Crock Pot Shredded Chicken
While the premise of making chicken in the slow cooker seems easy enough, finding clear answers to know how long to cook your chicken, what type of chicken to use, and the best way to shred it was harder than I expected. Every article I read quoted something different, which is why I decided to create this one-stop resource for Crock Pot Shredded Chicken. Whether you are wondering how to make it, what recipes you can use it in, or how to store it, this article has an answer for you!
If you’ve ever waded through my vast section of healthy chicken recipes, then you know that I have recipes that span just about every method to cook chicken. From grilled chicken recipes (like Grilled Chicken Kebobs), to baked chicken recipes (yummy Baked Chicken Parmesan), to Instant Pot chicken recipes (like Instant Pot Butter Chicken), to stir fried chicken recipes (hello, Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry), you’re likely to find one for every mood and cooking vessel. My most popular chicken recipes of all, however, are my slow cooker chicken recipes. When it comes to making healthy dinners easy, the schedule flexibility and hands-free nature of the slow cooker is hard to beat.
Thus, I thought it was high time that I developed a resource for how to cook shredded chicken in the crock pot.
If you are looking to use your crock pot to cook chicken, read on!
Thanks to the low and slow cooking method, this method for making shredded chicken yields moist, tender chicken that is easy to shred or dice.
Then, once you’ve cooked and shredded your chicken, the possibilities are endless for how to use it. Throw it on a salad or pasta dish, use it in your quesadillas or soups, or try any of the creative ideas I’ve suggested for you below.
In today’s post, I’ll be reviewing:
- How to Make Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- How to Shred Chicken (The Easy Way!)
- What Type of Chicken is Best for Shredded Chicken?
- Tips for Perfect Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in the Slow Cooker?
- How to Store and Freeze Crock Pot Shredded Chicken
- What to Do with Shredded Chicken
- Recommended Tools to Make Shredded Chicken
Click on a link above to jump directly to that part of the post, or keep scrolling to see it all.
First, we’ll dive into how to make the slow cooker shredded chicken with a breakdown of chicken breasts vs. chicken thighs and boneless chicken vs. bone-in chicken.
Step One: Add Chicken to Slow Cooker
- First, you’ll add your chicken breasts or thighs to the slow cooker in a single layer, so that they cook evenly. Do not over lap the layers or the chicken will not cook evenly.
Step Two: Add Seasoning
- Next, you’ll add the seasonings to your chicken. This is important for the flavor of your chicken, so don’t skimp here, especially the salt. This is your only chance to get flavor into the meat.
- If you want to utilize your chicken in a variety of different recipes, salt and pepper will be best, as they fit with any dish.
- Other suggestions to flavor your crock pot chicken:
- Mexican Shredded Chicken. Add the seasonings from my Crock Pot Mexican Chicken.
- Italian Shredded Chicken. Add 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning to your chicken.
- Spicy Shredded Chicken. If you love spice, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to your chicken.
Step Three: Cook on HIGH or LOW According to the Times Below
These cooking times are a suggestion based on my experience, but I always suggest checking your chicken for doneness early with an instant read thermometer. When done, your chicken should be 165 degrees F. If your chicken is not cooked through after the cooking time has ended, place it back in the slow cooker and continue cooking until done.
Boneless Chicken Breasts.
- Cook on LOW for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Always cook your boneless skinless chicken breasts on LOW for the best results.
- I do not recommend cooking boneless chicken breast on HIGH, as it will become very dry, even if you check it early. On high, the chicken turns out drier; I consistently have the best results with low.
- Based on a medium boneless chicken breast with a weight of 8 ounces. Be sure to add or subtract time if your piece of chicken is smaller or larger.
- Check early! All crock pot models are different, so your chicken may take less or more time than listed.
Bone-in Chicken Breasts.
- Cook on LOW for 2-3 hours or HIGH for 1-2 hours.
- Bone-in chicken is less likely to dry out than boneless, so you have flexibility to cook the chicken on high.
- Based on medium bone-in chicken breast with a weight of 11 ounces. Be sure to add or subtract time if your piece of chicken is smaller or larger.
Boneless Chicken Thighs.
- Cook on LOW for 3-4 hours or HIGH for 2-3 hours
- Chicken thighs are less likely to dry out than chicken breasts, so you have flexibility to cook the chicken on high.
- Based on medium boneless chicken thigh with a weight of 4.5 ounces.
- Be sure to add or subtract time if your piece of chicken is smaller or larger.
Bone-in Chicken Thighs.
- Cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.
- Based on medium bone-in chicken thigh with a weight of 5.5 ounces.
- Be sure to add or subtract time if your piece of chicken is smaller or larger.
Shredded Chicken Yield
The amount of shredded meat your chicken will yield depends on size and how large you shred it, so the amount can vary drastically. Here is an estimated yield for the average weight of each type of chicken:
- An average, 8-to 10-ounce chicken breast will yield about 1 heaping cup of shredded chicken.
- An average chicken thigh will yield about 3/4 cup or slightly less shredded chicken.
- The typical serving size of shredded chicken is about 4 ounces of shredded chicken per person.
If you are making this crock pot chicken for a crowd, I suggest making more than you think you need. Leftovers are never a bad thing, especially since shredded chicken is so easy to store and freeze.
