BBQ pulled chicken is incredibly easy with this simple slow cooker recipe. Just throw it in and let it cook. Then pull and enjoy mouth-watering shredded chicken, served any way you choose.
Slow cooker pulled chicken
I love this slow cooker recipe, as it makes a mound of delicious BBQ pulled chicken with next to no effort. Your slow cooker does all the work, as there’s no need to fry the chicken first.
The result is the most tender, fall-apart chicken you can imagine. Moist, juicy and full of flavour, it’s a winner every time. You can serve it in any number of ways. We like it in sliders, tacos, on loaded fries or even on nachos. What’s more, it freezes well, so you can cook once and eat twice or more.
Chicken pulls in exactly the same way as the more popular pulled pork. Unlike pulled pork, however, you can skip the brining stage so it really is a fuss free recipe. You just chuck it all in, stir and leave it to cook while you get on with something more interesting.
This recipe uses just two ingredients plus the cupboard staples of a drizzle of oil and some seasoning.
I have used my easy homemade BBQ sauce for this, but you can, of course use a ready made version.
Why make slow cooker pulled chicken
- It is easy! I think this might be one of the easiest recipes on the blog. All you need to do is to throw it in the slow cooker, let it cook, then pull it. It’s effortless but impressive and easy to double up to feed a crowd!
- Delicious – this richly flavoured, tender, juicy, melt in the mouth pulled chicken, will have everyone asking for seconds.
- Freezer and bulk-cooking friendly. With very little extra effort, you can make an entire crock pot full of pulled chicken. It is ideal for serving at a party, for game night, or taking to a pot luck. Alternatively, fill the freezer for those nights when you don’t want to cook.
- 5 minutes in the kitchen. Slow cooked food may not be ready in minutes, but this pulled chicken recipe is nearly all hands off. For 5 minutes of effort you can have 10 or more portions of delicious shredded chicken. It’s a great way to cook when you’re busy.
BBQ slow cooker pulled chicken ingredients
- Chicken – I used chicken breasts here, but skinless, boneless thighs would work just as well. You can also use turkey breasts, thighs or steaks. I try to use higher welfare chicken and poultry. It’s not just the right thing to do – I think you gain so much in flavour.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
I buy packs of reduced chicken fillets/pieces when I see them reduced at the store and freeze them. Once you have a few in the freezer, defrost and cook them all for this recipe.
- BBQ Sauce – I like my homemade BBQ sauce, but you can use a ready made one from the store. You can also use half sauce and half passata or chopped canned tomatoes. You can play with the flavours by adding extra spices or sauces.
- Oil – just a drizzle to brush the slow cooker pot with to stop sticking.
- Pepper and salt – I prefer sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, but it really doesn’t matter.
How to cook slow cooker pulled chicken – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips so you can to make this perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – Drizzle some oil into the slow cooker and coat the inside using a brush or a bit of scrunched up kitchen paper. You can also use a cooking spray. If you know your slow cooker has hot spots, pay special attention to these areas. Its not absolutely necessary to oil the pot, but it does make the clean up far easier.
Step Two – Cut any larger chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Put the chicken in the pot, and season well. Pour over the BBQ sauce. Give it all a stir so the chicken is coated.
Put the lid on and cook for 3–4 hours on high (if the pot is full you will need the full 4 hours). Alternatively, you can cook for 5–6 hours on low. If your slow cooker is especially slow, you might need to start for half an hour on high and then switch to low.
If you remember, give it a stir halfway though.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
Every slow cooker is different. Adjust the timings if needed. Mine gives a steady gentle simmer on low.
Step Three – Once cooked, scoop the chicken out with a slotted spoon, and put it on a large board. The pieces will have shrunk a little and it will look as if there is far too much liquid. Don’t worry – there isn’t!
Step Four – Using two forks, work though the chicken, shredding it. It should pull very easily. If not, put it back in the pot and cook for a little longer before trying again. Do make sure you choose a large board, as you need space to work.
Step Five – Return the pulled chicken to the slow cooker pot and stir into the sauce. There should be the perfect amount to coat the chicken.
Serve immediately, or keep warm in the covered slow cooker for a couple of hours.
This pulled chicken recipe is so versatile. We love to serve it as sliders or a Sloppy Joe (if you prefer a classic Sloppy Joe, this is a greet recipe) served with a healthy portion of our no mayo slaw, but there are so many ways can you use it. Why not try these ideas?
- slow cooker pulled chicken tacos
- pulled chicken fajitas
- BBQ pulled chicken on nachos or fries
- slow cooker pulled chicken and coleslaw with baked potatoes or sweet potatoes
- BBQ pulled chicken with rice and black beans
- slow cooker pulled chicken and fried peppers
- Add your favourite herbs.
