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An easy dinner recipe comes to the rescue! Crockpot BBQ Chicken is a family-friendly meal that only requires about 5 minutes of prep. Serve it on a salad, stuff it in sandwiches, or wrap it in tortillas — the freezer-friendly, versatile meat appeals to just about everyone at the table. We love the sweet and savory pulled bbq chicken recipe with cornbread, biscuits, mac and cheese, collard greens, or coleslaw.

Side shot of a crockpot bbq chicken sandwich with a side of potato chips and coleslaw

BBQ Chicken

This easy crockpot bbq chicken recipe is one of my go-to dinner options on days when I don’t have time to cook. You simply dump the ingredients into the pot and go! When you get home at the end of the day, you’ll have tender, juicy, fall-apart pulled bbq chicken ready for a barbecue chicken sandwich, a cob salad, a taco, nachos, or your favorite veggies and sides. You can even use the pulled chicken on a flatbread bbq chicken pizza!

Pouring bbq sauce into a slow cooker

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for our favorite bbq chicken recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Barbecue sauce: I like a thick sauce for this dish (such as Sweet Baby Ray’s), so that it doesn’t get too watery and thin in the slow cooker.
  • Brown sugar: a dark brown sugar adds great molasses flavor, but light brown sugar will also be fine. This adds sweetness, but also helps to thicken the sauce.
  • Worcestershire sauce: for umami flavor.
  • Apple cider vinegar: a tangy, bright addition that cuts through the sweet, rich meat.
  • Olive oil: for richness and a smooth, flavorful sauce.
  • Smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder: classic ingredients in our favorite dry rub bbq seasoning. Adding extra spices to the slow cooker prevents the dish from tasting bland and watered down.
  • Chicken: you’ll need about 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs. The dark meat thighs tend to stay juicier over the longer cooking time, but either option is great.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
Adding boneless skinless chicken breast to a slow cooker

How to Make BBQ Chicken in Crock Pot

This idea came from my sister-in-law, who made a similar dinner when we were visiting a couple of years ago. With many small children to keep track of, the crockpot bbq chicken was an easy way to get a tasty meal on the table without spending too much time in the kitchen. It has a rich, sweet, and savory taste that can’t be beat. Jackie served the chicken with oven-roasted sweet potatoes and coleslaw from the deli, but it’s really versatile and pairs nicely with so many different sides.

  1. Whisk together the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning in a slow cooker.
  2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the chicken to the Crock Pot and spoon some of the sauce over the meat.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours.
  5. Remove the chicken to a cutting board or a large bowl and shred the meat with two forks.
  6. Return the pulled chicken to the slow cooker, stir with the sauce, and then serve as bbq chicken sandwiches or on its own!
Side shot of pulled bbq chicken in the crock pot

Can you overcook chicken in a slow cooker?

Yes, chicken that’s cooked for too long in the Crock Pot will become dry and tough. Since every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature, it’s important to keep an eye on your meat the first time you prepare this recipe. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

What to Serve with Pulled BBQ Chicken

Pile the shredded chicken on sandwich buns, use it on pizza, nachos, tacos, salad, or offer the tender, flavorful meat on its own with your favorite side dishes. Here are some easy options that go well with bbq chicken:

Square side shot of a crockpot bbq chicken sandwich

Storage

Leftover bbq chicken will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How to Freeze

To extend the life of your pulled chicken, store the leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

You can also freeze the raw ingredients together in a large Ziploc freezer bag if you’re prepping a batch of freezer meals. Thaw the bag in the refrigerator overnight, and then dump everything from the bag into a slow cooker when you’re ready to cook the meat.

How to Reheat

Place the cooked chicken and sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop. Cover with a lid and warm over low heat, just until the meat reaches the desired temperature (stirring regularly).

Side shot of the best bbq chicken recipe on a sandwich with potato chips in the background

Recipe Variations

  • Use your favorite homemade bbq sauce in this recipe rather than the store-bought version.
  • Serving a larger group? Double all of the ingredients.
  • Make it spicy by adding some cayenne to the spices.
  • Want to make pulled BBQ chicken in the Instant Pot? This is our favorite version!

Tips for the Best Crockpot BBQ Chicken Recipe

  • Use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. We find that the dark meat thighs stay a bit juicier during the slow cooking process, but they are both great.
  • Pick a thick store-bought barbecue sauce, which won’t get too watered down and thin in the Crock Pot. We like Sweet Baby Ray’s brand for this dish.
  • Be careful not to overcook your chicken. I find that the chicken breast or thighs have the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2-3 hours (at the most — sometimes they’re done in just 90 minutes). That keeps them moist and juicy, and prevents them from drying out. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Also remember — every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly.
Overhead shot of a bowl of pulled crockpot bbq chicken

More Easy Crock Pot Chicken Recipes to Try

Side shot of a crockpot bbq chicken sandwich with a side of potato chips and coleslaw

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
0 minutes
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 382 kcal
You only need 5 minutes of prep for this easy crockpot bbq chicken!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional, for serving: coleslaw, sandwich buns, pickles

Instructions

  • In a large slow cooker, whisk together the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  • Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place the chicken in the slow cooker and spoon some of the sauce over top.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours.
  • Shred the chicken with two forks. Stir the meat back into the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Notes

  • Use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. We find that the dark meat thighs stay a bit juicier during the slow cooking process, but they are both great.
  • Pick a thick store-bought barbecue sauce, which won’t get watered down and thin in the Crock Pot. We like Sweet Baby Ray’s brand for this dish.
  • Be careful not to overcook your chicken. I find that the chicken breast or thighs have the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2-3 hours (at the most — sometimes they’re done in just 90 minutes). That keeps them moist and juicy, and prevents them from drying out. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Also remember — every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the chickenCalories: 382kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 33gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 1086mgPotassium: 824mgFiber: 1gSugar: 38gVitamin A: 665IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 51mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: bbq chicken recipe, crock pot chicken recipe, crockpot bbq chicken, pulled BBQ chicken in crock pot, slow cooker barbecue chicken
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in September, 2013. It was updated in April, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was DELICIOUS. The best BBQ chicken I have ever made. I served this with your baked bean recipe and it was a huge hit!

  2. 5 stars
    This was delicious! It says to spoon “some” of the sauce over the chicken in the crockpot. What do you recommend doing with the rest of the sauce? Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna,
      We’re so glad you enjoyed it! We love to save the rest of the sauce to serve on the side for those who prefer more sauce or as a dip.

  3. Going to make this for the Super Bowl looks super yummy! I see you note if you want to make spicy add cayenne. How much would you add to a single batch?

    1. You can use as little or as much as you want, depending on how spicy you want your chicken! We recommend starting with 1 teaspoon, and adjusting it as needed.