If you’re looking for a healthy, low-fat, high protein recipe, you’ve got to try these easy poached chicken breasts! You only need 20 minutes and a handful of ingredients for perfectly cooked, super juicy and tender poached chicken breasts.
You can eat the poached chicken as is for a light and healthy main course, or save it for meal prep and other recipes throughout the week.
And my favorite part about the recipe? How mess-free it is! If touching raw chicken makes you squeamish, this is the perfect chicken recipe for you, since you don’t really need to touch the raw chicken at all.
In this post, I’m going to share some tricks and tricks for getting the juiciest, most tender poached chicken breasts.
What ingredients do I need to poach chicken?
At a bare minimum, all you need is chicken, water, and SALT. The salt is super important here, for flavorful chicken! If this is all you have, you can make poached chicken.
But you also should probably have some aromatics.
Aromatics are herbs, spices, and vegetables that help infuse flavor into the chicken and really make something as simple as poached chicken special.
I used fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, lemon, garlic, onion, and peppercorns.
Other aromatics for poaching chicken:
- Fresh Herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, sage, basil, lemongrass.
- Fruits: sliced lemon, lime, oranges, and/or grapefruit.
- Vegetables: celery, carrots, onions, garlic, shallots, ginger root.
- Spices: black peppercorns, whole coriander seeds, star anise, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries.
I love the idea of poaching chicken with different combinations of aromatics. Lemongrass, ginger, and sliced limes would be delicious for chicken in a Thai green chicken curry recipe. And cinnamon, anise, allspice, and sliced oranges would be delicious for a fall-inspired chicken recipe!
How to make poached chicken breasts
- First, place the chicken breasts, salt, and aromatics in a large pot. I usually just use tongs to get the chicken straight out of the package and into the pot, so I don’t have to touch it.
- Then, cover with water by at least 2 inches above all the ingredients.
- Turn the heat on medium-high and bring JUST to a boil.
- Then, turn the heat to low, COVER, and simmer for about 10 more minutes. It may need more time, depending on the thickness of the chicken.
- Use tongs to remove the chicken and place on a cutting board.
- Slice and serve, or save for another time in your fridge!
Tips and Tricks
- It’s important to start the chicken in cold water, rather than add it to already simmering water. Why? This will ensure it cooks more evenly, rather than overcooking the outside before the inside is completely done. I do this with cold poached salmon, too.
- Check the temperature to prevent overcooking. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the biggest breast and make sure it reads at 165 degrees F. If you go over that, you risk the chicken being a little overcooked and less juicy. But if you accidentally go over, don’t panic! It will still be delicious- you can go up to 175 degrees F and be fine :-)
- Don’t boil aggressively. If you boil too much, the chicken may be tough and overcooked, especially toward the outside. Use a back burner (or smaller burner) if you need to, and make sure you turn it down to low immediately after bringing it to an initial boil.
How to store in your fridge
Poached chicken breasts can be stored in your fridge for up to 5 days.
I recommend keeping them whole and slicing, shredding, or cutting them just before using, as they will stay juiciest that way.
I also recommend keeping them in the back of your fridge in the coldest part so they last longer.
Can I use the poaching liquid for anything?
DEFINITELY! You’ve just made a simple, delicious homemade chicken broth.
Since I used lemon in this recipe, my broth was fairly lemony tasting. So, I used it to make a batch of Avgolemono (Greek Chicken Soup with Lemon and Egg). It would also be delicious for chicken noodle soup with fresh dill or as a base for fish stew.
Just strain it using a mesh sieve, and store in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for up to 6 months.
How to serve poached chicken breasts
- Smother it in a creamy lemon caper sauce, or drizzle it with a butternut squash Alfredo sauce.
- Serve it in a salad with creamy Greek dressing or in a massaged kale salad.
- Have a delicious side to go with it, such as roasted broccoli with garlic and lemon, spaghetti squash with garlic and herbs, or orzo with mushrooms.
- Use any leftover poached chicken to make chicken and dumplings, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, or any number of recipes that call for cooked chicken!
Check out all my side dish recipes for more inspiration!
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Poached Chicken Breasts
- Large pot
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 lemon sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1/2 red onion sliced into rings
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, etc.
- Place all ingredients in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add water, covering by at least two inches.
- Bring water just to a boil over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on it!
- Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. (Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when you stick a meat thermometer in the center of the thickest part of the chicken, or when you cut into it and the juices run clear and there is no pink. Try not to overcook it- I recommend checking it after 10 minutes and keeping an eye on it!)
- Remove chicken breasts with tongs to a cutting board. Slice and serve, or store whole in the fridge for up to 5 days if using for something else.
- Money Saving Tip: For a simpler recipe, use only salt to flavor the water and skip the aromatics.
- For chicken thighs or skin-on chicken meat, you can use the same technique, but it may take more time to cook fully. Make sure you check that the internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
- Storage: store whole poached chicken breasts in your fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the cold part of your fridge.