Easy Mexican Shredded Chicken (3 Ways!)
The most delicious Mexican shredded chicken for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, bowls, quesadillas, and more. It can be made in the slow cooker, in the Instant Pot, or on the stovetop.
Mexican Shredded Chicken is a simple, healthy, and versatile recipe. Chicken breasts are cooked with a bold and slightly spicy sauce until it's tender and juicy. The sauce is bursting with flavor from ingredients like chipotle peppers in adobo, garlic, green chiles, and tomatoes. It's the perfect blend of smoky and spicy.
Most of the time I use this chicken to make shredded chicken tacos, but this recipe is good for so many dishes. It’s the perfect protein choice for classic Mexican dishes like enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.
If you’d prefer a lower-carb meal, try it on salads, burrito bowls with cauliflower rice, or taco lettuce wraps.
We recommend this Mexican shredded chicken for anyone who loves an easy, flavorful dish that is healthy, versatile, and easy! It’s great for meal prepping, feeding a crowd, or no-fuss weeknight dinners.
We also love this Salsa Verde Chicken, Chicken Tinga, and Chicken Barbacoa if you are looking for more Mexican-inspired shredded chicken ideas.
Why You’ll Love Mexican Shredded Chicken
- Easy: No matter which cooking method you choose, this recipe is extremely simple to prepare. Just add everything to the pot, cook it, and shred it!
- Versatile: Not only can shredded chicken be added to a variety of dishes, but you can also prepare it using different cooking techniques that suit your preferences.
- Affordable: Mexican shredded chicken is a surprisingly inexpensive recipe that features easy-to-find ingredients like chicken, canned tomatoes, and hearty seasonings.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to prepare this delicious dish.
- Chicken: We suggest using boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this recipe. For a richer flavor and texture, you can also use bone-in chicken, but you may need to adjust the cooking time.
- Diced tomatoes with green chilies: Add a juicy flavor and a bit of heat. The most popular brand is Rotel, and it is usually next to other canned goods. Substitute regular diced tomatoes if you prefer a milder flavor.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo: Add a spicy, smoky, and tangy element that gives depth to the sauce. You can also use smoked paprika for a similar flavor without as much spice.
- Garlic: Imparts a pungent savory and aromatic flavor that rounds out the recipe. If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, garlic powder will work in a pinch.
- Herbs and spices: For a hearty combination, we love oregano, cumin, onion powder, and salt. Feel free to experiment with other seasonings like paprika, thyme, cinnamon, or cloves.
- Shortcut 2-ingredient salsa chicken: For a quick and easy option, swap in your favorite red salsa for the diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers, garlic, and spices. As long as you choose a salsa that has lots of flavor, the chicken will come out full of flavor. This two-ingredient shortcut is a favorite on busy nights.
How to Make Mexican Shredded Chicken
This recipe can be made in a slow cooker, instant pot, or stovetop.
Option 1: Slow cooker
Using a slow cooker is a hands-off approach, but it does require some planning ahead. It takes about 4 hours on low, so just keep this in mind.
Add the chicken directly to the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover it and let it cook on low, then remove the chicken and shred it with a couple of forks. Add the shredded chicken back to the sauce to coat it.
Option 2: Instant Pot
Just like the slow cooker, making Mexican shredded chicken in an Instant Pot requires very little hands-on effort. It only takes 15 minutes of cooking time, so it’s a great last-minute dinner option.
Follow the same directions as the slow cooker, but add a dash of chicken broth to prevent the chicken from burning. Cook everything on the manual setting, then let it naturally release for a minimum of 10 minutes. Shred the chicken before returning it back to the pot of sauce.
Option 3: Stovetop
The stovetop is another method for preparing Mexican shredded chicken. Just add everything to a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot.
Add chicken broth to prevent the chicken from burning, and let the mixture simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Again, shred the chicken with forks and add it back to the pot to coat it in the sauce.
Ways to Use Mexican Shredded Chicken
The best thing about this chicken is that there are so many ways to use it. Make a double or triple batch to use in recipes all week long.
- Burritos: Add it to homemade frozen burritos, Southwest chicken bowls, slow cooker chicken burrito bowls, or spaghetti squash burrito bowls.
- Tacos: Serve Mexican shredded chicken in your favorite tacos, chicken taco bowls, or taco cups. Our favorite version is shredded chicken served in warm corn tortillas with fresh cilantro, lime juice, pickled red onions, queso fresco, and avocado.
