See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This Poached Chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. Learn how to poach chicken breasts or thighs to make the best sliced or shredded chicken. Perfect for using in your favorite recipes that call for cooked chicken!
Poaching chicken is an easy and healthy way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This cooking method also works well with boneless chicken thighs and bone-in chicken.
The poached chicken can be sliced or shredded and served as is, but most often I poach chicken to use in recipes that call for cooked chicken. My favorite chicken recipes include Chicken Salad, Chicken Enchiladas and Chicken Taquitos. Poached chicken is also a delicious way to add extra protein to a green salad.
Knowing how to poach chicken is a helpful kitchen skill to have. It’s up there on my go-to list of preferred methods to prepare chicken breasts, along with my recipes for Grilled Chicken, Baked Chicken Breast, Crockpot Shredded Chicken and Instant Pot Shredded Chicken.
The secret to the best poached chicken is to bring the pot to a simmer slowly and to flavor the meat as it cooks. Below you’ll find my suggestions for aromatics that you can add to the cooking liquid to infuse the chicken with flavor. By not rushing the process, the chicken stays tender and juicy.
Adding a few flavor-packed ingredients to the poaching liquid will infuse the chicken with flavor as it cooks. Here are some suggestions. I usually choose a few that will complement the other flavors in the meal. I also recommend adding salt to the cooking liquid for maximum flavor.
- Fresh herb sprigs. Rosemary and thyme are two of my favorites.
- Lemon slices.
- Bay leaves.
- Sliced onion.
- Whole peppercorns.
- Garlic cloves. Peel and smash them for maximum flavor.
- Fresh ginger. Slice it, but no need to peel.
How to Poach Chicken
Here is an overview of how to boil chicken to make the best poached chicken. You’ll find the full printable recipe below.
- Place the chicken in a pot that has a lid. You can cook more or less chicken using this method, but it’s best if the chicken fits in a single layer in the pot. Add cold water to the pot until the water level is about 1 inch above the chicken.
- Add salt and any desired aromatic ingredients to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stove. Don’t rush this step, as the chicken will be more tender if the pot comes to a simmer slowly.
- Reduce the heat so the pot is at a low simmer. Cover the pot and simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
Cooked chicken should have an internal temperature of 165° F at the thickest part, when measured with an instant read thermometer. Once the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.
How Long to Boil Chicken
Once the pot is at a boil, poached chicken generally takes about 6-11 minutes to fully cook. Smaller chicken breasts will cook faster and larger breasts will take longer to cook. The size of your pot and how long it takes the pot to come to a boil can also affect the cook time.
Poached Chicken Recipe Tips
- If you plan to shred the poached chicken, see my three favorite methods in my tutorial on how to shred chicken.
- You can also use this poached chicken recipe to cook chicken thighs. Cook until the internal temperature is 165° F.
- Bone-in chicken breasts or thighs may also be used. Chicken cooked on the bone will take longer to cook through.
- I don’t recommend poaching chicken from frozen, as the texture will not be as good. Try my Instant Pot frozen chicken recipe if your chicken is frozen.
- If desired, chicken broth may be used instead of water for the poaching liquid, for extra flavor. However, I find that water plus salt and aromatic ingredients provide enough flavor.
- If desired, you can strain the poaching liquid and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Use it in recipes that call for chicken broth or stock. It’s not quite as flavorful as chicken broth or stock but still very good.
Recipes to Make Using Poached Chicken
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken Salad Recipe
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Chicken Florentine Pasta Bake
- BBQ Chicken Sliders
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Chicken Tortilla Casserole
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
- cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- fresh herb sprigs
- 2-3 lemon slices
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ small onion (sliced)
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
- few slices fresh ginger
- Place chicken breasts in a pot or other pan that has a lid. The chicken breasts should be in a single layer in the pan. Add cold water to the pot until water level is about 1 inch above the chicken.
- Add salt and any desired aromatics.
- Place the pot on the stove, uncovered, over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Do not rush this step. The chicken will be more tender if the pot comes to a simmer slowly.
- Reduce heat to low so that the water is at a low simmer, cover the pot, and continue simmering for 6-11 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165° F. Cook time will depend on size of the chicken breasts and how long it takes water to come to a simmer.
- Remove chicken from water and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing or shredding.
- You can cook more or less chicken, but it's best if the chicken fits in a single layer in the pot.
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in breasts or thighs may also be used. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165° F.
- Aromatics are optional and can be used to add extra flavor to the chicken. Choose aromatics based on what you have on hand, your flavor preferences, and the flavors that pair well with how you plan to use the poached chicken.
- You can discard the cooking liquid or strain it and use it in recipes that call for chicken broth or stock. It will be less flavorful than chicken stock, but still very good. Cooking liquid can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Nutrition information is an estimate as chicken breast sizes will vary and it is difficult to determine how much salt will actually be consumed.
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