Slow Cooker Pulled Barbecued Chicken - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Slow Cooker Pulled Barbecued Chicken

Slow Cooker Barbecued Pulled Chicken by Pamela Salzman

You’ve heard of Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays, but in this house we’ve had “Slow Cooker Thursdays” for the last two months.  It doesn’t have the  same ring as the other two, but it has made my life way easier.  Mr. Picky had baseball games every Thursday (and Sunday) since March and they were conveniently scheduled at dinnertime.   Scrunchy face.  Picture hubby and me sitting at a little league game until 7:00 or 7:30 (gotta love extra innings!) while my daughters were texting me from home “We r starving!  When r u coming home?  Can we eat without u?”  Then of course I actually had to assemble dinner in record time once I finally returned home.  That happened once, until I figured out that Thursdays would have to be “Slow Cooker Night” unless I wanted to let the girls eat acai bowls for dinner (because that’s about all they would take the time to make even when “starving”) or allow Mr. Picky to eat hot dogs or microwaved canned chili on top of Fritos from the snack stand at the field. Um, no.

homemade BBQ sauce

I work really hard to make sure we eat together every night.  It’s actually more important to me than what we eat.  I’ve always said that breakfast might be the most important meal of the day from a nutritional perspective, but dinner is the most important from an emotional perspective.  However, getting the five of us at the table at a reasonable time for dinner can be a challenge, especially during Little League season.  And no matter how hard I tried to get Mr. Picky to find baseball boring, he just wouldn’t see it my way.  So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and that’s where I found myself every single blessed Thursday night.  Deciding to make something in the slow cooker on Thursdays was my ticket to freedom so I wasn’t stressed out every time a player was walked or someone got a hit, both of which keep the game going on and on and on.

Chicken, BBQ sauce and seasonings in the slow cooker

When I first started using this slow cooker in December, so many people asked me for good slow cooker recipes.  I was honestly surprised since one quick search on Foodily turned up thousands.  But as I’ve experimented, I have realized what everyone else already knows — that not every slow cooker recipe is a good one, and certainly not a healthful one.  Never said I was a quick learner!

shred the chicken in a separate bowl

add more BBQ sauce

I recently invested in the book, “Slow Cooker Revolution” by America’s Test Kitchen and it looks promising.  I tried their recipe for barbecued chicken and we all loved it!  I have been experimenting with making my own barbecue sauce and I’m super close to posting it, but not quite.  I did use one of my homemade BBQ sauce experiments and the chicken turned out super tender and flavorful.  We had it the first night on cracked wheat buns with homemade cole slaw — super delicious.  And the next day I put it into quesadillas for the girls’ lunch.  They asked for it again the day after that, but sadly it was all gone.

pour braising liquid in a fat separator

shredded chicken in bbq sauce | Pamela Salzman

I thought to share this recipe with you this week for a possible Father’s Day menu item or for a July 4th party.  It’s also a good time to remind you why grilled animal protein isn’t that good for you.  Check out an earlier post on that here.  Slow cooking with low heat cuts way down on carcinogens from forming.  It’s a win-win!  Even though Little League is over, my slow cooker is staying and so is this chicken!

shredded bbq chicken | pamela salzman

Slow Cooker Barbecued Pulled Chicken by Pamela Salzman


5.0 from 2 reviews
Slow Cooker Pulled Barbecued Chicken
Serves: 6
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat (or use all thighs)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder or cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups barbecue sauce
  1. Place chicken pieces in the slow cooker.
  2. Mix together chili powder, paprika, chipotle powder, salt and pepper and rub all over chicken.
  3. Pour ½ cup barbecue sauce over chicken and toss to coat.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender 4-6 hours on LOW.  (5 hours worked great for me.)  The slow cooker can also go to the WARM setting if you are not ready to eat the chicken after cooking 4-6 hours.
  4. Transfer chicken to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.  With two forks, shred meat into bite size pieces, but not too fine.
  5. Pour the liquid that remains in the slow cooker into a fat separator (or leave the liquid in the slow cooker and try to skim the fat off the top with a large spoon.)
  6. Heat the remaining 1 cup of barbecue sauce in a small saucepan until hot.  Toss shredded chicken with hot barbecue sauce and 1 cup of braising liquid.  You’ll have extra liquid if you need it.  Serve warm either by itself or on toasted whole grain buns or in a quesadilla.


