BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA to rival any restaurant is easy to make at home!

This homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza will give your favorite restaurant version a run for its money. It’s smothered in sweet, tangy, smoky BBQ sauce, juicy seasoned chicken, tangy red onions, buttery mozzarella and the secret ingredient – precious smoky, Gouda cheese.  The BBQ Chicken Pizza bakes and bubbles to gooey glory then is crowned with fresh, zesty cilantro.  You simply can’t beat the intoxicating layers of flavor.  You can go super simple and use store-bought BBQ sauce and store-bought pizza dough for a dinner that comes together in minutes or do a little prep ahead and use homemade BBQ Sauce and homemade pizza dough for an unbeatable thick-style pizza crust that also comes together in minutes – with just a little more prep 😉.  No matter which culinary adventure you choose, you are going to love this BBQ Chicken Pizza made in the comfort of your own home!

top view of BBQ Chicken Pizza with BBQ chicken pizza, red onions and cilantro sliced

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BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA RECIPE

BBQ Chicken Pizza has to be one of the most beloved “non-traditional” pizzas served at every Italian American pizzeria. I first fell in love with it at California Pizza Kitchen, along with my other favorite Thai Chicken Pizza, way back in the day when CPK was just a yellow and black checkered restaurant.  While CPK’s walls and menu have changed throughout the decades – one thing has stayed constant – their signature BBQ Chicken Pizza. 

This BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe is inspired by the wildly popular CPK version and couldn’t be any more delicious!  In fact, when Patrick sunk his teeth into a slice, he exclaimed, “This tastes just like CPK!”  Little did he know, that was exactly what I was going for. So today, I am thrilled to share my version of CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza with you!

REASONS YOU’LL LOVE THIS BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA:

  • Family friendly:  EVERYONE loves pizza night and they will love this new family tradition.  This BBQ Chicken Pizza also makes fabulous game day food,  party food, or company food.
  • Less expensive:  serve the whole family this flavor bursting dinner for a fraction of the cost of dining out.
  • RESTAURANT delicious:  layer upon layer of flavor and texture will have you skipping CPK for your homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza instead!  The homemade BBQ Sauce, homemade dough, seasoned chicken and gouda cheese elevate this recipe above the rest.
  • Pantry friendly:  you probably keep most of the BBQ Chicken Pizza ingredients stocked in your pantry or fridge so you can make this pizza any time.
  • Easy: season and cook your chicken, slather your dough with BBQ sauce and pile with chicken, cheese and red onions.  
  • Prep ahead:  all of the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time so dinner can come together in a flash.  My pizza dough recipe can be made days in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.  My homemade BBQ sauce can also be made weeks in advance.  This makes assemble super quick and easy – of course, you can also use store bought pizza dough and BBQ sauce which is also quick and easy.
  • Customizable: top your pizza with more or less of the ingredient or add whatever you crave.
  • Easy to Double: my pizza dough recipe makes enough for two 12-inch pizzas, so you can double the BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe and make two pizzas, or you can freeze the other half of the dough for later.
showing how to garnish BBQ Chicken Pizza by adding cilantro to a slice of pizza on a white platter
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What’s on a BBQ chicken pizza?

This BBQ Chicken Pizza is sweet and tangy from the BBQ sauce, earthy, robust and smokey from the spice rubbed chicken, zesty from the red onions and cilantro and delightfully cheesy from the mozzarella and gouda all piled on a garlic salt infused soft and chewy crust with crispy edges – drool.  Here’s what you’ll need:

THE CHICKEN

  • Chicken breasts: You will need one large uncooked chopped chicken breasts or about 12 oz./1 ½ cups chopped chicken. The chicken is tossed with smoked paprika, chili powder, onion, powder, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder and salt before it’s cooked – so it isn’t just bland chicken coated in barbecue sauce, but mesmerizing chicken enveloped in BBQ sauce. 
  • Rotisserie chicken:  If you don’t want to cook your own chicken (although I promise it takes all but 5 minutes), you can also use leftover cooked chicken or shredded, chopped rotisserie chicken and toss it in the same seasonings.

