I’m always in search of easy and delicious chicken recipes that would 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 – so not appealing! But I found a way around that with this recipe for Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken!
This Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken recipe is great for meal prep because it’s really versatile: you can add the chicken to salads, wraps, tacos, etc. And it’s super flavorful and juicy so you will still look forward to eating it mid-week!
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The Secrets to Moist Chicken Breast in the Slow Cooker
The first, most important secret is to cook the chicken for way, way less than you would think you need to. I’m talking only around three hours on low. Honestly that’s all you need! (Or maybe even less than three hours, see the discussion “How Long Should I Cook the Chicken?” below.) Chicken breast isn’t like pot roast – it won’t get more tender the longer you cook it. It will just keep getting drier and drier, and nobody wants that!
The other secret is to use the cooking liquid to your advantage here! Since it’s so flavorful, just add some back into the shredded chicken at the end to get the most perfect, flavorful and moist slow cooker chicken you have ever tasted!
Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken Ingredients
The ingredients are chicken breasts, a can of diced green chiles (for flavor and moisture, you can use hot or mild), plus some seasonings: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt. At the end of cooking you will also add in the juice of one lime and some chopped cilantro. Although, if you don’t like cilantro you can leave it out.
What Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Should I Use to Make Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken?
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. This will help the chicken cook more evenly since every piece will have the same contact with the heating element, rather than having some pieces layered on top. I used a 6 quart slow cooker and the chicken fit perfectly in one layer.
I have the older generation of this Hamilton Beach 6 Quart Slow Cooker, it has lasted me a long time (going on 9 years!) and it has a temperature probe, so you can set the crock pot to automatically switch over to the warm setting once the desired temperature of the meat has been reached. This feature may be hard to use with this recipe since the pieces of chicken are small, but is really useful for larger cuts of meat.
How to Make Slow Cooker Shredded Chile Chicken
Here’s a step by step guide on how to make this recipe:
Step One: Cut Chicken Into Large Chunks
You will need two pounds of chicken breast. Cut them into large pieces (into thirds for small chicken breasts, or quarters for larger ones). Cutting the chicken up allows the seasoning to be in contact with more surface area of the chicken and helps to cook the chicken more evenly (since the heat doesn’t have to penetrate all the way to the center of a large chicken breast while the outside gets overcooked).
Step Two: Add to Slow Cooker with the Spices
Place the chunks of chicken into the bottom of a 6 quart crock pot. Add the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt on top. Use tongs to stir the chicken and spices so the chicken is evenly coated in the spices. 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 all the spices, spread them in one even layer on the bottom of the crock pot. This is important for even cooking!
Step Three: Add the Chiles on Top and Cook
Now just dump the entire can of green chiles on top of the chicken layer, including the liquid from the can. Try to spread the chiles evenly across the top of the chicken. Then just set the crock pot and let it do it’s thing!
How Long Should I Cook the Chicken?
Since each slow cooker/crock pot is a little different, the exact cooking time may vary. Three hours on low is a good place to start. But ultimately, you really are just looking for the internal temperature of the chicken pieces to reach 165 degrees.
For me, my chicken pieces reached between 168 and 170 degrees after cooking on low for two and a half hours, so I stopped the cooking at that point. If you check the temperature at the two and a half hour mark and the chicken isn’t quite done, I recommend cooking another 30 minutes before checking again, because every time you open the lid it will take longer for the crock pot to cook since the steam escapes. When you make the recipe for the first time, just make a note of how long your crock pot takes to cook the chicken to reach at least 165 so you know for next time you make the recipe.
Ideally, you will remove the chicken (or turn crock pot to “warm” setting) as soon as it reaches 165. The less it continues to cook after it reaches the minimum safe temperature, the more tender it will be!
And again, make sure your chicken pieces are in a single layer in the bottom of the crock pot to ensure they are evenly cooked!
Step Four: Remove the Chicken and Chop the Cilantro
I added these two steps together because it’s convenient to chop the cilantro while the chicken is cooling down. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon onto a cutting board. I like using a slotted spoon so you can scoop out as many of the chiles as possible too. And do not discard the cooking liquid from the crock pot! This is very important!
While the chicken is cooling down on the board, chop the cilantro. You can also slice your lime to prep for squeezing!
Step Five: Shred the Chicken
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it up and place into a medium sized bowl. I like using my hands for this, but you could use two forks too if you want. Or even just chop up the chicken if you don’t feel like fussing, that would be easier and faster, and would taste just as good!
Step Six: Add the Cilantro, Lime Juice and Cooking Liquid
Ok we are at the final step! Now all you need to do is add the chopped cilantro in with the shredded chicken and squeeze in the lime juice. Give that a good stir.
Now go back to the crock pot and scoop out some of the cooking liquid and add it in with the chicken. Keep adding the liquid in, stirring in between each spoonful, until the chicken is moistened to your liking. I added about six tablespoons of liquid into mine.
And that’s it! You have a whole bowlful of delicious, flavorful shredded chicken to add to your favorite dishes. This would be great in a taco salad, burrito, or wrap! I hope you enjoy this recipe and that it saves you some precious time making lunches this week!
If you need another delicious and easy/fast chicken idea, check out my recipe for 30 Minute Chipotle Chicken Tacos! And even more ideas here:
Deliciously tender and flavorful shredded chicken seasoned with green chiles, chili powder, cumin and garlic. Perfect for easy meal prep lunches!
- 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 7 oz. can diced green chiles (mild or hot)
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. cumin
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 c. chopped cilantro (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 slow cooker. Add the 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. Pour the green chiles, including the liquid from the can, evenly over the chicken.
- Cook for 3 hours on low or until the internal temperature of the chicken pieces reaches 165 degrees. (See “How Long Should I Cook the Chicken?” in the blog post for a discussion on variations in cooking times.)
- Remove the chicken and chiles from the crock pot with a slotted spoon and place on a cutting board to cool down. Do not discard the cooking liquid in the crock pot! While chicken is cooling, chop the cilantro and cut lime in half.
- When cool enough to handle, shred or chop the chicken and add to a medium bowl. Squeeze the lime juice into the bowl and add in the cilantro. Add in as much liquid from the crock pot as you like to moisten the chicken to your personal taste.
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