shred apart while it is still slightly warm, before I place it in the refrigerator.

Method adapted from basic tutorials that can be found in a wide range of cookbooks and on websites, as well as personal experience.

// All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 (8-ounce) chicken breast

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 367
  • Total Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 34g