Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken

May 26, 2021

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Easiest Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken! It’s made with tender flavorful chicken thighs, a simple spice rub, and robust store-bought sauces to save time. This chicken makes for the ultimate BBQ chicken sandwiches!

Photo: Two BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches stacked on a wood platter. Apples slices and potato chips are shown to the side as serving suggestions.

About This Crockpot BBQ Chicken Recipe

Sweet, savory, salty, smokey, tangy and with great depth of flavor. Here you get all the things you are looking for in homestyle BBQ pulled chicken and then some.

But no need to break out the grill or smoker. Here the crockpot does most of the work!

At the end you just shred (or in other words “pull”) the chicken into pieces and pile over (optionally) buttered and toasted hamburger buns. And if you want to make it extra delicious mound on the easiest coleslaw as well (with blue cheese if you’d like!).

To finish, pair it with a side of buttered corn (on the cob is best!), crisp potato chips, and sweet apple slices or fruit salad for a super easy summer inspired meal!

Photo: Ingredients used to make slow cooker barbecue chicken. Includes chicken thighs, bbq sauce, steak sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, buns, and yellow onion.

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Ingredients and Substitutes

  • Chicken thighs: Use boneless skinless thighs. If you insist, chicken breasts will work too.
  • Chili powder: I use traditional chili powder but you can use another type like ancho chili powder.
  • Smoked paprika: If you don’t have smoked the standard sweet paprika will work too.
  • Garlic powder: 1 garlic clove will work in its place.
  • Cayenne pepper: Another hot spice such as red chili flakes or dried chipotle pepper can be used.
  • Salt and pepper: I like to use a fair amount of black pepper but you can adjust to taste.
  • Yellow onion: In a pinch, red onion will be fine.
  • BBQ sauce: My go-to store-bought brand is Bullseye original, but you can use another flavor you prefer. Just avoid those that are overly sweet or acidic.
  • Steak sauce: Recipe was tested with A1.
  • Hamburger buns: Large dinner rolls, subs, or hot dog buns work fine too. You could even use hearty white bread if that’s what you’ve got.

Photo: Collage of four images showing steps to making bbq pulled chicken in a crockpot. Includes making spice mixture, tossing over chicken in slow cooker along with onion, then covering with bbq sauce.

How to Make Pulled Barbecue Chicken in the Crockpot

  1. Add raw chicken to crockpot: Place chicken in 5 – 7 quart slow cooker.
  2. Mix spices: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
  3. Toss chicken with spice mixture: Pour spice mixture over chicken and add grated onion. Toss well to evenly coat chicken with spices.
  4. Add half BBQ sauce: Evenly pour 3/4 cup BBQ sauce over the chicken.
  5. Cook on low until heated through: Cover and cook on low heat 4 – 6 hours until chicken shreds easily and registers 165 degrees in center.
  6. Transfer chicken, reserve liquid: Transfer chicken to a cutting board, reserve liquid liquid from the slow cooker. Skim fat from the liquid and discard.
  7. Shred chicken: Shred chicken with two forks (I do it a little larger than I want it to end up because as you toss again in the next step it shreds up a bit on it’s own).
  8. Heat sauces: Return chicken to slow cooker. Heat remaining 3/4 cup BBQ sauce with 2 Tbsp steak sauce in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave until warm (about 1 – 2 minutes).
  9. Toss chicken with reserved liquid and sauces: Pour 3/4 cup of the reserved liquid and the BBQ sauce mixture over the chicken then toss to evenly coat. If you feel it needs a little more moisture you can add another splash of the reserved liquid, also season to taste with a little more salt if needed.
  10. Serve in buns: Serve the pulled bbq chicken in hamburger buns.

Can it be cooked on high setting?

  • Yes, the chicken can cook on high setting of slow cooker in about 2 1/2+ hours.
  • Just keep in mind it just won’t be quite as tender.
  • Low setting is highly recommend for best results.

Photo: Collage of four images showing slow cooker bbq chicken after cooking, then shredding, followed by finishing with more sauce. Then last shows a completed pulled chicken sandwich.

Helpful BBQ Chicken Tips

  • For best bbq chicken, use chicken thighs. They are super tender, don’t overcook as easily and don’t end up with a dry, almost starchy-like texture.
  • Every slow cooker brand/model is a little different. My go-to slow cooker is this one and Crockpot is known for cooking high so this is usually is done in 4 hours. Other models may take an hour or so longer.
  • Test chicken internal temperature to 165 degrees for doneness.
  • Don’t forget to heat the sauce (the second addition). If you were to add it cold right from the fridge it will make for a cold sandwich. You can even add the shredded chicken back to the slow cooker with the sauce and let it cook on low for a little longer to serve very warm.
  • You can keep the shredded chicken on the warm setting of the crockpot for up to 2 hours.

Photo: Slow cooker barbecue chicken in a black oval crockpot insert. Shown from overhead.

More Delicious Barbecue Recipes

Photo: Two BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches stacked on a wood platter. Apples slices and potato chips are shown to the side as serving suggestions.
4.75 from 4 votes

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken

It's made with tender flavorful chicken thighs, a simple spice rub, and robust store-bought sauces to save time. This chicken makes for the ultimate BBQ chicken sandwiches and it's incredibly easy!
Servings: 8
Prep15 minutes
Cook4 hours 30 minutes
Ready in: 4 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, then more to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (recommend Bullseye original), divided
  • 2 Tbsp steak sauce (recommend A1)
  • 8 hamburger buns

Instructions

  • Place chicken in 5 - 7 quart slow cooker (I use this one).
  • In a small mixing bowl whisk together chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour spice mixture over chicken and add grated onion. Toss well to evenly coat chicken with spices.
  • Evenly pour 3/4 cup BBQ sauce over the chicken.
  • Cover and cook on low heat 4 - 6 hours until chicken shreds easily and registers 165 degrees in center.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board, reserve liquid from the slow cooker. Skim fat from the liquid and discard the fat.
  • Shred chicken with two forks (I do it a little larger than I want it to end up because as you toss again in the next step it shreds up a bit on it's own).
  • Return chicken to slow cooker. Heat remaining 3/4 cup BBQ sauce with 2 Tbsp steak sauce in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave until warm (about 1 - 2 minutes).
  • Pour 3/4 cup of the reserved liquid and the BBQ sauce mixture over the chicken then toss to evenly coat. If you feel it needs a little more moisture you can add another splash of the reserved liquid (or more BBQ sauce), also season to taste with a little more salt if needed.
  • Serve the pulled bbq chicken in hamburger buns (I also like to add coleslaw, with a little blue cheese mixed in sometimes too).
Nutrition Facts
Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 394 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 162mg54%
Sodium 948mg41%
Potassium 604mg17%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 15g17%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 458IU9%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 109mg11%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
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