Spicy BBQ Pulled Chicken is an easy slow cooker recipe full of flavor for the best shredded chicken sandwich.
Update: This recipe was originally posted in January 2011. The recipe and photos were updated and republished in June 2022.
I rarely think to make pulled chicken sandwiches, usually I opt for pulled pork. But these spicy pulled chicken sandwiches are so easy to make and have so much flavor! I love making these any time of year - they're great in the summer when you don't want to heat up the house! And they are also delicious in the winter when you want a hot meal.
What is spicy BBQ pulled chicken?
Spicy BBQ Pulled Chicken is a slow cooker recipe, made with chicken breasts and a homemade spicy sauce of tomato sauce, green chiles, chipotle chiles, vinegar and seasonings. The sandwich can be served on your favorite bun, or without any bread for a lower carb option.
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- tomato sauce
- diced green chiles
- chipotle chiles
- apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- dry mustard
- smoked paprika
- onion powder
- salt and pepper
- burger buns, optional
First, line your slow cooker with a liner. This is optional, but makes clean up so easy.
Then, whisk together the sauce ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, green chiles, chipotle chiles, honey, garlic, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, smoked paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper until combined.
Next, trim the chicken. Remove any fat from the chicken and place the breasts into the slow cooker. Pour the sauce on top, making sure the chicken is fully coated.
After that, cook the chicken. Cook chicken on low for 4-6 hours. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker an use a shredding tool or two forks to shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir into the sauce to fully coat again.
Finally, serve the spicy BBQ pulled chicken. Add pulled chicken to a burger bun or serve on its own.
Serving Suggestions for BBQ pulled chicken
My perfect side dishes for this pulled chicken are french fries and coleslaw. I like to add the coleslaw on top of the sandwich for some extra crunch!
I've made the following substitutions based on what I have on hand and the recipe is still delicious!
- diced green chiles: use a can of Rotel instead
- apple cider vinegar: white vinegar
- smoked paprika: regular paprika
- honey: equal parts agave nectar or 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- sauce: skip the homemade sauce entirely and use your favorite spicy, or non-spicy BBQ sauce
Pulled chicken usually involves slow cooking the chicken and shredded chicken can be boiled or baked.
Chicken breasts or thighs. Thighs will be juicier, but as long as you don't overcook the breasts, they can be used in place of thighs.
Chicken itself is a high protein, low carb meat. Overall this recipe is healthier as it uses a homemade sauce instead of a store-bought one which is typically high in sugar.
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Spicy BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 1 slow cooker at least 4 quarts
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts fat trimmed
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 4 oz diced green chiles
- 2 large chipotle peppers chopped
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 6 burger buns optional
- Whisk sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl.8 oz tomato sauce, 4 oz diced green chiles, 2 large chipotle peppers, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- Trim chicken of any fat.3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Pour sauce over chicken in the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 4-6 hours, then remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Shred chicken and return to the sauce, tossing to coat.
- Serve pulled chicken on a burger bun, or without.6 burger buns
Recipes on Cookaholic Wife are for information purposes only. Nutritional Data provided has not been evaluated by a nutritionist.
This was so tasty. Not very spicy but that's because I misread it and didn't put the chicken back into the pot to absorb all of the marinade (I only kept a few heaping scoops of it to store in the fridge). I also didn't use chipotle peppers, I opted for a chipotle sauce and didn't use enough. Afterwards, it was dry (no crap why because I forgot to throw it back in the crockpot and mix it with the simmering marinade) but I added my favorite bbq sauce and it was so good. (So good-looking that my family asked where I'd gotten dinner from, thinking I'd gone to a bbq restaurant.) Thank you! I'm saving this recipe!
Also used wet mustard and was still just as good--equal parts to the dry mustard.