How to Cook Shredded Chicken

Shredded chicken and cooked diced chicken are used 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 on how to cook shredded chicken is your answer.

Whether you need cooked chicken to prepare chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or chicken dip, or just to munch straight from your refrigerator when you’re hungry and in total desperation mode, this is the post for you!

My method is by far the fastest and easiest way to cook chicken that comes out perfectly moist and juicy every single time.

white platter of shredded chicken breast

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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 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:

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

sauce pan with uncooked chicken breast for poaching

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.

sauce pan with poached chicken sitting on a green checked kitchen towel

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!

cutting board with sliced chicken breast

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 my leftover shredded chicken to mix into leftover pasta, or add it to an omelet for a fast, healthy lunch.

clear plastic storage container of shredded chicken breast

I also use this method for making shredded chicken any time 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 to Make Shredded Chicken or Diced Chicken:

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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 ©Erin Clarke/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1 (8 ounce) chicken breast

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

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

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

How to make shredded chicken. Use this easy step by step method any time a recipe calls for diced or shredded chicken. Perfect for adding to chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, and more! @wellplated #howto #videotutorial #chickenrecipe

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

82 comments

  1. Thank you. I will use this the next time a recipe calls for shredded chicken!

  2. I haven’t poached chicken in ages, but it really is so good! Poached salmon is also delicious. :)

  3. Shredded chicken is one of our favorite in the house and I am just happy to see another recipe which I can make from it. Thanks for sharing this one. Since Halloween season is coming, this will be a great addition to our menu.

    Rating: 5
  4. Thank you so much for teaching us this method! Seems like such a basic culinary skill, yet I hadn’t done it until this evening! I really appreciate you sharing this with your readers. Now I have cooked chicken ready-to-go for next week’s lunches.

    Rating: 5
    • You’re welcome, Stefanie! I’m so glad you found it helpful. It sounds like your lunches next week are off to an awesome start!

  5. This method was so easy and the results were marvelous!  I was a little doubtful at first because I’d cooked chicken in water before and i’d always over cooked it. But this chicken turned out very moist and is my go to recipe when I need diced or shredded chicken now

    Rating: 5
    • Mollie, I am so excited to hear that this method worked so well for you. Thanks so much for trying it and taking time to come back by and leave this lovely review!

  6. Do you have a version of this recipe that you do in the slow cooker? I thought I saw this on your website but I can’t seem to locate it.

    • Hi Lauren, this stovetop method is my preferred way to cook plain chicken breasts since it takes much less time than a crock pot (generally under 20 minutes) and there’s less risk of overcooking it, which I find can happen quickly in the slow cooker. But there are other sites that have done a slow cooker version—I found a few just by searching “shredded chicken crock pot”! I hope that helps!

  7. Using this method tonight for zucchini enchiladas! Thank you!! 

    Rating: 5
  8. I’m using this technique all the time now. Thanks for sharing this tip!!!

    Rating: 5
  9. Do you know if I can use this same method for turkey breast?

  10. Thanks for sharing this useful technique; I am eager to try it.  

    Somewhat off topic, what brand or brands are the pots and pans  you use?  I need to get a new stockpot, preferably nonstick, and I am overwhelmed by all the choices.  Thank you!

  11. I am trying this with veggie broth instead of water….maybe a little more flavor?

  12. A great way to shred this chicken (think Enchiladas), is with the dough blade of a Cuisinart. I used to do it by hand with a fork. This takes seconds and I use the chicken so many ways!

  13. To be honest I thought this would be pretty gross. But I tried it and it was delicious. I was going to put it in a casserole and ended up just eating the chicken!

    Rating: 5
  14. I love it shredded, instead of dicing it. I use it to make chicken salad, chicken enchiladas and chicken and rice. Thanks for posting. ? It just taste better shredded instead of dicing it. I have been using more water than your method, but I’m going to try your way. Thanks.

    Rating: 5
    • I am so happy to hear this method has been working well for you! All the ways you mentioned to use the chicken sound delicious. Thank you so much for trying it and reporting back. I really appreciate it!

  15. Simple, easy AND tastes great! I try to keep some on hand for quick lunches since my husband sometimes gets called out to work really early (4 am) just add to mixed vegetables or rice (our both lol) I also use hand mixer to make shredding easier.

    Rating: 5
    • I am so happy to hear this works for you Sarah! It’s my favorite way to make chicken too. Thanks so much for taking time to report back!

  16. Great way to have chicken on hand for fast dinners. Please keep the leftover broth. Freeze it and use it in your next soup recipe or wherever chicken broth is needed. Always so inspiring and fun reading your blogs. 

    Rating: 5
    • Lynn, this is my favorite way to keep chicken on hand too! I’m so glad it’s been useful for you. Thanks for the tip about saving the water. I’ve never tried that and will keep it in mind!

  17. Another easy way to shred chicken (especially if you have a lot) if you have a stand mixer is to put the still warm (deboned!) chicken into the work bowl, and using the paddle blade, mix it on medium for about 30 seconds. Voila! Shredded chicken with no “clawed up” cutting board. Swellegant!

