BBQ Pulled Chicken recipe is tender, flavorful, healthy, and ridiculously easy to throw together. It takes two simple steps, five minutes to prepare, and, effortlessly, dinner or party food is ready to go in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
best pulled chicken recipe
Summer entertaining is officially here. Now’s the time friends and neighbors to socialize at BBQs, graduation parties, and family reunions.
But summer also means a lot of impromptu entertaining. After spending all day at the beach or pool, it’s nice to keep the festivities going with family and friends. The problem is everyone is hungry, but no one has the energy to cook.
Throwing hamburgers or hot dogs on the grill doesn’t always have to be the standard go-to. BBQ pulled chicken is handedly more flavorful, healthier, and just as simple to throw together in the crockpot or Instant Pot.
How to Make BBQ Pulled Chicken (Slow Cooker)
- Mix spices together and rub on chicken breasts. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker with a little apple cider vinegar and water.
- Shred tender chicken with two forks and stir in your favorite barbecue sauce. I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s.
How to Make Pulled Chicken in instant Pot
- Mix together spices. Sprinkle on both sides of chicken in Instant Pot
- Add liquids and cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 7 minutes (10 minutes if chicken is frozen).
- Ladle out 1/2 cup of liquid to discard. Use two forks to shred chicken on a cutting board or, a faster option, use a hand mixer right in the Instant Pot. Stir in the barbecue sauce.
Intimidated by using an Instant Pot? Learn in minutes with this Easy Start Instant Pot Guide full of tips, hacks, and tricks.
type of chicken to use
To make shredded chicken, I typically use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. However, skinless chicken thighs is more tender and adds additional flavor.
This recipe may also be used with bone-in chicken. Cook as directed, shredding the chicken and discarding bones and skin before adding the sauce.
What to Serve With BBQ Pulled Chicken?
The object of stress free entertaining is to keep it simple and delicious, right? Typically pulled chicken recipes are served on buns, lettuce wraps, or gluten-free burger buns. However, it is also delicious on tacos, nachos, or used for chicken enchiladas with a dollop of sour cream!
Here are some equally effortless and delicious side dishes to go with it, many which go with baked beans or sides dishes for pulled pork as well!
- Grit Cakes
- Fresh Fruit Salad
- Bacon Roasted Green Beans and Potatoes
- Corn on the cob
- Oven Fries
- Broccoli Salad
- Jello Salad
- It also makes a great dish to serve with mac and cheese!
For these sandwiches we topped them with fresh, grilled (or, alternatively, broil) pineapple and an easy, cool Cilantro Jalapeño Coleslaw on top.
Serving coleslaw on pulled meat sandwiches is pretty much an essential for me. I love the taste of thick, creamy coleslaw dressing, the crunch of fresh ‘slaw, paired with the tender, smokey BBQ meat.
Using Litehouse Coleslaw dressing is an essential time saver and the perfect blend of sweet and tangy. Just mix a jar of Litehouse dressing with a bag of ‘slaw mix, and you have a cold, crisp side dish ready to go in minutes.
For these sandwiches, I added chopped fresh cilantro and some minced jalapeño to compliment the tangy, sweet chicken and pineapple.
How Much Pulled Chicken Per Person?
This recipe makes about 3 cups total of pulled chicken. For regular size buns, estimate about 1/2 cup per sandwich. If you’d rather serve smaller Hawaiian-style buns, estimate 1/4 cup per sandwich. This recipe can easily be doubled.
Regular buns – 6 sandwiches
Hawaiian slider buns – 12 sandwiches
Can I Freeze Pulled Chicken?
Yes! When you make this recipe you can always make double and freeze half. Or, if you have a party to prepare for in the future, make the recipe, cool, and freeze in gallon ziplock bags.
When you’re ready to use it, thaw overnight in refrigerator and gently reheat on stove, in microwave, or throw back into your slow cooker.
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BBQ Pulled Chicken Recipe
BBQ Pulled Chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¾ cup chicken broth (ONLY FOR INSTANT POT DIRECTIONS)
- ¾ – 1 cup BBQ sauce, I use Sweet Baby Ray's
- fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
- 14 ounce bagged slaw mix
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh jalapeño*, minced
- 13 ounce Litehouse Coleslaw dressing
- 6 Brioche buns
- In a small bowl mix together paprika, brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. Rub seasoning mix all over chicken breasts, on each side.
- In crock pot pour apple cider vinegar and water. Place chicken on top and cook on high for 3 hours or low 5 hours. When chicken is tender, use two forks to shred in slow cooker. Pour in BBQ sauce and stir to combine.
- Place chicken breasts in Instant Pot. In a small bowl mix together paprika, brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. Sprinkle tops with half of seasoning. Flip breasts over and sprinkle with remaining seasoning.
- Add water, vinegar, and 3/4 cup chicken broth. Cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 7 minutes (10 minutes if chicken is frozen). Natural release for 5 minutes, then quick release remaining pressure.
- Remove lid and ladle out 1/2 cup of liquid to discard. Use two forks to shred chicken on a cutting board or, a faster option, use a hand mixer right in the Instant Pot. Stir in BBQ sauce.
- For pineapple slices, grill about 4 minutes per side, or until pineapple starts to char. You can also place pineapple on a cookie sheet and broil 4 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, place slaw mix, cilantro, and jalapeño in large bowl. Pour in Litehouse Coleslaw dressing and stir to combine.
- Serve sandwiches on buns with pineapple, Cilantro Jalapeno Coleslaw, and additional BBQ sauce.
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This was simple to make and everyone loved it. Definitely will be a staple in our menu!
So glad to hear! We enjoy this a lot year round 🙂
Made this last night and the whole family loved it! We also warmed it back up for lunch today. We didn’t do the pineapple or coleslaw, only mayo and cheese. This will be my go-to for all family cookouts from now on! I’ve never liked bbq chicken or pork on a bun but this changed my mind! Thank you!
I’m so glad you gave this recipe a shot and even happier it changed your mind. Mayo and cheese sounds equally amazing to me too! If I’m making it for a weekday dinner, I tone it down too. The slaw and pineapple is great when entertaining or you just have some extra motivation!
I just have to say that my wife made this recipe and it is amazing. We ate it 2 nights in a row. Sadly my daughter likes it better than the BBQ chicken i spend 12 hours smoking.
John, Although I’m glad you and your family were huge fans of the BBQ chicken, it saddens me your daughter hasn’t dished out accolades for your smoked BBQ chicken. Perhaps you have another skill you can wow her with, like some killer dance moves? 😉
Susan Kirk says
Thanks Susan! Glad you liked it. 🤗