Poached Chicken — Learn how to make the perfectly poached chicken breasts every time with my EASY and foolproof method! The chicken is flavorful, juicy, tender, and moist! Poached chicken is so versatile to use in sandwiches, soups, stews, dips, tacos, and more!
Easy Poached Chicken Recipe
Poached chicken is so easy and there are countless ways to use and serve this juicy chicken from salads to sandwiches.
The chicken is tender and has a very neutral flavor profile so it’s just as versatile as it is moist to use in the recipe of your choice.
There are gentle flavors including lemon, onion, fresh herbs, peppercorns, and optional white wine, and are mellow yet just enough to perfectly and lightly flavor the chicken.
What Does It Mean to “Poach” Chicken?
For those who have never done it, poaching just means cooking the chicken gently while submerged in liquid at a low to medium heat. It does not mean boiling.
To paraphrase, poached chicken cooks by being submerged in warm liquid rather than being cooked by means of a fast or hard boil. Big difference.
The former produces tender chicken and the latter tough chicken. I’ve got plenty of tips and tricks so that you have perfect, tender poached chicken breasts every time!
Ingredients for Perfect Poached Chicken
In order to make perfectly poached chicken, you only need a handful of common fridge and pantry ingredients including the following:
- Aromatics including:
- White or yellow onion
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh Rosemary
- Whole garlic cloves
- Bay leaves
- Whole peppercorns
- Poaching liquids including:
- Dry white wine
- Chicken broth
How to Poach Chicken
This recipe for poaching chicken breasts is a cinch as long as you follow these basic and straightforward steps.
Step 1: Place the chicken in the bottom of a stockpot.
Step 2: Choose about 4 aromatics and add them to the stockpot.
Tips: You do not have to use all the aromatics listed. For example, if you’re trying to make a very light-tasting poached chicken, skip the garlic and onion as they are heavier and notable. Additionally, if you want very fresh and herby chicken, use lemon and fresh thyme and rosemary. Personally, I always use salt and peppercorns but it’s up to you.
Step 3: If you’re using wine as one of your poaching liquids, add it first.
Step 4: Then add either water or chicken broth to cover the chicken by 1 inch.
Step 5: Bring to a boil over medium-low heat which will take about 10 minutes, turn off the heat, flip the chicken, and cover it. Let it sit off the heat for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Allow it to rest out of the water for 5 minutes before slicing or shredded it and using it how you like!
How Long to Poach Chicken Breasts?
You’ll need to bring the chicken breasts to a boil over medium-low heat —that takes about 10 minutes — then turn off the heat, and let it sit off the heat for 15 minutes.
In total, the chicken will sit in the poaching liquid for roughly 25 minutes but it won’t be actively “cooking” on the stove the whole time.
How to Tell When Poached Chicken Is Done
White meat chicken is done when it reaches an internal temp of 165F and dark meat is done when it reaches 175F.
However, you can pull white meat chicken such as boneless skinless chicken breasts, from the water when they reach 150-155F and allow them to rest, outside of the water on a cutting board, for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing or shredding them.
During the resting period, the internal temperature will raise up to 165 due to carryover cooking. Of course, you can continue cooking poached chicken in the water until it reaches 165F if that is what you prefer.
However, for me the chicken can get a bit dried out because remember the internal temp will still climb out of the water, during the resting period.
I strongly suggest using a digital food thermometer to check for doneness rather than just guessing since poached chicken doesn’t have much color. There are no nice golden browned oven spots or pretty grill marks that help give clues as to when it is done so better to test, not guess.
What Kind of Chicken Should I Use for Poached Chicken?
I think it’s most common to poach boneless skinless chicken breasts and that’s what I do most often.
However, you can also poach:
- Thighs instead of breasts
- Chicken with or without skin
- Boneless or bone-in chicken
What Is the Best Poaching Liquid for Chicken?
In my opinion you will get a richer flavor overall to the poached chicken if you use wine combined with chicken broth as the poaching liquids for chicken especially if you’re going to serve the poached chicken very simply.
However, if all you have on hand is water, that is perfectly fine.
And in fact, it may actually be preferred to use just water if you plan to use the poached chicken as, say, the shredded chicken in Chicken Tinga Tacos or Salsa Verde Chicken Chilaquiles where you simply don’t want or need more flavors going on.
Takeaway: In a nutshell it depends what you plan to use your poached chicken for in order to determine whether wine, water, chicken broth, or a combo of all three, is the best poaching liquid.
Do I Have to Use Wine to Poach Chicken Breast?
