Pull out the bibs, keep your napkin at the ready, and grab the barbecue sauce, because today we are making one of my favorite slow cooker recipes: Crockpot BBQ Chicken!
Moist, saucy, and brimming with that sweet ’n smoky BBQ flair, this slow cooker BBQ chicken is one of those prized and precious dinners in which a ridiculously simple recipe produces an extremely satisfying meal (especially when paired with Healthy Coleslaw).
Just like this Shredded Chicken Sandwich recipe, this easy slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken recipe is freezer friendly and actually healthy.
5 Star Review
“I have just had this for the second night in a row and it’s fabulous. My husband loves it too – so he will be asking for it again!”— Beth —
I realize that this recipe is quite basic, BUT sometimes basic can be delicious—and EASY!
Embrace the basic. Let’s make some crockpot BBQ chicken. It will become one of the best recipes to have in your collection. I promise!
How to Use Crock Pot BBQ Chicken
As I discovered the week that I made it, this recipe’s versatile uses are limited only by your imagination (or how hungry you are). Here are 10 ways to use your pulled BBQ chicken:
- Pile it on a bun to make BBQ chicken sandwiches.
- Toss it over a salad (it’s perfect for this BBQ Chicken Salad).
- Stuff it inside a tortilla to make BBQ-style slow cooker pulled chicken tacos.
- Swap it for the leftover pulled pork in this Pulled Pork Quesadilla.
- Take note from these Healthy Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes and try it over a baked sweet potato or regular baked potato. (My cookbook has a short cut version).
- Layer it on chips for slow cooker BBQ chicken nachos.
- Following the thinking above: BBQ chicken over these crispy Baked French Fries or Sweet Potato Wedges. YAS.
- Three words: BBQ. Chicken. Flatbread.
- Try slow cooker BBQ chicken and rice.
- Eat it directly out of the slow cooker. Just do it.
How to Make Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
This crockpot BBQ chicken recipe uses three simple ingredients for maximum flavor.
It’s the kind of back pocket dinner (like these Crockpot Ribs) that you and your family will want to make on repeat.
- Chicken. Every bite of the tender, juicy chicken is coated in the sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, making it truly scrumptious. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast to keep things light, but you could use chicken thighs or legs instead (see “Crockpot BBQ Chicken Recipe Variations” below for tips).
- BBQ Sauce. The BBQ sauce keeps the chicken moist during cooking, and its flavor will appeal to everyone at your table. I highly recommend this easy, 15-minute Barbecue Sauce, but if you are in a hurry, store-bought sauce will work too. (Crockpot BBQ chicken Sweet Baby Rays’ style was one of the first slow cooker meals I ever made.)
- Cornstarch. A cornstarch slurry helps thicken the sauce.
Know Your Chicken Size/Weight
- This recipe is based on two pounds of chicken, which for me was 3 medium/large breasts, but you can scale it up or down as needed.
- The average weight of 2 medium chicken breasts is 1 pound, but this can vary based on the size of your breasts.
- Smaller boneless, skinless chicken breasts weigh about 6 ounces each, medium chicken breasts weigh 8-10 ounces, and larger breasts can be 12 ounces or more. If your chicken is smaller, make sure to check it early.
- In addition to chicken breast, you can follow this same recipe to make slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs and legs. More on that below in “Recipe Variations”.
- Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Pour the sauce on top, and cook.
Cooking Chicken on High vs Low in a Crockpot
Yes, it is possible to overcook chicken in a slow cooker, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so keep an eye on it.
- As a rule of thumb, I almost always cook boneless skinless chicken breasts on LOW for the best results. I find boneless chicken breasts, cooked on HIGH, tend to become dry, even if you check it early.
- However, legs and thighs can be cooked on HIGH with greater success due to their higher fat content.
- Whichever setting you choose, how long you should cook chicken in a crockpot will really depend upon your specific slow cooker. My slow cooker (I have this programmable one) tends to run pretty hot and cook things more quickly.
- Remove the chicken to a plate, then stir the slurry into the crock pot and thicken the sauce.
