A cheesy Shredded Chicken Sandwich is one of the first recipes I learned to “cook” as a little girl. Today’s is a healthy version of the one I remember devouring, but it’s equally creamy and kid-approved.
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I first saw pulled chicken sandwiches in a spiral bound cookbook that we received at school. Its pages were printed on a home computer.
The “book” is long since lost, but I can remember a few things about it:
- It has fun cartoon drawings, including a very friendly chicken in a chef’s hat that was on this chicken sandwiches’ page.
- The recipes were old fashioned—the kind of thing you’d find in a cookbook written in Ohio in the 1950s.
- 99% of the recipes involved a “cream of” soup (I distinctly remember this because the idea of cream of mushroom soup freaked me out).
- The themes “creamy,” “cheesy,” and “chicken” carried throughout.
Of the 50+ recipes in the book, the pulled chicken sandwiches are the one I remember loving most.
What kid wouldn’t? They feature my (then) meat of choice (chicken), in a creamy sauce, with cheese, on bread. SCORE.
In the spirit of creating wholesome spins on classic comfort food, I gave these nostalgic sandwiches a revisit.
What we have now is simple, hits-the-spot comfort food at its finest!
How to Make Shredded Chicken Sandwiches
The recipe’s original ingredients were shredded chicken, cream of chicken or mushroom soup, and (I kid you not) Stovetop stuffing mix and Ritz crackers or potato chips.
You mix everything together, heat it up, and your filling is ready to serve.
Friends, we can do better than a can of this and a box of that.
Today’s from-scratch recipe has nods to the original shredded chicken sandwich I loved but is made with simple ingredients you can pronounce.
- Chicken. A lean source of protein, picky-eater approved, and easy to pile high onto a bun. You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Thighs will be more moist, but white meat usually goes over better with the kiddos.
- Milk + Butter + Flour + Chicken Broth + Poultry Seasoning. Who needs canned soup? With these simple ingredients, you can make your own creamy base on the stove.
- Greek Yogurt. A healthy, low-calorie way to make the chicken filling even creamier.
- CHEESE! Swiss cheese is classic for pulled chicken sandwiches. I also love shredded sharp white cheddar. I found a small handful does the trick but you can make these sandwiches as cheesy as you please.
- Whole Grain Bread. Instead of Stovetop shredded chicken sandwiches, which use boxed stuffing cubes to thicken the filling, I made my own by tearing up a few pieces of whole wheat toast. It’s easy, better tasting, and better for you.
- Buns. The classic way to serve a shredded chicken sandwich is on soft hamburger buns.
- Cook the Chicken. Cook on low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Prepare the Sauce. Make sure you completely cook the flour.
- Shred the Chicken. Stir it into the sauce with the bread and yogurt. Cook 1 hour more.
- Assemble Sandwiches. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover filling for up to 4 days. Assemble the sandwiches just before serving.
- To Reheat. Rewarm the filling over the stove or gently in the microwave with a splash of water, broth, or milk as needed to thin it back out.
- To Freeze. Leftover filling can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Meal Prep Tip
Cook and shred the chicken 1 to 2 days in advance.
Warm your leftover filling and turn it into an epic grilled cheese. This would be especially yummy cooked on a panini press.
What to Serve With a Shredded Chicken Sandwich
- Fries and Chips. Air Fryer French Fries, Sweet Potatoes Fries, or Air Fryer Potato Chips would be tasty.
- Veggies. Pair this sandwich with Roasted Zucchini, Sauteed Carrots, or Grilled Corn.
- Salad. Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing and Green Goddess Salad would both be delicious.
- Pasta. A cheesy chicken sandwich with Instant Pot Mac and Cheese? Count me in!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Sauce Pan. Stainless steel saucepans in this 10-piece set have two layers of steel for maximum durability and heat distribution.
- Mixing Bowls. These stackable glass mixing bowls have 10 different sizes for optimal use and are dishwasher-safe.
- Magnetic Measuring Spoons. Their magnetic feature keeps your drawers more organized.
Shredded Chicken Sandwich
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts about 3, 8-ounce breasts
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional for cooking chicken
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus additional for cooking chicken
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk (I used 1%)
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 slices whole grain bread
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- Whole grain buns
- Shredded sharp white cheddar Monterey jack, or swiss cheese (optional)
- To prepare the shredded chicken in the slow cooker: Arrange the breasts in a single layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the chicken reaches 165°F on an instant read thermometer (if using breasts of a different size or to swap chicken thighs, see my post for Crock Pot Shredded Chicken for cooking times and tips). You also can cook and shred the chicken breasts in advance (see recipe notes for fast, easy methods).
- While the chicken cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top. Whisk to combine, then continue whisking and cooking until the flour turns golden brown and smells slightly nutty, at least one full minute. Make sure you completely cook the flour or it will have a raw taste in the final dish.
- Gradually add the milk and broth, whisking all the while to smooth out any lumps. Stir in the 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, Parmesan, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit more, about 3 to 5 minutes depending upon the size of your pan. Remove from the heat.
- Deeply toast the bread, either in your toaster, or for 8 to 10 minutes in a 350°F oven, turning it over once halfway through. It should be deep golden brown, dry, and just on the verge of being burned without crossing the line. Let cool.
- Once the chicken has cooked, transfer it to a bowl. Discard any remaining cooking liquid and, with a paper towel, carefully wipe the slow cooker clean. Shred the chicken with two forks, your fingers, or (for max ease) use a hand mixer and shred it right in the crock pot. If you are using shredded chicken that’s been cooked in advance, add it to the slow cooker now.
- Pour the thickened sauce from the pan over the shredded chicken. Tear and crumble the toasted bread into small pieces right over the top (you also can pulse it into crumbs in a food processor, but I find my fingers just as easy). Add the Greek yogurt. With a large spoon, stir to combine.
- Recover the crockpot and let cook on low for 1 hour. Just before serving, uncover and give the chicken a big stir.
- To serve as sandwiches, pile the chicken onto buns and top with cheese. Or, serve it open faced over toasted bread, with the cheese on top (you can pop the bread under the broiler for a few moments to brown the cheese if you like). Enjoy!
- TO COOK THE CHICKEN IN ADVANCE. See How to Cook Shredded Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Baked Chicken Breasts, and Baked Bone-In Chicken Breast for instructions. Shred and add to the crock pot as directed. Shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken works as well. You will need about 3 heaping cups of shredded chicken total.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover filling for up to 3 days. Assemble the sandwiches just before serving.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm the filling over the stove or gently in the microwave with a splash of water, broth, or milk as needed to thin it back out.
- TO FREEZE: Leftover filling can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can serve the chicken on its own or as a lettuce wrap. Additionally, you could serve these pulled chicken sandwiches open face: pile the hot filling onto toasted bread, sprinkle the cheese on top, then pop them under the broiler to melt the cheese.
Absolutely! You can make these sandwiches with chicken thighs if you prefer.
The bread helps create a thicker sauce without the need to use boxed stuffing cubes. I haven’t tried making this recipe without the bread, so I can’t say for certain how it would turn out.