Instant Pot shredded chicken is a meal prepping essential! Learn four different variations, each made with only two ingredients! You’ll love this chicken on salads, tacos, burrito bowls, and in soup!

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: Having cooked chicken in the fridge or freezer ready to use in recipes is a game changer at meal time. Turn a family pack of boneless chicken breasts, fresh or frozen, into a meal prepping dream!

How long it takes: 20 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: Instant Pot pressure cooker
Servings: 6

Instant pot shredded chicken, held between tongs.
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If you’re looking to simplify dinner time preparations, this is the recipe for you. Transform a big pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts, fresh or frozen, into a ready-to-use ingredient for all sorts of easy and healthy meals.

How often have you gotten home from work and realized that you don’t have anything planned for dinner? Raw meat that’s frozen solid just doesn’t lend itself to a quick meal.

Often, I fall back on frozen shrimp. It thaws and cooks up very quickly for meals like sheet pan shrimp fajitas or shrimp and broccoli stir fry but you can’t eat shrimp every night.

That’s why I always have some of this Instant Pot shredded chicken on hand! Buying a family pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts is usually pretty economical and it’s super versatile. You can use it in any number of ways. Keep reading for lots of ideas.

I’ll show you how to make four delicious varieties of shredded chicken. All of them are very easy and work in a variety of recipes.

How To Use Instant Pot Shredded Chicken

  • Salads: Try this southwestern BBQ chicken salad or add shredded chicken to bagged salads for a very easy meal.
  • Burrito bowls: Start with cooked rice or another grain, add shredded chicken, and your favorite toppings, like black beans, avocado, tomatoes, salsa, etc. for a very satisfying and nutritious meal. Add creamy cilantro lime drizzle, if you like.
  • Tacos: Mix the chicken with my taco seasoning, warm it up, stuff it in a tortilla, and add your favorite toppings.
  • Nachos: We love BBQ chicken nachos and cauliflower nachos (roasted cauliflower takes the place of tortilla chips).
  • Enchiladas: Make chicken enchiladas verde with your shredded chicken. They’re super easy to make and everyone loves ’em!
  • Soup: Creamy chicken rice soup and white chicken chili are a couple of favorites.
  • Mac and cheese: Doctor up prepared mac and cheese with shredded chicken, green peas, extra cheddar, and top with diced tomatoes, if you like.
  • Loaded baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes: Fill the potatoes with shredded chicken, and anything else you like, and melt cheese on top. So good!
Instant Pot shredded chicken in a large white bowl.

About This Recipe

I make Instant Pot shredded chicken almost weekly. There isn’t much to it. It’s super simple and after you make it once, you probably won’t even need to refer to this how-to recipe. I’ll guide you through it the first time and give you lots of helpful tips.

Once you master this easy recipe, you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again, especially as you discover how convenient it is to have shredded chicken always on hand.

How To Make This Chicken

It all starts with boneless skinless chicken breasts. Can you use boneless skinless thighs? Of course! You can do some of each, if you want. The recipe starts with one and a half pounds of chicken but you can increase it if you like. The cooking time will be the same but it will take the Instant Pot a little longer to come to pressure.

I cover four variations of Instant Pot shredded chicken in this post but it all boils down to this:

  1. Chicken + One Cup of Liquid: Salsa, bbq sauce, broth, water, whatever you like.
  2. Cook in Instant Pot: Cook on High pressure for 10 minutes, quick release.
  3. Shred: Choose your favorite method to shred the chicken, return it to the liquid in the Instant Pot so it can soak up the flavorful juices, and serve!
Shredded chicken in Instant Pot, held with tongs.

Variation #1: Plain Shredded Chicken

Plain and simple, it doesn’t get more versatile than this! All you need is:

  • chicken
  • chicken broth (or water)

I also recommend seasoning the chicken with pepper and possibly salt too, if you’re using a reduced-sodium broth.

Variation #2: Salsa Verde Shredded Chicken

This is my go-to. Add it to southwestern/Mexican style meals or just wrap it in a tortilla and eat it as is. It’s perfect for these roasted cauliflower nachos!

Variation #3: Salsa Shredded Chicken

Pretty similar to #2 but with tomato salsa. It’s a cousin of my slow cooker shredded chicken that I use for tacos. Here’s what you need:

  • chicken
  • salsa of your choice – mild, medium, or hot

If you want to spice it up, add homemade taco seasoning. One teaspoon will be mild, 1 to 2 tablespoons will give you a spicier shredded chicken. If you like the smoky flavor of chipotle, be sure to try my chipotle salsa.

Variation #4: BBQ Shredded Chicken

This is great on BBQ chicken bowls and also makes a great sandwich on a bun. Shredded chicken is a delicious topping for baked potatoes or sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese. It works great for barbecue chicken pizza.

