Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken is over-the-top flavorful and guaranteed to be a family favorite! This easy recipe is chicken thighs simmered in the Crockpot with a tasty homemade BBQ sauce until tender. Shred the chicken, then serve it piled on toasted Brioche buns with coleslaw, over a salad, stuffed in a taco, baked potato or in a wrap. The options are endless!

Slow cooker pulled chicken sandwiches with coleslaw.

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken is the perfect meal for those days that are almost too busy to cook dinner. This recipe includes just a handful of ingredients, is a breeze to throw together, can be eaten in so many different ways, and is a total crowd pleaser.

After this slow cooker pulled pork became a favorite recipe, we had to come up with an equally delicious slow cooker pulled chicken recipe. It took a bit of trial and error, but we’ve got a winner! You guys are going to want to add this dish to your regular meal rotation!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • So satisfying. This chicken is incredibly juicy, tender and flavorful with delicious add-ins.
  • Quick & easy. It’s an easy “set it and forget it” slow cooker recipe that’ll you’ll love. Only 10 minutes of prep is needed, and then let the crock pot do all of the work.
  • Versatile. Pulled chicken is great for serving a crowd or for weekly meal prep – especially as there’s so much you can do with it! And let’s be honest, pulled chicken sandwiches are the best.

This is the best recipe I have found for chicken in the slow cooker. And the tip for using your stand mixer to shred it is so good! It worked perfectly. All of your tips and suggestions are great, thank you for sharing.

— Imsen

Ingredients needed

You probably have all of the ingredients needed for this slow cooker pulled chicken recipe already in your kitchen. Everything is so easy to just throw in the Crockpot before lunch and have a great dinner all set and ready! Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs. We recommend using chicken thighs for this recipe. They stay juicy and succulent, shred easily, and absorb the sauce nicely. You can use bone-in chicken thighs, you’ll just need to pull it from the bone once cooked. Chicken breasts tend to dry out quickly and won’t absorb the sauce as well.
  • Ketchup. Any brand works! We love Heinz® ketchup (not sponsored).
  • Dark brown sugar. Light or dark brown sugar will work. Personally, though, I think dark brown sugar offers the most flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce. This ingredient adds to the depth of flavor.
  • Apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps to balance the sweet and savory blend of the sauce.
  • Yellow mustard. The tang from the mustard is the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the sauce.
  • Spices. We’re adding garlic salt and a 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper for even more delicious flavor.
  • Buns. Don’t forget some large, fluffy buns if you’re making BBQ chicken sandwiches!

How to make this recipe 

This slow cooker BBQ chicken recipe is so super simple! Below, you’ll find a rundown of the basic instructions and then you can find the full, printable recipe at the bottom of the page. Here’s the easy process:

  1. Pre-cook chicken. In a large skillet, brown the chicken for four minutes on each side in about one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. This is an extra step, but it’s so worth it for the most flavorful pulled chicken
  2. Make the sauce. Stir together all of sauce ingredients to make the super tasty homemade barbecue sauce.
  3. Slow cook. Place chicken in the slow cooker and pour the homemade sauce evenly over the top of the chicken. Cover and cook on high for one hour. Reduce heat to low, and cook five to six hours. If you won’t be able to adjust the temperature setting after one hour, simply cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  4. Pull chicken. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the slow cooker using a slotted spoon and place it onto a cutting board. Using two forks, pull apart each chicken thigh until your chicken is fully shredded. Add the shredded chicken back to the slow cooker and stir it into the sauce.
  5. Serve. Pile shredded chicken on buns to enjoy as a chicken sandwich or enjoy another preferred way!

Frequently asked questions

Can you overcook pulled chicken in slow cooker?

Yes, it is possible to overcook chicken in the slow cooker. If the meat is cooked too long it could end up dry and not juicy and tender. See the recommended times in the recipe card for juicy results.

Is there a difference between pulled and shredded chicken?

No! The terms pulled chicken and shredded chicken are used interchangeably and mean the same thing. However, “pulled meat” typically refers to meat pulled off the bone.

