It’s been a while since I did a dedicated “Make Ahead Mondays” post, and quite a few people have mentioned that they miss them on the reader survey. I listened! Today I’m sharing a fantastic meal-starter with you: Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken for Recipes. Use your slow-cooker to whip up a batch of this flavourful, fully-cooked shredded chicken, shred with a couple of forks (or chop on a cutting board) and divide into meal-sized portions in freezer bags. I’m not leaving you hanging with a bunch of cooked chicken in the freezer, though; I also have a handful of quick recipe ideas that take advantage of your bounty of chicken. When you have Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken for Recipes tucked away in the freezer, you’re just moments away from a home-cooked meal!
There really isn’t much effort involved in making Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken for Recipes. It’s a recipe at its most basic; combine boneless, skinless chicken thighs with this and that in a slow-cooker and let it rip for 8 hours on low. At the end of 8 hours, remove the meat and shred it. Use part of it for the evening meal, and portion out the rest in meal-sized servings in freezer bags, squeeze the air out, seal, and freeze.
The magic of this recipe is not just in the fact that it’s about as simple as it can get, but also in the fact that there are almost infinite ways to use the chicken! Here are a few of our favourites:
- as taco meat
- in quesadillas
- in fried rice
- on entrée type salads (like taco salad, club salad, etc…)
- mixed with mayonnaise and other goodies for chicken salad
- in soups (like Chicken Tortilla Soup)
- in Hot TexMess
- in Neato Frito Overstuffed Burritos
- on top of Scallion Cilantro Lime Rice for Tex Mex Rice Bowls
- in place of the chorizo in One-Pot Tex Mex Pasta Toss
- on nachos
- on sandwiches
- in taquitos
- in enchiladas
- in a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner hash with leftover salt potatoes and onions
I stuff this shredded chicken in all sorts of places. Despite being cooked with barbecue sauce, it’s pretty much a garlicky blank slate. I have to know… How would YOU use a bunch of shredded chicken?
- Even though you use barbecue sauce as part of the flavouring process, the resulting chicken doesn’t really taste OF barbecue sauce. Rather, it’s a garlicky, smooth, chicken-y blank canvas that works any place you’d like to use shredded chicken. It’s what you ADD to it in the subsequent meals that will really form the taste-profile.
- Yes. I call for 1/4 cup of hot sauce. That is optional, but remember that you’re using 8 pounds or so of chicken, so that’s really very little hot sauce overall.
- Yes. I said 8 pounds of chicken. Obviously you can reduce this, but if you’re already keeping that slow-cooker running for 8 hours, wouldn’t you rather get a bunch done at once? When all is said and done, I get in the neighborhood of 6 meals worth of chicken for my large family (depending on what we use it for, of course.)
- The reason I specify boneless, skinless chicken THIGHS is that they are far more forgiving to cook up in the slow-cooker. Boneless, skinless chicken breast has a distressing tendency to dry out despite having been cooked in ample liquid. If you don’t mind dry meat, and you really can’t abide chicken thighs, make the substitution, but be aware you’ll need to be more vigilant during the cooking process and pull them from the liquid the very moment they are shreddable.
- Speaking of shredding meat, I find it easiest to use tongs to transfer the cooked meat to a larger-than-necessary, heat-proof mixing bowl (stainless steel, glass, etc…) and let it cool for just 5 or 10 minutes before using two forks to pull the meat apart. The large size of the bowl keeps you from the frustration of running up against the edge of the bowl with forks full of shredded meat.
- When you take that chicken out of the slow-cooker, you’ll find that you have a good amount of cooking juices that are left. You can discard it if you wish, but I prefer to put it into a heat-proof bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours, remove the fat that rose to the top and solidified, then boil the remaining juices to reduce them and serve it over some of the shredded chicken. It’s so full of flavour it seems a shame to pitch it.
- 7 to 8 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (optional, but tasty!)
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, or 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped, or 3 teaspoons granulated onion
- 3 dashes liquid smoke
- Add all of the ingredients to a slow cooker and stir to distribute. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until the chicken easily falls apart when pulled with tongs or forks. Use tongs to lift the chicken into a heat-proof bowl and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before shredding. Use immediately or cover and cool in the refrigerator before dividing between zipper-top freezer bags to freeze for future use. Label the bags with the contents and the date and freeze. Use within 6 months for optimal quality.