The Ultimate Guide: How to Cook and Shred Chicken Breast for Enchiladas

Are you a fan of Mexican cuisine? If so, you’ve probably come across a variety of dishes that call for shredded chicken, such as enchiladas, tacos, and tostadas. While you could opt for a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, learning how to cook and shred your own chicken breasts can be a game-changer in terms of flavor and cost-effectiveness. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of cooking and shredding chicken breasts specifically for enchiladas, one of the most beloved Mexican dishes.

Why Cook and Shred Your Own Chicken Breasts?

There are several reasons why you should consider cooking and shredding your own chicken breasts:

  1. Flavor Control: When you cook your own chicken, you have complete control over the seasoning and flavors. This allows you to customize the taste to your liking, ensuring that your enchiladas are bursting with deliciousness.

  2. Cost-Effective: Buying pre-cooked or shredded chicken can be more expensive than cooking your own. By preparing it yourself, you can save money while still enjoying high-quality ingredients.

  3. Versatility: Once you master the art of cooking and shredding chicken breasts, you can use this technique for a variety of dishes, not just enchiladas.

  4. Freshness: Homemade shredded chicken will always be fresher and more flavorful than pre-packaged alternatives.

Ingredients and Equipment

Before we dive into the cooking and shredding process, let’s gather the necessary ingredients and equipment:


  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 breasts, depending on your needs)
  • Olive oil or butter (for sautéing)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Chicken broth or water (for poaching)
  • Optional: Your favorite herbs and spices (e.g., cumin, chili powder, garlic powder)


  • Large skillet or sauté pan with a lid
  • Tongs or spatula
  • Cutting board
  • Forks (for shredding) or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  • Instant-read thermometer (optional but recommended)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Now that you have everything you need, let’s dive into the cooking and shredding process:

1. Prepare the Chicken

Start by trimming any excess fat or tendons from the chicken breasts. Rinse the breasts under cool water and pat them dry with paper towels.

2. Sauté the Chicken

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts to the pan and season them generously with salt and pepper (and any other desired spices).

Sauté the chicken breasts for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they develop a nice golden-brown color. This step helps to lock in the flavors and create a delicious crust on the chicken.

3. Poach the Chicken

After sautéing, add enough chicken broth or water to the pan to cover the chicken breasts by about halfway. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and let the chicken poach for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you can check for doneness by cutting into the thickest part of the breast and ensuring that the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink.

4. Shred the Chicken

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes. You can then shred the chicken using one of two methods:

  • Fork Method: Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and use two forks to shred the meat by pulling it apart with the forks.
  • Stand Mixer Method: This is a game-changing hack! Place the cooked chicken breasts in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed, and within seconds, the chicken will be perfectly shredded.

If you prefer a moister texture, you can add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pan to the shredded chicken and toss to combine.

5. Season and Assemble

Now that you have a batch of perfectly shredded chicken, you can season it further with your favorite herbs and spices, or simply use it as-is in your enchilada recipe.

To assemble the enchiladas, warm up some corn or flour tortillas, fill them with the shredded chicken, roll them up, and place them in a baking dish. Top with your desired enchilada sauce (red or green) and shredded cheese, then bake until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Tips and Tricks

  • Seasoning: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonings and spices to infuse your shredded chicken with unique flavors. Some popular options include cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and lime juice.

  • Cooking Liquid: Instead of using water for poaching, you can use chicken broth or even beer for added flavor.

  • Batch Cooking: Shredded chicken freezes exceptionally well, so consider cooking a large batch and freezing it in individual portions for future use.

  • Versatility: While this guide focuses on using shredded chicken for enchiladas, the same technique can be applied to other Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, and tostadas, as well as soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Final Thoughts

Cooking and shredding your own chicken breasts may seem like an extra step, but trust us, it’s worth the effort. Not only will you be able to customize the flavors to your liking, but you’ll also save money and enjoy the freshness of homemade ingredients. Plus, once you master this technique, you’ll have a versatile and delicious ingredient at your fingertips for a variety of dishes. So, grab your skillet, chicken breasts, and get ready to impress your family and friends with your newly acquired culinary skills!

Easy and JUICY Shredded Chicken (stovetop) | The Recipe Rebel


Should chicken be cooked before shredding?

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.

Can you blend chicken breast to shred it?

You can use leftovers or cook the chicken breast fresh for this recipe. Either way, all you need to do is pop the chicken in the Blendtec blender and press pulse until it’s shredded to your liking. Within seconds you’ve got a protein-rich, family-friendly meal.

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