Saucy shredded Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken is fall-apart tender with minimal effort. This easy recipe is a weeknight favorite whether plated or on a bun. So get out the CrockPot, a few ingredients, & in 3 hours dinner is done!
Pulled chicken in BBQ sauce is a summer favorite. However, this recipe made in the CrockPot versus in a smoker can be made any time of year. Just dump all the ingredients into the slow cooker, set it, & forget it.
This was inspired by my recipe for Smoked Pulled Pork. This recipe is easier, takes half the time, & is a healthier option. We love it on a bun along with a batch of Air Fryer Frozen French Fries for a no-fuss weeknight meal everyone loves.
- Why This is the Best Pulled Chicken
- Ingredients for Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- How to Make Pulled Chicken in the Crockpot
- Substitutions & Variations
- Equipment Needed
- Storing & Reheating
- Top Tips
- More Chicken Recipes
- What to Serve with Pulled Chicken...
- Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Food Safety for Cooking with Chicken
Why This is the Best Pulled Chicken
There are many recipes out there and they are all similar. This recipe for Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken is a family favorite you will make on repeat, here's why:
- Quick & easy 5-minute prep
- Just 4 ingredients plus spices
- A Southern staple with vinegar-based BBQ sauce
- CrockPot does the magic in just 3 hours
- Pulled Chicken is healthier than pulled pork (fewer calories & fat)
- Great make-ahead recipe for meal planning
- Enjoy served as is or in a sandwich, wrap, taco, quesadilla, or salad.
- It's gluten-free, low-fat, & low-carb
- Leftovers store well in the fridge or freezer
Ingredients for Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
There are 4 main ingredients for making pulled chicken in barbecue sauce. This recipe calls for lean poultry, boneless skinless chicken breasts. They are seasoned with 3 spices.
I love the taste of Southern-style BBQ. Most specifically spicy with a tangy vinegar kick. This has the same flavor combination of sweet, sour, & peppery.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts - These will be easy to shred once cooked.
- Barbecue Sauce - I'm using Kinder's Mild BBQ Sauce but use your favorite store-bought or homemade recipe.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - For tartness and acidic kick to help flavor, moisten, & tenderize the chicken.
- Garlic Powder - Adds pungent flavor.
- Salt & Pepper - Best seasoning for chicken.
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Pulled Chicken in the Crockpot
To be honest it is almost too embarrassing to write up this recipe. It is so quick & easy to prepare that kids can help & have some fun together in the kitchen. (They love shredding it l& taste-testing - be warned!)
Here are the easy steps for making Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken...
- Dump Everything in the Slow Cooker
- Shred the Chicken
- How to Serve Pulled Chicken
1 - Dump Everything in the Slow Cooker
This is considered a "dump & go recipe". You literally throw everything in the CrockPot & let it go. No searing or browning meat beforehand - yeah! And to keep cleanup just as easy, use a disposable slow cooker liner.
Measure out and grab all the ingredients needed. The recipe will need to go into a 5-quart or larger CrockPot.
Season the chicken on both sides with the salt, pepper, & garlic. Add the chicken to the bottom of the slow cooker insert. Sprinkle on the minced onion & top with the BBQ sauce.
Next, add the apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine. Make sure the chicken pieces are coated.
Set the slow cooker to high for 3 hours. (or low for 5-6 hours) The internal temperature should be 165° when ready.
When the timer is up, the chicken should almost be falling apart. The sauce & chicken juices will be thin & smell amazing.
2 - Shred the Chicken
To shred the chicken, it is best to do so in a bowl or on a cutting board. Using tongs, carefully remove the cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts from the cooking liquid. Using two forks or a fork/tongs combination, pull & shred the fibers of the chicken apart.
Once shredded, add the chicken back to the slow cooker. Toss to coat so that all the chicken soaks in the vinegar-based barbecue liquid.
Hint: Add more BBQ and/or vinegar to your preferred taste. I like to add just a bit more sauce. This helps hold the pulled chicken together when on a bun without being too much - everyone can add more later should they desire.
3 - How to Serve Pulled Chicken
Keep the slow cooker on the warm setting & serve straight from the crock.
