This slow-cooker BBQ pulled chicken is the perfect summer chicken recipe. Tender slow-cooker chicken breast tossed with a smoky BBQ sauce and shredded to juicy perfection. This recipe is great for making ahead of time, because the longer you let it cook the more tender it gets. This recipe is easy enough for any beginner cook and more advanced cooks can add unique spices to really make this shredded chicken recipe different every time.
Whether you're hosting a game day event, planning a picnic, or just craving some simple comfort food, this BBQ-pulled chicken recipe will leave everyone asking for seconds. The perfect mix of tender, juicy chicken slow-cooked in a tangy smoky BBQ sauce (or make your own).
Using a slow cooker to make this BBQ chicken means that it's an easy recipe that requires minimal prep and you can "set it and forget it", especially if you're cooking on the low setting.
This pulled and shredded BBQ chicken is perfect to use in pulled chicken tacos, BBQ chicken sandwiches, or for topping pulled chicken nachos.
- ⭐️ Why You'll Love This Classic BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 🧾 Ingredients needed to make slow cooker shredded chicken
- 👩🏻🍳 Instructions for making the most tender BBQ pulled chicken in 3 simple steps
- 💡 Top tip: Spicy Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
- 🔄 Substitutions and variations
- 🥡 Storage
- 💡 Top tip: For thicker BBQ sauce
- The Best Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
⭐️ Why You'll Love This Classic BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Flavourful: BBQ-pulled chicken is marinated and cooked in a tangy and BBQ sauce that packs a ton of flavour. The perfect balance of smoky, sweet, and savoury that makes it an incredible meal.
- Versatile: The pulled chicken can be used in so many recipes. You can serve it in sandwiches, on top of salads, used as a filling for tacos, or even as a pizza topping.
- Easy to make: BBQ-pulled chicken is surprisingly easy to make, especially if using a slow cooker. A few simple ingredients and a bit of patience is all that's required for even the most novice cook.
- Feeds a crowd: BBQ-pulled chicken is an excellent choice for feeding large groups. It's easily scalable, so you can effortlessly make it for a few people or a large party.
- Comfort Food: Smothered in tangy smoky BBQ sauce, this shredded chicken can be served in bread rolls for picnics, or made into tacos or enchiladas.
🧾 Ingredients needed to make slow cooker shredded chicken
- chicken- you can use chicken breast, or thighs for this recipe, or you can use a whole chicken if you have a large crowd to feed. Just be sure to remove all the skin before placing the chicken in the slow cooker.
- For the sauce-
- BBQ sauce- you can use shop-bought BBQ sauce or make your own. *Try and find a sauce that is more smoky than sweet.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard
- smoked paprika
- chili powder
- brown sugar- adds depth and sweetness to the sauce. If you have a sweet BBQ sauce you can reduce the sugar, if you like a sweeter sauce you can add a little more to taste.
- apple cider vinegar or lemon juice- brings a much-required acidity to the recipe and helps to balance the heat of the chili powder and paprika and the sweetness of the brown sugar and apple.
- fresh garlic
- fresh apple- this helps to add a balance of sweetness and acidity, it also helps to add some thickness as it cooks down in the sauce.
- Salt and pepper to taste- use sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper if possible.
See recipe card for quantities.
👩🏻🍳 Instructions for making the most tender BBQ pulled chicken in 3 simple steps
*Slow cooking this chicken helps to build the flavour and the chicken becomes ultra tender because of the long slow cook time.
- Trim any excess fat or skin off the chicken breast (or thighs) and place them in the bowl of your slow cooker or Instant Pot. Add in the minced garlic, chopped apple, and diced onion.
- In a bowl, mix BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, chili powder, brown sugar
- Pour ¾ of the BBQ sauce over the chicken.
- Cook on low in your slow cooker for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. For Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. To make the most tender pulled chicken, you really want to cook this on low if you have the time.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken and shred it using two forks or meat claws.
- Final Touches
- Return the shredded chicken back to the slow cooker, pour in the remaining sauce and mix well.
- Let it cook for an additional 10-20 minutes to absorb the flavours.
*Vary the amount of spices and quantities you add to create your own signature BBQ sauce.
💡 Top tip: Spicy Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
Add in some red pepper flakes if you would like a spicy kick to your pulled chicken. Adjust the amount to how spicy you would like it.
🔄 Substitutions and variations
You have a lot of options for adapting this classic American BBQ chicken. I've listed some favourites below.
- Spicy: Add hot sauce or red pepper flakes to the BBQ sauce.