THE BBQ Sauce

  • Store-bought BBQ Sauce:  You can use your favorite sweet barbecue sauce such as Sweet Baby Rays or honey-BBQ sauce to most closely resemble CPK BBQ Chicken flavor although I highly suggest making my homemade BBQ Sauce recipe.
  • Homemade BBQ Sauce:  My homemade BBQ Sauce recipe is an intoxicating blend of sweet, tangy, spicy, smoky and ready in less than 20 minutes – 15 of those minutes are hands-off simmering!  You can whip it up weeks in advance so it doesn’t require any extra time when making the BBQ Chicken Pizza and I promise it is worthy every second of the 15 minutes!   It’s made by simmering simple pantry staples of ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, seasonings and my secret ingredient to create layers of complex flavor you will crave. Here are just a few comments regarding the Homemade Barbecue Sauce (on my ribs post):

Absolutely incredible!! My husband is a huge BBQ rib fan. He’s been to rib competitions always looking for the best BBQ sauce. He was blown away. I haven’t even finished digesting and felt the need to leave this comment asap. Lol thank you...” – Danielle

…. The best part is your BBQ sauce. That is the best I have ever had and I will be making my own (your recipe) from here on out. I was skeptical reading all the posts about how good it was and I now know why. Absolutely amazing…” – Terry

“…That BBQ sauce is amazing, I will definitely be using that sauce from now on!” – Kristen

So, while it’s easier and more convenient to squeeze a bunch of store-bought barbecue sauce on your BBQ Chicken Pizza, I promise the homemade BBQ Sauce is very simple to make and will make this the best BBQ Chicken Pizza you ever tasted!

showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza by spooning BBQ sauce out of a glass jar

THE CHEESE

  • Gouda:   For the very best flavor and for the signature BBQ Chicken Pizza flavor, you will want to use both Gouda and mozzarella cheese.  Gouda is mildly sweet, smoky, and melts gorgeously.   Its smokiness beautifully complements the sweet BBQ sauce and fresh cilantro.   Gouda is usually found with the deli/specialty cheeses at your grocery store.  You can use half for this BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe and the rest in my Homemade Mac and Cheese -YUM!  If you don’t want to make the extra trip to the store, you can skip the Gouda and use mozzarella instead – but next time, the restaurant delicious time – go for gold and use Gouda.
  • Mozzarella: adds the signature pizza flavor.   Use low-moisture fresh mozzarella instead of mozzarella packed in water or the cheese will weep too much and leave you with a soggy pizza. Also, do NOT use pre-shredded mozzarella as it is coated in anti-clumping chemicals which prevent it from melting nicely. 

THE ZIP

  • Red Onion:  red onions add a pop of zippy fresh flavor that really make the pizza come alive.  Make sure to slice them thinly so they soften in the oven.  You can use as little or as much as you like.
  • Cilantro:  add another dimension of freshness with their citrusy, zesty flair.  Use more or less to taste.  Not a fan?  Simply leave it off.
showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe by spreading out toppings:  BBQ chicken, BBQ sauce, thinly sliced red onions, cilantro mozzarella and Gouda cheese in bowls on a white counter

ADDITIONAL TOPPINGS IDEAS:

I love BBQ Chicken in its perfect simplicity, but you can also use it as a springboard to add your favorite toppings such as:

  • Crumbled bacon
  • Ham
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sweet Corn
  • Olives
  • Jalapeños

LET’S TALK Pizza DOUGH

Store-Bought Pizza Dough

Store-bought pizza dough is a nice shortcut when you haven’t prepped ahead, don’t want to spend any extra time in the kitchen or life simply gets in the way.   You can purchase pizza dough at the deli section of specialty grocery stores or even some pizza shops will let you buy it.   In a pinch, you can always purchase dough in a can which is still tasty, but don’t expect restaurant-delicious results.

Homemade Pizza Dough

Of course, while store-bought pizza dough is convenient, I highly suggest making homemade pizza dough. Just like nothing compares to homemade bread, nothing compares to homemade pizza dough.  It’s thick, soft and chewy, baked with olive oil and garlic salt for superior flavor and texture which translates into the BEST BBQ Chicken Pizza!   But in case you need convincing, here’s a sampling of the hundreds of rave reviews:

“I’ve tried different recipes but I just must say that this one is it!!!!” Jinelle

“Hands down the best pizza crust.”  – Hanisha

“Best pizza dough ever!!!! Restaurant style in my kitchen. Great taste and crispy.” – Cathy

As much as you’ll love how tasty this pizza dough is, you will love how easy it is – SO much easier than you might think!  After you make pizza dough for the first time, the irrational fear will flee and you’ll be enjoying pizza night bi-weekly – or at least be strongly tempted to.  

My homemade pizza dough recipe is perfect for beginners because I’ve included step by step photos and lots of tips and tricks to guarantee success every time.  This pizza dough is also wonderful because you can refrigerate or freeze the dough!  After you let the dough rise and divide into two balls, you can refrigerate or freeze the dough until ready to use.  Now, you can have homemade pizza dough at your fingertips at a second’s notice for this BBQ Chicken Pizza, Philly Cheesesteak Pizza or Pulled Pork Pizza.