If you don’t want to use wine to poach chicken, you don’t have to. I always have a bottle of dry white wine open and it adds a richer depth of flavor so I use it, but it’s up to you.
If you want to use wine, make sure it’s a dry white wine such as:
- Sauvignon blanc
- Pinot grigio
Favorite Sauces to Serve with Poached Chicken
Poached chicken is practically like a blank canvas and there are so many sauces you can add, drizzle, or pour over it to make poached chicken shine including the following:
- Beurre Blanc Sauce which is a buttery white wine sauce that’s perfect drizzled over poached chicken.
- Homemade Honey Mustard pairs great with poached chicken and it’s such a simple whisk-together recipe.
- Comeback Sauce is great on everything from waffle fries to poached chicken breasts thanks to the the tangy and slightly spicy flavor combo.
- Spiced Garlic Mustard is just perfect with poached chicken especially if you poached it with garlic, onion, and plenty of peppercorns because the flavors are all complementary.
Recipes Using Poached Chicken Breasts
Poached chicken is so versatile and whether you want to use it in soups, stews, or over chicken salads, it’s a great choice.
When thinking about recipes where you use shredded poached chicken, one good rule of thumb is that most any recipe that calls for shredded (store bought) rotisserie chicken it will be fine to substitute shredded poached chicken instead.
Here are some recipes with poached chicken breasts that you can try:
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches
- Air Fryer Chicken Taquitos
- Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
- 20-Minute Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Loaded Chicken Enchilada Nachos
- Easy 30-Minute Chicken Enchilada Chili
- Salsa Verde Chicken Chilaquiles
- Chicken Pot Pie Soup
- Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
- Easy 30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup (reader favorite!)
Bonus – each of these recipes is ready in less than 30 minutes!
How to Store Poached Chicken
Poached chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Tip: If you think you’re going to use the poached chicken in either sliced, cubed, or shredded formats it’s easier to do this when the chicken is warm and fresh as opposed to when it’s chilled or frozen so plan ahead.
You can even keep some diced and some shredded and in different freezer-safe containers to make it easier on yourself when you’re going to use leftover poached chicken.
Tips for the Poaching Chicken Breasts
As I mentioned already, you don’t need to use wine to poach chicken. It makes it taste more elegant for me with richer flavor depth but it’s optional and also dependent on what you’re using the chicken for. You don’t need wine-infused chicken for nachos.
When it comes to the poaching liquid, you can use solely water or solely chicken broth, independent if you use wine or not.
You can strain out the aromatics and save the chicken poaching liquid for soups or other recipes where you need chicken broth.
If you used solely water obviously realize it won’t be robustly flavored but if you’re a “saver” like me, the poaching liquid can be saved.
Make sure not to overcook poached chicken! If it’s cooked too long, the proteins overheat they will squeeze the moisture right out of the chicken and you’ll end up with very dry chicken. This is visibly notable if you see what looks like an egg white-looking film on the chicken.
Again, better to take the temperature and when it reaches about 150-155F for light or white meat, you can pull it out, let it rest, and it will come up to temperature.
Make sure to let poached chicken rest so that the natural juices stay in the chicken rather than spill out if you cut into it without allow it to rest. This is always a good practice for most any protein is to let it rest for a few minutes.
Finally, bring the poaching liquid for your poached chicken up to a just boiling over low to medium-low heat and not high heat. High heat can cause it to overcook and become tough.
Pin This Recipe
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1.50 to 2 pounds total*
- Aromatics including: (choose about 4**)
- 1 lemon, quartered or diced into large chunks
- 1 or 2 thick slices white or yellow onion
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 hole garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 teaspoons salt, or as desired
- 1 teaspoons whole peppercorns, or as desired
- Poaching liquids: (use one, two, or all three)
- 1 cup cold dry white wine (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio)
- 4 cups cold water
- 4 cups room temperature chicken broth
- Place the chicken on the bottom of a large stockpot.
- Chose about 4 aromatics and add them to the pot. Tips - I always use salt and pepper, along with lemon, and fresh herb(s). I am less likely to use onion and garlic if I am poaching chicken for a salad but would include them if I know I am making tacos with the chicken; it's personal preference and end-goal dependent what aromatics to choose.
- If you are using wine, add 1 cup wine. If you are not using wine, jump to the next step.
- Then cover the chicken by about 1 inch with either water, chicken broth, or a combo.
- Bring the liquid to a boil over low to medium-low heat***; it will take about 10 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over and cover the stockpot with a lid and take it off the stove.
