Are you looking for easy slow cooker meals that save time and the number of trips to the shop for ingredients? Then this slow cooker shredded chicken is your new best friend. For me it’s the time chicken breast really shines in the slow cooker because the trick is to cook long, slow and absolutely flavourless until it falls apart.
Yup, this is the time you want unseasoned chicken as a life goal. Salt, pepper and stock cubes. Nothing else. You aren’t making bland food. You are preparing a canvas. Because the trick to add the flavouring to the chicken after it cookes
While the chicken rests before shredding you thicken the cooking liquid with a little cornflour and then add all the flavour you want. In fact you can add so much flavour that if you split the thickened stock into portions you could make four or five different easy slow cooker meals from one central batch of plain chicken.
I usually make mine with fresh parsley, capers and green olives inspired by the Christmas pastelles of Trinidad but honestly you could use anything you like. It’s a really good way to get those fresh green herbs into slow cooker meals where ordinarily they’d be mulch. This is particularly good right now when you want fresh flavours without too much shopping and are possibly tiring of your slow cooker rotation of flavourings (even if you have 200 recipes in my book…)
Other ideas you can use:
- Pesto (make your own to use up fresh basil or kale or simply add jarred stuff)
- Honey and wholegrain mustard
- Buffalo style hot sauce and butter (either sriracha or sweet chilli sauce subs in well)
- Garlic and chives (garlic puree and dried chives are perfect here)
- Coriander, ginger and lemongrass (I love a jar of ginger or lemongrass puree)
- Jerk seasoning (make your own or Walkerswood make a great ready made one)
- Thai curry paste (use coconut cream or powdered coconut milk. Mae Ploy pastes are great)
- Paprika and chopped sun dried tomato or marinated peppers
- Soy sauce, miso and five spice powder
- Puttanesca style with tomato puree, olives, anchovies and capers
- Coronation chicken (mango chutney, curry and mayo when the stock is cooled)
- Sweet and sour (add tinned pineapple and peppers along with a splash of vinegar and sugar)
- Coriander and turmeric with lime and scallions
- Spicy peanut (add peanut butter and chillies or hot sauce or curry paste)
- Tahini and garlic with sesame seeds
- Creamy green pepper corn (add some cream to the stock after thickened)
- Artichoke hearts and lemon zest (shred the artichoke and mix into the chicken)
- Tarragon and mushroom (dried both work well)
- Parmesan and dried oregano with sun dried tomato paste
- Sumac and parsley
- Any spice blends like za’atar, berbere, ras el hanout
All of these can be simple and easy to buy it off the shelf if you have a tonne of extra lockdown demands on your time like kids and work from home. If you are in the need to create and do something make the seasoning from scratch. And if you are somewhere in between there is something really soothing about meal prep and portioning stuff up. It also helps if you are trying to stop the house eating stuff too fast for budget and shopping breaks.
Current food culture has for the last few years been about constant newness and stimulation. On the one hand it’s brilliant that specialist regional dishes rather than generic often imperialist ideas about cuisines and cultures are getting their moment but on the other hand it leads to an extra pressure sometimes that unless you are always innovating you aren’t cooking well enough.
I think we’ve all fallen in that trap at times. I felt a huge pressure that because I loved cooking as a hobby and then turned it into my job I had to prove just how creative I was all the time especially on a budget. I wasn’t a good enough cook, food blogger or poor person unless I was spinning plates all the time.
I burned out by making myself create new stuff all the time and one of the ways I got my personal kitchen mojo back was giving myself time to edit and amend things. Instead of making a new dish every single time, I could spend time tinkering until I got one I liked just right. I could eat the same rotation of dishes five times a week and then go full out on the other two meals.
I was a better cook for it and it really helped my mental health. I really pulled back from blogging because of this constant competition and implied pressure to be super innovative and ‘on’ all the time. I had enough of that being pushed to over achieve in life and learning to be ‘good enough’ rather striving for perfection has been liberating.
That step back showed that often it’s the armchair critics who expect you to climb to the highest heights for their entertainment. They liked to set you up high to knock you down lower and I’m bored of that whole game. If it’s only fun for one person, then I’ll leave you to it, you don’t actually need me.
It’s not necessarily creative to always be flitting from shiny thing to another shinier thing. Creativity and purpose comes from finishing what you started as well. I’m enjoying perfecting my eyeliner flicks as much as a 52 piece palette and sometimes a shepherd’s pie can be extremely creative yet classic.
So with this chicken, just make sure you have some cornflour to thicken the stock and wing the rest of the flavour how suits you. Use up that stuff you buy and put in a cupboard and then the trends move on and you forget you had it. Make do and mend either with the shopping trips or the store cupboard. You can get creative with the things you bought for those more detailed dishes.
Now you’ve overcome the subconscious ‘I should’ pandemic pressures to over-achieve right now, the chicken is super simple.
Cut your chicken breasts into halves or thirds depending on size and lay the piece in the slow cooker corck neatly, stacking them two or three deep to all fit. Crumble two or three stock cubes over them and some salt and pepper and cover it all with boiling water. You want the chicken covered by no more than an inch of water.
Cook on low for eight hours. If cooking on the stove, simply bring the stock to the boil, turn down to the lowest heat and put the lid on. Simmer for about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the stock with a slotted spoon and set on a plate to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Pour the stock into a saucepan and thicken with cornflour mixed with cold water. Warm on a medium heat until just thickened. Don’t allow it to boil. If you are making one batch of chicken, add the flavouring to the warm sauce and gently heat if needed to soften any raw spices. Try to add as little liquid as possible when adding your seasoning which is why things like coconut cream work best.
If you want multiple versions, simply ladle out portions of the stock into microwave friendly bowls and add your flavourings. Cook any vegetables like peppers before you add them. Give the bowl a blitz in the microwave if needed to soften anything.
Once each seasoning is ready, shred the chicken using two forks and add enough chicken to each bowl of seasoned sauce to just coat the meat. You can now served the chicken with wraps, rice, pasta, polenta, couscous, baked potatoes, noodles or into homemade dumplings, cobblers, galette, pies or patties depending on your tastes (and ability to get flour!)
You can also flat freeze portions of the chicken or put in meal prep containers. I got about 18 portions from 2 kilos of chicken breasts at the start of lockdown to keep my freezer entertaining me. These are perfect easy slow cooker meals for anyone’s cooking levels and will convert anyone who thinks slow cooker food is all brown or tasteless.
And there’s bugger all washing up. No one wants to spend a pandemic washing up!