Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Crockpot BBQ Chicken is wonderfully tender, tangy, sweet and smoky smothered in the most amazing homemade BBQ sauce and extra easy made in the crock pot!

Crockpot BBQ  Chicken is the perfect busy weekday meal or ideal for large gatherings and makes the best Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches!  It’s another recipe for your back pocket when you need an easy, stress free, make ahead dinner that tastes like you have slaved away for hours!

overhead view of crockpot shredded bbq chicken

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Recipe

The slow cooker has done it again, creating an easy, almost effortless meal that fills your home with the aroma of smoky backyard barbecue while you go about your business, not having to babysit the barbecue or worry about “what’s for dinner?”  Because barbecue is for dinner.   Juicy, tender, fall-apart, homemade barbecue sauce-smothered chicken, to be exact.

Its hard to imagine a more beloved all American meal than bbq chicken.  It’s perfect for so many reasons and for so many occasions because it’s just so irresistibly easy to let the crockpot do all the work — and everyone loves bbq chicken!  So naturally, finding a favorite slow cooker bbq pulled chicken is definitely a must.   I hope this version of shredded bbq chicken becomes your new favorite!

As in all barbecue chicken recipes, they are only as good as the barbecue sauce.  So in order to make this the best Crockpot shredded bbq chicken, I scaled down my favorite homemade barbecue sauce that I first created for my  Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs. 

It’s an intoxicating blend of ketchup, molasses, brown sugar and my secret ingredient, blackberry preserves, which balances out the acidity with subtle sweetness — and the best part is all you do is whisk the ingredients together!

To infuse the barbecue sauce with a rainbow of flavor, I added paprika, chili powder, chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Not too spicy, not too sweet, but just right.  But if you want it sweeter, feel free to add more brown sugar and if you want it spicier, feel free to add more chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper – totally customizable! And totally crave worthy.

pile of crockpot shredded bbq chicken on white plate with spoon

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Ingredients

This bbq pulled chicken recipe comes together easily with minimal ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts: Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for best results.
  • Cornstarch: Gets mixed with a little water to create a slurry. This will help thicken the bbq sauce.
  • Ketchup: Look for organic ketchup or one that isn’t sweetened by high-fructose corn syrup if possible.
  • Molasses: Make sure you are using unsulfured  molasses and NOT blackstrap molasses.  Unsulfured molasses is the finest quality and only a small amount of sugar has been removed from the first boiling.
  • Brown sugar: Sweetens the sauce and helps deepen the molasses flavor. This BBQ Sauce recipe is on the sweeter sauce like Sweet Baby Ray’s.
  • Blackberry preserves: Be sure to buy seedless preserves so you wind up with a smooth bbq sauce.
  • Cider vinegar: Adds the balancing tang to offset the sweetness.
  • Liquid smoke: This is a very common ingredient and should be easy to find next to the barbecue sauces in your grocery store.
  • Dried herbs and spices: I used quite a few herbs and spices to lend flavor and heat to this sauce.
homemade barbecue sauce for Crockpot BBQ Chicken pouring into slow cooker

Ingredient Substitutions

  • If you can’t find blackberry preserves, I’ve had readers comment they have had success using strawberry preserves, raspberry preserves, fig preserves, and apple jam.
  • You can use any variety of brown sugar you have on hand – light, medium or dark. 
  • You can use granulated sugar or honey if that’s all you have on hand but, in this case, I would reduce the sugar by a tablespoon or two and add extra molasses in its place.  You can also use a blend of sweeteners.
uncooked chicken breasts and bbq sauce in slow cooker insert

How to Make Crockpot BBQ Chicken

  1. After we whisk the barbecue sauce ingredients together, we pour it over our chicken in our slow cooker. 
  2. Let the chicken cruise for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low until its fall apart tender then shred.  
  3. The chicken will release moisture as it cooks and the barbecue sauce will thin as it bathes the chicken, so I like to thicken up my sauce at this point by whisking 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Add this slurry to your slow cooker along with your shredded chicken so your chicken can drink in all the juices and and the sauce can add “rich and thick” to is repertoire of tangy, sweet and smoky.

Our favorite way to down this Crockpot BBQ Shredded Chicken is piled high on rolls (homemade Hawaiian rolls pictured coming soon), with my coleslaw from my Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes, but they would also be delicious in wraps, sandwiches, salads, soups, taquitos, tacos, burritos, on pizza and even over rice.

Soooo many ways to eat this chicken which means soooo many easy, beloved meals for you! Thank you, back pocket Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken.  Thank you.

crockpot bbq chicken

Tips for Making Crockpot Shredded BBQ Chicken

  • Don’t let the chicken cook for too long. Unlike beef or pork, chicken doesn’t become more tender the longer it cooks — it just becomes tough and stringy.
  • You can shred the chicken on a cutting board using two forks. I’ve also heard that you can add it to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix it with a paddle attachment to shred. Who knew?!
  • I prefer making my own bbq sauce whenever possible, but you can of course use store-bought sauce if that’s easier for you.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Variations

  • Make it spicy. Add extra chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper to give the bbq sauce more of a kick.
  • Make it sweeter. Add more brown sugar to make the bbq sauce sweeter.
  • Make it tangier. Add a little extra vinegar to bump up the tanginess of this easy Crockpot bbq chicken.
close up of crockpot bbq chicken with metal serving spoon

Can I Prep Crockpot BBQ Chicken in Advance?

The homemade bbq sauce can be whisked together and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The chicken can be popped into the slow cooker and set to cook on low all day while you’re at work.

How to Store BBQ Chicken

This shredded bbq chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll last up to 4 days.

How to Reheat Crockpot BBQ Chicken

This slow cooker bbq chicken can be reheated in the slow cooker on low, in the microwave, or in a saucepan over low heat.

How to Freeze Shredded BBQ Chicken

Slow cooker bbq chicken freezes beautifully! To freeze:

  1. Prepare the chicken according to directions.
  2. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the meat to a large freezer bag OR portion into smaller size sandwich bags.
  4. Press bag(s) flat and squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  5. Seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  6. To thaw, place in your fridge overnight.
two open faced bbq pulled chicken sliders on parchment paper

What to Serve with BBQ Chicken

Not sure what to serve with pulled bbq chicken? Here are a few of my favorite bbq chicken sides:

bbq pulled chicken slider on parchment paper

Looking for More CrockPot Chicken Recipes?

Want to try this Crockpot BBQ Chicken?

PIN IT TO YOUR CHICKEN, SLOW COOKER, OR DINNER BOARD TO SAVE FOR LATER!

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken - this is our family's favorite BBQ chicken! Its tender, tangy, sweet, smoky and the homemade barbecue sauce is out of this world! I love making this for busy days or large gatherings!

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken

Crockpot BBQ Chicken is wonderfully tender, tangy, sweet and smoky smothered in the most amazing homemade BBQ sauce! Crockpot BBQ  Chicken is the perfect busy weekday meal or ideal for large gatherings and makes the best Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches!  It's another recipe for your back pocket when you need an easy, stress free, make ahead dinner that tastes like you have slaved away for hours!
Servings: 4 -6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • nonstick cooking spray

BBQ Sauce

Instructions

  • Lightly spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray then add chicken.
  • Whisk together all of the Barbecue Sauce ingredients and pour over chicken. Toss to coat.
  • Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or on LOW for 6-8 hours.
  • When chicken is tender enough to shred, remove to a cutting board.
  • Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water then add to barbecue sauce in slow cooker. Turn slow cooker to HIGH (if it was on low).
  • Shred chicken and add back to slow cooker. Cook for 20-30 minutes for chicken to absorb sauce and for sauce to thicken
  • Taste and add (one tablespoon at a time) additional brown sugar for sweeter, cider vinegar for tangier or chipotle/cayenne for spicier.
  • Serve barbecue chicken alone or in sandwiches, tacos, salads etc.

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34 Comments

  1. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Jen! You are making my mouth cry again! You do that a lot! I think many people think of slow cooker dishes as winter fare, but it has become my best friend since it’s gotten HOT here! Have you tried putting this on nachos? I’ve had pulled pork nachos and they are so good!!

    • Jen says

      LOL! Our mouths are so emotional 🙂 I used to be the same thinking the slow cooker was just for winter but once I started using mine in the summer I can’t stop – so easy and so nice not to be cooking in a hot kitchen! I haven’t tried putting them on nachos – shame on me – I think that is next – mmmmm! Thanks Dorothy!

  2. Jackie says

    Hi Jen
    Can you use boneless skinless chicken thighs, if so, the same amount.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jackie, I hope my response isn’t too late as I am just getting back from Lake Powell without any service. Yes, you can definitely use boneless skinless chicken thighs and yes, I would use the same amount – they will be delicious!

  3. Sharon Clark says

    Hello there: I would like to congratulate you on your fantastic receipes. I’ve tried several of them and have put them
    on my “favourite’s” list. I sure hope they keep coming via e-mail. I look forward to seeing your name when I open
    my computer for the day. As they say ….. you certainly “make my day” Thank you SO much and please keep them
    coming!
    You’ve certainly been through SO much medically, yet are willing to share with the world….
    You’ve sure earned a “special spot” when you go upstairs some day.
    Thank you,
    Your friend, Sharon

    • Jen says

      What a kind, warm email Sharon, thank you so much! You are such a thoughtful, lovely person to take the time to make my day! I love hearing that you have tried many of my recipes and they have made it to your “favorite” list – yay! And it means even more to me that you have read my story. Thank you for your generosity of spirit – my God bless you and yours!

