This Crockpot BBQ Chicken is a quick, easy, and flavorful way to make pulled chicken. Perfect for any party, potluck, or picnic! Succulent chicken covered in an addictive BBQ sauce, then shredded. Great for burgers, burritos tacos, on rice, and more.
What’s in Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken?
This is going to be the easiest BBQ chicken you have ever made. A real crowd-pleaser with little effort – win-win! Plus it’s great for meal prep, just put everything in the slow cooker sit back and wait.
- BBQ Sauce: Use your favorite brand, as this will be the dominant flavor. I’m a big fan of Stubbs.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Adds a bit of tanginess and extra moisture to keep the chicken from drying out.
- Brown Sugar: Adds a little extra sweetness to help the chicken caramelize.
- Onion + Garlic Powder: Add an earthy flavor that compliments the BBQ sauce and chicken.
- Chicken Breasts: Use boneless, skinless chicken for ease of shredding. You can also use chicken thighs or a combination of breasts and thighs.
Pro Tip: This recipe works perfectly in a 2.5-quart slow cooker. If planning to make more than 4 chicken breasts, you’ll want a larger one!
Variations on Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken
There are so many ways to change up this BBQ chicken to suit your needs. I like to add fresh onions and garlic to the pot when I have extra time. Try some of these other variations!
- Spicy Chipotle: Add some heat to your BBQ chicken by mixing in chipotle peppers in adobo sauce along with BBQ sauce, sliced jalapeños, and a touch of honey.
- Hawaiian: Create a tropical twist by combining chicken with BBQ sauce, crushed pineapple (with juice), soy sauce, and a touch of ginger. You can also add some red bell pepper and onion slices for extra flavor.
- Asian-Inspired: Make an Asian-inspired version by combining chicken with a blend of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, and a splash of rice vinegar. Optionally, you can add some sesame seeds or sliced scallions for garnish.
- Mustard BBQ: Experiment with a tangy and slightly spicy flavor by using a mustard-based BBQ sauce instead of the traditional tomato-based one. Combine the chicken with the mustard BBQ sauce, a bit of honey or brown sugar, and some spices like paprika and cayenne pepper.
Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It’s best to avoid dealing with skin and bones to make this recipe simple.
Chicken thighs will have a little more fat (flavor!) and more moisture.
Chicken breasts are leaner, but also don’t pack quite the same amount of flavor as thighs.You can use one or the other or a combination.
Once fully cooked, shred your chicken breast right in the slow cooker with 2 forks in the liquid! This will keep things moist and tasty. Using 2 forks to shred chicken is simple and easy, but some people like to place their cooked chicken breast into a hand mixer and shred that way.
Once your shredded chicken is completely cooled, you can put it in ziplock bags or airtight containers in 1 or 2 cup portions (depending on how much you think you’ll use at a time), and store in the freezer.
If it’s stored properly, the chicken will maintain good quality for about 4 months.
How to Store and Reheat
Store leftover BBQ chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through.
How to Freeze
Freeze this chicken whole or divided into individual portions in airtight containers or Ziplock bags for up to 4 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
This crockpot BBQ chicken is so versatile! You can serve it as a sandwich on a sesame seed bun topped with coleslaw and pickles (pictured), or with a side of mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, or rice. It makes a great filling for tacos or quesadillas as well, and it’s so tasty on top of salad or pizza!
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- 1½ cups BBQ sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- In a bowl, whisk the BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, onion powder, and garlic powder together.1½ cups BBQ sauce, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker.2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts, covering them fully.
- Cook the chicken on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.
- Shred the chicken directly in the slow cooker or remove to shred and return to the sauce.
- Give the chicken a good stir to coat it in the sauce.
- Know your slow cooker. When cooking 4 chicken breasts like this recipe calls for, I love using my 2.5 quart crockpot — it’s the perfect size and heats up quickly. If you’re doing more chicken than that, you’ll likely want to use a 4-6 quart crockpot. Note that if your crockpot is very full, it will take longer to heat and cook.
- Don’t overcook. I know it can be tempting to leave the chicken in for a long time as you would think it would end up more tender, but that’s not always the case. You really want to be sure you hit the sweet spot between “just enough” and “dry and unappetizing”.
- Keep the seasoning simple. You don’t want to end up with a week’s worth of single-purpose chicken (unless you do, I guess!), so by keeping the seasoning on this slow cooker shredded chicken basic, you can use it in a multitude of ways. It doesn’t scream “Mexican!” or “Italian!” or “curry!”.
- BBQ pulled chicken is great as a sandwich with a homemade slaw and pickles! You can also eat pulled chicken in a meal prep bowl, in a wrap, or as a taco.