Is it OK to put raw chicken in slow cooker?

According to the USDA, it is safe to cook raw chicken in a slow cooker! Slow cookers and Crock-Pots are designed to cook raw meats. The direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking time and steam created from the tightly covered container destroys bacteria, making slow cooking safe. You can put frozen chicken in a slow cooker, too!

Can this recipe be made in a pressure cooker?

We have not tried this specific recipe using an instant pot, but this is a very popular, highly reviewed recipe for instant pot pulled chicken.

Serving suggestions

There are so many ways to make this pulled chicken recipe into a meal! Here are some of my family’s favorites:

  • Sandwiches. Add a generous scoop of coleslaw right on top of the meat, top with a toasted Brioche bun, and dig in!
  • Main course. Serve with a variety of sides, like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans or whatever other sides you have available.
  • Stuffed potatoes. One of my favorites! Roast up some russet potatoes or sweet potatoes and stuff them with the pulled chicken. You can add shredded cheddar cheese or whatever other toppings you like.
  • Salad. For a lighter meal option, make a BBQ chicken salad.
  • Nachos or tacos. Use leftover chicken to make BBQ chicken nachos or tacos along with cheese and other toppings.
  • Pizza. Make your own pizza with leftover meat, extra BBQ sauce, shredded cheese, onions and other toppings.
Slow cooker pulled chicken on a bun with coleslaw.

Expert tips

Even though this dish is really quite simple, here are a few tips for best results.

  • Browning the chicken thighs is optional, but it brings a lot of extra flavor to the recipe. If you have the time, I recommend it.
  • To shred the chicken super quick, add it to a large bowl and use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer to shred it.
  • This recipe feeds about 4 adults. If you are feeding a crowd, you can easily double or triple the recipe.
  • Meal prep ahead of time! I love having this on-hand in the fridge because it’s so versatile and makes weeknight meals a cinch.

Store, freeze & reheat

  • Storage. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or bag and kept in the refrigerator for up to about 4 days.
  • Freezing. Allow the meat to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer safe bag or container. It will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheating. To reheat, you can place it in the crock pot and place it on “warm” to warm it back up. Alternatively, you can simply reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Pulled chicken on a bun with coleslaw.

Once you try this easy crockpot shredded chicken, you’ll be making it on repeat! With a handful of basic ingredients, this chicken dish is quick to put together and is a hit with both kids and adults.

If you try this, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.

Slow cooker pulled chicken sandwiches with coleslaw.
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Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

This pulled chicken recipe is chicken thighs simmered in the slow cooker with a tasty homemade BBQ sauce until tender. Shred the chicken, then serve it piled on buns with coleslaw, over a salad, stuffed in a baked potato or in a wrap. The options are endless!
Author: Kim

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions 

  • Brown chicken for four minutes on each side in one tablespoon of hot oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.** Remove from heat and place in a slow cooker.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ketchup and next six ingredients for the BBQ sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  • Cover and cook on high for one hour. Reduce heat to low, and cook five to six hours. Alternatively, if you won’t be able to adjust the temperature setting after one hour, simply cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • Remove chicken from sauce and then shred it on a large cutting board or plate, using two forks or your hands. Stir shredded chicken into the sauce. Spoon mixture onto buns with coleslaw, serve over a salad, or baked potato… the options are endless!

Notes

*Chicken breasts can be used, but dark meat will give this recipe the most flavor.
**The process of browning the sides of the chicken thighs before placing them into the slow cooker is optional. However, it will give this recipe the best flavor.
***Nutritional information does not include bun or slaw.
  • Storage. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight bag or container and kept in the refrigerator for up to about 4 days.
  • Freezing. Allow to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer safe bag or container. It will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheating. To reheat the leftover chicken, you can place it in the slow cooker and place it on “warm” to warm it back up. Alternatively, you can simply reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 360kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 162mg, Sodium: 1075mg, Potassium: 658mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 401IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 2mg

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