- Shred the chicken and back into the slow cooker. Add some green onion to make it pretty. Serve as desired. ENJOY!
Prefer dark meat? Don’t own a slow cooker but have an Instant Pot? Here are some of my favorite alternative ways to prepare this slow cooker bbq pulled chicken recipe.
To Use Chicken Thighs
- For crockpot BBQ chicken thighs, follow the recipe just as written but adjust the slow cooking times.
- Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs should cook in 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 5 to 6 hours on LOW.
- To the fans of slow cooker chicken thighs: Try this Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken or this Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken recipe next.
To Use Chicken Legs
- I suggest removing the skin first. Since this recipe is made in slow cooker, the skin won’t have the nice, crisp texture that you’d get from making them in the oven.
- Cook the crockpot BBQ chicken legs on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or on LOW for 5 to 6 hours.
- Thicken the sauce as directed, but leave the chicken legs whole. Return to the sauce to rewarm when ready to serve.
(I haven’t tried crockpot BBQ chicken wings, but if you decide to experiment with them, I’d love to hear how it goes! Alternatively, you may try these Air Fryer Chicken Wings).
To Make in the Instant Pot
Note that the sauce will not be as thick as with the slow cooker method, due to needing to add chicken broth to prevent the burn warning.
- Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the Instant Pot (this prevents a “burn” warning).
- Add the chicken. Pour the sauce on top (do not stir). Cook the chicken for 8 minutes of high pressure, then vent immediately.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE mode and stir in the cornstarch slurry.
- Cook the sauce, stirring often, until thickened. Shred the chicken and return it to the Instant Pot. Toss to coat and serve.
- To Store. Store leftover BBQ shredded chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. BBQ chicken can be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Meal Prep Tip
I like to prepare this chicken on Sunday for dinner and then divvy up the leftovers into smaller, individual portions to use for lunches all week long.
Recommended Tools to Make Crock Pot BBQ Chicken
- Whisk. Perfect for stirring the sauce without making a mess.
- Saucepan. An ideal way to quickly thicken the sauce if you’d like to speed things along.
Programmable Slow Cooker
A kitchen tool I can’t live without. Use it to make any of these healthy slow cooker recipes.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- 1 1/2 cups Homemade BBQ Sauce or your favorite store-bought sauce (the homemade sauce only takes about 15 minutes to make and is totally worth it!)
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water to make a slurry
- Serving suggestions: whole wheat or pretzel buns whole wheat tortillas, cheddar cheese, chopped green onion, baked sweet potatoes
- If you are making your own, prepare a Homemade BBQ Sauce.
- Lightly coat a 5-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with sauce, spooning the sauce all over the top. If you made a batch of the Homemade BBQ Sauce, reserve the rest for serving.
- Cover the slow cooker, and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on high or 4 to 5 hours on low, until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks, either on a cutting board or directly in the slow cooker.
- Thicken the sauce in the slow cooker. Add the slurry to the slow cooker with the remaining sauce. Whisk to combine, cover the slow cooker, and set to high. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes (see the note section below for a quicker stovetop method to thicken the sauce).
- Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker and toss to coat. Serve chicken warm on buns for sandwiches, inside quesadillas, or (our favorite) on top of a baked sweet potato with a sprinkle of green onion. Add additional BBQ sauce as desired.
- TO STORE. Store leftover BBQ shredded chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE. BBQ chicken can be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- You can thicken the sauce more quickly by transferring it from the slow cooker to a medium saucepan. Whisk in the slurry, and then cook on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring often until the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. (If your slow cooker insert is stovetop safe, you can remove it from the slow cooker and place it directly on the burner, but do not do this unless you are POSITIVE your insert is stovetop safe or it may crack).
- For directions on using chicken thighs, chicken legs, or cooking this recipe in an Instant Pot, please reference the blog post above.
- Feel free to double this recipe to feed a larger group. You may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- All slow cookers differ in temperature, so adjust the cooking time according to your experience. Cooking time may vary based on the make and model of your slow cooker.
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