Sweet, savory, and sloppy in the best possible way, these Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are an ideal summer meal or game day entertaining recipe.

A plate with BBQ pulled chicken sandwich

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Tender shredded chicken bathed in a homemade maple bourbon BBQ sauce, the slow cooker makes this juicy pulled chicken your pal.

Whenever I’m not sure what to make for a party, a crockpot (or Instant Pot) of tender, saucy pulled meat that we can serve sandwich-style is my go-to.

pulled chicken sandwich toppings with coleslaw

As with this Crockpot BBQ Chicken (a close cousin to this BBQ pulled chicken sandwich recipe, but with a different style of sauce), Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, and Italian Beef, using the slow cooker means:

  • You can prep the meal well in advance. Cook this pulled chicken the day before, then reheat it in the crockpot prior to serving.
  • Hungry guests can help themselves directly from the slow cooker while you relax.
  • Bun or no bun? Topped with Healthy Coleslaw or slaw on the side? Each person can assemble according to her preferences.
  • Everyone is licking their fingers happily by the end!
crock pot bbq chicken sandwiches with slaw on top

TIP!

Looking for a pulled chicken sandwich without BBQ sauce? Check out my cheesy Shredded Chicken Sandwich. It’s creamy, made in the crockpot, and perfect for entertaining and make-ahead family dinners.

5 Star Review

“One of the best recipes I’ve tried. A winner every time!”

— Christine —

How to Make BBQ Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

This is a dump-and-go style of crockpot meal.

Arrange your chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker, pour the sauce on top, and press play.

The chicken will become meltingly tender and absorb the sauce’s sweet and savory flavors.

From there, it’s shred, serve, and savor!

pulled chicken from slow cooker

The Ingredients

  • Chicken. For pulled chicken sandwiches, I prefer to use chicken thighs. The meat holds up best in the crockpot without drying out. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of dark meat, by the time it’s bathed in the sauce, all you will taste is juicy goodness.

Substitution Tip!

If you prefer, you can use this recipe to make pulled chicken breasts. Cook on low at start checking the chicken for doneness at the 90-minute mark. If the sauce is thinner than you would like, you can simmer it on the stove to thicken it further.

  • Ketchup. While I usually prefer to make my own barbecue sauce without ketchup (like with this Instant Pot Pulled Pork), when you are looking for a timesaver, ketchup is an excellent short cut to give you quick pulled chicken sandwiches in less time.

TIP!

Not all ketchup is created equal. To keep this pulled chicken healthy, look for ketchup with no added sugar. Even better, see if you can find one that is sweetened naturally with fruits and/or vegetables.

  • Bourbon. With its buttery, smooth, and lightly smoky flavor, bourbon makes a standout addition to BBQ pulled chicken.

Substitution Tip

If you prefer, you can substitute the bourbon for low sodium chicken broth.

pulled chicken sandwiches on a plate from the slow cooker
  • Pure Maple Syrup + Molasses. A touch of each deepens the sauce’s flavor and gives it the right notes of natural sweetness.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + Dijon Mustard. The acid and the zip to balance the sweet.
  • Worcestershire Sauce. The umami factor! It’s one of those ingredients you can’t pick out separately but that contributes to the overall flavor of the dish.
  • Garlic Powder + Onion Powder + Red Pepper Flakes. Each ups the taste-factor of the sauce.

TIP!

These pulled chicken sandwiches are more smoky and sweet than spicy, but if you prefer a spicy chicken sandwich, feel free to up the amount of red pepper flakes or add hot sauce.

The Directions

boneless chicken in a slow cooker
  1. Place chicken thighs in the slow cooker.
maple bbq sauce in a measuring cup
  1. Mix up the homemade BBQ sauce.
pulled chicken sandwiches with BBQ sauce in the slow cooker
  1. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
pulled chicken sandwiches with homemade BBQ sauce
  1. Cook for 2 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low, until the chicken is cooked through.
healthy shredded chicken for sandwiches
  1. Shred the chicken
BBQ pulled chicken for sandwiches
  1. Assemble the sandwiches and ENJOY!
a plate with a pulled chicken sandwich on a bun with slaw

Pulled Chicken Sandwich Toppings

Set up a sandwich bar and allow guests to assemble their own. Here are a few of my favorite ways to top a pulled chicken sandwich.

  • Healthy Coleslaw. In my family, it’s not a barbecue sandwich until you add the slaw. This is creamy, fresh, and bright.
  • Barbecue Sauce. Your favorite store brand, or try this homemade Barbecue Sauce.
  • Cheese. Take a note from the BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes in my cookbook and top your pulled chicken sandwich with cheese. Sharp cheddar or pepper jack would both be an excellent pairing.
  • Potato Chips. OK, I know this sounds weird, but the saltiness and crunch are a surprisingly delightful counterpoint to the tender, sweet pulled chicken.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover pulled chicken for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm the meat over the stovetop or gently in the microwave, with a splash of water or chicken broth to keep the chicken from becoming too thick or dry if needed.
  • To Freeze. Let the chicken cool completely, then portion into freezer safe containers of your desired size (you also can freeze it flat in a sturdy ziptop bag). Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ve gone even longer). Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Meal Prep Tip

Fully cook the pulled chicken up to 1 day in advance. Rewarm it on the stove or directly in the crockpot with a splash of water or broth stirred in if it start to become dry.

Leftover Ideas

While a sandwich is the obvious answer for how to serve pulled chicken, it’s certainly not the only option! In addition to making a leftover pulled chicken sandwich, you can use your bounty to make:

Good Pairings with Pulled Chicken

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Whisk. This smaller whisk gets the job done, but takes up less space in your drawers.
  • Measuring Cups. Durable, and microwave-safe and dishwasher-safe.