  18. Wow. Thanks for posting. I never thought of cooking chicken this way. Nicer than oven during hot summer day and no need for frying oil( (read less calorie) than over a stovetop.

    Rating: 5
    • Absolutely! I’m glad you found this method, Bunnee! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this great review.

  19. This is the best method I’ve found for cooking chicken in water, the poaching method leaves the chicken so tender!

    Rating: 5
    • I’m glad it’s a winning technique for you, Jamie! Thanks so much for giving it a try and letting me know how it went.

  20. I’m new to cooking and I don’t have a meat thermometer, what is the next best way to tell if the poached chicken is completely cooked without over cooking it?

    • Hi Danielle, unfortunately, the thermometer is really the only 100% reliable way to tell. They aren’t too expensive and are really worth it! Otherwise, you should cut into a piece after the suggested cooking time and make sure the juices run clear.

  21. Do you put a cover on the pot?

  22. Thank you for the great tips! Do you know if you can cook thin sliced breasts in this same method? I need shredded chicken for a recipe and that’s all I have on hand. thanks in advance!! 

    • Hi Shannon, I think you could, but they may be done much faster than a whole piece. I’d check them frequently for doneness to make sure they don’t overcook.

  23. When you poach the chicken, do you ever make a large batch and freeze some?

  24. This worked!  Perfectly!Thank you Erin.Lisa 

    Rating: 5
  25. Should you add more water if some of evaporated once’s it tatted boiling and the chicken is peaking through?

    • Hi Lisa! It’s OK if the chicken peeks through a bit (mine sometimes floats) as long as it was covered with the right amount at the beginning. Just make sure it is mostly submerged and not drying out.

  26. This looks great! Can I use any seasoning I want and it’ll turn out okay?

    Sometimes just salt is awesome but I love chicken because there are so many flavorful options. 

    I want to make shredded seasoned chicken for tacos. ?

    • Hi Avery, the chicken is really meant to be more of a blank canvas to add to other recipes, so you can add any spices that you like!

  27. Hi Alison, I’m sorry to hear that! This recipe is intended to be a method for cooked shredded chicken to use in other recipes, so it’s not very flavorful by itself. I hope it goes better next time if you do try again!

  28. Can you use frozen chicken?

    • Hi Rhonda, yes, you can use frozen chicken. It may take a little longer, so make sure to use check the temperature for doneness.

  29. DANIELLE HARRISON Reply

    Hi have you ever started this process with frozen chicken breast. If so any suggestions on what to do differently.

    • Hi Danielle, I start with my chicken already thawed, but you can do this from frozen as well. It may take a little longer, so make sure to test for doneness with a meat thermometer.

  30. Wow! This is such a great an simple recipe!

    Rating: 5
  31. Thank you for this recipe & also for including info/link re: the instant-read meat thermometer that you use. I really appreciate that. 

    Rating: 5
  32. Beginner cook here, every recipe for chicken salad said to add cooked chicken to recipe. Never would say how to cook the chicken or worse recipe would call for store bought rotiserie chicken. Glad I found your web page,now I know how to poach chicken. Thanks.

    Rating: 4.5
  33. Is there a way to stop all the busy advertisement that goes on when reading your recipes? Even if they were solid and not flashing all over the place…..there are so many of them it is distracting.

    • Hi Karen, I appreciate the feedback—unfortunately, I don’t have that level of control to decide how the ads are designed, but I do try to make sure that any video ads never play sound or cover any text or photos, so if you sees one that blocks those in the future, please let me know.

  34. Thank you so much for this tip! I’d never even heard of poached chicken until I saw your post and I think it’s my new favorite way to cook chicken! Thanks for teaching a cooking newbie some helpful tricks!

    Rating: 5
    • YAY Courtney!! I’m so happy this post was helpful for you. Thank you for taking time to leave this wonderful review. It means a lot!

  35. Thank you, thank you! Can’t believe I’ve went this long without knowing to do this. So simple for weeknights and sure to please the whole family! Everything taste better simple and made at home!

    Rating: 5
  36. Thanks for the great recipe! I’ve never made chicken like this and I absolutely love it! A tip I picked up from somewhere is to shred your chicken using your kitchen-aid mixer if you have one! So easy, just throw the cooked chicken in and let the mixer do it’s job, and voila! Beautifully shredded chicken. 

    Rating: 5
  37. Is there a way to stop your chicken breast from being slimmy? I have tried this recipe a few times and the outside of the chicken breast needs to be cut off because it is gross and gummy.

    Thanks!

    • Brooke, that has never happened to me! It could be the quality of your chicken. Have you tried a few different brands? Also, make sure that you aren’t overcooking it and causing the outside to have a different texture. An instant read thermometer is perfect for this. I hope that helps!

  38. Came out perfect for chicken salad! Thank you so much for this easy and perfect recipe.

    Rating: 5
  39. I have used the shredded rotisserie chicken at Kroger in recipes, but it’s $6.99 a pound! So I looked up cooking chicken for shredding and found your recipe. So I’m trying it today; hopefully, it will come out ok! Then I will freeze it to use for future recipes. Thanks!

  40. Sorry to sound dense… but when you say cover it with an inch of water, do you mean an inch total in the pot, or an inch above the top of the chicken?

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