How to Make Shredded Chicken

This juicy, easy Shredded Chicken is a game changer, made in less than 25 minutes and can be used hundreds of ways!    

This Shredded Chicken recipe (also known as pulled chicken) is a back pocket culinary must for on demand tender, juicy chicken – no planning ahead or buying a rotisserie chicken needed!  This recipe is quick and easy to make in under 25 minutes on the stove with just chicken breasts, a drizzle of olive oil, chicken broth and whatever seasonings you like (slow cooker and instant pot recipes also included). Best of all, you will be amazed at how tender, juicy and flavorful the chicken is – you will be eating it plain!  This shredded chicken is ideal for meal prep, soups, salads, sandwiches, bowls, wraps, enchiladas, casseroles, pasta and so much more! 

We love chicken recipes, especially shredded because it’s so juicy and flavorful! Don’t miss Crockpot Mexican Shredded Chicken, Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken, Shredded Chicken Tacos or Crockpot Mongolian Chicken.

How to Make Shredded Chicken Video

up close of juicy shredded chicken recipe on a plate
  • The juiciest shredded chicken.  While you can cook shredded chicken in the slow cooker or instant pot (both methods included), my favorite method cooks the chicken in a pot on the stove for the JUICIEST chicken!  Searing the chicken first creates a flavorful crust, then steaming it gently in chicken broth keeps it extra juicy while infuses it with more flavor.
  • Quick and easy.  All you need is 25 minutes, one skillet, chicken, chicken broth, seasonings and olive oil to make this recipe.  You can even use a hand mixer or stand mixer to shred all of the chicken in a matter of seconds.  Plus, the nonstick skillet is a breeze to clean!
  • Flavorful yet adaptable.  The chicken is seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper and oregano then steamed with chicken broth instead of water to create shredded chicken that is stand-alone-scrumptious!  That being said, just like rotisserie chicken, the flavor is subtle enough that it can be used in any dish.
  • Versatile. Not only can the shredded chicken be used countless ways in soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, etc., it also can be seasoned countless ways!   Add any spice rub you like and/or toss it in enchilada sauce, buffalo sauce, pesto, salsa verde, etc.
  • You’ll always have shredded chicken!  There are so many recipes that call for cooked chicken – and now you can make all of them at a moment’s notice without buying a rotisserie chicken or having to plan ahead.
  • Meal prep.  You can refrigerate the chicken for up to 4 days or freeze it so it’s ready to go for any meal, any time!
  • This recipe makes dinner guilt free delicious! Nothing is added to your shredded chicken that you don’t want there!   
top view of shredded chicken recipe showing how juicy it is

Ingredients for Shredded Chicken

Whether you plan on making shredded chicken in the Crockpot, Instant Pot, or on the stove, the ingredients list remains the same. I kept the spices to a minimum so the chicken can be used in any recipe you’d like. Here’s what you’ll need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Chicken: Use 2 to 2 ½ pounds of chicken breasts for this recipe, which is about 4 medium breasts. You can also use less if you like and scale the spices.  
  • Chicken broth:  Instead of using bland water, low sodium chicken broth will make your shredded chicken 1000X more flavorful.  Of course, you can use water in a bind.
  • Olive oil:  Chicken is a lean cut of meat so the oil adds flavor and juiciness, no matter which method you’re using to cook the shredded chicken. Use a quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. 
  • Spices: The spices for this recipe infuse the chicken with savory depth, while at the same time, are subtle enough so the chicken can be used in any recipe, with any cuisine. All you need are salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and oregano. Feel free to mix and match these spices with any spices you like, or use your own favorite spice blend. 
showing how to make shredded chicken recipe by adding the spices to a bowl and mixing

HOW TO MAKE Shredded Chicken

Here’s how to make shredded chicken with step-by-step photos using my favorite stovetop method (full recipes of all methods in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

season THE CHICKEN

First, pat the chicken dry with paper towels so the seasonings stick and to ensure a beautiful sear. Next, season the chicken with desired seasonings.  You can go simple with salt and pepper, or I always like to add garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and oregano, no matter what I’m using the chicken for.