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  1. Do you happen to have a recommendation for a BBQ sauce? Would love to do a little BBQ thing and try these this weekend. : ) I tried to hunt down the one that you mentioned might be on the Jenni Kayne site but looks like it may no longer be up. Thank you!

    • You can try Woodstock or Organicville. There are other smaller local brands in different markets that are also clean. Just try to avoid canola oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and artificial colors and preservatives.

  2. That was exactly my thinking when I chose this recipe for dinner tonight: My son had a late hockey game down in El Segundo, and I knew I didn’t want to have to actually cook once we got home around 730. Plus, we’re trying to avoid the default of going out to eat afterward. So I looked on your website for a slow cooker recipe and this one jumped out at me. Everyone loved it — husband went back for thirds! — and once again, it’s the kind of dish it never would have occurred to me to make on my own. So thanks as always for the great suggestions!

    • It’s so deceptively simple, but so tasty. Who needs complicated on a night like that? Glad it worked for you. Leftovers are great in a salad or a rice bowl. 🙂

  3. New family favorite. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome! 🙂

      • If i wanted to make this for 3 people instead of 6, could i just use 1 1/2 lbs white meat breast (bc that is what we generally eat) and then cut the other ingredients in half or would some of the quantities of the other ingredients stay the same? let me know! Thank you

        • Cut everything in half. 🙂

  4. Hi Pamela! I’m new to the slow cooker world, but my son is starting soccer practice on Fridays until 6:30 so I’m thinking about joining. I tried clicking on the “my slow cooker” link but it didn’t lead me anywhere. Do you mind sharing which slow cooker you have?

    • Thanks for letting me know. I’ll see if I can fix the link. I have an All-Clad 6.5 quart slow cooker. I think it’s great. My sisters have the Hamilton Beach set n’ forget and they love that one. 🙂

  5. Just had this for dinner last night and leftovers for lunch today and it’s honestly one of the BEST things to ever come out of a slow cooker! Perfect weeknight dinner! We had it on buns with your cole slaw and your chipotle sweet potato fries. Even my 2 year old gobbled it up! Thanks Pamela!

    • What a delicious dinner!! Thanks, Lauren!

  6. Hey, I’m trying to mix a little bit of everything to make my own recipe… The only question I have is do you cut the chicken breasts in halves? I used 3 pieces and they’re pretty large so Idk if it will be done within that time frame. Should I cut them or just cook longer? Thanks!

    • I haven’t had a problem using thicker chicken breasts. They should cook properly in the time given. Enjoy!

  7. Hi Pamela! Where did you find those super yummy looking buns. I think the honey whole wheat ones from Trader Joe’s are fine in a pinch, but these look much better!

    • I can’t say for sure since I took the image such a long time ago, but very likely they are from Whole Foods!

      • Yum! This is on the menu for lunch boxes on Tuesday. I’m trying out our new Zojirushi stainless “Mr. Bento” sets this week.

  8. Excellent recipe it was a hit

    • Always happy to hear that. Thank you, Marli!

  9. This was a huge hit! Both kids and their friend were crazy about it. My Mr. Picky said we need to make this for company. I have pizza dough in the frig and was thinking about using the leftovers for a BBQ chicken pizza. I’m still looking for a good BBQ sauce, I can’t wait until you post yours. Thanks for another great recipe.

    • Awesome idea! So sorry I never got around to posting my BBQ sauce recipe. I think Jenni Kayne posted it as part of her July 4th post on Check over there!

  10. I’m trying this right now, got the slow cooker on and it should be done in about 5 hours 🙂

    • Awesome! Let me know how it turns out.

