If how to shred chicken is at the top of your learn-to-do list, this post is for you. Shredded chicken can fill everything from tacos to soups, making dinner a snap. Learn 3 different easy methods for shredding chicken, how long shredded chicken lasts, and how to freeze shredded chicken. Plus, check out 8 of my favorite recipes to use homemade shredded chicken in!
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The Easiest Ways to Shred Chicken
Shredded chicken is a great basic to prepare in advance for use in any number of recipes. Just think how much faster it would be to make up a batch of your favorite chicken enchiladas or chicken tortilla soup (Yes, I’ve got Mexican food on the brain!) if you already have the chicken prepared!
Aside from dinner recipes, having a small stock of shredded chicken is great for making a quick lunch – you can add it on top of a salad, whip up a quick chicken salad sandwich, or add it to a simple quesadilla.
Why You Should Make Shredded Chicken
- Weekly meal prep. Do you like to make all your lunches for the week or do prep work for all of your weekly dinners?
- Adding on to salads for quick lunches, in soups, casseroles, and even sandwiches.
- Stocking your freezer. This saves so much time if you eat a lot of chicken.
- Saving money. Batch cooking shredded chicken allows you to take advantage of sales.
Why Making Shredded Chicken is Better than Store Bought
You might be wondering – why can’t I just buy already cooked and shredded chicken? Some grocery stores sell cooked pre-shredded chicken, but convenience foods that have already been prepped usually come with a premium price!
Making your own shredded chicken allows you to:
- Control the quality and type of ingredients used. You can tailor your shredded chicken according to your personal preferences and the recipes you plan to use it in.
- Batch cook and store it in the way and amount that works best for you.
- Take advantage of sale prices and stock up.
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Useful Tools for Shredding Chicken
If you’re preparing to make your own shredded chicken breast, here are a few kitchen tools that will be helpful in the process:
- Pot, Slow Cooker, Baking Pan, or Instant Pot – depending on how you plan to cook the chicken, one of these cooking vessels will be helpful.
- Instant Read Thermometer – using a kitchen thermometer to check the internal temperature of the cooked chicken is helpful to determine whether the chicken is cooked through or not.
- Cutting Board – a cutting board provides a nice work surface for preparing the shredded chicken while also protecting your counters.
- Forks – forks can be used to shred the chicken.
- Sharp Knife – a sharp knife can also be used.
- Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment or a Hand Mixer – these tools are great especially if you want shredded chicken fast and are making larger quantities.
How to Shred Chicken
Well, first you have to cook it. You can do this several different ways – in the crockpot, in the oven, or poach it stovetop. Leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken also works well. Here’s an overview of the different methods:
Cook it in the Crockpot
The slow cooker is great because you can leave the chicken unattended, you can add other ingredients to season the chicken, and because I always end up with tender chicken.
Recipes for Crockpot Shredded Chicken
Here are my two favorite easy shredded chicken recipe suggestions to try making in your crock pot:
Crock Pot Mexican Chicken is the perfect shredded chicken recipe for your next Mexican recipe. This recipe is packed with flavor and is super tender thanks to hours in the crock pot, this recipe is sure to please!
For shredded chicken that has great flavor but can be used in virtually any of your recipes, I love this All-Purpose Crock Pot Shredded Chicken. This is the best shredded chicken because it is perfect for easy meal prep, is tender and moist, and of course freezer-friendly!
Cook it in the Instant Pot
An Instant Pot is another way to cook shredded chicken.
Like the crockpot, you can mostly set it and forget it (especially if you’re opting to use the natural release function), but the best part is instant pot shredded chicken practically shreds itself because it becomes so tender from the cooking process.
Bake it in the Oven
Baked chicken can be shredded as well. You can season it as heavily and distinctively as you’d like or you can keep it simple with a basic salt and pepper.
Poach the Chicken
If you don’t know how to poach, check out this great tutorial from TheKitchn.
Now that you’ve cooked the chicken, you can shred it! Keep scrolling for detailed instructions on the three BEST ways to shred chicken.
Easy Shredded Chicken — 3 Ways!
After you’ve cooked the chicken that you plan to shred, there are a few ways you can proceed with shredding the meat:
If you used bone-in chicken, first you’ll want to pull all of the meat off the bones. Save the bones for making homemade chicken stock (yum!). If you aren’t going to make stock right away, just put all the bones in a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze until you’re ready.
How to Shred Chicken: With Your Fingers
All you do here is use your fingers to pull the cooked chicken breasts apart into chunks. They can be as big or as small as you like. If you end up with bigger pieces, just pull them apart into smaller ones.
How to Shred Chicken: With 2 Forks
Hold one fork in each hand. I like to use the fork in my non-dominant hand to hold the piece of chicken steady. With the fork in my dominant hand, I scrape at the piece of chicken to pull it apart.
How to Shred Chicken: With a Stand Mixer
This is a method that I didn’t hear of until a couple of years back (thanks, Pinterest!). It is definitely the fastest and easiest way of all of the easy methods to shred chicken.
Why is that? Because all you do is dump the meat into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix over low speed until the chicken reaches whatever shred-size you want. The mixer does all the work and you’ll be left with shredded chicken in the bowl of your stand mixer!