While you can certainly enjoy your slow cooker chicken sliced or diced, shredding it is fast, simple, and versatile. Here are a few of the best ways to shred chicken breasts and thighs:
- Hand Mixer. This is my preferred method! Remove your chicken to a bowl or place your hand mixer directly into the slow cooker and use it on low speed to shred the chicken. You also can transfer the cooked chicken breasts or thighs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and shred it on low.
- Two Forks. Grab two forks, using one to steady the big pieces of chicken. Use the other fork to tear the big piece into shreds. (I’ve also heard reports that these Meat Shredder Claws work splendidly.)
- Fingers. If your chicken is cool enough, you can shred it with your fingers.
- Boneless vs. Bone-in Chicken. You can use both boneless and bone-in pieces of chicken to make shredded chicken.
- Boneless is great because because shredding is typically easier, and it cooks faster.
- Bone-in chicken meat tends to stay very moist and may have more flavor than boneless.
- Skin On or Off. While you can leave the skin on your chicken during slow cooking, it will liely become soggy. For this recipe, it is best to remove any skin before you begin cooking.
- If you want to cook your chicken with the skin on, lay it in the slow cooker skin side up, and leave the lid slightly cracked. This will allow some liquid to escape during cooking and help the skin crisp up. Note that you may need to add to the cook time to accommodate the lid being ajar.
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken. You can overcook chicken in a slow cooker. If the chicken is cooked too long, it will become dry. Check your chicken for doneness early, especially if it is one of your first times making it. I also like to use a programmable slow cooker to deter overcooking.
- Cook on LOW Heat. Chicken breasts cooked on high may finish more quickly, but it is much more prone to drying out. Even on low this recipe cooks fairly quickly, so the wait time isn’t significant, and the trade off is worth it.
- Cook in a Single Layer. Make sure your chicken pieces are arranged in a single layer, so they cook evenly.
- No Need to Add Liquid. The natural moisture in the chicken is sufficient as long as the chicken is in a single layer. That means you can make this crockpot shredded chicken with no broth.
- Season! A good sprinkle of kosher salt is essential for any kind of flavor. I also like to add black pepper. See above for more seasoning ideas.
- Let the Chicken Rest. Let your chicken rest for at least 5 minutes after it comes out of the slow cooker. This will help keep the juices inside the chicken, so that it stays moist.
- Do not place frozen chicken in the slow cooker, as it may spend too long at room temperature during the slow cooking process and become unsafe to eat. While at room temperature, chicken has the greatest chance of developing harmful bacteria.
- You can use raw chicken in the slow cooker (the whole idea behind today’s shredded chicken recipe); it just needs to be completely thawed first.
- Need to Use Frozen Chicken? If you forget to thaw your chicken and need to use it frozen (I’ve been there before), then follow the instructions for my Instant Pot Chicken or the below tip for quickly thawing chicken.
- To Quickly Thaw Frozen Chicken. Place frozen chicken in a large plastic bag, and fill a large bowl with cold water. Submerge the bag into the bowl of cold water, and let sit until thawed (about 1 to 2 hours). If your water becomes warm, pour it out and refill the bowl with fresh cold water.
- To Store. Place shredded chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm plain shredded chicken in the microwave until hot, topped with a splash of water or chicken broth to keep it from drying out. If you’re serving sauce with your chicken, you can reheat it the chicken in the sauce on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
- To Freeze. Store shredded chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
The beauty of shredded chicken is that it can be used in SO many recipes! Add it to any recipe that calls for shredded chicken or bring extra protein to your favorite salad, soup, or pasta dish. Here are a few ways that I like to use crock pot shredded chicken:
- Tex-Mex Recipes. Slow cooker shredded chicken tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas (Chicken Enchilada Skillet anyone?) are a delicious way to use the chicken. You can find more fiesta-themed ideas here!
- Sandwiches. Take a note from my Crock Pot BBQ Chicken or Healthy Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes and add a sauce. Then, use the chicken to make a crockpot shredded chicken sandwich.
- Salads. Add protein to your favorite salad by topping it with this crock pot shredded chicken. My favorites include Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad and Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing.
- Pastas. Make your favorite pasta dish more filling by stirring in this shredded chicken. Adding it to this Mediterranean Pasta or this Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese would be tasty.
- Pizzas. Use your shredded chicken to top a pizza.
- Soups. Stir some of this chicken into your favorite vegetarian soup recipe like Broccoli Cauliflower Soup to bump the protein content.
- Casseroles. Add crock pot shredded chicken to a veggie casserole like this Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole.
- Slow Cooker. Programmable slow cookers like this one help prevent overcooking.
- Hand Mixer. An easy way to shred your chicken.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The best method to check chicken for doneness.
Crock Pot Shredded Chicken
- 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each) - or boneless, skinless thighs, bone-in chicken breasts, or bone-in chicken thighs
- kosher salt, black pepper, and other seasonings as desired - see blog post above for suggestions
- Place chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker. Position the chicken so it's in a single layer and season, if desired (see blog post above for suggestions).
- Cover and cook on LOW or HIGH according to the times listed in blog post above for the size and type of your chicken.
- Once the cooking time has finished, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken at its thickest part. (If you're using bone-in chicken, don't touch the thermometer to the bone.) The chicken should be 165 degrees F. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board and let rest a few minutes so the juices can reincorporate (if you plan to shred the right in your slow cooker, you can let it rest there).
- When the chicken is cooked through, shred it using a hand mixer, two forks, or your fingers. Serve as desired.
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