  • chicken
  • your favorite barbecue sauce (try homemade bbq sauce)

Note: If your favorite barbecue sauce is a really thick, sweet one, I’d recommend adding ¼ cup water to prevent the sugar in the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Another option is to make the chicken plain (variation #1) and then stir in the BBQ sauce after the chicken is shredded.

How long do you cook chicken breast in a pressure cooker?

10 minutes (high pressure, quick release) is a pretty sweet spot for me.
I always check the temperature of the chicken breasts with an instant read thermometer when they’re done cooking and if it doesn’t read 165°F, I turn the pressure cooker to sauté, set the lid partially on (don’t lock it into place) and cook the chicken for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until it comes up to temperature. If the temperature is pretty close, just letting the chicken rest for 5 minutes will bring it up to 165°F.

If the chicken pieces are on the small side, it might take slightly less time (8 minutes), but if they’re big and/or frozen, you might want to give them closer to 12 minutes.

FAQs

Why does chicken get rubbery in an Instant Pot?

Chicken can get a rubbery texture if it’s overcooked, especially boneless skinless chicken breasts. To avoid overcooking, follow the cooking instructions carefully. An instant read thermometer is helpful because you know immediately if the chicken has reached a safe temperature (165°F), avoiding guesswork and overcooking.

Why is my pulled chicken tough?

Pulled chicken can become tough if it’s overcooked, especially if you use white meat. If you’re accustomed to making pulled pork, you’ll know that long, slow cooking results in a tender shreds of pork; however, there’s an important difference between pork and chicken breasts. Pork, especially pork shoulder which is commonly used for pulled pork, contains a lot of fat which keeps the meat moist and tender. In contrast, chicken breasts are very low in fat.
To remedy this, remember that chicken doesn’t have to cook as long as pork. Allow the shredded chicken to soak in the cooking liquid. If you have time, refrigerate the chicken in the liquid overnight to let it absorb the flavorful juices.

Can you overcook chicken in an Instant Pot?

Chicken can easily be overcooked in an Instant Pot because pressure cooking combines intense heat and steam under pressure to cook food more quickly. It’s a common mistake to overcook food in a pressure cooker.

How To Shred The Chicken

  • Using two forks: The most common way to shred chicken is to place it on a plate and use two forks to pull it apart.
  • Using a stand mixer: You can also place the chicken in the bowl of your stand mixer and use the paddle attachment on low to shred. Don’t overdo it unless you like mushy chicken.
  • Using a hand mixer inside the Instant Pot: This is my favorite way although it comes with a disclaimer: be very careful of hot splatters! Use a hand mixer with the normal beaters attached. Turn the mixer on low speed right inside the Instant Pot. Partially cover the top of the Instant Pot with a clean towel to cut down on spatters. This method will shred your chicken in less than one minute, with no extra dishes. That’s why it’s my favorite way.
Three types of shredded chicken in an Instant Pot.

How To Make Diced Chicken

Of course, the chicken doesn’t have to be shredded. Allow the chicken to cool slightly and dice it. Use diced chicken for chicken salad with walnuts and grapes, curried chicken salad, curried chicken salad, or this creamy avocado chicken salad.

Thinly slice the chicken breasts for sandwiches, if you like. It’s way more economical and healthier than processed lunch meat.

Storage Tips

Refrigerate: Cool chicken and store in airtight containers. Shredded chicken can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. You can use it for meals all week long.

Freeze: Freeze the chicken in the amounts you will need. Don’t freeze it all in one big container. It thaws quickly if you put it in a resealable bag and spread it flat. Label it with the amount and the date. It will keep up to 6 months.

Reheat: If chicken is frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge if you think of it. If not, partially soften the frozen chicken in the microwave, then add it to the recipe you’re making. If you’re adding it to soup, there’s no need to thaw it first.

Instant Pot Meal Prep Ideas

Recipe

Instant Pot Shredded Chicken

4.39 from 13 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Instant Pot shredded chicken is a meal prepping essential! Learn four different variations, each made with only two ingredients!
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Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (boneless skinless chicken thighs are fine, too)
  • 1 cup of ONE of the following: salsa verde, traditional salsa, chicken broth OR barbecue sauce

Instructions 

  • If desired, spray the inside of the Instant Pot with nonstick spray. Add chicken and your choice of liquid. I like to put a little salsa (or other liquid) under the chicken as well as on top to prevent chicken from sticking to the bottom of the Instant Pot and to make sure the chicken soaks up tons of flavor.
  • Secure lid and turn valve to seal. Set Instant Pot to Pressure Cook (or High pressure) for 10 minutes.
  • When cooking is complete, quick release pressure by turning valve to vent, watching out for steam. When pressure valve lowers, remove lid. Check thickest part of chicken with an instant read thermometer; it should be 165°F (see note).
  • Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot, allow to cool slightly, and shred the chicken with two forks. You can also shred it more quickly but VERY carefully with a hand mixer right inside the Instant Pot (see post), but be watchful for splattering liquids! Partially cover the pot with a clean dish towel. The chicken can be diced or sliced, if you prefer.
  • Once meat is shredded, return it to liquid in Instant Pot (if you removed it to shred it) and stir to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container, with or without liquid, for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it, divided into containers or freezer bags to use within 6 months.

