Here’s how to cook shredded chicken that’s fast, flavorful, and juicy every time! Use it to top salads, in tacos, on sandwiches, and in any of your favorite shredded chicken recipes.
Ultimate Guide to Shredded Chicken + Recipes to Use It
Table of Contents
- Ultimate Guide to Shredded Chicken + Recipes to Use It
- How to Make Shredded Chicken: 4 Steps
- How to Shred Chicken: My Secret Tip
- Shredded Chicken Breast Recipes
- How to Store Shredded Chicken
- Why Not Just Buy Shredded Chicken?
- What About Other Cuts of Chicken?
- Helpful Tools Make Shredded Chicken or Diced Chicken
- Shredded Chicken Yield and Serving Sizes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Cook Shredded Chicken Recipe
Sure you can buy store-bought rotisserie chicken, but when you see how fast and easy it is to make shredded chicken at home, you won’t want to.
Another benefit of cooking it yourself is that you can control the ingredients.
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.
- The chicken comes out perfectly tender and juicy every time. (Ever wonder how some restaurants get their chicken so moist? Cooking in water is the secret!)
- This method works for boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- You can also refrigerate the chicken for up to 4 days or freeze it, so it’s perfect for meal prep!
Other options include shredded chicken in the oven (Baked Chicken Breast), or if you want to use your appliances like your pressure cooker or slow cooker, you can prepare Instant Pot Shredded Chicken, Crockpot Shredded Chicken, or Air Fryer Chicken Breast.
How to Make Shredded Chicken: 4 Steps
- STEP ONE: Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) in the bottom of a large pot, then season them.
- Essential 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
- Mix It Up. This shredded chicken recipe is meant to be more of a blank canvas to add to a wide range of recipes, though you can certainly season it anyway you like. 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 for a big batch.
- STEP 2: Cover the Chicken with 1 Inch of Water
- YES, water (not broth!). If you like you can use chicken broth or vegetable 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 3: Place Pot on the Stove and Bring Water to a Gentle Boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and let the chicken breast or thighs simmer for 8 to 16 minutes, depending upon the size and number of chicken breasts or thighs that you are poaching.
- 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 4: Check for Doneness.
- 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.
- For the Juiciest Chicken. Remove the chicken a few degrees early. Place it on a plate, cover it, and let rest for five more minutes. The carry over cooking will finish the job.
That’s it! From here, you can shred the chicken (or dice it), then use it however you please.
How to Shred Chicken: My Secret Tip
- The 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. This hack is a complete timesaver, especially if you are making a larger amount.
- If you are making a very large batch, you can also shred it in a stand mixer.
- No mixer? No problem. You can shred the chicken the old fashioned way with two forks (you’ll need forks or protective gloves to shred hot chicken by hand), or my other favorite method: shred the chicken with your fingers. As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle safely, gently pull it apart with your fingers.
- 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.
Shredded Chicken Breast Recipes
- Mexican Recipes. Make shredded Chicken Enchiladas, an easy Chicken Quesadilla, Shredded Chicken Tacos, chicken burritos, chicken tostadas, a Chipotle Bowl…the options are endless!
- Pasta Salads. This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is a must.
- Chicken Salad. The classic! Try my Healthy Chicken Salad, Curry Chicken Salad, or dairy-free Whole30 Chicken Salad.
- Green Salads. ANY salad you like: Greek Salad; BLT Chopped Salad; BBQ Chicken Salad.
- Frittatas. This Chicken Broccoli Frittata is one of my favorite brunch recipes, and the leftovers are fantastic for lunch.
- Chicken Wraps. Chicken Caesar Wrap or Asian Chicken Wraps anyone?
- Chicken Casseroles. Chicken and Biscuits and Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole are classic, comforting, and forever scrumptious. For a different spin, try this Cheesy Corn Quinoa Casserole.
- Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken. A low-carb option that’s to-die-for no matter what diet you do (or do not!) follow.
- Chicken Soup. Chicken and Gnocchi Soup, Chicken Stew, Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, and Chicken Tortilla Soup are even faster and easier with pre-made shredded chicken.
