Need shredded chicken for a recipe? Here’s an easy way to get tender, flavorful shredded chicken. A great technique that doesn’t require a lot of prep time and lets you change the flavour.
Basically, we’re poaching chicken in the slow cooker. We’re letting the slow cooker do all the work. All we have to do is add fresh or thawed chicken to the slow cooker along with some liquid. The liquid can be water, broth or some other ingredient like salsa, tomato sauce or water with herbs and spices.
When I need cooked chicken for Mexican inspired dishes like tacos, taquitos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas or burritos I like to cook the chicken with salsa. For a more general cooked chicken that I can use in various ways, I use soup stock or water with a few herbs and spices.
This technique works with chicken breasts or chicken thighs. While many people automatically turn to chicken breasts, don’t underestimate those chicken thighs! They’re typically cheaper than chicken breasts and because they have a little more fat they’re often more flavorful and tender. In the photo below, I used chicken thighs and soup stock.
Recipe for Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (4 breasts or 5-6 thighs)
- 2 cups liquid soup stock, water or salsa (eg Freezer Salsa)
- Place chicken in crockpot.
- Add liquid and any additional seasoning if you choose.
- Cover and let cook 4-5 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high. Check internal temperature of the chicken to ensure it reaches 165°F or 74°C.
- Remove chicken, cover and let rest five minutes. Shred with fork while still warm.
- Toss chicken with any liquid remaining in slow cooker.
- Use in your favorite recipe.
- Store in a sealed container in fridge for up to 4 days or freeze in a freezer container for 4 months.
Salsa with 2 Tbsp taco seasoning and hot pepper flakes
Tomato sauce with 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
Soup stock with 1/2 sliced onion, 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, 2 cloves garlic
The USDA does not recommend using frozen meat in slow cookers. The meat will stay below 140°F for too long leading to potentially high pathogen counts that could cause foodborne illnesses, especially in those with weakened immune systems.
Place chicken thighs or breasts in slow cooker. If you have frozen chicken, thaw chicken before using in slow cooker. Using frozen meat in a slow cooker is risky since food can stay in the danger zone (40°F to 140°F or 4°C-60°C) where pathogens multiply at a rapid pace for far too long. Even if the final cooking temperature is reached and bacteria is ultimately destroyed, dangerous toxins produced by those pathogens may still be present in the food. For safety sake, thaw chicken first. Read more Slow Cooker safety tips from the USDA or call their hot line at 1-888-674-6854 (works from Canada too!).
Adding seasoning is optional but oh so tasty! For Mexican inspired dishes, salsa, taco seasoning and hot pepper flakes are the way to go.
In this version, I used chicken bouillon, peppercorns, garlic and some celery ends. When it was finished I used the leftover liquid as a soup stock. Bonus!
Shred meat with a fork.
Toss it with as much or as little of the leftover salsa mix as you want.
Insert meat into your favorite dish.
Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.