Chicken Machaca

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Try chicken machaca for a lighter twist on traditional beef machaca! Chicken thighs are infused with bold seasoning and slow-cooked to tender, juicy perfection. Serve this no-fuss dish in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and more.

220 CAL 8g CARBS 6g FAT 30g PROTEIN 4
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We love making Chicken Machaca, or machaca de pollo, when we’re in the mood for beef machaca but don’t have 8 hours spare. Chicken thighs take about half the time, but they turn out just as flavorful, juicy, and fall-apart tender.

This dish is bold, savory, and spicy, thanks to the combination of fresh lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, herbs, and spices. The slow-cooking process helps to tenderize the chicken and infuse it with sauce, resulting in a meal that’s packed with flavor and protein.

Once the chicken machaca is ready, we love serving it in tacos, making machaca burritos, adding it to part of a chicken taco bowl, or stuffing it in quesadillas for the ultimate meal. It's also delicious in traditional Machaca con Huevo, a Mexican scrambled egg dish with machaca, tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Why You'll Love Chicken Machaca

  • Tender: Both the seasonings and slow-cooking process result in moist, juicy chicken that’s incredibly easy to shred.
  • Versatile: Chicken machaca can be served in tacos, enchiladas, bowls, with eggs, and more, making it a great base for a variety of meals.
  • Easy: This dish is virtually all hands-off, meaning it’s perfect for busy weeknights or meal prepping. Just set it and forget it!
  • Customizable: Adjust the spice level with different chiles, change the bell pepper colors, or use different herbs and spices to suit your preferences.

Looking for more delicious Mexican chicken recipes? Don't miss our authentic chicken tinga, chicken birria, and chicken carnitas.

Ingredients for chicken machaca including chicken thighs, fire roasted tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here is everything you need to make this tasty chicken recipe.

  • Chicken: We use boneless skinless chicken thighs to provide a tender, juicy base for the dish. You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts for a leaner option, but you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Salt and pepper: To season the chicken and enhance the flavors of the dish.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Adds a savory, umami flavor. If you can find some, we recommend Maggi sauce for a more traditional taste. It can usually be found at Mexican or Asian food markets. Alternatively, use soy sauce if needed.
  • Lime juice: Brings acidity and brightness to the chicken. If you don’t have limes on hand, replace them with fresh lemons or apple cider vinegar instead.
  • Onion: Use a white or yellow onion to impart a savory, zesty, and hearty flavor. A red onion will also work, but the flavor will vary slightly.
  • Bell pepper: We like to use both green and red bell pepper for extra color, texture, and a slightly sweet flavor. Feel free to use orange or yellow bell peppers or any color combination that you prefer.
  • Garlic: Adds a savory, hearty element that rounds out the dish. We suggest fresh garlic cloves, but you can substitute garlic powder or jarred minced garlic in a pinch.
  • Serrano chiles: Add spiciness and depth of flavor. If you are sensitive to heat, use jalapeños. If you prefer more spice, use habaneros or extra serranos.
  • Chicken broth: Provides moisture and complexity to the sauce. You can also use turkey or vegetable broth or stock.
  • Canned diced tomatoes: We prefer fire-roasted diced tomatoes for a smoky, juicy flavor. Regular canned diced tomatoes can be used if fire-roasted are unavailable.
  • Oregano: For an earthy, herbal, and aromatic touch. If you don’t have dried oregano on hand, substitute it with Italian seasoning, thyme, or fresh oregano.

Machaca de pollo shredded in a dish with two forks with limes on the side.

How to Make Chicken Machaca

This Mexican chicken dish can be made in the slow cooker, Instant Pot, or cooked low and slow in the oven,

1. Prepare the seasonings

It’s best to season the chicken with salt and pepper before placing it in the slow cooker. This will help tenderize and infuse the meat with flavor as it simmers.

To make the sauce, whisk together the lime juice, broth, Worcestershire sauce, onions, bell peppers, garlic, chiles, tomatoes, and oregano until they are well combined.

2. Cook the chicken

Slow cooker: For a hands-off approach, we recommend using a slow cooker. Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken, which will keep it perfectly moist as it cooks. For boneless skinless chicken, slow-cook it on low for 4 hours.

