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.

white platter of shredded chicken breast

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.

However, if you own an Instant Pot and prefer that route, check out this post for how to cook Instant Pot chicken. I also have great resources for making Crock Pot Shredded Chicken and Baked Chicken Breast (which you can shred)!

In today’s post, I’ll be reviewing:

  • How to cook shredded chicken via the poaching process
  • Seasoning tips
  • Ideas for ways to use shredded (or diced) chicken
  • How to make shredded chicken for a crowd
  • Storage
  • 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.
sauce pan with uncooked chicken breast for poaching
  • 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.
sauce pan with poached chicken covered in water (not broth) sitting on a green checked kitchen towel
  • 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.
cutting board with sliced cooked chicken breast

That’s it! From here, you can use the poached chicken however you please.

My Secret Tip to Easily Shred Chicken

  • 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. 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.

Ways to Use Shredded Chicken

clear plastic storage container of shredded chicken breast ready for refrigerating or freezing

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 too.

  • 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 storebought sthredded rotisserie chicken.

While buying shredded chicken is quick, 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 poaching/boiling 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.

Frozen Chicken – Yes You Can!

  • While starting with thawed chicken is preferable, you can use this method with frozen chicken too, though it will take longer to cook.
  • Resist the urge to boil the chicken rapidly to speed things along. A slow simmer is critical for even cooking and juicy chicken.
  • For the chicken to be safe to eat, it is IMPERATIVE that you test the chicken for doneness. An Instant-read meat thermometer will be your BFF.
  • Want to start with thawed chicken but you forgot to pull it out of the freezer the night before? (guilty!) Check out this guide for how to quickly thaw meat from Real Simple.

Helpful Tools Make Shredded Chicken or Diced Chicken

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 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!

plate of poached and shredded chicken

How to Cook Shredded Chicken

5 from 57 votes
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!

Prep: 2 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins

Servings: 1 –4 chicken breasts


  • 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.


  • 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.


Serving: 1(8 ounce) chicken breastCalories: 367kcalProtein: 34gFat: 4g

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Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. It would be helpful to clarify the amount of water needed. I followed the instructions and put one inch of water in the pot and the chicken didn’t cook and had to scrap it and start over after I read the comments.

    1. Hi Stefanie, I’m sorry you had trouble with this recipe. I go pretty in-depth in the blog post about the amount of water and how to do it. There is even pictures for reference. Hope the second time came out for you!

    2. From the photos it looks like you want an inch above the chicken breast, not just 1 inch total. Hope this helps.

    3. Totally agree that the directions are confusing. “Cover the chicken with an inch of water” which I understood as an inch of water total in the pot. Bummer

  2. Thank you for sharing! I’m making a copy cat chicken salad tonight and this is just the information I needed. It worked perfectly.5 stars

  3. Hi, all I needed to know was how to shred 5 pounds of chicken fast. I never heard of using a hand mixer and wow, what a time saving and non-messy way to go, Thank you so much for that idea!5 stars

  4. This was an incredibly easy way to prepare the shredded chicken for the enchilada casserole I made! It turned out perfectly, thank you!5 stars

  5. This was amazing – boiled many a breast before but adding seasonings was a great idea and the best part was using a hand mixer to shred after the chicken rested (which was perfectly done). In all my years I’ve never used a hand mixer but from now on I surely will! Looks professionally shredded, was quick and easy to clean. Thank you!5 stars

  6. I use shredded chicken in a lot of things and I’m never happy with the stovetop or baking methods because it always comes out a little too dry so I thought I’d try this method. Came out great. I’ll use this method from now on.5 stars

  7. Looks great! However, I have to use up tons of chicken breast CUTLETS. They’re about 4 oz each. If I put 2 or 3 of them in the pot and follow the directions, how many minutes might it take, more or less, to get them to 160 degrees? 6-8 minutes perhaps? Thanks!

    1. Hi Daniel! I’ve only made the recipe as is, so if you are using a different cut of chicken it would be hard for me to advise. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  8. Thanks for making this easy and foolproof! I’m a “by the recipe” cook as I’m not good at cooking – ask my kids!!! I’m so bad I could probably burn water! So thank you for walking through step by step! :)5 stars

  9. I have an 8qt instant pot and followed the directions to a tee with 1 small and one average sized chicken breast and I’m on the 3rd round of 8min pressure cook. 24 minutes in and they’re still not cooked through.

    1. Hi Lin! This recipe is actually designed to be made on the stovetop. If you’d like to try an Instant Pot recipe, I’d recommend following the instructions for my Instant Pot Chicken instead.

    1. Hi Melody! Yes you can! I actually have a whole section in the blog post that covers this. H

  10. If I need to cook my shredded chicken in the crockpot as sweet & sour BBQ chicken is there a limit to cooking it ur way or would it still be ok to then place it in crockpot to kinda cook a second time?

    1. Hi Tina! That is a little difficult for me to advise on since I don’t know the recipe you are going to make. Here is my guide to making crockpot shredded chicken. My honest opinion is that once you cook it and shredded it, you would not need to spend anymore time cooking it in the crockpot. You could likely heat it up with your sauce in the crockpot but you want to make sure it doesn’t dry out or overcook. Hope this helps!

  11. Pizza! My daughter and I make home made pizza with chicken, cranberry sauce and brie. We usually buy small containers of shredded chicken but wanted a more cost effective way so my chicken is on and looking forward to trying it.

  12. I put a few spices on the chicken along with the salt and pepper. Checked for any pink areas after 12 minutes (semi big chicken breasts) and they were perfect. Thank you!5 stars

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