- Leave the pot covered, off the heat, for 15 minutes. Check the temperature with a digital thermometer. It should read 150-155F for white meat and 160-165F for dark meat. If it doesn't, allow it to stay in the water until it does.
- Remove the chicken from the water, place it on a cutting board, and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Note - You cannot skip the resting step because during this time the internal temp of the chicken will continue to rise to 165F for light or white meat or 175F for dark which are the internal temperatures at which chicken is considered safe.
- Slice, dice, chop, or shred the chicken and serve as desired. Extra chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Tips - It's easier to slice or shred it when it's still warm rather than trying to do it after you've refrigerated it or frozen it. If freezing shredded chicken, I like to do it in single-serving plastic containers for faster thawing.
*You can also use thighs, chicken with or without skin, and bone-in or boneless however boneless skinless breasts are the most common to poach.
**You do not have to use all the aromatics listed. For example, if you’re trying to make a very light-tasting poached chicken, skip the garlic and onion as they are heavier and notable. Additionally, if you want very fresh and herby chicken, use lemon and fresh thyme and rosemary. Personally, I always use salt and peppercorns but it’s up to you.
***Do not try to rush the process and use high heat. The chicken will be at risk of overcooking and/or cooking too quickly both of which will result in dry tough chicken.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 2568mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 21g
More Easy Quick and Easy Chicken Recipes:
Chicken Salad – This classic chicken salad recipe is great for sandwiches, on crackers, over a bed of lettuce, or just dig in with a fork! You can’t go wrong with this FAST and EASY and chicken salad that’s a tried and true FAMILY FAVORITE!
Garlic Butter Chicken — Tender, juicy chicken bathed in a rich garlic butter sauce with a splash of wine for extra flavor!! This EASY stovetop chicken recipe is ready in 15 minutes and will become a family FAVORITE!!
Creamy Dijon Chicken Skillet —Tender, juicy chicken bathed in a divine cream sauce made with garlic, cream, Dijon mustard, and a splash of wine for extra flavor!! This restaurant-quality EASY stovetop chicken is ready in 20 minutes and will be a family FAVORITE!
Lemon Butter Dijon Skillet Chicken – Tender, juicy chicken with a scrumptious sauce made with lemon butter, Dijon mustard, and a splash of wine for extra flavor!! This EASY stovetop chicken recipe is ready in 15 minutes and will become a family dinner FAVORITE!!
Better-Than-Takeout Cashew Chicken — Juicy chicken, crisp-tender vegetables, and crunchy cashews coated with the best garlicky soy sauce!! Skip takeout and make your own restaurant-quality meal that’s easy, ready in 20 minutes, and healthier!!
Better-Than-Takeout Sticky Chicken — Stop calling for takeout or going to the mall food court and make this AMAZING sticky chicken at home in 15 minutes!! So EASY with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with plenty of sticky sauce!!
Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken — This sweet and sour chicken recipe takes just 15 minutes to make and tastes way better than takeout. Perfect for a weeknight dinner!
Easy Better-Than-Takeout Chicken Fried Rice — One-skillet, ready in 20 minutes, and you’ll never want takeout again after tasting how good homemade is!! Way more flavor, not greasy, and loads of juicy chicken!!
Healthier Orange Chicken — Stop calling for takeout or going to the mall food court and make this HEALTHIER orange chicken at home in less than 10 minutes!! EASY, authentic, and so INCREDIBLE that you’ll never miss the fat and calories!!
Thai Chicken Coconut Curry – An EASY one-skillet curry that’s ready in 20 minutes and is layered with so many fabulous flavors!! Low-cal, low-carb, and HEALTHY but tastes like comfort food!!
Green Thai Curry with Chicken — An EASY, one-skillet green curry that’s ready in 20 minutes and tastes BETTER than from a Thai restaurant!! It’s healthy comfort food that tastes AMAZING!!
Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken — Better-than-takeout yellow curry is EASY and ready in 25 minutes!! Healthy comfort food with the PERFECT amount of heat and lots of textures and flavors in every bite! Impress your friends and family and make this DELICIOUS curry at home!!
Skillet Lime Cilantro Chicken – EASY, juicy, tender chicken thighs with plenty of tangy lime and fresh cilantro!! Ready in 30 minutes, starts on the stove, and finishes in the oven!
Skinny Mexican Chicken Skillet — EASY, ready in 20 minutes, and is a skinny recipe that keeps you full and satisfied!! A great Mexican-inspired meal that’s naturally gluten-free and is a flavor FIESTA in your mouth!!