Notes

  • Nutritional information calculated for 1.5 lbs. chicken and low sodium chicken broth. Please take into consideration the nutritional values of the particular sauce you choose.
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts can vary widely in size which affects the cooking time. If they are very large, cut them in half lengthwise before cooking. 
  • What to do if the chicken isn’t done: If the internal temperature of the chicken doesn’t reach 165°F by the time it is done cooking, switch your Instant Pot to Sauté and set the lid on so it’s slightly ajar. The chicken will finish cooking quickly on the sauté mode. If the temperature is very close to 165°F, simply let the chicken rest for 5 minutes or so. The internal temperature will continue to rise. If you re-pressurize the Instant Pot, it’s likely to overcook the chicken.
  • Cooking frozen chicken: Cook for 12 minutes, 14 if chicken breasts are very large.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 136kcal, Carbohydrates: 0.5g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 143mg, Potassium: 453mg, Sugar: 0.1g, Vitamin A: 34IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.39 from 13 votes (12 ratings without comment)

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22 Comments

  1. Carmen says:

    5 stars
    wow! howmany ideas. Many, many thanks Rachel

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      You’re so welcome!

  2. Kara says:

    I got an instant pot for Christmas, so I am easing myself into this trying out simple recipes. This chicken worked well for taco bowls. I didn’t have any salsa in the house and I didn’t want to go to the store, so I used a cup of water, 1 tsp of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and kosher salt. It worked great. I probably would have liked more flavor, but mild works well for my family.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked this chicken! It’s one of my go-tos. :)

  3. Renee E says:

    My very frozen chicken breast weren’t quite done (my fault as I left the meta stand in my pot instead of putting right on the bottom of the pot).  However, I used your tip of sautéing for a few minutes after I released the pressure and they turned out perfect!  I shredded and put on top of your instant pot baked potatoes!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m glad that tip helped! Thanks for the comment! I bet they were so good on top of baked potatoes!

  4. Amanda Trance says:

    I have left over rotisserie chicken i am trying to find meals for. Can I use cooked chicken for this 

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      This is a method to cook chicken…there really isn’t a whole lot more to it so I’m not sure you’d want to use alrady cooked chicken. If for example, you want the salsa variety, you could just spoon some salsa into your cooked chicken.

  5. Kirsten says:

    I tried two variations of this recipe – BBQ and chicken broth.  Both ways turned out excellent! I prefer the chicken broth recipe for a number of reasons though.  The chicken seemed easier to shred, and, since its made without any sauce, it can be a base for any number of different dishes later making it very versatile.  I’ll be using this recipe any time I need to shred chicken in the future.  Thank you!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Hi Kristen! I love the versatility of this recipe, too. I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for taking the time to come back and leave a comment!

  6. Lori Revilla says:

    This was a major fail in my instant pot. Three separate times I got the burn signal and I followed the recipe exactly. I even added extra salsa and extra water and tried it again and nothing. Such a waste of food.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’ve made this probably 50 times and have never experienced that. I also know of many other people that have been successful with this. Are you having this problem with your Instant Pot with other recipes?

  7. Sheena says:

    Do you add time if the chicken is still mostly frozen?

    1. Sheena says:

      Just saw your note above about partially frozen adding a couple minutes ;) thanks!

      1. Rachel Gurk says:

        You’re welcome! Hope it turns out great!

  8. Conna says:

    Thanks for this! Can you also do a natural release? 

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      That should work fine! It might overcook the meat slightly, but it should be alright if you’re not able to quick release it right away. :)

  9. Denise says:

    sounds wonderful…I should get an instant pot

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      You definitely should! I love mine!

      1. Jackie says:

        Question: I keep seeing ‘return juices’ but don’t see ‘remove from juices’? Do you remove chicken from juices,shred, then add back to juices?

        1. Rachel Gurk says:

          You can do it either way. I often remove it but I also sometimes just shred it right in the Instant Pot. Whatever works best for you is fine.

  10. KalynsKitchen says:

    Such a great meal prep recipe! Thanks for the shout-out for my Ham and Cabbage Soup too.