This tender southern-pulled chicken crock pot recipe is so easy! Only 8 ingredients and about 5 minutes are all you need to make this deliciously tangy, smoky-sweet slow cooker pulled chicken - southern-style! Let's make it!
Oh, the flavor. Seriously, this is the best pulled chicken recipe - you'll love the fabulous flavor - it's salty, tangy, smoky, and sweet - with the perfect balance of flavors.
Dump it all in. Want that wonderful bbq pulled chicken taste - but with minimal effort? You got it. 8 ingredients, and a few minutes to dump all in the crock, turn it on - then walk away. Voila! Now you can have your favorite barbecue pulled chicken any day of the week!
Southern BBQ. Here in the southern states, we love our BBQ chicken! Depending upon where you're from in the South, each region is known for different varieties of barbecue sauce - some like it sweet, some like it hot, some a mix. Here in North Carolina, we love that tangy vinegar blend. This recipe is a blend of sweet and tangy - and can be adjusted to suit your taste.
🥘 Ingredients Needed for Crockpot BBQ Chicken
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this pulled crockpot bbq chicken:
- Onion: I used a yellow onion, but white or red onions may be used. Red will lend a sweeter taste. Substitute 1 tablespoon of dried minced onion or 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: use either boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs.
- Fresh Garlic: fresh minced garlic cloves, jarred garlic, or garlic powder (1 teaspoon) may be used.
- BBQ Sauce: use your favorite bbq sauce. Here in North Carolina, we are quite partial to vinegar-based bbq sauce, but in this recipe, using a sweet and vinegar blend works well for a nice balance of flavor. Use a store-bought brand - or homemade bbq sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: A classic in barbecue recipes! You can also use lemon juice to add tang and freshness.
- Olive Oil: only a couple of tablespoons are used but the oil aids in keeping the chicken moist.
- Liquid Smoke: this will give your chicken that wonderful bbq smoked flavor. It's a secret ingredient!
- Salt and Pepper: I prefer kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, but table salt or sea salt my be used.
For exact ingredient quantities, please see the recipe card below!
🔪 How To Make Crockpot Shredded Chicken
Here's how to make this easy slow cooker shredded chicken recipe:
To prevent sticking, spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray or use a crockpot liner.
In the following order, add onions to the bottom of the slow cooker, then top with chicken breast, garlic, 4 ounces of BBQ sauce, vinegar, olive oil, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper to the crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours or (high for 4 to 6 hours), or until the chicken is easily shreddable.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Transfer to a bowl or board and shred chicken.
Remove all but ½ cup of the juices, keeping the onions. Add the chicken meat back to the slow cooker. Top with the remaining BBQ sauce and hot sauce (if using), and mix everything together with the juices.
Adjust any seasoning as needed and add salt and pepper to taste.
Hint: be careful not to overcook chicken breast as it can dry out. Many slow cookers run hot on low. Know your crock pot and adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you are uncertain, try using chicken thighs, as they won't dry out as quickly.
🍽️ How to Serve It
There are several ways you can serve your delicious crockpot shredded chicken!
Meal idea! Turn your succulent chicken into pulled chicken sandwiches and serve on a hamburger bun topped with coleslaw and additional barbecue sauce. Serve with a side of baked beans.
To lower the carbs, wrap in lettuce leaves or serve over a chaffle.
🥗 What Sides Go With BBQ Pulled Chicken?
Coleslaw and baked beans are a classic pairing. Macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, or a tossed green salad would all go well with this southern pulled chicken crock pot recipe.
Here are some suggestions for customizing your crock pot bbq shredded chicken:
- Make it spicy by adding hot sauce, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper or using a spicy barbecue sauce.
- Add brown sugar to increase the sweetness.
- Change it up and make it crockpot bourbon bacon pulled chicken. Add 1 tablespoon of bourbon, and at the end, add in 6 slices of bacon that have been cooked and crumbled.
- Make it pulled pork and substitute pork butt for chicken breast. Boneless skinless chicken thighs may also be used in place of the chicken breast.
- Fresh chopped onion, minced dried onion, or onion powder can be used - see ingredient notes above.
- To boost the savory, salty, umami taste, use 1 to 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce or soy sauce - or more to taste.
- Fresh minced garlic or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder can be substituted.
- Make it low-carb keto crockpot bbq chicken by using a sugar-free bbq sauce and serving on a low-carb bun, tortilla, or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
💭 Slow Cooker Tips
Tip #1: Everyone has their own taste preferences when it comes to BBQ - am I right? 😉 The flavor of this recipe is highly influenced by the bbq sauce you use. Use your favorite brand. If you aren't which one to use, buy a good brand, and pick one with a blend of sweet and tangy - you can always adjust the flavor later.
- If you prefer a more vinegar-based bbq sauce use a heavy vinegar bbq sauce or add extra apple cider vinegar. Adjust at the end, and note how much you added for next time.
- If you prefer your bbq pulled chicken on the sweeter side use a sweet bbq sauce, or add brown sugar.
Tip #2: If you have to be away from your slow cooker for more than 6 hours, I would recommend using chicken thighs as they will not dry out as fast as chicken breast.
Tip #3: Shred the crockpot bbq chicken using two forks, or place the chicken breasts in the bowl of a stand mixer and shred using the paddle attachment.
To store leftovers, let the shredded chicken cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
To freeze leftover crockpot bbq chicken, let it cool, then transfer to an airtight freezer-proof container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Your chicken was overcooked, or not enough liquid was used to help keep in the moisture during the cooking process.
Boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs are the best for shredding chicken.
Chicken can be shredded easily with two forks, but you can also place the chicken in a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn on the mixer, and voila, the chicken will easily shred!
Cook boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, 4 to 6 hours on high, 5 to 7 hours on low.
Southern Pulled Chicken Crock Pot
- ½ cup onion (finely chopped)
- 2 pounds chicken breast (or, chicken thighs)
- 3 teaspoons garlic (minced)
- 1 (8-ounce) bottle of BBQ sauce (divided)
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- optional: 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- Spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray.
- In the following order, add onions to the bottom of the slow cooker then top with chicken, garlic, half of the bottle of BBQ sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper to the crock pot.
- Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours or until the chicken is easily shreddable.
- Remove chicken from the crock and shred in a separate bowl. Add the shredded chicken back to the pot then mix in the remaining BBQ sauce and hot sauce (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Don't miss all of our helpful hints, substitution ideas, cooking tips, and other delicious recipes that can be found in our post. Check it out!
- NOTES: use any favorite barbeque sauce and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- VARIATIONS: pork butt can be substituted for the chicken.
- SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve on hamburger buns or wrapped in lettuce and topped with coleslaw with a side of baked beans.
© 2023 Slow Cooked Eats
Leave a Reply