showing how to make shredded chicken by seasoning chicken breasts on a cutting board with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika

sear THE CHICKEN

You will want to use a nonstick skillet for this recipe (this one is my absolute favorite, pictured).  It allows the chicken to brown on the bottom without any chance of sticking, tearing, or drying out. You’ll start by heating a drizzle of olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the chicken in s single layer, then cook for 5 minutes. The bottom of the chicken should be golden brown at this point.

showing how to make shredded chicken by searing the chicken breasts in a nonstick skillet

COVER AND steam

Flip the chicken over, then add one cup of chicken broth to the skillet. Cover, and cook until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees F.  This can take as little as 7 minutes or as long as 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts, so I always suggest an instant read thermometer. This is the digital probe thermometer I use and leave in the chicken breast the whole time, for perfectly cooked chicken every time.

showing how to make shredded chicken by adding chicken broth to the chicken in a pan, covering and steaming

let the chicken rest

Let the cooked chicken rest for 5 minutes before shredding. This gives the juices that have pushed to the outside of the meat time to redistribute throughout the chicken.  It is also crucial for carryover, allowing the internal temperature of the chicken to rise to 165 degrees F.

showing how to make shredded chicken by adding it to mixer to shred
showing how to make shredded chicken by shredding it with the paddle attachment with a stand mixer
  • Using frozen chicken for IP method: I don’t advise frozen chicken for the stovetop or slow cooker, but you may use it in the Instant Pot method. To use frozen chicken, just add 2 extra minutes to the high pressure cook time.
  • Season the chicken. Even if you don’t yet know what you’ll be using the shredded chicken for, don’t skip the seasonings. The seasonings are extremely versatile and can be used in any type of cuisine.  
  • This recipe is a guide, play with the seasonings! Add whatever seasonings you love like chipotle, chili powder, cayenne, etc. or use your favorite spice blend such as fajita seasonings, Caribbean jerk seasoning, etc.  You can even add additional seasonings to the chicken after it’s shredded, or toss it in sauce like salsa verde.  See recipe variations below.
  • Use bouillon if needed. If you’re out of chicken broth, quickly whip some up using powdered bouillon or better-than-bouillon.
  • Don’t overlap the chicken. When cooking chicken on the stovetop, it’s important not to overlap (touching is fine), otherwise it won’t cook or sear evenly. If cooking the shredded chicken in the slow cooker or instant pot, overlapping is fine, making them great methods for larger batches of chicken.
  • Add more chicken broth as needed.   Depending on your skillet, lid, etc., the chicken broth may evaporate more quickly.  If it is getting too low (you don’t want it to dry out!), then add some more, ¼ cup at a time.  However, you don’t want the chicken swimming in broth because this will boil the chicken and make it rubbery.   
  • Cook slow cooker shredded chicken on LOW Heat.  Chicken breasts can be cooked on high in the crockpot, however, they are more prone to drying out. If you need to cook the chicken quickly, just use the skillet method instead!
  • Check the chicken often for doneness. Overcooked chicken is dry, rubbery chicken. It doesn’t become more tender the longer it cooks, like beef does. Watch the chicken closely and be flexible with timing, thinner chicken breasts will take less time, thicker breasts will take more time. If using the slow cooker, be aware that all models are different, so check for doneness early, your chicken may take less or more time than listed,
  • Use an instant read thermometer. The no-fail way to tell if chicken is done is to test the internal temperature using an instant read thermometer. Once the chicken reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F, it’s ready to be removed from the skillet.
  • Use a digital probe thermometer.  If you’ve been following me for any time at all, you know I’m obsessed with my digital meat probe thermometer, instead of a regular instant read thermometer. You leave the probe in the chicken (or any protein, I use it for steak, turkey, pork, etc.) while it cooks, and an alert sounds when it reaches your set temperature. This guarantees perfectly cooked protein every time.  When using for shredded chicken, I stick the probes in the thinnest chicken breasts, because these will be done first.
  • Remove chicken breasts at different times.  Chances are, not all your chicken breasts will cook in exactly the same amount of time.  I almost always remove them one at a time, as soon as the breast reaches 160 degrees F.   
  • Don’t pour out the extra broth!  The extra broth/drippings in the pan after you cook the chicken are flavor gold.  Pour them all over the chicken after it’s shredded for extra flavor and juiciness.
  • Shred the chicken while it’s still warm.  I find the chicken is easiest to shred while it’s still warm, right after resting for 5 minutes. As the chicken cools, the muscle fibers start to tighten up, which makes it a little tougher to shred.
  • Shred the chicken as thick or chunky as you like.  Depending on what you’re using the chicken for, you may like it wispier, or you may like it thicker.
  • Meal prep. Even if you don’t know what you’ll use that second pound of chicken for, shredded chicken freezes well and is great for meal prepping.  We love being able to pull shredded chicken out of the freezer at a moment’s notice!
top view of shredded chicken on a cutting board

