How to Make Perfectly Poached Chicken Breasts

Perfectly poached chicken breast recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Servings: 3 to 4 servings
  • Yields: 2 chicken breasts

Poaching is a moist cooking technique that works especially well for chicken breasts. Instead of boiling, poached chicken is very gently simmered in liquid (like water or broth) just until cooked through. When done correctly, you'll end up with moist and tender breasts and flavorful cooking liquid. Because poaching doesn't involve any oil, it is a healthy, low-fat method for cooking chicken.

Poached chicken breasts are succulent and tender, making them a great alternative to store-bought rotisserie chicken, which can sometimes be dry and high in sodium. This basic recipe illustrates the proper technique for poaching chicken. Slowly bringing the breasts to a gentle simmer and letting them sit in the liquid before removing ensures that you won't overcook the chicken, making the meat tough.

Use poached chicken in your favorite soup recipes, to make chicken salad, tacos and burritos, or as a sandwich filling. Strain and use the leftover cooking liquid to make soup or cook grains or dried beans.

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Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless; about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth (fat-free and low-sodium, or water)
  • 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
  • 1 bay leaf

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for poached chicken breasts
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a small, heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure they fit in a single layer. Cover the chicken with broth or water. Add herbs and a bay leaf.

    Chicken in pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer.

    Chicken in pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  4. Partly cover with the pot lid and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

    Pot lid
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  5. Turn off the heat completely and allow the chicken to remain in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Turn off heat
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Remove and slice or shred the chicken. The meat should be cooked through and opaque throughout.

    Chicken sliced
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Serve and enjoy! Cooked chicken breast will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

    Chicken
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

Recipe Variations

  • Chicken broth is a great option for the cooking liquid since it adds meaty flavor and leaves you with extra delicious broth to use for another dish. Water also works—add a quarter of an onion and a smashed garlic clove to make the resulting broth more flavorful. A little white wine or light beer also adds nice flavor.
  • For the herbs, use your favorite mix. Herbs de Provence or an Italian herb blend are nice options. Or simply add dashes of different herbs like oregano, thyme, dried red pepper flakes, or rosemary.

How to Use

Poached chicken breasts are a versatile main ingredient that can be sliced and served as-is or used to make a variety of dishes:

  • Chicken salad or as a salad topping (shredded or chopped)
  • Sandwich meat (thinly sliced)
  • Tacos or burritos (shredded or chopped and tossed with spices or sauce)
  • Soups (sliced for ramen or pho, chopped for chicken chili, shredded for chicken noodle, chicken and rice, or taco soup)