Skip to Content

How much chicken do I need for 4 cups?

Quick Answer

To make 4 cups of cooked, shredded chicken, you will need around 1.5 to 2 pounds of raw chicken breasts. Chicken breasts contain a good amount of water that evaporates during cooking. After cooking and shredding, the chicken reduces down quite a bit in volume. So 1.5-2 pounds of raw chicken breasts should yield around 4 cups of shredded cooked chicken.

Calculating How Much Chicken is Needed

Figuring out how much raw chicken to buy to end up with the desired amount of cooked, shredded chicken takes a little math. Here are the factors to consider:

  • Raw chicken contains a lot of water that cooks off. The cooked chicken will be much smaller in volume.
  • Different cuts of chicken have more or less water content. Chicken breasts are lean with less fat and will reduce more when cooked.
  • The cooking method will impact how much water is evaporated. Boiling evaporates more liquid than roasting.
  • When shredding cooked chicken by hand or with two forks, it fluffs up a bit and takes up more space.

With those things in mind, here is a general guideline for how much raw chicken you need per cup of cooked, shredded chicken:

Raw Chicken Cooked, Shredded Chicken
1 pound 3 to 3.5 cups
1.5 pounds 4 to 5 cups
2 pounds 6 to 7 cups

So for 4 cups of shredded chicken, 1.5 to 2 pounds of raw chicken breasts is a safe amount to cook. Always better to have extra than not enough!

Step-By-Step Instructions

Here is a step-by-step guide to cooking chicken breasts for shredding to end up with 4 cups:


  • 1.5 – 2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Water or chicken broth


  1. Pat chicken breasts dry and trim off any excess fat. Season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Place chicken in a pot and add enough water or chicken broth to just cover. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through (165°F internal temperature).
  4. Remove chicken from pot and let cool slightly. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Fluff shredded chicken with forks to separate pieces.

This will give you around 4 cups of cooked, shredded chicken breast that is perfect for casseroles, salads, sandwiches, soups and more! Pro tip: save the broth for making rice or gravy.

Tips for Buying Chicken for Shredding

Here are some useful tips for purchasing chicken when your goal is to end up with a certain amount of shredded meat:

  • Buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Removing bones and skin after cooking is difficult.
  • Go for fresh vs frozen. Frozen chicken releases more water.
  • Pick fattier dark meat over lean white meat if you want more volume after cooking and shredding.
  • Allow for some extra. Shredding amounts can vary.
  • Compare raw chicken prices by the pound vs per piece.

Buying the right amount of chicken is tricky when a recipe calls for shredded chicken. While it takes some trial and error, using 1.5-2 pounds of raw chicken breasts per 4 cups needed is a safe place to start. Adjust as you get more practice shredding cooked chicken.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does chicken shrink when cooked?

Yes, chicken shrinks considerably when cooked. Raw chicken is about 75% water. Through the cooking process, especially boiling or stewing, a good portion of that water cooks out, concentrating the protein and fat in a much smaller package. expect cooked chicken to be around 50-70% smaller by volume than the raw.

Should I shred chicken when hot or cold?

It’s easier to shred chicken when it has cooled slightly and firmed up, but still warm. Shredding hot freshly cooked chicken can lead to stringy, mushy chicken. If the chicken has cooled completely, run it under hot water to warm up before shredding.

How long does cooked shredded chicken last?

Properly stored, cooked shredded chicken will last 3-4 days refrigerated. To maximize freshness, store shredded chicken in an airtight container to prevent drying out. It can also be frozen for up to 4 months.

What’s the best way to cook chicken for shredding?

Simmering in liquid, braising, and poaching are the best cooking methods for shredded chicken. The gentle cooking allows the meat to become fall-apart tender without overcooking or drying out. Oven roasting and grilling can dry chicken out too much for shredding.


Knowing how much raw chicken to start with is key for ending up with the right amount of cooked, shredded chicken for recipes. A good rule of thumb is 1.5-2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts per 4 cups of shredded chicken needed. Cook the chicken until completely tender by simmering or poaching in liquid. Allow to cool slightly before shredding with two forks. Proper calculating and cooking will give you the exact amount of shredded chicken your dish requires.