Spice Blend Variations:

  • Additions: add any of your favorite seasonings to the current blend such as cayenne pepper, chipotle pepper, cumin, curry powder, coriander, ginger, bay leaf, etc.  You can also add additional seasonings after the chicken is shredded. 
  • Taco seasoning
  • Fajita seasoning
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Caribbean Jerk seasoning
  • Italian seasoning
  • Mediterranean seasoning (oregano, thyme, paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, salt, pepper)
  • Middle Eastern seasoning: (cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cardamom, turmeric allspice, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper)
  • Montreal seasoning
  • Chaat masala
  • Ras el Hanout 
  • Shichimi Togarashi
showing ways to use shredded chicken by tossing with enchilada sauce

Sauces and Add-Ins

Toss the shredded chicken with anything!   Add just a drizzle, make it saucy, or add green chilies, diced tomatoes, etc. Here are a few ideas:

showing ways to use shredded chicken by adding to chicken noodle soup

Shredded Chicken FAQS

How much shredded meat will the chicken yield?

A good rule of thumb is every 8 ounces of boneless chicken breasts will yield about 1 ½ cups of cooked, shredded chicken. So, this recipe will make 6-7 cups of shredded chicken. You can adjust the recipe to make more or less by using the arrows next to the serving size in the recipe card. If making less, use a smaller pan, 8 to 10-inches wide.

What chicken is best for shredding?

Both boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs are the best for shredding. Chicken breasts are leaner white meat and tend to be preferred over dark meat, and still emerge incredibly juicy when made according to this recipe. If you like chicken thighs, then boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a fabulous choice because they are inherently richer tasting than breasts due to the extra fat. Bone-in chicken breasts or thighs can also be used, however, they are more tedious to shred. With all cuts of meat, make sure to use an instant read thermometer so the chicken is not overcooked which will make it dry.

What’s the difference between shredded chicken and pulled chicken?

There is no difference between shredded chicken and pulled chicken; both terms can be used interchangeably. Both refer to meat cooked until tender, then “pulled” or “shredded” along the meat’s grain. Shredded and pulled chicken are popular in sandwiches, soups, pizzas, tacos, enchiladas, and casseroles.

What is the easiest way to shred cooked chicken?

You can either shred chicken with two forks or use the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. The mixer option is the quickest and easiest, it literally takes seconds!  You just have to decide if you want to spend the elbow grease cleaning your mixer in this method, or shredding the chicken by hand.😉.  

Why is shredding a chicken different than cutting it into pieces?

Shredding chicken creates, thin, wispy pieces, perfect for melt-in-your mouth chicken that melds beautifully with other ingredients. It’s ideal to be cocooned seamlessly in soups, creamy pastas, chicken enchiladas or with sauces. Chunkier pieces of chicken, on the other hand, are meant to be pronounced front and center, and wont’ have the same subtle mouthfeel. Think stir-fries, salads, nuggets, etc.