- Hawaiian Style: Add a tin of drained pineapple chunks to the slow cooker for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
- Tex-Mex: Add a touch of cumin to the sauce and serve with avocado and coriander.
- Allow the BBQ-pulled chicken to cool down to room temperature before storing.
- Transfer any leftover pulled chicken to an airtight container.
- Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- If you have a large quantity of leftover pulled chicken that you won't consume within a few days, you can portion it into individual servings.
- Place the portions in freezer-safe containers or freezer bags. *I like reusable freezer bags because I can lay them flat and they take up less space.
- Remove as much air as possible from the bags to prevent freezer burn.
- The frozen pulled chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.
- When you're ready to use the frozen pulled chicken, thaw it in the fridge overnight.
- Once thawed, you can reheat the pulled chicken in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave until heated through. *You may need to add a splash of water so the chicken doesn't dry out.
💡 Top tip: For thicker BBQ sauce
Remove the lid from the slow cooker for the last 20 minutes of cooking to help thicken the sauce.
Absolutely! You can mix all the sauce ingredients straight into a container. Whisk it well and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. *You can also make a double batch to freeze for baking chicken or mix it into other recipes.
The great thing about this recipe is that if can be served so many ways. The most common would be in a bread roll for a pulled BBQ chicken sandwich, but you can top nachos with this chicken, stuff it into tacos or even load it into a jacket potato. You can serve it with homemade Tex-Mex-style baked beans and coleslaw too. *See my serving suggestions.
Absolutely! It freezes really well for up to 3 months. *See the freezing instructions above.
What a great idea! Mixing breast and thigh will give you a more complex flavour and a richer texture. Chicken breast is lean and light, and chicken thigh has more flavour so, using both will result in a perfect recipe.
It can sometimes happen that the chicken ends up a little bit too saucy or the sauce is too thin. In that case, simply remove the lid from the cooked and shredded chicken and continue to cook in the slow cooker with the lid off so that the sauce reduces. Keep an eye on it so that you don't end up over-reducing the sauce and the chicken becomes dry.
More ways to serve BBQ pulled chicken:
What you should serve with this BBQ pulled chicken:
If you tried this Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
Need help with meal planning? You can find our (Aldi ingredients only) weekly meal plans here! Sign up to receive them free every week or take our quick meal planning course and use all these recipes to create your own meal plans.
The Best Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 1 kg (2 ⅕ lb) (2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts *see notes
- 1 (1) medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves (2 cloves) of garlic, minced
- 1 (1) fresh apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
For the sauce
- 250 ml (1 cups) (1 cup) BBQ sauce
- 60 grams (¼ cups) (¼ cup) brown sugar
- 60 milliliters (¼ cups) (¼ cup) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and chopped apple on top. *See note 1.
Prepping the chicken and making the sauce
- In a mixing bowl, combine the BBQ sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice), Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir well to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Pour ¾ of the BBQ sauce mixture over the chicken breasts, onion, garlic, and apple in the slow cooker, ensuring everything is evenly coated. *Reserve ¼ for later.
Cooking and shredding the chicken
- Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, or on high heat for 3-4 hours. The chicken should become tender and easy to shred.
- Once the chicken is cooked, use two forks to shred the chicken directly in the slow cooker. Add the remaining BBQ sauce and stir the shredded chicken well.
- Replace the lid and let the shredded chicken cook in the sauce for an additional 15-30 minutes on low heat. This will further enhance the flavors and ensure the chicken is fully coated. *If you would like a thicker sauce, leave the lid off to allow the sauce to thicken.
- Once the chicken is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can remove the lid and let it simmer on low heat for a few more minutes.
Serving BBQ pulled chicken
- Serve the BBQ pulled chicken on hamburger buns, accompanied by your favorite side dishes such as coleslaw, pickles, or potato salad.
- You can use chicken breast or chicken thighs (or a combination of both) just be sure that they are boneless and skinless.
- For a spicier kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce to the BBQ sauce mixture.
- If you're short on time, you can cook the chicken on high heat for 3-4 hours instead of the recommended 6-8 hours on low heat. However, cooking it on low heat for a longer time will result in more tender and flavourful pulled chicken.
- To save time on prep, you can use garlic paste, however, freshly minced garlic will provide the best flavour.
- If you prefer a sweeter BBQ sauce, you can increase the amount of brown sugar to your liking. Start by adding an additional tablespoon and adjust from there.
- This recipe is easily customizable. You can add additional ingredients such as diced bell peppers, jalapeños, or a splash of apple juice for extra flavour.
- Leftover pulled chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. It also freezes well, so you can portion it out and store it in the freezer for future meals.