How to Store Shredded Chicken
Shredded chicken is perfect to keep on hand in the refrigerator during the week to cut down on meal-prep time and to add quick servings of protein to your meals.
- TO REFRIGERATE SHREDDED CHICKEN. Let the cooked chicken cool completely. Place in a shallow, airtight container and press a sheet of plastic against the top. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- TO FREEZE SHREDDED CHICKEN. Follow the steps above, but instead of refrigerating, store the chicken in the freezer for up to 2 months. You can also store it in heavy duty freezer bags. Be sure to squish out as much extra air as you can.
Why Not Just Buy Shredded Chicken?
I also use this method for making shredded chicken any time a recipe calls for store bought shredded rotisserie chicken.
While you can buy shredded chicken, the benefits of making it yourself are notable.
- Health Considerations. Shredded chicken that you make at home is almost guaranteed to be lower in sodium and fat than store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- Cook the Meat You Want. I like to make shredded chicken breasts, because most of the time I prefer white meat. If your household is more into dark meat, you can cook all chicken thighs. Want a mix? You can choose a blend too!
- By weight, homemade shredded chicken is far less expensive than precooked store bought chicken.
What About Other Cuts of Chicken?
While I photographed this recipe with shredded chicken breasts, this method also works for making boneless, skinless shredded chicken thighs.
- If you use 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.
- I would not recommend this method with chicken wings or legs. Because neither contains a significant amount of meat, these cuts are better to cook for enjoyment on their own, versus for shredding to use in other applications.
Helpful Tools Make Shredded Chicken or Diced Chicken
- Instant-read meat thermometer
- Easy-to-store plastic containers, for leftovers (these are the only ones that actually stay organized in my cabinet and refrigerator)
Shredded Chicken Yield and Serving Sizes
The amount of shredded chicken your breast or thigh yields will vary widely depending upon their size. Generally:
- 1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken will yield about 4 cups of shredded chicken.
- 1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield about 1 1/3 cups of shredded chicken. This is a medium breast. The average ones at our grocery store tend to skew larger, but it will depend on the specific brand you purchase. Organic breasts are usually smaller.
- Plan on about 1/3 to 1/2 pound of uncooked boneless chicken per serving.
- If you are adding the shredded chicken to a recipe with a large amount of other fixings (such as chicken tacos), you will likely need less. For example, I find 1/4 pound per person for chicken tacos be plenty…assuming we have plenty of chips and guac.
- The nutritional information in the recipe below is calculated for 1/2 pound or 1 (8-ounce) breast.
I hope this guide on making shredded chicken was helpful for you! What are some of your favorite ways to use shredded chicken? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! While less ideal, you can make chicken on the stove from frozen. Be sure to let your chicken simmer gently to ensure it cooks through evenly; do not allow it to rapidly boil or the outsides will dry out before the center can thaw.
You can poach bone-in chicken, but it will take longer and (in my opinion) the results are not superior enough to be worth it—the stovetop method is about the convenience of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs. Be sure to remove the skin first, or it will make your water greasy. If using bone-in chicken, I prefer to use the oven for Baked Bone-In Chicken Breasts or Baked Chicken Thighs. The skin can stay on and the chicken is SO moist.
Essentially the two are the same thing, though you may see the terms used in different circumstances. In the U.S., the term “pulled chicken” typically refers to chicken that has been prepared in a barbecue fashion, with a dry rub or Barbecue Sauce. See these Pulled Chicken Sandwiches for a recipe. “Shredded” refers only to the chicken’s texture, and is not specific to a certain flavor profile. You could have shredded chicken in soups, tacos, Shredded Chicken Sandwiches, you name it!
Yes. If you let the chicken get cold or it sits at room temperature for so long that it becomes unsafe to eat, it has rested too long. Let boneless chicken breasts or thighs rest 5 to 10 minutes; rest a whole chicken for 15 to 30 minutes. It is also easier to shred the chicken when it is still warm; it tends to toughen up a bit as it gets cold.
How to Cook Shredded Chicken
- 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.
- This method for how to poach chicken is intended for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It also works well for boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken breasts too, though you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If using bone-in chicken breasts, extend the cook time; for thighs, check them early.
- 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. You can shred by hand or use a hand mixer on low speed.
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