Easy Poached Shredded Chicken

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This incredibly easy recipe for shredded chicken requires just four ingredients! Make a big batch on your meal prep day and enjoy it in countless ways – from enchiladas to soup, salad, to mole. Once you learn how simple it is to poach juicy chicken breasts, I can bet you’ll do it all the time!

poached chicken breasts on a black plate with one shredded and a silver fork

If you have been on the hunt for a simple, delicious and healthy version of shredded chicken, look no further. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are poached in a lightly flavored broth then shredded to perfection.

As a bonus? The poaching liquid can be easily frozen for use in any recipes that call for chicken broth. Who doesn’t love a two-for-one?

How to Poach Chicken Breasts on the Stovetop

Simply place all ingredients in a dutch oven, then set over medium heat. Allow the liquid to come to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees F.

Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts from the poaching liquid and allow to rest for a few minutes prior to shredding.

chicken breasts with water and halved onion in a ceramic coated dutch oven

How to Poach Chicken Breasts in the Instant Pot

You can also poach chicken breasts in your Instant Pot in about half the time as on a conventional stovetop. Again, combine all ingredients in the metal insert of the Instant Pot. Set to Manual/Pressure Cook on high for 15 minutes, then allow a 5-minute natural release. Chicken is done if an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F.

Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts from the poaching liquid and allow to rest for a few minutes prior to shredding.

latina opening the lid of an instant pot

Save the poaching liquid

Whether you cook chicken breasts on stove top or Instant Pot, don’t throw away the cooking liquid! You just made homemade chicken broth without any extra effort. Cool, right? The broth is infused with lots of flavor so I recommend refrigerating it in glass mason jars or freezer-safe plastic containers and use it in recipes that call for broth.

How to Shred Chicken Breasts

Cool chicken for 5 minutes and then shred. Shredding chicken is easier while warm. Shred with two forks or with your fingers. Shredding chicken with my fingers is my favorite method because I can make the pieces just the right size!

For easy shredding of your chicken, use a hand mixer with the beater attachment. It’ll shred the chicken in a fraction of the time it will take with forks. Just be careful because it can get very stringy. I personally prefer using the old-fashioned method – forks or fingers.

How to Store Shredded Chicken

Shredded chicken is an excellent thing to keep in the refrigerator for quick dinners. You can add a few tablespoons of the poaching liquid to each container to keep the chicken moist during the reheating process.

Shredded chicken will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, and up to three months when stored in the freezer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much shredded chicken does one batch make?

The amount of shredded chicken your breast or thigh yields will vary widely depending upon their size. Generally speaking, 1 ½ pounds of boneless chicken will yield about 4 cups of shredded chicken.

Can I use chicken thighs instead?

You sure can! I still recommend going for a boneless and skinless cut – poached chicken skin isn’t particularly appetizing – but thighs are fine if you prefer dark meat. Just know that the grain of chicken thighs is shorter, so your shredded chicken pieces will be naturally smaller than if you were to use chicken breasts.

Can I use frozen chicken?

If you’re using the Instant Pot, you know it! Simply add an extra 5 minutes to the initial cook – so, 15 minutes on high pressure – then follow the rest of the recipe per usual.

How long will shredded chicken last?

Shredded chicken is a great thing to make on your meal prep day and then enjoy the rest of the week for quick meals. Once chicken has been cooked and shredded, it’ll last for up to a week in the refrigerator and up to three months in the freezer. I recommend adding just a few tablespoons of the poaching liquid to your storage containers to keep the chicken moist when reheating.

What is the best way to store the poaching liquid?

Mason jars for the fridge or freezer-safe plastic containers for the freezer are my preferred method for keeping poaching liquid. If you plan on freezing your broth, make sure to leave at least ½-inch of head room. Frozen liquid will expand and you don’t want it to spill over.

Another idea — freeze poaching liquid in ice cube trays before storing it in the freezer. That way, if you need a little bit of broth for something like thinning out a pasta sauce, you can pull out one or two cubes without having to defrost the whole container.

How do I know if chicken is done and ready for shredding?

The chicken is done when the center reaches 165F. Be sure to use an instant-read meat thermometer for guaranteed safety and accuracy.

Once you open up the chicken breast, it should shred pretty easily and you should not see any pink flesh remaining.

shredded chicken on an earthenware plate with onions

Need some inspiration for how to use this shredded chicken?

Check out some of my favorite recipes:

If you made this easy shredded chicken recipe, please comment and rate it below. I’d love to know how it turned out for you.

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Easy Poached Shredded Chicken

This incredibly easy recipe for shredded chicken requires just four ingredients! Make a big batch on your meal prep day and enjoy it in countless ways - from enchiladas to soup, salad, to mole. Once you learn how simple it is to poach juicy chicken breasts, I can bet you’ll do it all the time!
poached chicken breasts being shredded on a black plate
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Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion, quartered

Instructions

  • Stove top: In a large stockpot, over medium to high heat, add water, chicken, salt, 1 clove garlic, and quartered onion. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Reserve.Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. After the chicken cools off shred it. Reserve.
  • Instant Pot: Combine the ingredients in the Instant Pot. Cover with the lid and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes, followed by a 5-minute natural release, followed by a quick release. 
  • Frozen Chicken in the Instant Pot: If chicken is frozen add 2 extra minutes to the high pressure cook time, for a total of 17 minutes on high.

Notes

  • For easy shredding of your chicken, use a hand mixer with the beater attachment. It'll shred the chicken in a fraction of the time it will take with forks.
  • Shredded chicken will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, and up to three months when stored in the freezer.
  • Keep the poaching liquid to use in any recipes that call for chicken broth.

Nutrition

Calories: 135kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 722mg, Potassium: 440mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 34IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 1mg

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Photography by Jenna Sparks