Serve on a toasted bun with more BBQ sauce. For a deluxe sandwich, pile on cool & creamy coleslaw and/or pickles, hot peppers, or onions.
For parties, serve immediately on a large platter for family dining, buffet, or potluck. This recipe is great for crowds and easily can be doubled, tripled, & more. I have made it for 30 people in a 10-Quart CrockPot for a Super Bowl party & it was FANtastic!
Substitutions & Variations
Here are some great recipe variations & ingredient substitutions that can be made. Add, omit, or use one of these alternatives for other delicious recipe ideas for shredded BBQ chicken. These may help you enjoy this recipe even with dietary, health, or personal nutritional preferences.
- Chicken Breasts - Instead of boneless skinless breasts use boneless skinless thighs
- Bun - Use gluten-free buns instead of regular ones to keep it grain-free and wheat-free.
- Dried Minced Onion - Mince fresh raw onion but double the amount since fresh isn't as concentrated as dried.
Here are some tasty ways to personalize the recipe to make it amazing for your family, friends, & guests.
- Spicy - Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne to the seasoning on the chicken or swap out for a spicy BBQ sauce instead of regular.
- Carolina-Style - Use a mustard-based sauce that is synonymous with Carolina BBQ.
- Kid-Friendly - Add crushed potato chips into the bun for a fun crunchy sandwich.
- Keto & Low-Carb - use sugar-free BBQ sauce instead of regular.
The right ingredients, supplies, & equipment help recipes taste amazing & turn out well. Here are recommendations for products that are needed for making this recipe. Shop this recipe & buy these top-rated items today.
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Storing & Reheating
Leftovers can be stored for up to 3 days. Place the pulled chicken in a container with a tight-fitting lid & refrigerate. It can also be frozen for up to 30 days.
Reheat pulled chicken in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time - depends on how much you are warming up. Stir in additional BBQ sauce and/or vinegar to bring it back to life & add moisture.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Use a disposable Crockpot liner for quick clean-up.
- Season both sides of the chicken before adding it to the slow cooker.
- Make sure the chicken is covered in the sauce & cook for 3 hours (until 165° internal temperature).
- Shred the chicken and add it back to the cooking liquid.
- Add more sauce or vinegar as needed.
- Serve on toasted buns or plate & enjoy immediately.
- Great for parties & crowds - triple the recipe easily!
Shredded and pulled chicken are the same, there is no difference. They are synonyms for one another. Any pulled/shredded meat makes great sandwiches, tacos, & more.
Many times shredded chicken will pertain to chicken cooked plain or with just some spices - no sauce. Most of the time pulled chicken will refer to shredded chicken in a sauce.
Cooking in a slow cooker, often makes meat more tender & juicy. This is especially true for unpopular cuts with connective tissue & lots of fat. The long hours in a Crockpot help break that all down.
Since boneless skinless chicken breasts are lean and have no connective tissue, cooking for many hours is not necessary. If your chicken is tough, dry, or rubbery, it was cooked for too long. It also may have not had enough liquid & BBQ sauce in the CrockPot.
What to Serve with Pulled Chicken...
This Southern classic main dish goes best with other comforting sides from the South. These are my favorite dishes to serve with BBQ Pulled Chicken as a plate or as a sandwich for supper:
Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Slow Cooker 5-quart or larger
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup BBQ sauce ** additional when serving is optional
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Hamburger buns, soft rolls, gluten-free buns, etc OPTIONAL
- Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, & garlic powder. Add to the bottom of the CrockPot insert.
- Add minced onion, BBQ sauce, & apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine & make sure the chicken is submerged in the sauce.
- Set the slow cooker to high for 3 hours. (or low for 5-6 hours)
- Use tongs to remove the chicken and place it on a plate or cutting board. Using two forks or a fork & tongs, shred the chick
- Add the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker with the sauce. Toss to coat the meat. ** Add additional BBQ sauce and/or vinegar to taste.
- Serve immediately with sides or on a toasted bun with or without more BBQ sauce, coleslaw, pickles, or other toppings.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 8.5g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 2.3g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 11.6g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0.3g||1%|
|Total Sugars 8.2g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
|Recipe analyzed by|
Food Safety for Cooking with Chicken
When working with raw chicken, follow these safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands & surfaces after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods