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! This easy bbq slow cooker recipe is simple, made with just chicken and barbecue sauce.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Recipe
- It’s Great for Meal Prep. Just like this Shredded Chicken Sandwich recipe, this slow cooker pulled chicken recipe is great for meal prep and freezing. Portion it, then use it all throughout the week.
- Endless Ways to Enjoy. From sandwiches, salads, pizza, and more, there are countless ways to enjoy pulled BBQ chicken. See the “How to Use Crockpot BBQ Chicken” section below for yummy ideas.
- Easy Never Tasted so Good. Moist, saucy, and brimming with that sweet ’n smoky BBQ flair, this easy slow cooker BBQ chicken is one of those prized and precious dinners in which a ridiculously simple recipe produces an extremely satisfying meal. It’s the kind of back pocket dinner (like these Crockpot Ribs) that you and your family will want to make on repeat.
- The Chicken Is Fall-Apart Tender. Thanks to the slow cooker, the boneless, skinless chicken breasts become melt-in-your-mouth tender (no dry or bland chicken breasts here). While my BBQ Chicken Marinade makes this Baked BBQ Chicken succulent and flavorful, there’s something so satisfying about how juicy the slow cooker makes this crockpot BBQ chicken.
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 —
How to Make Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
- Chicken. Every bite of the tender, juicy pulled BBQ chicken is coated in the sweet and sticky sauce, making it truly scrumptious and taste great! I used boneless, skinless chicken breast to keep things light, but you could use chicken thighs or legs instead (see “Recipe Variations” below for tips).
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.
- BBQ Sauce. The BBQ sauce keeps the chicken moist during cooking, and its flavor will appeal to everyone at your table.
- Cornstarch. A cornstarch slurry thickens the sauce. Whisked in a bowl together cornstarch and water.
- Cook the Chicken. Cook the chicken breasts in the sauce on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or low for 4 to 5 hours.
- Add the Slurry. Remove the chicken and allow the sauce to thicken.
- Shred the Chicken. Add it back to the slow cooker. ENJOY!
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken Thighs. Follow the recipe as written but adjust the cook time. Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs should cook in 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 5 to 6 hours on LOW. (Chicken thigh fans, try Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken or this Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken recipe next.)
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken Legs. I suggest removing the skin first (it won’t get crispy in the slow cooker). Cook 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.
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken Wings. 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 want to try these Air Fryer Chicken Wings).
How to Use Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- Sandwiches. Pile it on a bun to make BBQ chicken sandwiches (use my Pulled Chicken Sandwich for inspiration).
- Salad. Toss it over a salad (it’s perfect for this BBQ Chicken Salad).
- Stuff it in a Tortilla. Use a tortilla to make BBQ-style slow cooker pulled chicken tacos or a quesadilla (like I did in this Pulled Pork Quesadilla).
- Nachos. Layer it on chips for slow cooker BBQ chicken nachos (you can use Chicken Nachos for inspo).
- Pizza or Flatbread. Everyone loves a BBQ Chicken Pizza or flatbread.
- 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. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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.
Take note from these Healthy Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes and serve leftovers over an Air Fryer Sweet Potato or Baked Potato.
What to Serve With Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- Salad. BLT Pasta Salad, Creamy Cucumber Salad, and Healthy Coleslaw would all be delicious with this chicken.
- Fries. Pair BBQ chicken with Grilled Sweet Potato Fries, Air Fryer Potato Wedges, or Homemade Fries.
- Beans. Serve BBQ chicken with Easy Baked Beans or Boston Baked Beans for a crowd-pleasing meal.
- Mac and Cheese. Whether you make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, or Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese, this combo is sure to be a hit!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- 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.
- Storage Containers. Perfect for make-ahead lunches, divvy up leftover crockpot bbq chicken into pre-portioned lunch containers.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken. Yes, it is possible to overcook chicken in a slow cooker, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so keep a close eye on them and use an instant read thermometer to check their internal temperature.
- Pick a BBQ Sauce You Enjoy. I highly recommend this easy homemade Barbecue Sauce, but store-bought sauce works well too. The BBQ sauce is a major flavor component in this recipe, so make sure you enjoy the taste of whichever one you choose!
- Cook Your Chicken on LOW. 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. If you need to cook the chicken on HIGH, however, they will still turn out delicious (just watch them closely).
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 (see post for directions on using thighs or legs)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water to make a slurry
- Serving suggestions: whole wheat or pretzel buns or 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°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 or chicken legs, 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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Frequently Asked Questions
While some sources may tell you to go ahead, putting frozen chicken in a slow cooker isn’t something I recommend. Because crockpots heat food slowly, frozen chicken will spend too long in the “danger zone” for bacteria growth before it reaches a food-safe temperature.
No. Raw chicken can safely be added to a crockpot so there is no need to precook it. Just make sure your chicken is fully thawed before adding it to the slow cooker.
Yes! 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.
1. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the Instant Pot (this prevents a “burn” warning).
2. Add the chicken. Pour the sauce on top (do not stir). Cook the chicken for 8 minutes of high pressure, then vent immediately.
3. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE mode and stir in the cornstarch slurry.
4. Cook the sauce, stirring often, until thickened. Shred the chicken and return it to the Instant Pot. Toss to coat and serve.
(This Instant Pot Chicken guide has even more details about making chicken in a pressure cooker).