      • In a word…GLORIOUS! A word that does not get used that often these days. 5 hours of cooking and it was a real hit, lasted a while too! Was great with some buns as was suggested, will definately make this again A++

        • AWESOME.

  11. Hi Pamela, I just got the chance to look at all the posts and recipes on your site. I especially like the baseball stories since it brings back memories of our sons’ spring season. Jackson is my Mr. Picky, and he absolutely loved your pulled barbecue recipe – in fact he insists I make it every week. I look forward to making more of your healthy recipes.

    • Thank you, Cindy! Mothers of picky boys unite!

  12. Hi, I would like to make this without a slow cooker. Any cooking suggestions?

  13. Do you have suggested cooking instructions/times if you’re not using a slow cooker for this recipe? My friend made it with a slow cooker and it was delicious but we don’t have one (yet).

    • I haven’t tried this yet in the oven, but perhaps it would work like the Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos recipe in the oven. Here are those instructions: Oven method: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In step 1, place all ingredients (except accompaniments) in a 5-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups water or chicken stock. Cover and bake until chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours. Let me know if you try it. I’ll put it on my to-do list!

      • ok, thank you! I’m going to make it tomorrow night so will let you know how it turns out.

  14. I can’t wait to try this! Do you have a recipe for the homemade coleslaw that is pictured? I wasn’t sure if the cilantro lime would compliment that!

      • Thank you! I am making this for dinner tonight! I love looking through all of your recipes and cannot wait to try them all. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I made this for the first time this past Friday along with your southwestern quinoa recipe. Both recipes are full of depth and flavor. The whole family loved them. The leftovers were perhaps even better and I am sad to say gone. I rubbed the chicken w/ spices and basted all pieces with bbq sauce in the morning and put in the fridge until noon. By 5 pm the chicken was perfect!

    • I bet this was great with that quinoa salad — good thinking!

  16. I made this for last night’s dinner and it was AMAZING! Will be preparing this for my husbands next poker night!

    • That’s great, Donna! It’s total “guy” food, but really satisfying and very clean. Hope they like it, too!

  17. Making this right now! Your mention of the slow cooker got me wondering why the thing gets put into hiding in the summer. I am so busy with work and kids sports and this is a perfect solution for once a week!

    • I’m planning on using it during the summer so I don’t have to turn the oven on!

  18. Hmm…this sounds almost exactly like my household, only I don’t use my slow cooker nearly as often as I should! This looks delicious & I am pinning it to make, because even though Little League just ended for my son, we just found out he made the travel baseball team & that, along with my daughter’s travel softball team, will likely necessitate Slow Cooker MTWTHF at our house 🙂

    • Oh heavens, that’s a LOT of ball games. May the force be with you (and your slow cooker!)

  19. This looks way too easy not to try but I have a question!
    Do you have a recommended bbq sauce that you used? This is tricky, since my own Mr. Picky doesn’t like it too sweet or too spicy! Daughter is not a spice girl at all!

    • That’s the reason I am trying to make my own because I can’t find one that tastes good and is clean. And everyone has his/her own personal preference about what makes a good BBQ sauce. Some like it sweet, vinegary, spicy, smoky, etc. I will post mine when I have it the way I want it. In the meantime, go to Grow and see if there’s one they recommend.

  20. I made this tonight for me and the kids (without the spices) — so delicious! Easy and tasty, loved it! Thank you!!

    • Great, so nice to hear! Thank you, Kelly!

    • Thank you, Andrea! BTW, I pinned your pantry to my organization board. So inspired by those canned tomatoes!

  21. did you mean 1 1/2 lbs of thighs and breasts or 1 1/2 thigh and 1 1/2 breast

    • Total of 3 pounds of chicken — 1 1/2 pounds of thighs and 1 1/2 pounds of breasts. I personally prefer thighs in the slow cooker and I have made this with all thighs, i.e. 3 pounds of thighs, but I know a lot of people like white meat so it’s up to you!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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