Slow cooker shredded chile chicken is super low effort, but full of zesty chile, cilantro and lime flavor. And, with only about 15 minutes of active prep time, you can meal prep with ease! Enjoy this deliciously moist shredded chicken in your favorite salad, wrap or burrito.
(Note: This recipe was originally published in 2019, updated in 2020, and updated again in 2022 with new photos and improved instructions).
I'm always in search of easy and delicious chicken recipes that work well for meal prep. And, if its a slow cooker recipe, that's even better, because they are easy and I don't have to babysit them during the cooking process. But, a lot of times chicken (especially chicken breasts) come out really dry in the slow cooker - not so appealing! So, I found a way around that with this shredded crock pot chicken recipe! (The secret - a much shorter cook time!!)
This slow cooker shredded chicken recipe is also great for meal prep because it's really versatile. It's perfect as a filling for shredded chicken tacos or burritos, in salads, wraps, grain bowls, and more.
- Chicken breast: you will need boneless, skinless chicken breast.
- Green chiles: this adds moisture and flavor to the dish. I used two 4 ounce cans, but you can also use one 7 ounce can if that's what you have on hand. Diced green chiles come in hot or mild, so feel free to use whichever you prefer.
- Cilantro: if you don't like cilantro, feel free to omit this, or replace it with another herb you like. For example, chopped green onion or chive would be nice substitutes.
Step by step photos
1. First, cut the chicken breasts into large pieces; I like to do thirds for small chicken breasts and quarters for larger ones.
Cutting the chicken up allows the seasoning to be in contact with more surface area of the chicken. It also helps to cook the chicken more evenly; the heat doesn't have to penetrate all the way to the center of a large chicken breast while the outside gets overcooked.
2. Place the chunks of chicken into the bottom of a large slow cooker or crock pot.
3. Next, add the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and kosher salt on top.
4. Evenly coat the chicken in the spices by tossing the chicken and spices together with tongs. Make sure none of the spices have collected in the corners of the crock pot, they should all be coating the chicken.
Once the chicken is coated in the spices, spread the chicken pieces in one even layer on the bottom of the crock pot. This is important for even cooking!
5. Now just dump the green chiles on top of the chicken, including the liquid from the can. Try to spread the chiles evenly across the top of the chicken.
Then, just cover the slow cooker and let it cook on low for 2 ½ - 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
6. The chicken will look something like this when it's finished cooking:
7. Next, remove the chicken and green chiles from the crock pot into a medium bowl, using a slotted spoon.
And, do not discard the cooking liquid from the crock pot! This is very important!
8. If you want to use your hands to shred the chicken, you can let the chicken cool down a bit to make it easier to handle. At this point, you can chop the cilantro and cut the lime in half while the chicken is cooling.
9. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it up using clean hands or two forks.
10. Next, squeeze the lime juice into the bowl, and sprinkle in the chopped cilantro.
11. Now, go back to the crock pot or slow cooker, scoop out some of the cooking liquid and add it in with the chicken.
Keep adding in the liquid, stirring in between each spoonful, until the chicken is moistened to your liking. I added about six tablespoons of liquid into mine.
At this stage, give the chicken a taste, and add more kosher salt, cooking liquid, lime juice and/or cilantro if you like.
Tips and tricks
- Chicken breast isn't like pot roast - it won't get more tender the longer you cook it (it will just continue to get drier and drier - no one wants that!). For juicy chicken breasts, you only need to cook them long enough to reach the minimum safe internal temperature; in the US that is 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
- Therefore, the main reason this crock pot shredded chicken is so moist is because it's cooked way less than one may think is required for a crock pot recipe. While many crock pot recipes cook for a minimum of 4 hours, this one only needs around 2 ½ to 3 hours on low, until it reaches the safe temperature of 165 degrees F.
- And, by cutting the chicken breasts into similarly-sized pieces and distributing them in a single layer, the chicken cooks evenly, further facilitating a moist end result without some pieces becoming overdone and dried out.
- Since each slow cooker/crock pot is a little different, the exact cooking time may vary. For example, in my crock pot, the chicken reached 168 degrees F after 2 ½ hours on low. If you check the chicken temperature after 2 ½ hours and it hasn't quite reached 165 degrees F, cook for another 30 minutes and then check again. Don't keep checking every few minutes, however, because every time you lift the lid of the crock pot, more heat is escaping, thus extending the cooking time.
