Look no further because this is your one-stop resource for making easy Crockpot Shredded Chicken. Whether you are wondering how to cook it, what recipes you can use it in, or how to store it, this article has an answer for you!
Table of Contents
- Tips for Perfect Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- How to Make Crockpot Shredded Chicken
- How Long Do You Cook Raw Chicken in a Crockpot?
- How to Store and Freeze Crockpot Shredded Chicken
- What to Do with Shredded Chicken
- Recommended Tools to Make Crockpot Shredded Chicken
- The Best Crockpot for Shredded Chicken
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Crockpot Shredded Chicken Recipe
While the premise of making shredded chicken in the slow cooker seems easy enough, finding clear answers to know how long to cook your raw chicken breast in the slow cooker, what type of chicken to use, how to keep it from getting tough, and the best way to shred it can be difficult to track down in a single resource.
That’s why I’ve created this comprehensive guide for making a healthy pulled chicken recipe in the slow cooker.
- When it comes to making healthy dinners easy, working around busy life schedules, and the hands-free nature of chicken recipes in a slow cooker, they just can’t be beat.
- This basic crockpot shredded chicken uses a low and slow cooking method, which yields easy shredded chicken that’s moist, tender, and easy to shred or dice.
Once prepared, throw the healthy pulled chicken on a salad (or use it to make Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad), combine it with Barbecue Sauce for bbq chicken sandwiches, mix it into pasta like Chicken Alfredo Bake, use it for Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, and for soups, tacos, or casseroles like Chicken and Biscuits.
The possibilities are truly endless for how to use it!
5 Star Review
“This is the only way we make chicken now. It is so easy and for once in my life the chicken tastes juicy instead of overcooked!”— Mary —
Tips for Perfect Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken. You can overcook chicken in a slow cooker. If the chicken is cooked too long, it will become dry and tough. 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 and being dough. Even on LOW, this recipe cooks fairly quickly. 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 below 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 before shredding. This will help keep the juices inside the chicken, so it stays moist.
How to Make Crockpot Shredded Chicken
First, let’s dive into the basic crockpot shredded chicken method using go-to boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Then, keep scrolling for how to make slow cooker shredded chicken with chicken thighs vs. chicken breasts and my top tips for making easy shredded chicken in the crock pot with boneless chicken vs. bone-in chicken and skinless chicken vs. skin-on chicken!
- Chicken. Believe it or not, all you need for this easy crockpot shredded chicken breast recipe is…CHICKEN! You’ll have to trust me when I say you can make shredded chicken in your crock pot without broth, water, bbq sauce, or marinade. It’s amazing, and it works!
- Spices & Seasonings. 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. Or, try one of the ideas suggested below to infuse your each crockpot shredded chicken breast with flavor.
- Add your raw chicken breasts to the slow cooker in a single layer.
A single layer is key so that they cook evenly. DO NOT overlap with layers, or the chicken will not cook evenly and risk drying out.
- Next, season your chicken as desired. No more prep time than this!
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.
- Slow cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts on LOW for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. For different cuts of chicken, see the times detailed below.
- Shred this chicken, then serve as desired. ENJOY!
How to Shred Chicken (EASY Methods!)
If you’re wondering what the BEST way to shred chicken is, 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.
Seasonings for Crockpot Shredded Chicken
- Mexican Shredded Chicken. Add the seasonings from my Crock Pot Mexican Chicken to make slow cooker Mexican shredded chicken. It’s a million times better than packet taco seasoning plus salsa approach. Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper, plus chipotle peppers in adobo sauce deliver a fabulous Mexican chicken recipe.
- Italian Shredded Chicken. Add 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning to your chicken. See also: Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore.
- Spicy Shredded Chicken. If you love spice, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to your chicken.
- Buffalo Shredded Chicken. Follow the crockpot shredded chicken recipe from this Healthy Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes recipe.
- BBQ Shredded Chicken. For slow cooker shredded BBQ chicken, see Crockpot BBQ Chicken recipe here!