The above is simply a quick summary of this tutorial. Check out the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.
Does it Matter if I Use Chicken Breasts or Thighs?
Nope! It doesn’t even matter if you use boneless or bone-in chicken. I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken breasts because that is what we most commonly cook with.
As long as you’ve removed the chicken bones, you can shred any kind of chicken: whole chicken, boneless chicken thighs, bone in breasts, boneless breasts, or even a mix. Just use whatever cut of chicken you prefer.
However, I don’t recommend using legs or wings for making shredded chicken because there just isn’t that much meat on them. Reserve them for adding into your homemade stocks instead.
Can You Use Frozen Chicken to Make Shredded Chicken?
The USDA says that it is totally safe to cook chicken from frozen (if you’re cooking it in the oven or the stove), so don’t worry if you forgot to thaw the thicken that you planned to shred.
In my opinion, the Instant Pot or poaching methods of cooking chicken for shredding are the best ways to use if the chicken is still frozen. The USDA doesn’t mention the Instant Pot, but given that it gets much hotter than an oven since it is cooking under pressure, I’d be willing to bet that it is fine.
They do warn, however, that you shouldn’t put frozen chicken in the crock pot. So, go ahead and take that method off the table if you’re planning to cook from frozen when making shredded chicken.
TIP: check out my tips for How to Defrost Meat Quickly and Safely.
How to Store Shredded Chicken in the Refrigerator
If you’re wanting to cook shredded chicken at the beginning of the week to use in recipes or simple lunches all week long, refrigerator storage is the best option. After cooking and shredding the chicken, transfer it to an airtight container.
How Long Does Shredded Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Cooked, shredded chicken is best used within about 4-5 days when stored in the refrigerator.
You will want to throw away any shredded chicken leftovers after around the 7 day mark, or any time before that if the chicken starts to smell funny or bad, has discolored, or is slimy.
Can I Freeze Shredded Chicken?
Absolutely! In fact, for purposes like these, I find it best to prepare a large batch of shredded chicken ahead of time and freeze it in the portions that I most often use.
How to Freeze Shredded Chicken
You can freeze shredded chicken stored in a freezer bag, a vacuum seal bag, or in an airtight container.
Personally, I prefer to use freezer bags or a vacuum seal bag because they take up less space. With a vacuum seal bag, you can remove almost all of the air using your vacuum sealer which will prevent freezer burn.
Pro Tip – if you’re not using a vacuum sealer, add a little chicken broth or cooking liquid to the container you are freezing the shredded chicken in. This can also help prevent freezer bur.
What quantity you choose to freeze your shredded chicken in will depend on your personal preference. So, take a little time to think about:
- how you think you’ll use the chicken,
- what recipes you might make with it,
- and how much chicken will be utilized at a time.
I find that 1, 2, and 3 cup portions are ideal. Alternatively, 1 pound (16 ounces) is also a good increment because many recipes call for a pound of chicken. A kitchen scale is helpful for measuring weights.
Tips for Storing in the Freezer
Now that you know you can freeze shredded chicken and how to do it, here are a few tips:
Don’t forget to label the date on each package of chicken. Frozen shredded chicken is best used in about 4 months, so labeling the packages is important!
It is also helpful to label the contents (that way you know for sure it is chicken and not leftover turkey or something else) as well as the portion in the container.
Leftover Shredded Chicken Recipes:
Unsure what to make with shredded chicken? Chicken is one of the most versatile and inexpensive meats to have on hand. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to experiment with now that you’ve learned how to shred chicken.
Some of these are easy meals, while others are more involved. But, preparing the shredded chicken in advance definitely makes the cooking method a little easier!
Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust is winter comfort food at its finest!
If you’re feeling under the weather, this Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup will make you feel better.
Pineapple, Chicken, Quinoa Salad is easy to make and packed with both flavor and nutrients.
Need a hearty winter recipe? Try this White Bean Chicken Chili Verde.
These Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Gravy are one of my favorites!
When I’m craving a lighter enchilada, I love these Chicken, Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce.
Southwest Chicken Salad Wraps are a breeze to whip up. Shredded chicken is combined with black beans, corn, red peppers, cilantro, green onions, and a spicy creamy sauce, then stuffed in a tortilla wrap with greens and avocado slices.
Someday…when it is summer again…I’ll be making these Chicken Soft Tacos with Tomato Corn Salsa.
What is your favorite way to use shredded chicken?
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- 2 lbs Cooked chicken (any type will work)
- All you do here is use your fingers to pull the chicken apart into chunks. They can be as big or as small as you like. If you end up with bigger pieces, just pull them apart into smaller ones.
- Hold one fork in each hand. I like to use the fork in my non-dominant hand to hold the piece of chicken steady. With the fork in my dominant hand, I scrape at the piece of chicken to pull it apart.
- Dump the meat into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix over low speed until the chicken reaches whatever shred-size you want. The mixer does all the work!
Using Your Fingers
Using 2 Forks
Using a Stand Mixer
- If you used bone-in chicken, first you’ll want to pull all of the meat off the bones. Save the bones for making homemade chicken stock (yum!). If you aren’t going to make stock right away, just put all the bones in a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze until you’re ready.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 249Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 129mgSodium 112mgCarbohydrates 0gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 47g
GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.