- You can adjust the sauce by adding smoked paprika, smoked salt or liquid smoke, add heat with a little chilli or sweetness with a touch of honey or maple syrup.
- Try a little chipotle and lime for a Mexican influence.
This shredded chicken is perfect for bulk cooking. Once cooked, remove from the cooker and let the chicken cool before packing into air tight boxes.
Fridge – BBQ pulled chicken will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezer – You can keep this slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken in the freezer for 4–6 months. Beyond this, you may lose some texture and flavour. Allow frozen pulled chicken to defrost on the counter top for a few hours, or in the fridge overnight.
Reheating – Reheat to piping hot before serving. I nearly always do this in the microwave. Open the pot and stand the lid ajar. Reheat in short bursts, checking in between until hot. You can also reheat in a small sauce pan on the hob, stirring well (add a little water if necessary), or in a tightly covered oven poof dish in a medium oven for 15–20 minutes. You may need to adjust the time for larger quantities.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
I like to freeze this BBQ pulled chicken in a variety of different sized containers to cater for different numbers of people. Individual portions, for two and a bigger pot for the number you regularly cook for.
Hints and Tips
- The timings and quantities in this recipe are flexible and forgiving. Remember that slow cookers do vary. If your chicken needs a little more time before it is ready to pull, just return it to the pot for a bit.
- I find that a very basic cheap slow cooker is all you need. You can get one for less than £15 that will last years. The only reason to get a new one is if you drop the crock from the inside. Yep, I have done this, so am on my second slow cooker.
- Use a large board when you pull your chicken. You need space to work.
- Make it go further by adding a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas or black beans to this pulled chicken recipe when you return the shredded chicken to the sauce.
How to make pulled chicken without a slow cooker
- Pulled chicken in the oven – Heat a little oil in the casserole dish. Add the chicken and season. Stir in the sauce, so that the chicken is well coated and cover with the lid. Then cook in the oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for about an hour.
I allow half a large breast per person or one large thigh. It depends how you are serving it. Half a breast (about 80-100g when raw) will generously fill a burger bun!
Absolutely. I have used breast meat here, but you can just as easily make BBQ pulled chicken thighs. The method is just the same.
Related Recipes You Will Love
- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry – Tender fall apart chicken in a rich creamy curry sauce.
- Slow Cooker Spanish Pork – Slowly cooked pork with peppers, and a hint of spice and orange.
- Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes – Perfectly cooked, fluffy and with a sweet golden flesh.
- The easiest ever slow cooked beef casserole – tender fall-apart beef, brimming with flavour, perfect make ahead comfort food.
- More easy chicken recipes – Winner winner chicken dinner – all my easy chicken and poultry recipes!
BBQ Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large chicken breasts (about 750g)
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup BBQ Sauce (about 240 ml)
- Pour the oil into the slow cooker pot use a pastry brush or piece of scrunched up kitchen paper to oil it to help stop the chicken sticking.1 tbsp olive oil
- Cut the chicken breasts into 2 or 3 pieces length wise and add to the slow cooker pot.4 large chicken breasts
- Add the salt and pepper and toss the chicken in it.1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp sea salt
- Pour over the BBQ sauce and give everything a quick stir to coat the chicken.1 cup BBQ Sauce
- Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 3–4 hours on high, or 5–6 hours on low.
- This recipe is 8 Weight Watchers Smart Points per portion
This is great, I love the fact that this slow cooker recipe will freeze for so long – I’ll never run out of this tasty dish!
I am thrilled this one is made in the slow cooker! Made for an easy weeknight meal without any babysitting required (and it tastes delicious too!)
Pulled chicken in the slow cooker is always a family favorite!
This was absolutely fabulous- both the flavor and texture!
This is such a good recipe! I love how these few ingredients create such great flavor! Such a versatile recipe!
This is such an easy slow cooker recipe! My family loved the delicious sliders I made with the chicken!
My family has been asking me to make BBQ Pulled Pork Chicken. Your recipe was so easy to make and it tasted so delicious!! Thanks for the recipe!
Nothing better than an easy meal that cooks while I’m out of the house. This is delicious, thanks!
My daughter has been bugging me to make pulled chicken. Your recipe was so easy, and tasty, and I love slow cooker cooking!!
I love how easy this recipe is. We’ve been enjoying them over nachos all week.
This is a great recipe for feeding a crowd… or a hungry family. I made this for my family and they asked me to remember to make it again.