Note: My pizza dough recipe makes two pizzas, so you can either double the BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe (which is for a single pizza), or save the other pizza dough for later.

showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza by slicing pizza after it's baked

How to Make BBQ Chicken Pizza

Now let’s get to the main event. Once you have all of your ingredients for this BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe, actually making the pizza is super quick. Here’s how:

PIZZA DOUGH:  Prepare homemade pizza dough according to directions.  For both homemade and store-bought dough, brush the shaped dough lightly with olive oil to prevent it from becoming soggy. Lightly sprinkle the dough with garlic salt (don’t forget the edges!) and poke several times with a fork.  

Showing how to make Homemade Pizza Dough by rolling dough onto a pizza stone

CHICKEN:  Whisk together the chicken seasonings in a small bowl. While the chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry so the seasonings will stick.  Sprinkle the chicken evenly with the seasonings then toss to evenly coat.  Cook the chicken just until cooked through then combine with 3 tablespoons BBQ Sauce.

ASSEMBLE:

  • Evenly spread ⅓ cup BBQ sauce over the top of the dough.
showing how to make BBQ Sauce over pizza doughQ Chicken Pizza recipe by cooking chicken in a cast iron skillet then tossing in BBQ sauce by spreading BB
  • Top evenly with cooked chicken.
showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe by topping pizza dough with BBQ chicken
  • Top with Gouda and mozzarella cheeses.
showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe by topping pizza with mozzarella cheese and Gouda
  • Top with red onions.
showing how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe by topping cheese with red onions

BAKE:  Bake pizza at 475 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with cilantro, if desired.  Slice with a pizza cutter and serve immediately.

top view or BBQ Chicken Pizza by on a white platter garnishing with cilantro

How do you make pizza dough crispy at home?

To achieve a crust that is crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside you need a very hot pizza stone or perforated pan (you can also use a baking sheet in a bind).  To do this. preheat the pizza stone/pan in the oven for 30 to 60 minutes at 475 degrees F while you roll out your dough. Once you transfer your pizza, the dough will begin to sear immediately resulting in a beautify crispy exterior and soft and chewy interior.

MAKE AHEAD BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA RECIPE

The components of this BBQ Chicken Pizza can be completely made ahead so all that’s left to do at dinner time is assemble the pizza.

  • THE DOUGH:  Let dough rise through the second rise, then tightly wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for longer storage. When ready to use, unwrap the refrigerated dough and place it on floured surface, parchment paper or nonslip mat.  Let the dough come to room temperature before rolling out, about 30-60 minutes while you preheat the pizza stone.
  • THE BBQ SAUCE: Can be made ahead, cooled and stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • THE CHICKEN:  Can be cooked and coated in BBQ sauce then stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days before assembling the pizza.
  • RED ONIONS:  Can be sliced and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

HOW MANY DOES BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA RECIPE SERVE?

This BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe makes one 12-inch pizza, or 8 slices.  The servings will depend on how big of eaters you have and how substantial your side are, so anywhere from 3-5 people.    

HOW DO YOU REHEAT BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA?

To reheat pizza in the oven:

  • Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Transfer pizza (slices) to the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.

To reheat pizza on the stove:

  • Add slices of pizza to skillet and cover partially with the lid.
  • Heat over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until heated through. 

To reheat pizza in the microwave:

  • Microwave at 20 seconds intervals until heated through.  Be aware that the crust will lose crunch in the microwave. 
showing how to serve BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe by picking up a slice of pizza

CAN YOU FREEZE BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA?

Yes, you can freeze BBQ Chicken Pizza but be aware the cheese won’t have quite the same texture. To freeze:

  1. Bake pizza according to directions.
  2. Let pizza cool completely to room temperature.
  3. Add pizza slices to a large freezer bag and lay flat or wrap the entire pizza a few times in plastic wrap then in foil.  
  4. When ready to eat, remove from packaging and bake at 450 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. 

WHAT TO SERVE WITH BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA?

This BBQ Chicken Pizza is fabulous with just a big green salad, pasta salad and fruit.   Here are some of my favorites:

Helpful Tools to make BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe

  • Pizza Stone: The crust begins cooking/searing immediately when dough is placed on the hot stone which results in a beautify crispy crust on the bottom that’s still soft and chewy in the middle AKA perfection.
  • Instant read thermometer allows you to make sure the water is in that tight range of temperature needed to activate yeast.  This way you know that if the yeast doesn’t activate then it’s not the water – it’s the yeast and you don’t waste your time trying to get the water right.  It also gives you the peace of mind that once the water is in the right range, you’re guaranteed perfect pizza dough. 
  • Stand mixer:  I use my stand mixer because it saves time, elbow grease and it keeps my hands from getting gooey – but it’s not 100% necessary – the dough will just take a few more minutes and elbow grease without one.
  • Cheese grater: I use this kitchen tool constantly because FRESHLY grated cheese as opposed to bagged shredded cheese is always the way to go, especially in BBQ Chicken Pizza!  Using freshly grated cheese also saves money, tastes better, and MELTS better.
  • Cast iron skillet:  A quality cast iron skillet is a must in your cooking arsenal!   It is perfect for searing and creating a deeply golden exterior on everything from chicken, to roast, to pork and seamlessly transitions from the stove to the oven. I love my super high quality Staub and Le Creuset.   You can also go with a more economical, trusty skillet like this one which  also works very well but it will need to be seasoned and always rubbed with vegetable oil after using.
up close of a slice of a BBQ Chicken Pizza on a white platter showing how cheesy it is