The Best Slow Cooker

This 6-quart crockpot is easily programmable, and it’s locking lid is a great feature for taking to potlucks and family gatherings.

crock pot bbq chicken sandwiches with slaw on top

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Pile that BBQ pulled chicken high! The one with the messiest chin wins.

crock pot bbq chicken sandwiches with slaw on top

Pulled Chicken Sandwich

4.67 from 6 votes
Moist, juicy BBQ pulled chicken sandwich recipe with creamy slaw topping. Made easy in the slow cooker. Perfect for a crowd or meal prep!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 10 mins

Servings: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (I recommend Grade B)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus optional additional for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Healthy Coleslaw for serving (I recommend swapping the bell pepper for 1 Granny Smith apple cut into matchsticks)
  • Whole wheat buns for serving

Instructions
 

  • For the chicken: Place the chicken thighs in the bottom of a 5-6 quarter slow cooker.
  • In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the ketchup, bourbon, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire, onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  • Cover and cook for 2 hours on high or 4-6 hours on low, until the chicken is cooked through.
  • While the chicken cooks, prepare the Healthy Coleslaw.
  • Transfer the cooked chicken to a large bowl or plate and shred with two forks.
  • Assemble the sandwiches: Spread the buns with Dijon mustard (optional). Pile the shredded chicken onto the bottom bun, top with slaw, then add the top bun. Enjoy warm.

Notes

  • TO STORE. Refrigerate leftover pulled chicken for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT. Rewarm the meat over the stovetop or gently in the microwave, with a splash of water or chicken broth to keep the chicken from becoming too thick or dry if needed.
  • TO FREEZE. Let the chicken cool completely, then portion into freezer safe containers of your desired size (you also can freeze it flat in a sturdy ziptop bag). Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ve gone even longer). Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 6, without the bun or slawCalories: 316kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 30gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 144mgPotassium: 612mgFiber: 1gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 295IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 2mg

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Related Recipes

Thanks to its versatility and ease, the crock pot is a great way to cook tender meat. Here are some of my favorite slow cooker chicken recipes:

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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55 Comments

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  1. I stumbled across your blog while trying to find slow cooker recipes my finicky boyfriend would eat. I read through a few and he insisted we try this one. The slaw is too much of a crunchy vegetable stretch for him right now but I really wanted know how the apple flavor would play with the chicken so I found an apple bourbon. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the great recipes, keep them coming!

  2. I made this tonight – delicious! Really so great. I used jack Daniels and cut it to 1/4 cup but that’s the only change I made. I added hot sauce to my sandwich to spice it up. Followed the slaw to a T but I used 2% greek yogurt. It was a very thick dressing but neither of us like mayo so we both really enjoyed this. We will absolutely be making this again. Thanks for a great recipe!

  3. Loved it. The next day I cooked a bag of baby carrots in the left over BBQ sauce on high for 2.5 hours in a 3.5 quart slow cooker. It was about 3/4 cup of the sauce, just enough to cover the carrots. Nom nom nom…

    1. That sounds like a great way to use up the leftover sauce, Melissa! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe . . . thanks for leaving such a wonderful review!

  4. Holy YUM!! Hubby and I made this for dinner tonight. We followed the recipe (mostly) as is.. the few substitutions we made was we used bone in, skin on chicken breasts and also added about half a jar of pickled jalapeños because we like some heat. The slaw was the perfect accompaniment! Can’t wait for leftovers all week! Served them with some baked sweet potato fries and we were both very happy campers. 4 stars

    1. YAY Kristen! I’m happy to hear the recipe was a hit. Thanks so much for giving it a try and taking the time to leave this wonderful review!

    1. Christine, I am so thrilled to hear this! Thank you for taking time to leave this stellar review too. It means a lot!

  5. Great! I made this for the 4th of July, and it is wonderful! I would love to amplify the maple flavor a bit, but really, it’s perfect as-is. I liked the slaw on the sandwich, not as much on it’s own. I am taking this chicken to our next potluck. Thanks, Erin!4 stars

    1. Hi Tara! I started adding nutrition info in 2016, and unfortunately it’s too time consuming to go back and add it to recipes published before that. If you’re interested, an online calculator like MyFitnessPal may be a helpful resource. I hope this helps!

  6. This recipe sounds yummy.  There are two of us, but I usually make meals for four (to have leftovers): can I cut this recipe in half and still use the crock pot?  Also, how about making tacos?

    1. Hi Phyll! I’ve never tried halving this recipe, but you could experiment with it. I think making it into tacos would be tasty! If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  7. Erin, am I supposed to place the shredded chicken back in the sauce and mix? I’ve made this twice and done this both times, and while it does end up a little drippy, so much of the flavor comes from the sauce. I just noticed a comment that mentions the leftover sauce, then looked back at the recipe and realized I don’t think it specifically says to mix it back in, so now I’m curious. Thank you, this happily fed me and my husband for three days this week!5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed this recipe, Emily! Thank you for sharing this kind review! You can mix the shredded chicken back into the sauce if you’d like or leave it out and add the extra sauce later as desired.

  8. I have to admit. I looked at the ingredients and thought, will this really work? And holy smokes it did! I had apple bourbon so I used that instead of regular bourbon. And the flavor is awesome! Sweet and tangy!5 stars

  9. Quick question, I need this to feed a large crowd so I’m going to double it but I was thinking of doing half chicken breasts and half thighs, do you think the cooking time would be close enough to work for both? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kristin, I’ve only done it with one type of chicken at a time, so it would be hard for me to say! If you decided to experiment, let me know how it goes!

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