  4. Judy Strouhal says

    I picked my son up from work and made him go in the store to get a few things to make this chicken! Thank you for another one

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Judy, hope you loved it!!

  5. Kathryn says

    Made this with the hawaiian rolls for sandwiches, so tasty!

    • Jen says

      What a fun lunch! That is awesome you made the Hawaiian rolls too! Thanks Kathryn!

  6. Layne says

    another great cook-while-you-church recipe that was even wonderful as leftovers. win!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Layne! Love that you are finding recipes that are ready when you come home from church – although it might make sitting through church a little more difficult 🙂

  7. Kara says

    Hi! I’d like to make this chicken, but was wondering how you think it would turn out without the blackberry preserves? I have all of the other ingredients, so thought I may try it without….or substituting with something else, but wanted to see what you thought….
    Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Kara! You can certainly leave it out – it adds a touch of complex sweet tang but definitely not necessary – you might just need some more brown sugar to taste at the end of cooking. Hope that helps, enjoy!

  8. Kara says

    This chicken was truly AWESOME! We LOVED it! We made sandwiches…next time I’m going to make your Homemade Hawaiian Sweet Rolls. I served them with your Million Dollar Mac N Cheese (always a huge hit), and followed it all up with the Turtle Poke Brownies! Thanks for an amazing dinner. 🙂 (Oh, I ended up getting blackberry jam….glad I did. 🙂 )

    • Jen says

      Hi Kara, I am thrilled you loved this recipe and what an epic meal! Seriously, I am drooling over your menu! I hope your family appreciates your awesomeness!!! xo

  9. Lori says

    Yummy!!!! This was so good. I usually make my BBQ chicken with bottled sauce- never again. My husband was at a business dinner and my kids kept asking how long until they could taste whatever smelled soooo good 🙂 When my husband got home, that was the first thing he said was, “What smells soooo good?”, Even though he just ate, he couldn’t resist a small sandwich!!! Then some homemade coleslaw and fresh cut baked sweet potato fries!!!

    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes 🙂 Definitely in my top 5 websites to go to for dinner ideas!!!

    • Jen says

      I am so honored I am in your top 5 websites for dinners, thank you! I am such a savory over sweet person that I have fun coming up with all sorts of (mostly) dinners so I love hearing when people are enjoying them – and it sounds like this was another hit! I am so happy your entire family loved this and your fresh cut baked sweet potato fries sound divine!

  10. Ashley says

    This looks tasty! I just bought a fancy BBQ sauce though – would I be able to use that instead of making the sauce? And if so, would I still need the cornstarch? Thank you!

    • Jen says

      You can absolutely use store bought BBQ Sauce and you shouldn’t need to add cornstarch. Enjoy!

  11. KitchenWren says

    This bbq sauce has become my go-to sauce. I have made it with the chicken and of course that was delicious, but I also make the sauce by itself to have on hand. I use coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar. For the preserves, apricot or peach works well, too, although I have left it out all together with good results.

    • Jen says

      I am so happy this has become your go-to barbecue sauce and good to know it works with apricot or peach preserves as well, thank you!

  12. Joan Craig Birdsall says

    Jen, this is the best recipe ever! It was easy to follow your instructions. Thank you for sharing the slow cooker Beef Brisket.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Joan, I hope I continue making recipes you will enjoy as much as this one 🙂

  13. Crystal says

    Could you freeze this?

  14. Crystal says

    I absolutely love all your food. I have tried over a dozen of your recipes and love them all! Thank you for all your work in making a great site.

    Do you think this chicken would freeze well in the sauce?

    • Jen says

      That is awesome you have made and loved so many of my recipes, thanks Crystal!!! Yes, I think this chicken would freeze great in the sauce!

  15. Mary Beth says

    Hi there! We had your honey lime chicken recipe in tacos for dinner. It has become our favorite meal so I am browsing your blog for other recipes! What is liquid smoke and how would the sauce change if that was left out? 🙂 thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Mary, I’m so pleased you are enjoying my honey lime chicken! Liquid smoke is a liquid flavoring that adds a smokey flavor. It can be found near the barbecue sauces in your grocery store. You chicken will still be delicious without it but it adds that “outdoor barbecue” smokey taste.

  16. Tammy says

    Hi! Love your blog and can’t wait to try this recipe. A dumb question for you….when you say molasses are you talking about the liquid kind in a jar? Thanks so much.

    • Jen says

      Hi Tammy, not a dumb question! Yes, it is the unsulphured molasses in the jar – it can usually be found by the barbecue sauces. Enjoy!

  17. Mandy says

    I can’t wait to make this! Do you think I could substitute the blackberry preserves with blueberry preserves?

    • Jen says

      Yes, I think that would still be tasty!