How to Make Perfectly Poached Chicken Breasts

Perfectly poached chicken breast recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Yield: 2 chicken breasts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
197 Calories
4g Fat
1g Carbs
37g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 197
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 361mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 37g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 399mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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 chicken breasts and flavorful cooking liquid. Because poaching doesn't involve any fat, 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 chicken breasts to a gentle simmer and letting them sit in the liquid before removing ensures that you won't overcook the chicken.

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

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"I used a Tuscan herb blend along with the bay leaf and chicken broth, and the chicken breasts came out perfectly cooked and still moist. Gentle cooking keeps the chicken from becoming dry and tough, and any herb blend may be used." —Diana Rattray

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Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth (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 the herbs and bay leaf.

    Chicken in pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the 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.

    Cover pot while poaching chicken with lid
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  5. Turn off the heat completely and allow the chicken to remain in the hot liquid for 15 to 20 minutes.

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

    Poached chicken sliced
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Serve and enjoy.

    Chicken
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

Recipe Variations

  • If you don't have chicken broth, you can use water plus 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 a nice flavor.
  • For the herbs, use your favorite combination. 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.
  • This method can also be used to poach chicken thighs. Cook them for 10 minutes, and then let the chicken sit in the hot liquid for 25 to 30 minutes, testing for doneness.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate cooked chicken within two hours in shallow, airtight containers or zip-close bags for up to four days. If the temperature is above 90 F, refrigerate the cooked chicken within one hour.
  • To freeze, put the cooked chicken in airtight containers or freezer bags. For best quality, freeze for up to four months.

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