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza will give your favorite restaurant version a run for its money. It’s smothered in sweet, tangy, smoky BBQ sauce, juicy seasoned chicken, tangy red onions, buttery mozzarella and the secret ingredient – precious smoky, Gouda cheese.  The BBQ Chicken Pizza bakes and bubbles to gooey glory then is crowned with fresh, zesty cilantro.  You simply can’t beat the intoxicating layers of flavor.  You can go super simple and use store-bought BBQ sauce and store-bought pizza dough for a dinner that comes together in minutes or do a little prep ahead and use homemade BBQ Sauce and homemade pizza dough for an unbeatable thick-style pizza crust that also comes together in minutes – with just a little more prep 😉.  No matter which culinary adventure you choose, you are going to love this BBQ Chicken Pizza made in the comfort of your own home!
Servings: 8 slices (1 12-inch pizza)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN

  • 1 ½ cups (12 oz.) UNCOOKED chicken breast chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH onion, powder, garlic powder, salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

PIZZA

  • 1/2 recipe homemade pizza dough or store-bought
  • 1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons homemade BBQ Sauce or your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce, divided
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese (low moisture)
  • 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 small red onion thinly sliced

Garnish

  • chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  • DOUGH: Prepare homemade pizza dough according to directions. For both homemade and store-bought dough, brush the shaped dough lightly with olive oil (prevents it from becoming soggy), sprinkle lightly with garlic salt (don’t forget the edges) and poke several times with a fork.
  • CHICKEN: Whisk together the chicken seasonings in a small bowl. While the chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and sprinkle with seasonings, toss to evenly coat; set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat until hot and rippling. Add chicken and cook through. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce.
  • ASSEMBLE: Evenly spread ⅓ cup BBQ sauce over the top of the uncooked dough. Top evenly with cooked chicken followed by cheeses and red onions.
  • BAKE: Bake at 475 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve immediately.

Notes

HOW TO PREP AHEAD 

The components of this BBQ Chicken Pizza can be completely made ahead so all that’s left to do at dinner time is assemble the pizza.
  • THE DOUGH:  Let dough rise through the second rise, then tightly wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for longer storage. When ready to use, unwrap the refrigerated dough and place it on floured surface, parchment paper or nonslip mat.  Let the dough come to room temperature before rolling out, about 30-60 minutes while you preheat the pizza stone.
  • THE BBQ SAUCE: Can be made ahead, cooled and stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • THE CHICKEN:  Can be cooked and coated in BBQ sauce then stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days before assembling the pizza.
  • RED ONIONS:  Can be sliced and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

HOW DO YOU REHEAT BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA?

To reheat pizza in the oven:

  • Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Transfer pizza (slices) to the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.

To reheat pizza on the stove:

  • Add slices of pizza to skillet and cover partially with the lid.
  • Heat over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until heated through. 

To reheat pizza in the microwave:

  • Microwave at 20 seconds intervals until heated through.  Be aware that the crust will lose crunch in the microwave. 

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8 Comments

  1. Heather Astaneh says

    I HAVE to try this recipe. My husband loves both chicken and BBQ and we both LOVE pizza. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

    • Jen says

      I’m so excited for you to try it, I think you’ll LOVE it!

  2. Lesli says

    Ok, this was a project, but such a fun way to spend a Saturday with my daughter!. And the results were PERFECT!! The whole family said it was the best BBQ chicken pizza they had ever had. They asked for it to be a weekly tradition! To do the recipe start to finish took several hours, but it was so worth it. The homemade BBQ sauce is about to be in our fridge full-time!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lesli, thanks for taking the time to comment! It sounds like you went the “from scratch” method – bravo! I’m thrilled the pizza was worth your time and is a newly requested weekly tradition! I love picturing you and your daughter in the kitchen making this – memories for a lifetime!

  3. Sue D. says

    I made this pizza over the weekend and it is absolutely delicious! I was worried that it might be a little spicy and was so happy that it was the perfect amount of spice. I will be adding this to my list of favorite pizzas. I even made the dough which turned out picture perfect.

    • Jen says

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Sue! I’m honored this BBQ Chicken Pizza made the “favorite pizzas” cut! Thank you!

  4. Maura says

    Delicious! Many thanks!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Maura, I’m so happy it was a hit!