Is it better to shred chicken hot or cold?

It’s best to shred chicken when it is still warm because the chicken will pull apart easily. As the chicken cools, the muscle fibers start to tighten up, which makes it a little tougher to shred

up close of shredded chicken recipe showing how tender and juicy it is

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Shredded Chicken for Tacos

Servings: 6 -7 cups
Total Time: 25 mins
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

Shredded Chicken (May Use Rotisserie – See Notes)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, approx. 2-2 ½ pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (plus more as needed)

Chili Sauce

    Instructions

    STOVETOP (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

    • Place the chicken breasts on a flat surface and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk the seasoniongs together in a small bowl, then evenly season both sides of the chicken.
    • Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium heat (this is my FAVORITE skillet, pictured). Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes (uncovered) or until golden brown on the bottom.
    • Flip the chicken over and add 1 cup chicken broth. Cover the skillet and continue to cook an additional 7-14 minutes, depending on thickness, until the internal temperature of the chicken registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer (this one is my fav). (You may have to remove the chicken breasts at differnt times.) A 10-ounce chicken breast will need to cook for about 12 to 14 minutes, smaller chicken breasts will cook in less time. While the chicken is steaming, add additional broth, ¼ cup at a time, if the liquid evaporates too quickly.
    • Remove the chicken from the skillet. DON'T discard the leftover broth/juices from the pan. Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes before shredding.
    • To shred chicken: Use two forks to shred the chicken or place the chicken in the bowl of your stand mixer (may also use bowl with hand mixer). Use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for about 20 seconds. Stir in the remaining broth/juices from the pan.

    INSTANT POT

    • Place the chicken breasts on a flat surface and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk the seasoniongs together in a small bowl, then evenly season both sides of the chicken.
    • Add the broth to the bowl of your pressure cooker, followed by the chicken, spread in an even layer.
    • Cover and set the pressure cooker lid valve to “sealing.” Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute natural release, followed by a quick release (carefully flip the valve to “venting”) to release whatever pressure remains.
    • To shred chicken: Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes before shredding. Use two forks to shred the chicken OR place the chicken in the bowl of your stand mixer (may also use bowl with hand mixer). Use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for about 20 seconds. Stir in some of the remaining broth/juices from the pressure cooker.

    SLOW COOKER

    • Place the chicken breasts on a flat surface and pat dry with paper towels, then rub with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk the seasoniongs together in a small bowl, then evenly season both sides of the chicken.
    • Place the chicken in an even layer on the bottom of a lightly greased slow cooker. Pour the broth over top. Cook on low for 5-7 hours (check early), until the internal temperature of the chicken registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer (this is my fav).
    • To shred chicken: Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before shredding. Use two forks to shred the chicken or place the chicken in the bowl of your stand mixer (may also use bowl with hand mixer). Use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for about 20 seconds. Toss the shredded chicken in the remaining juices in the slow cooker.

    Notes

    • This recipe is a guide, play with the seasonings! Add whatever seasonings you love to the current spices like cumin, chipotle, chili powder, cayenne, etc. or use your favorite spice blend such as fajita seasonings, Caribbean jerk seasoning, etc.  See TONS of variations in the post!
    • Toss the shredded chicken with sauce:  buffalo hot wings sauce, salsa verde, barbecue sauce, pesto, warmed chicken gravy, etc.  See post for lots of ideas! 
    • Storage:  Store shredded chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze in portion sized baggies for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use. 
    • How to reheat:  Warm individual portions in the microwave for 30 seconds, then at 15-second intervals until warmed through or simmer gently on the stovetop with a splash of broth.

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    2 Comments

    1. sarah says

      I feel like you are the queen of these basic/simple but well-thought out recipes that end up as staples for me. Thank you for the work you put in to your work. This will be a keeper for sure!

      • Jen says

        Thank you so much for making my day Sarah! I’m honored my recipes have become part of your everyday cooking! xo

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