You will need a 6 quart (5.6 L) sized slow cooker (or a slow cooker of a similar size - slightly smaller or larger should also work ok).
It's important to use a larger crock pot/slow cooker that allows you to spread the chicken in one even layer in the bottom of the crock pot. That way, each piece will have contact with the heating element at the bottom of the pot. If your chicken is piled together, there is a risk some spots won't get cooked enough.
Yes, this shredded chicken recipe freezes well after cooking! You can store it in an airtight container in the freezer for 3 - 4 months. For a fresher flavor, leave the cilantro out of recipe before freezing. Then, you can mix in freshly chopped cilantro after the chicken has been thawed and re-heated.
There are so many ways to use this flavorful crock pot shredded chicken, which makes it perfect for meal prepping. First of all, it works wonderfully as a filling for shredded chicken tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.
You can also use it as the protein component in a grain bowl or salad. Or, how about including it in a cheesy grilled panini, or stuffed in a wrap with a few slices of avocado? The possibilities are endless!
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a star rating and/or review in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And sign up for my weekly newsletter to get recipes delivered straight to you!Print
Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken
Deliciously tender and flavorful shredded chicken seasoned with green chiles, chili powder, cumin and garlic. Perfect for easy meal prep lunches!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: main course
- Method: slow cooker, crock pot
- Cuisine: American
- 2 pounds (.9 kg) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 8 ounces (227 g) canned diced green chiles (mild or hot)
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
- ¼ cup (16 g) chopped cilantro, or more to taste (optional)
- Cut chicken breasts into large chunks (approximately into thirds for small chicken breasts and quarters for large chicken breasts).
- Add chicken pieces to the bottom of a 6 quart (5.6 L) slow cooker. (See note 1.) Add the kosher salt, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin on top. Use tongs to stir the chicken and spices until all of the spices have evenly coated the chicken.
- Evenly distribute the spiced-covered chicken pieces into one layer in the bottom of the slow cooker. (Chicken pieces should not be piled on top of each other.) Pour the green chiles, including the liquid from the can, evenly over the chicken.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 2 ½ - 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken pieces reaches 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). (See note 2.)
- Remove the chicken and chiles from the crock pot with a slotted spoon and place in a medium bowl. (See note 3.) Do not discard the cooking liquid in the crock pot!
- If needed, let the chicken cool down for a minute or two, until it's cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, chop the cilantro and cut the lime in half.
- Shred the chicken with clean hands or two forks. Squeeze the lime juice into the bowl and add in the cilantro. Mix in as much liquid from the crock pot as you like to moisten the chicken to your personal taste.
- Taste the chicken and add more cooking liquid, kosher salt, cilantro, or lime juice if desired.
- It's important to use a larger crock pot/slow cooker that allows you to spread the chicken in one even layer in the bottom of the crock pot. That way, each piece will have contact with the heating element at the bottom of the pot. If your chicken is piled together, there is a risk some spots won't get cooked enough.
- Since each slow cooker/crock pot is a little different, the exact cooking time may vary. Check the internal temperature of the chicken pieces after 2 ½ hours; if they haven't yet reached 165 degrees F (74 degrees C), replace the lid and check again in 30 minute increments until the chicken reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Avoid lifting the lid repeatedly however, because this will allow heat to escape, slowing down the cooking process.
- If you don't mind having some extra liquid in the final dish, you can save time on prep and just shred the chicken inside the slow cooker.
- The chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 - 4 days, or in the freezer for 3 - 4 months. For fresher flavor when freezing, you can omit the cilantro beforehand, and instead mix it in right before you enjoy the reheated chicken.
- The nutrition information below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator, and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, health, or nutritional advice. See our full disclosure policy.
- Serving Size: ⅙ recipe
- Calories: 182
- Sugar: 1.6 g
- Sodium: 382 mg
- Fat: 2.3 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 4.7 g
- Fiber: 0.7 g
- Protein: 35.1 g
- Cholesterol: 87 mg
Keywords: slow cooker shredded chicken, crock pot shredded chicken