Dutch oven: If you’re short on time or don’t own a slow cooker, use a Dutch oven. First, sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic over medium heat until tender. Add the chicken and other ingredients, cover the pot, and transfer it to an oven set to 350 degrees F for one hour.

Instant Pot: Add the chicken and sauce to the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Seal and cook on Manual mode for 12 minutes. Let naturally release. Carefully shred the chicken with two forks.

3. Shred and Serve the Chicken

Whatever cooking method you’ve used, remove the chicken when it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, which is best measured with a meat thermometer.

Shred the chicken with two forks, then add it back to the pot or slow cooker and allow it to sit in the cooking liquid for about 30 minutes on low heat. This last step helps the shredded chicken absorb more flavor, resulting in an ultra-satisfying meal.

Side Dish and Serving Ideas

Just as with traditional beef machaca, chicken machaca is a versatile protein that can be served with a variety of foods. Try it with recipes like these:

Mexican chicken machaca with shredded chicken in a spicy red sauce served with avocado, cilantro, and onion.

Storage and Leftovers

For any leftover chicken machaca, follow these storage and reheating tips:

  • Fridge: Once the chicken has completely cooled, transfer leftovers to an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • Freezer: You can freeze leftovers in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. For easier thawing, store them in single-serving containers.
  • Reheating: Reheat the chicken on the stovetop over low heat until warm. You can add a little oil or broth to the pan for extra moisture if needed.

Recipe Ideas

There are so many ways to customize this recipe and make it your own. Change up the protein, add beans, and make the sauce mild or spicy. The options are endless.

  • Protein: Use shredded beef to make beef machaca, or try pork instead of chicken.
  • Beans: Mix in cooked black or pinto beans for added protein and texture.
  • Peppers: Use poblano or Anaheim peppers instead of serranos for a milder version.
  • Add corn: Include cooked corn for a touch of sweetness and bursts of juiciness.
  • Smoky: Mix in a teaspoon of smoked paprika or chipotles in adobo for a smoky twist.

Expert Tips for Machaca con Pollo

Follow these tips to ensure the chicken comes out tender and delicious every time.

  • Use the right chicken: Use boneless skinless chicken thighs for an ultra-tender and flavorful result.
  • Let the chicken simmer: Let the shredded chicken sit in the sauce for 30 minutes before serving it to absorb more flavor.
  • Use a slow cooker liner: For quick and easy cleanup, use a slow cooker liner.
  • Don't overcook the chicken: Careful not to overcook the chicken since it can quickly become dry and tough. It is done when a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
  • Shredding: Shred the chicken with two forks or use a stand mixer for quicker shredding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making machaca at home.

Yes, you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts for a leaner option. Just note that the overall cooking time will vary since chicken breasts dry out quickly. In the slow cooker, check them after about 3 hours. 

The spiciness of chicken machaca can be adjusted based on the type and number of peppers used. For a mild version, omit the chiles or use a milder pepper like poblano peppers or jalapeno peppers. For a spicier version, add extra serrano chilies or smoky chipotles in adobo.

Homemade chicken machaca served with avocado, cilantro, red onion, and lime wedges.
The Recipe
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Chicken Machaca

220 CAL 8g CARBS 6g FAT 30g PROTEIN 4
COOK TIME: 4 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 4 Hours, 10 Min
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  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or Maggi sauce, soy sauce, coconut aminos)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced (stemmed and seeded, or jalapeno for less heat)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup canned fire roasted diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

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Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, broth, and Maggi. Stir in the other ingredients and then pour over the chicken.


Cook on low in the slow cooker for 4 hours. Then shred the chicken using two forks and serve. I usually like to let the shredded chicken hang out in all the cooking liquid/sauce for about 30 minutes before serving. Just keep the slow cooker on low.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 220
Calories from Fat 2
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 132mg
Sodium 361mg
Total Carbohydrate 8g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 4g
Protein 30g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


Dutch oven: First, sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic over medium heat until tender. Add the chicken and other ingredients, cover the pot, and transfer it to an oven set to 350 degrees F for one hour.

Instant Pot: Add the chicken and sauce to the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Seal and cook on Manual mode for 12 minutes. Let naturally release. Carefully shred the chicken with two forks.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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