I used to think shredded chicken was some magical food that some people could make happen, and that I was just not one of them. No matter how I tried, my baked, grilled, and sauteed chicken failed to shred. And then I stumbled on a tutorial for shredded chicken and found out I’d been approaching it from the wrong angle the whole time. Poached chicken, as bland as it is by itself, turns into a wonderful shredded chicken with almost no effort.
Unlike chopped chicken, shredded chicken stays in a taco much more easily, and it still retains a good bite to give the taco texture. Shredded chicken tacos on homemade tortillas, topped with refreshing guacamole, are a perfect summer dinner, especially with a cold light beer, like Leinenkuegel’s Sunset Wheat or a Corona with a wedge of lime.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
water to cover
2 t cumin
2 t garlic salt, divided
1 t kosher salt
1 t granulated onion
1 t cayenne
1 small tomato
juice of 1/2 lime
2 T fresh chopped cilantro
If your chicken breasts are drastically different sizes like mine were, just cut them to about the same size, put in a pot with spices except taco seasoning, cover with water, and boil until chicken shreds with your fork, about 30 minutes. I like to keep testing it along the way with a fork. The chicken should have pieces that pull off with a fork, but it should still be firm when you drain it.
Once chicken is cooked, drain, and allow to cool. Trust me, it’s less steamy this way. When cooled, take two forks and pull apart the chicken breasts. It’s a kind of fun destructive stress relief, so enjoy it! You can also do this part a couple of hours in advance because you’re going to reheat it anyway.
When you’re ready for tacos, throw the shredded chicken breasts back into the saucepan, cover the bottom with water (probably only 1/4 c), and season with your favorite taco seasoning. I love the mixture I got from this tiny store, The Cheese Shop, in the Shenandoah Mountains. It has tons of the good stuff, like red pepper flakes, cayenne, cumin, celery seed, onion, garlic, paprika, and a bit of salt for good measure. I like my chicken on the spicy side, so I usually add 2-3 T, adding more until it tastes the way I want. Keep on the heat stirring occasionally until it’s hot enough, and enjoy!
Making the guacamole is super simple and super delicious. Here’s my recipe, but I’m sure it would be great with some serranos, jalapeños, or habaneros, depending on your heat preference, and Bryan loves diced onion in the mix as well.
Slice the avocado in half, remove the pit, and dump the avocado in a bowl. I like to slice it in the skin so that I don’t have as much mashing to do later. Squeeze in the juice from the lime, add the garlic salt and your chopped cilantro, and mix. I’ve found that a potato masher works wonderfully to create guacamole as smooth or chunky as you want it.
Dice your small tomato and throw it in. You want to stir the tomato, not mash it, so make sure to add it last. Taste, and season to your preference. Throw a big dollop on your tacos, or scoop it up with tortilla chips, it’s hard to go wrong.
In case you don’t eat it all, the lime juice helps prevent the avocado from turning brown, so it’ll keep in the refrigerator for a day or two.