Traditional Costa Rican Shredded Chicken Recipe

Bowl of shredded chicken flanked by a bunch of cilantro, carrots, a cloth, and a red pepper.

This traditional Costa-Rican style shredded chicken is a staple of Costa Rican cuisine, and so easy. Don’t forget the Lizano! 

Costa Rican Shredded Chicken Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole chicken (or four chicken breasts)
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt (see notes)
  • 1 -2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (or garlic powder)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 6-8 cups water (see notes)

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the pressure cooker. (I normally use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot).  Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Both the quick and natural release options work.

Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and set aside to cool slightly.

Strain the chicken broth through a fine-mesh strainer and place it in an airtight container where it can last for up to 2 weeks. I usually put the broth in mason jars, or freeze it in plastic gallon bags for later. 

Shred the chicken using two forks or your hands. Authentic Costa Rican shredded chicken is shredded very finely, so I use my hands for this. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired, and store for up to a week in an airtight container, or freeze. 

Notes: 

  1. One of my favorite things (apart from the flavor!) about this recipe is that it is a great way to use up produce that might no longer be crisp but still has flavor. I add them in BIG pieces to the slow cooker, just cutting them up enough that the flavor will release during the cooking process.
  2. There is a large variation in the amount of salt in the recipe and it’s really important to get the right amount for seasoning your chicken. As a general rule of thumb, I do about a tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water and cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.

About This Costa Rican Chicken Recipe

This recipe is a Costa Rican essential recipe. That means that once you know how to make this and keep in on hand, you can make all kinds of other recipes. 

To that end, I keep this chicken in the freezer most of the time so I just have it on hand when I want to make arroz con pollo or a chicken soup.

This recipe is actually just a slight variation on my shredded beef recipe— the basic ingredients like onions, stock cubes, and Salsa Lizano remain the same, and you can throw everything into a pressure cooker. 

I love this way of preparing chicken because it’s budget-friendly and can feed a crowd. Whether you’re looking to make tacos, soup, sandwiches, or nachos, this Costa Rican shredded chicken recipe is a great place to start!

You can use Costa Rican shredded chicken for the following recipes:

Substitutions

Instead of a whole chicken, you can swap in four chicken breasts and prepare them according to the recipe above. 

If you want to convert a rotisserie chicken for the whole chicken, just debone and shred the rotisserie chicken and then sautee the chicken in a sofrito (finely chopped red pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro) with a little bit of water. You can put some Lizano on top then too.

Variations

This meat is also delicious when slow-cooked. Just place all the ingredients in a slow cooker or crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6-8 hours. 

When I make this in the slow cooker, I generally just cook it overnight and shred it in the morning. You won’t have quite as much broth with the slow-cooked chicken, but the meat itself will pull apart really nicely.  

For a slightly more robust flavor, you can chop and fry your onion and garlic in a bit of vegetable oil before adding them to the pressure cooker. 

Serving Suggestions

There are so many possibilities for serving shredded chicken! It’s great in tacos, empanadas, soups, and sandwiches, and can even be eaten in its own broth with some white rice. (Some even swear that shredded chicken served with french fries is the way to go!)

Costa Rican shredded chicken is delicious on its own, too, and is especially tasty when topped with chopped red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. It can also be served as part of a traditional Costa Rican casado, a hearty dish consisting of white rice, black beans, plantains, tortillas, and a meat of your choice.

Another traditional Costa Rican meal, arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), is also a great recipe to try with shredded chicken!

One more way to eat Costa Rican shredded chicken is with salsa and chimichurri— I especially like creamy green and chile del arbol salsa!

FAQ

  1. How long does shredded chicken keep for? – In the fridge, shredded chicken will last about 3-4 days before spoiling. When stored in a sealed container in the freezer, it will keep for up to two months.
  2. How should I reheat shredded chicken? After refrigerating or freezing, a great way to perk shredded chicken back up is by frying it over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil and salt.
  3. What is Salsa Lizano? – Salsa Lizano is a slightly sweet and tangy condiment developed in Costa Rica in 1920. It’s super popular and is the not-so-secret ingredient in a lot of Costa Rican food. Read all about Salsa Lizano and where to get it here.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 generous servings

Costa Rican Shredded Chicken

Bowl of shredded chicken flanked by a bunch of cilantro, carrots, a cloth, and a red pepper.

Complete with red pepper, onions and --of course-- Salsa Lizano, this mouthwatering Costa-Rican style shredded chicken is sure to be a household favorite! This recipe can be used for everything from tacos to soups... or can just be eaten by itself!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (or four chicken breasts)
  • 1-2 TB salt (see notes)
  • 1-2 TB chicken stock cubes
  • 1 -2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (or garlic powder)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano
  • 6-8 cups water (see notes)

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients into the pressure cooker. (I normally use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot).  Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.
  2. Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Strain the chicken broth through a fine-mesh strainer and place it in an airtight container where it can last for up to 2 weeks. I usually put the broth in mason jars, or freeze it in plastic gallon bags for later. 
  4. Shred the chicken using two forks or your hands. Authentic Costa Rican shredded chicken is shredded very finely, so I use my hands for this.
  5. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired, and store for up to a week in an airtight container, or freeze. 

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 2633mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 28g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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