Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken is a tender, delicious chicken recipe that's perfect for a weeknight dinner or to feed a crowd. Just add seasoned chicken thighs to the slow cooker with the barbecue sauce mixture, slow cook, then enjoy in a sandwich, slider, taco, salad, and more.
This is our go to recipe when we don't feel like cooking but want something homemade. All you need is a slow cooker and a little patience then you can enjoy the pulled chicken in a burger or slider, sandwich, or on top of a salad. You can also make shredded chicken tacos for taco Tuesday!
This pulled chicken recipe is packed with flavor. The chicken is thoroughly seasoned on both sides, then slow cooks in a mixture of your favorite BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, and dijon mustard. The chicken turns out tender, succulent, and packed with flavor with minimal effort!
About BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Taste - The pulled chicken is richly flavored in BBQ sauce and seasonings.
- Texture - The chicken is tender, moist, and falls apart easily.
- Effort - All you need to do is mix the BBQ sauce and seasoning then cook the chicken in the mixture.
- Time - It takes just a few hours to slow cook the chicken.
What is pulled chicken?
Pulled chicken just means that the chicken is cooked to become so tender that you can pull it apart easily into pieces. In our recipe, we slow cook the chicken for 3 hours to make it as tender and easily shreddable as possible.
- Chicken thighs - Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a delicious source of low-fat protein. When slow cooked, they are perfectly moist and tender. You can also slow cook boneless skinless chicken breast but it won't be as moist.
- BBQ sauce - Use your favorite barbecue sauce to dress the chicken. Our favorite BBQ sauces are Stubbs and Trader Joe's Kansas City style BBQ.
- Dijon mustard - Dijon mustard adds a tangy and sharp flavor to the BBQ chicken.
- Garlic powder - Garlic powder adds the quintessential aroma.
- Ground cumin - Ground cumin adds a warm earthiness.
- Kosher salt - Salt enhances the BBQ flavor.
- Pepper - Freshly ground black pepper adds a hint of spice.
- Apple cider vinegar - Apple cider vinegar provides tanginess and balances the savoriness of the other ingredients.
- Water - Water helps to cook the chicken.
See recipe card for quantities.
- BBQ sauce - Use your favorite barbecue sauce or omit it and just use seasoning instead.
- Beef or pork - This sauce and seasoning will also be delicious with beef or pork.
- Spicy - Add chili pepper flakes, togarashi, chili powder, cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika to make it spicy.
- Sliced chicken - Instead of shredding the chicken, slice it and enjoy it as a BBQ chicken salad or BBQ chicken wrap.
- Onion Powder - Add ½ teaspoon onion powder to the BBQ
- sauce for a pungent and sweet flavor.
- Brown sugar - Add browned sugar to make this BBQ chicken sweet.
- Worcestershire - Worcestershire sauce will add a tangy umami flavor.
- Lemon juice - Add lemon juice for a citrusy brightness.
- Oregano - Oregano will add a light earthy flavor.
- Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin on both sides of each piece. (Photo 1 and 2)
- Pour ¾ cup of BBQ sauce, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and water in the slow cooker pot. Place chicken in the slow cooker. (Photo 3 and 4)
- Use tongs to flip the chicken in the mixture to coat. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours. (Photo 5 and 6)
- When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, transfer the chicken to a bowl or cutting board and shred the meat using two forks. Put the chicken back in the slow cooker, add the remaining ¼ cup of BBQ sauce, and stir until all of the chicken is coated. Keep on warm setting until ready to serve or serve immediately as desired. (Photo 7 and 8)
Pro tip: You can use a stand pr handheld mixer to shred the chicken and save time. Just add the chicken to the stand mixer bowl then use the paddle attachment to shred for 15 to 30 seconds.
Yes, pulled and shredded chicken are essentially the same. Both refer to the same process where the chicken is cooked then either pulled apart into pieces or shredded.
Yes, these pulled chicken thighs are a good source of protein and essential nutrients. If you want to make this recipe healthier, you can use breasts, use a healthy BBQ sauce, or reduce the amount of BBQ sauce.
Pulled chicken is usually made of boneless chicken breasts or thighs. We love ours with barbecue sauce for extra flavor and moistness.
Yes, if you cook the chicken too long it can dry out. In order to avoid this, be sure to set a timer.
All of the ingredients in this recipe are gluten free except for the BBQ sauce. If you want to make this recipe gluten free, use a gluten free BBQ sauce.
What to Serve with Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
This barbecue pulled chicken recipe is an approachable, flavorful weeknight dinner and BBQ dish. We often enjoy pulled chicken in a burger with coleslaw and a toasted brioche bun. Beside the burger, we love Homemade French Fries, Spicy Cajun Fries, or a delicious veggie like Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan or Furikake and Lemon Shishito Peppers.
Store leftover pulled chicken in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. In order to reheat the chicken, reheat it in the slow cooker for a few minutes and add a little barbecue sauce to keep the chicken moist. You can also reheat the chicken in a pan over low-medium heat. When the pan gets hot, add a tablespoon of water and cover the pan with a lid to keep the chicken moist.
- Add sauce to moisten the chicken - If you accidentally overcook the chicken, it will dry out. If that happens, you can add sauce to moisten it.
- Pull the chicken when it is warm. If you wait until it is cold or refrigerated, it will be harder to pull.
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Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 1.5-2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup BBQ sauce divided
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoon water
- Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin on both sides of each piece. Pour ¾ cup of BBQ sauce, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and water in the slow cooker pot. Place chicken in the slow cooker and use tongs to flip the chicken in the mixture to coat. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours.kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup BBQ sauce, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoon water, 1.5-2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, transfer the chicken to a bowl or cutting board and shred the meat using two forks. Put the chicken back in the slow cooker, add the remaining ¼ cup of BBQ sauce, and stir until all of the chicken is coated. Keep on warm setting until ready to serve.
- Pull the chicken when it is warm or it will be hard to pull
- Add sauce to moisten the chicken - If your chicken dries out, add sauce to moisten it.
- Use a stand or handheld mixer to shred the chicken and save time. Just add the chicken to the mixer bowl then use the paddle attachment to shred.
- Refrigerate leftover pulled chicken for up to 3 days. In order to reheat the chicken, put it in a slow cooker for a few minutes and add a little barbecue sauce to keep the chicken moist. Alternatively, reheat the chicken in a pan over low-medium heat. When the pan gets hot, add a tablespoon of water and cover the pan with a lid to keep the chicken moist.