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 ½ pounds of boneless chicken will yield about 4 cups of shredded chicken.
  • 1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield about 1 ⅓ 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 ⅓ to ½ 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 ¼ 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 ½ 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 46 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. We love to eat our shredded chicken as bbq chicken sandwiches or as an entree with steamed green beens and/or other veggies!5 stars

  2. I use this recipe when I want to make amazing quesdillas… this shredded chicken is so good and its quick and easy too throw together the rest of my recipe…cheese, tortillas, onions, queso fresco, salsa and sour cream…after the chicken is shredded you add some taco seasoning and a lil salt and garlic powder and put it together and make your quesadilla!!! Soooo yummy…thanks!!!5 stars

  3. I just wanted to pitch in, as this might be helpful to others – I don’t have a thermometer and just watched over the chicken carefully, cutting it up once in a while to check for doneness, and it turned out absolutely PERFECT! Super moist and super tasty even without using any salt or pepper, or any spices!5 stars

  4. I tried this twice with 2 chicken breasts and both times they came out a sort of grayish color and dry and rubbery on the outside and moist but pinkish on the inside. I used high quality organic meat. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi, I’m sorry you’ve had trouble with this recipe. It’s so hard for me to say what might be happening without being in the kitchen with you, but it sounds like your chicken might need to cook a little longer.

  5. This was easy and the chicken was super moist afterwards. Spot on to keep checking the temp as time gets close to the end. I used this as a sub for shredded pork in a rice bowl. Thanks!5 stars

    1. I’m so sorry that you had trouble with this recipe, Laura. The timing in the recipe can certainly vary based on the size/type of chicken, and it sounds like your chicken may have needed to cook for the full 16 minutes or a bit longer. I (and many other readers) have had success with this method, so I truly wish it would’ve been a hit for you too!

  6. I believe I had to cook my chicken breasts for 16 minutes but it was perfect! I made tons of pulled chicken for a graduation party and it was great! I’ll do it this way every time!5 stars

  7. This recipe makes me sooooo happy! My sweet Mom who was an AMAZING cook passed away few years ago and poached chicken all of the time…and used a hand mixer to shred! I completely forgot until I read this recipe. Happy tears! :) Thank you for the recipe and lovely memories of my Mom!5 stars

  8. Just a comment regarding using chicken broth for the poaching. I like to use chicken broth and once the chicken is cooked cool and save the new strengthened broth for another use or save/freeze for later.

  9. I went with the full 16 minute simmer, it was perfectly cooked. The hand mixer for shredding is brilliant. I went with a Mexican theme, and used my 1st batch for tacos, nachos and quesadillas. Spot on, thank you!5 stars

  10. Hi Erin
    Thanks for the recipe.
    If we would like to use the leftover chicken in the fridge for breakfast sandwich for the kids, do we need to steam it first or can we just use it straight out of the fridge? Thanks

  11. Thank you for letting others in on this secret to near perfect shredded chicken every time!
    I have used this exact method for many many years (probably 55 or more). These days the utensils have changed a bit but the results are still the same.

    I always start with frozen chicken breasts, cover with water, add one cube of chicken bullion and cook on an induction cook top at 210 degrees (lid cocked) for 60 minutes. If I’m making shredded chicken for tacos or enchiladas I’ll add a generous amount of fresh toasted and ground cumin seed. The 60 minute cook time is the default run time for my cooktop. Let the chicken cool in the remaining broth and then process as you have stated.

    The chicken is always done and juicy!

    Thanks for all your tips and recipes.5 stars

  12. Yes I made it and came out nice and juicy
    and then i added Jack Daniels dressing
    and that was so yummy .5 stars

  13. I can’t believe how quick and easy this was!!! Even if you are not shredding it, this is a great way to cook boneless chicken breast. It was moist, tender, and delicious. I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. I’m going to cube it for a salad, but I could easily eat it with a side dish.5 stars

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