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Unlike our Test Kitchen experts, my personal cooking style is quite haphazard—especially when it comes to following a recipe to a T. I’ll breeze past steps, add in my own favorite spices (hello, Old Bay!) and disregard Grandma’s sage advice by skimming over the ingredient list. Most of the time, it’s fine to ignore a few steps here and there. But more than once, I’ve run into trouble when the recipe calls for precooked shredded chicken.
Ruh roh! Dinner is in an hour and I need this chicken soon.
Here’s How to Make Shredded Chicken—Quick!
Step 1: Cook (or buy) the chicken.
How you choose to cook the chicken is entirely up to you. You can slap it on the grill, send it to the pressure cooker, roast it in the oven—or even snag a rotisserie chicken from the store. When I’m pressed for time, I reach for my trusty cast-iron skillet, add oil at medium heat, season a few cutlets and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
If you’re reading this with hours to go before dinner, you can try this advice from Test Kitchen wiz Sue Stetzel, who turns to her slow cooker whenever possible. “It cooks while I’m doing other things,” she says. For tender make-ahead chicken, line seasoned breasts on the bottom of a 5-qt. slow cooker, add a splash of liquid (try homemade chicken stock) and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or until chicken is tender). Start it in the morning and you’ll not waste a minute come dinnertime.
Pro tip: Prefer to grill? Here’s how to avoid serving dull, dry chicken.
Step 2: Let it cool slightly.
Once the chicken has totally cooked, let it sit for a minute or two to cool before shredding.
Pro tip: …but don’t wait too long. For easy shredding, it’s best to pull the chicken apart while it’s still warm.
Step 3: Get ready to get shreddy.
Sue reached out to our team of Volunteer Field Editors (VFEs) for their genius tips for ultra speedy shredded chicken. Here are the three quickest ways to tear apart a chicken. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
1. The Fork Method
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“Two big forks are my go-to tools for pulling chicken into shreds,” says VFE Debbie Johnson. Pin down the chicken and firmly pull the utensils in opposite directions. Continue until the chicken is completely shredded.
2. The Stand Mixer Method
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Volunteer Field Editor Elisabeth Larsen brought us this clever tip. “I cut cooked, deboned chicken or pork into big chunks and put it into the bowl of my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. A few seconds on medium-low speed is just enough to shred it all.” I’ll give a handclap to that hands-off method.
3. The Bare-Hands Method
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No tools? No problem. VFE Becky Carver suggests a technique that couldn’t get any easier: “After the chicken has cooled a little, I like to pull it into shreds with just my hands. That way I can control how big or small the pieces will be.” This is also an easy way for kids (with clean hands) to get involved in the kitchen. (Shredding chicken is so much fun, though, that your tiny sous-chef might find it hard to stop. Make sure important documents—say, last year’s tax returns?—are well out of reach.)
To save it for later, Sue’s advice is to place extra shredded chicken into resealable plastic bags or airtight containers and pop them into the freezer. The shredded meat will be waiting and ready to use in your favorite recipe. You can store it up to 4 months.
Curious what else you can freeze? These freezer-friendly foods might surprise you.
When you’re ready to cook, make mealtime easy by using shredded chicken in soups, wraps, tacos, sandwiches, pizza, salads or casseroles. Need inspiration? Here’s a trio of can’t-beat recipe ideas for shredded chicken.
- Make saucy sandwiches. One of my favorite things to do with shredded chicken is to smother it with BBQ sauce (homemade, if it’s handy) and pile it on a toasted potato roll. Mmm!
- Add a layer to nachos. Cheese-smothered shredded chicken on a chip is a crowd-pleaser in our book. Try it with this recipe for Baked Chicken Nachos.
- Serve it cold. Transform shreds into a tasty chicken salad sandwich. Thumbs-up if you add in halved grapes, as home cook Jaclyn Bell does.
Hungry for more? Say yes to our top-rated chicken dinner ideas.
Why I love this recipe
Once I discovered how to make shredded chicken for use in future recipes, it became my number 1 time-saver in the kitchen.
This recipe is easy enough and hands-off enough that you can make it on a second burner on the stove while you’re cooking dinner. It doesn’t add any time to that night’s dinner, and then you’ll have a big batch on hand to to save you time, effort, and dishes later in the next week or two.
You can make this with any amount of chicken, but I like to get the value packs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts and make it all at once. I shred some, dice some, and put it in freezer baggies pre-measured in 1- or 2-cup portions.
Then, when I need some diced or shredded chicken for recipes or to top a salad, I just thaw a bag and voila!
How to Use Diced Chicken
- Make your favorite chicken salad
- Mix with hot pasta and veggies
- Add diced chicken to this sun-dried tomato pasta salad for a main course
- Throw some on a green salad for a light lunch
- Toss with fettucini and sauce for an easy chicken alfredo – Steam some frozen broccoli to add too
- Use in a chicken pot pie
I hope you find this recipe for how to make shredded chicken as helpful as I did!
Will you make a big batch this week? I sure will!
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Tips for Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
- Make sure chicken is completely thawed before placing it in the Instant Pot.
- Feel free to add your favorite dried spices to the chicken before you cook it!
- Make sure the pressure gauge is turned to ‘seal’.
- When chicken is done cooking, shred it IN the Instant Pot and add your favorite sauce.
Fit Foodie Finds Best Instant Pot Recipes
It’s really hard to choose a favorite Instant Pot Recipe, but here are a few we love:
Don’t have an Instant Pot yet (GET ONE NOW, my friends!) and want to make shredded chicken tonight? Here are some of our favorite healthy crock pot recipes to tide you over
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Wondering how to make shredded chicken in the Instant Pot? Look no further! This easy shredded chicken in the Instant Pot recipe is ready in only 8 minutes, and will easily become a meal-prep staple in your home. Season with your favorite spices or sauce and you’ll be on your way to an easy and delicious meal.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Total Time: 13 minutes
- 1lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Place olive oil on the bottom of your Instant Pot before adding chicken breasts to the Instant Pot.
- Season chicken breast with salt and pepper.
- Close Instant Pot and make sure the pressure gauge is turned to ‘seal’. Set pressure to manual, high pressure and set the timer for 8 minutes. Pressure will build and then the timer will start.
- When the timer goes off, quick release the Instant Pot by turning pressure gauge to ‘vent’. When pressure releases shred chicken breast in the Instant Pot and serve any way you like.
- If Instant Pot flashes the word ‘burn,’ quick release, add a tablespoon of water, and reset it. The reason your Instant Pot is probably flashing the word burn is because it needs more moisture. Read more about it HERE.
- This recipe is for 2-3 medium-sized chicken breasts, not one massive 1 lb. chicken breast. Cook time will vary depending on the size of your chicken breasts. The larger the breast, the longer it will take to cook.
- Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
- Calories: 170
- Fat: 10
- Protein: 22
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