How Long Do You Cook Raw Chicken in a Crockpot?
The below 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. I remove mine 5 to 10 degrees early, since it will continue to cook as it rests.
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.
Chicken Breast Cooking Times
Boneless Chicken Breasts.
- Cook boneless chicken breasts in slow cooker 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 and tough, 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 bone-in chicken breasts in slow cooker 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 the 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 boneless chicken thighs in slow cooker 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 bone-in chicken thighs in slow cooker 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.
What Type of Chicken is Best for Shredded Chicken?
So many types of chicken, so little time! Here are my thoughts and tips for choosing the right chicken for slow cooker recipes:
Boneless vs. Bone-in Chicken.
You can use both boneless and bone-in pieces of chicken to make shredded chicken.
- Boneless is great 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 likely 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.
- 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 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.
Meal Prep Tip
Divide your crockpot pulled chicken into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze as desired so you can have cooked chicken on demand for an array of quick and easy shredded chicken recipes all week long.
What to Do with Shredded Chicken
The beauty of shredded chicken in a crock pot 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 to use crock pot shredded chicken:
- Tex-Mex Recipes. Fiesta Chicken, slow cooker shredded chicken tacos Chicken Enchilada Skillet, Shredded Chicken Tacos, or homemade Chipotle Bowls are delicious ways to use the chicken. (King Ranch Chicken with corn tortillas, tomatoes, sour cream, and the Best Guacamole Recipe anyone?). You can find more fiesta-themed ideas here!
- Sandwiches. Take a note from my Crock Pot BBQ Chicken and add a sauce. Then, use the chicken to make a crockpot shredded chicken sandwich.
- Wraps. This Chicken Caesar Wrap and this Asian Chicken Wrap are super flavorful and make for an easy dinner or lunch. Or try a Mediterranean wrap, with hummus, healthy crockpot pulled chicken, olives, cucumber, red onion, feta, and any other of your favorite toppings. I like using whole wheat tortillas for my wraps, but you could also use flour tortillas, naan, or pita.
- Salads. Add protein to your favorite salad by topping it with this crock pot shredded chicken. My favorites include Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, BBQ Chicken Salad with lettuce, black beans, and cilantro, and this Spinach Strawberry Salad.
- 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 (this Buffalo Chicken Pizza is a winner!).
- 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.
Recommended Tools to Make Crockpot Shredded Chicken
- 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.
Shredded chicken, you are a lifesaver. I’d be lost without you.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 only use fully-thawed raw chicken in the slow cooker safely.
To quickly (and safely) 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.
The amount of shredded meat your chicken will yield depends on its size and how large you shred it, so the amount can vary drastically. Typically, an average, 8-to 10-ounce chicken breast will yield about 1 heaping cup of shredded chicken. For dark meat lovers, an average chicken thigh will yield about 3/4 cup or slightly less shredded chicken. To calculate the amount you need, keep in mind the average serving size of shredded chicken is about 4 ounces per person (but this will vary depending on appetite).
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.
Yes! Despite what you may think, it is 100 percent possible to overcook chicken in the slow cooker. If the chicken is cooked too long, it will become dry (even if you use broth or water) and tough. That means the best way to keep chicken from drying out in a crockpot is to stop cooking it as soon as it reaches the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Crockpot 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 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast on LOW for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours (for other cuts of chicken, such as boneless things, or bone-in chicken breasts or thighs, and for cooking times on HIGH, see the blog post above).
- Check the chicken for doneness with an instant-read thermometer. (If you're using bone-in chicken, don't touch the thermometer to the bone.) The chicken should be 165 degrees F (I remove mine 5 to 10 degrees early, since the temperature will rise as it rests). Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board and let rest 5 to 10 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.
- For cooking times based on the type of chicken, please see the instructions listed in the blog post above.
- 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.
- TO MAKE SHREDDED CHICKEN IN THE INSTANT POT: See my Instant Pot Chicken post.
- TO MAKE SHREDDED CHICKEN ON THE STOVE: See my How to Make Shredded Chicken post.
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