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Crock Pot Barbecue Pulled Chicken Recipe

by Jeanette on July 29, 2013 · 33 Comments
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Pulled Chicken Stuffed in Sweet Potato © Jeanette's Healthy LivingThis Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Chicken just cooks away on its own, making dinner an afterthought. The sauce got rave reviews from my kids. Served on a toasted bun or baked sweet potato, it is hugely satisfying.

The other night when I made this Pulled Chicken recipe, the kids asked “what’s for dinner?” Usually, I don’t have any trouble explaining what I’m making, but that particular night, I wasn’t sure what to say. So, I told them I was making a barbecue-ish chicken on a bun, kind of like pulled pork, but with chicken. They didn’t quite understand what I meant, but one bite of this Pulled Chicken Sandwich and they stopped asking questions.

Pulled Chicken Stuffed in Sweet Potato © Jeanette's Healthy Living

The sauce in this recipe got rave reviews from the boys. I found the original recipe on Cooking Light and tinkered with it a bit. I decided to season the chicken breasts with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper before browning, which added another dimension of flavor to the otherwise bland chicken breasts.

Also, instead of simply putting all the sliced onions in the bottom of the pot and pouring the barbecue sauce on top of all the chicken as the recipe suggested, I dipped each browned chicken breast in the barbecue sauce and layered the onions and chicken in the crock pot to make sure all the flavors were disbursed evenly in the pot. I think these few extra steps made all the difference.

Pulled Chicken Stuffed in Sweet Potato © Jeanette's Healthy Living

After the chicken was done (be sure not to overcook the chicken breast, otherwise it will be dry), I shredded it and put it back in the pot. The only issue I had was that the sauce seemed a bit watery, so I blended the cooked onions into the sauce with a hand blender (you could also use a food processor). The sauce was still a bit thin for my liking so I reduced it a bit on the stove top, and then thickened it with a little cornstarch/water slurry. For a darker, richer color, I added a little soy sauce and ketchup (my kids are visual eaters). To keep the chicken nice and moist, I poured all the thickened sauce back into the slow cooker with the shredded chicken and mixed everything well to keep the chicken moist.

CCrockpot Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I served this Crock Pot Barbecue Pulled Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato style for myself, and on a bun for the boys. I’ll be making this once the school year starts – the crock pot is a great way to keep things cooking as well as warm with no hands.

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Great served over baked sweet potatoes or a toasted bun.
Serves: 10
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • dash of cinnamon
  1. Place half the sliced onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season chicken with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and chili powder. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and use a spatula to cover bottom of the skillet. Place chicken in skillet in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on both sides.
  2. In a bowl, mix together ketchup, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, vinegar, molasses, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, Sriracha sauce, cayenne and cinnamon. Dip chicken pieces in sauce and place in single layer in crockpot. Add rest of the onions, chicken and sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours until tender and cooked through. Do not overcook.
  3. Remove chicken from pot and shred using two forks. Blend sauce in food processor or using hand stick blender. If sauce still needs thickening, reduce it on the stove, and if desired, thicken with a slurry of a little cornstarch and water. Return chicken and sauce to crockpot, mix well and keep warm on low until serving time.
I added a little gluten-free soy sauce and ketchup to the sauce for color, reduced it down, and thickened it before serving. Adapted from Cooking Light.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Nutrition Label

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  1. This looks ridiculously tasty. I could eat a bunch of these, looks really appetizing.

  2. Oh yes, I think my family would love this, too. I’ve made kinds of pulled chicken dishes in the slow cooker.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Lydia, hope you have a chance to give this a try. The sauce needed to be thickened up a bit, but the boys loved it. I need to try your pulled chicken recipes – I was worried the chicken would be dry, but it wasn’t at all, so I’ll be making more pulled chicken in the crockpot come this fall when school starts up again.

  3. A sauce with rave reviews from the kids?? That’s all I need to hear!! Actually, it’s my husband who would gobble this dinner up. And he’d be pleased with leftovers for lunch the next day.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Kim – so funny, the kids kept asking me what was in the sauce. I think the combination of spices/sauces and the searing of the chicken w/ spices made all the difference. One of the boys took the leftovers with him to work the next day.

  4. *sigh* It’s recipes like these that make me yearn for a crock pot. This looks incredible. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      I’ve had my crock pot for over 20 years and it still works. It works great for certain types of recipes and for keeping food warm.

  5. The slow cooker is so great for making meals like this! Such tender, pull-apart meat!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Joanne, the slow cooker has saved me so much work on many occasions, and it works really well for certain dishes like this slow cooked pulled chicken. Going to be using it a lot more once school starts.

  6. This looks wonderful, Jeanette! I don’t use my slow cooker much anymore but now I think I need to dig it out.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks Carolyn – my slow cooker is more than 20 years old, and I keep thinking about getting a newer one with the low and high temperature controls, but for now, it still gets the job done.

  7. Mmmmm…sounds delicious! Love slow cooker recipes like this! :)

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks Sommer – slow cooked dinners are going to making an appearance more and more when school starts.

  8. Fabulous looking!!

  9. Love the idea to serve this over a baked sweet potato Jeanette! Looks delicious-will be busting out my crockpot soon!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks EA ~ this was really good, and I know I’ll be using my crockpot a lot more once school starts up again.

  10. Yummy!! I seriously need a crockpot. This look so comforting, Jeanette. Love the added mustard powder :)

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Kiran, you should get a crockpot. Great for keeping food warm too. I use it a lot during the school year when all the kids have after school activities.

  11. Mmmm, loooove me some bbq! This looks great.

  12. my family would love this!

    • Cheryl, the boys really loved this so I hope your family does too. Leftovers (if you have any) make great quesadillas.

  13. Sounds delicious, Jeanette. Thank you.

    • Thanks Liz, the boys really loved the sauce. Leftovers make great quesadillas or also good served over rice.

  14. I don’t own a crock pot because the electricity where we live is very expensive. I do have a clay baker which I sometimes use in our gas oven (much cheaper to operate) and wonder if you have any suggestions on how I could adapt this recipe to either a clay baker recipe or just in a casserole? Thanks so much.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Sheila, I’ve never used a clay baker, but if it works like a slow cooker, it should be fine. I have a claypot that I’ve used on the stovetop and it keeps food very moist. The casserole should work fine too; just cover everything well with foil and bake at a low heat. Make sure the chicken is covered in liquid to prevent drying out.

  15. Thank you, Jeanette. Happy Holidays to you and your famly.

  16. Very good dinner (sweet potato version) pared with a green salad. The stick blender didn’t work for me so I put the sauce in the food processor. Thanks Jeanette.

  17. Jeanette, did you reduce the liquid in the recipe for us or do we need it for the crock pot and should do the reduction process like you did? Sounds delicious!

    • Hi BJ, the chicken releases natural juices, so if you want a thickened gravy like the one in my pictures, you’ll need to reduce it on the stovetop and thicken it with a little cornstarch/water slurry. Enjoy!

  18. Oh my! This was excellent my husband and I thank you. I didn’t need to reduce and thicken sauce it turned out perfectly :)

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Jamie, so glad you and your husband enjoyed this recipe! Thanks for letting me know how it turned out.

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