- Salad: For a light and refreshing meal, add it to a taco salad with fresh veggies and crunchy toppings.
- Quesadillas: Stuff Mexican shredded chicken inside quesadillas for a more filling and comforting recipe.
- Soup: Add this chicken to a quick and easy taco soup with black beans, pinto beans, corn, and chicken broth.
- Enchiladas: Roll this shredded chicken in warm corn tortillas. Cover with the extra salsa and shredded cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Nachos: Grab some baked tortilla chips or halved mini bell peppers. Top with chicken, beans, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, and olives. Or drizzle some queso on top.
- Bowls: Start with cooked rice or quinoa and build a delicious burrito bowl with shredded lettuce, pinto beans, red onions, tomatoes, avocado, and beans. Top with pico de gallo or guacamole.
Storage, Freezing, and Reheating
For any leftover shredded chicken, follow these simple storage and reheating tips:
- Fridge: Once cooled, transfer the chicken to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezer: You can store this shredded chicken recipe in the freezer for up to 4 months. Just make sure it’s fully cooled before transferring it to a freezer-safe container.
- Reheat: Thaw the chicken in the fridge overnight if it’s frozen. To reheat, cook it in a skillet with a splash of broth over low-medium heat warm again.
Recipes Ideas and Variations
This recipe should serve as a blueprint to make all different types of shredded chicken and salsa chicken.
- Spicy: If you’re a spice lover, add extra chipotle peppers or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Mild: For a milder flavor, omit the chipotle peppers in adobo and swap the diced tomatoes and green chilies with regular canned tomatoes instead.
- Creamy: Make a creamy version by adding a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or Mexican crema to the sauce.
- Sweet: Balance the spicy and savory ingredients with an element of sweetness. Our favorites are honey or piloncillo.
- Salsa option: Make this recipe with storebought tomato salsa for a quicker option.
Tips for Making Mexican Shredded Chicken
Follow these expert tips to make the very best chicken.
- Use the right chicken: Opt for boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs for the best results. Bone-in chicken adds flavor but it adds a lot of labor since you have to remove the skin, bones, and gristle after cooking.
- Shred it while warm: Make sure to shred the chicken while it’s still warm. It’s more tender and juicy this way, making it easier to pull apart. Use a stand mixer to quickly shred the chicken.
- Make a double batch: Double the recipe for easy meal prep and leftovers all week long!
- Broil the chicken: Although optional, we recommend broiling the chicken for about 5 minutes once it’s cooked to create a crispy and chewy texture.
Is this the same as Chicken Tinga or Salsa Chicken?
Chicken Tinga is a type of shredded chicken that's made in Mexico with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chipotle peppers. It is similar to this dish but is made with onions and garlic. It doesn't include dried spices like this recipe.
Salsa Chicken is more of a Tex-Mex or American dish made by slow-cooking chicken in red or green salsa. Again, it has a similar flavor but is usually made with store-bought chunky red salsa.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this recipe.
Can I use bone-in chicken for this recipe?
Yes, you can use bone-in chicken, but you will need to increase the cooking time to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked.
Can I use a different type of meat?
Yes, you can use a different type of meat in this recipe. Other options include turkey, pork, or beef.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, this recipe is gluten-free as written in the recipe card. Just make sure to double-check any additional ingredients you use.
Is this shredded chicken recipe spicy?
This recipe is only as spicy as the number of chipotle peppers you use. Adjust them up or down for a spicier or milder version.
Easy Mexican Shredded Chicken (3 Ways!)
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- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
- 14 oz diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, minced (adjust to taste)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
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- Nutritional Information
Slow cooker: Add the chicken to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, cumin, onion powder, oregano, and salt. Cook on low for 4 hours. Instant Pot: Add the chicken to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, cumin, onion powder, oregano, and salt. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth to ensure the chicken doesn’t burn. Cook on the manual setting for 15 minutes. Let naturally release for at least 10 minutes. Stovetop: Add the chicken and all the sauce ingredients to a Dutch oven or large pot. Add 1 cup of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and can be easily shredded.
* 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.
For a less spicy dish, leave out the chipotle peppers in adobo. There is still a touch of heat from the tomatoes with green chilies, which is perfect for a mild option.
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