BBQ Pulled Chicken

6 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

BBQ Pulled Chicken with baked tender chunks of chicken breast, so easy and convenient you’ll skip the slow cooker for this quick meal.

Serve up this summertime favorite with more Sumer Side Dishes like the incredibly easy KFC Coleslaw (Copycat), the flavorful Three Bean Salad, and the delicious Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese for the easiest and most delicious summer cookout meal made indoors!

BBQ Pulled Chicken on bun with BBQ sauce

BBQ Pulled Chicken is a summer favorite, and it’s much easier and less messy to eat than classic BBQ chicken. This dish can absolutely be made on your grill, but making this in the oven is one of the easiest recipes to keep in your year round arsenal.

This recipe is a two for one deal. You get oven healthy oven baked chicken breasts, smothered in a homemade BBQ sauce without any processed ingredients. It may take a few more minutes to mix together but the flavors are out of this world.

Pulled chicken is generally made one of three ways, cooked on a grill, cooked in an oven or cooked in a slow cooker. They all have their merits but making a pulled chicken recipe in an oven is the easiest option that keeps the chunks firm and flavorful (the slow cooker is the easiest option but the meat will fall apart when served).

You’ll love to use this recipe to make pulled bbq chicken burgers, easy enough to just pile on the chicken and the sauce.  You can also brown the buns on a griddle in some butter when you feel fancy or indulgent, but the sauce is delicious on an un-toasted bun as well.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Collage of prep steps

How to Make BBQ Pulled Chicken

This recipe is so easy to make during busy weeknights with only a few simple steps and a cooking time that’s under an hour! Plus, the incredible flavor will make this easily become one of your family favorites! Check it out! 

  • Step One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees then make the sauce. 
  • Step Two: Pour the BBQ sauce on top of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and let them cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, or a bit more if needed. 
  • Step Three: Shred the chicken with a fork or two, mix in extra BBQ sauce from the pan, and enjoy! 

More Great BBQ Chicken Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use frozen chicken breasts? 

If you’re in a pinch and only have frozen chicken, it will be okay. The secret to great tasting chicken is to get the sauce into the chicken when it’s room temperature. Try to thaw quickly over running hot water if you can. The frozen chicken will also have more water in it which might make the sauce a little less thick. Simply cook the sauce and stir to let off water by steam. This will help thicken the sauce. 

Do I have to make the sauce, or can I use pre-made BBQ sauce? 

There’s nothing like freshly made barbecue sauce! But, if you know what you like and/or you’re in a time crunch, then using store-bought BBQ will work great. 

Is pulled chicken the same as shredded chicken?

Yes! Pulled chicken and shredded chicken are the same. It’s just different words used to describe the same thing. 

Is this recipe spicy?

No, it’s not spicy. But, if you’d like some heat, try adding some Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper to the mix for that extra kick! 

How much liquid smoke should I add to give it a smoky flavor?

Try adding a tablespoon of liquid smoke to the BBQ sauce for that extra smoky flavor you love! You can also try adding a teaspoon smoked paprika or chipotle powder (from smoked jalapeños) to the sauce as well. 

BBQ Pulled Chicken Collage of prep steps

Key Ingredients in BBQ Pulled Chicken

Simple ingredients and cook time under an hour make this one of the best weeknight meals ever! If you’ve got a good barbecue sauce already, that’s okay. But we highly recommend making your own! All the ingredients can be found in or near the spice section at your local grocery store. Check out the ingredients!

  • Chicken: We’re using boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this recipe. We took them out of the freezer and let them thaw in the fridge overnight until we were ready to start cooking. 
  • BBQ Sauce: The homemade BBQ sauce is worth it! With a few dry ingredients like dark brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and dry mustard, you’ll mix them with ketchup, some vinegar (apple cider vinegar is best, and a couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. So good! 

Ingredient Substitutions for BBQ Pulled Chicken

  • Chicken: You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs too! Pork is also a great substitute for this recipe. 
  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Chili Powder: If you don’t have chili powder, you can substitute it with paprika. 
  • Garlic Powder: If you don’t have garlic powder, you can substitute it with 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced, or a tablespoon of premade garlic paste.
  • Onion Powder: Onion powder is incredibly concentrated. Substitute one teaspoon of onion powder fo 3 tablespoons of freshly grated onion. 
  • Dry Mustard: Mustard powder is a critical ingredients to this recipe. You can crush mustard seeds if you don’t have the powdered version. Since it is not a super common ingredient for most homes, you can also use regular mustard in a pinch. Just double the amount to a full teaspoon.
  • Ketchup: You can use equal parts canned tomato sauce instead. Add an extra tablespoon of sugar to make up for the sweetness loss from the ketchup. 
  • Vinegar: ACV (apple cider vinegar) is best for this recipe, however, you can use equal parts distilled or white vinegar too. 
  • Worcestershire Sauce: The unique flavors of this special sauce cannot be taken for granted and shouldn’t be replaced. It’s the secret ingredient in our recipe! 

Can I Make BBQ Pulled Chicken Ahead of Time?

Yes, absolutely! This easy recipe will last in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. Plus, by letting the chicken marinade for a few days will let the flavors really get into the meat. The result will be a tender and mouthwateringly delicious meal so good that everyone will come back for a second helping! Be sure to reheat the chicken in the oven or on the grill until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Reheat the sauce in a stovetop pan separately and then add it over top the reheated chicken. 

BBQ Chicken Recipe

Grilled BBQ Pulled Chicken

Score the chicken as instructed, then season with salt and pepper and coat in a bit of canola oil. Add to the grill on medium heat and cook for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through and browned on both sides. While the chicken is cooking, add the rest of the ingredients to a grill safe sauce pan and cook the bbq sauce next to the chicken on the grill. When the chicken is done cooking, shred with with forks and coat in the bbq sauce.

Slow Cooker (Crockpot) BBQ Pulled Chicken

In the slow cooker, we recommend using chicken thighs in place of chicken breast. While you can use chicken breasts for this recipe, the thighs as will maintain more moisture and flavor than slow cooking chicken breasts will. Add the ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours before shredding with a fork.

If you find that the sauce is too watery (remember there is nowhere for the steam to escape in the slow cooker, you could cut the sauce ingredients (everything but the chicken) in half. Remember no matter what you do, the sauce will be more watery in a slow cooker.

Pressure Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken

First put the chicken into the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add a cup of water. Then layer the ingredients on top of the chicken. Don’t stir yet because the water needs to be used for steaming and to avoid burning. Cook on HIGH for 15 minutes. The the natural pressure release to do what it does for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is up you can release the remaining pressure at the quick release valve. Now give it a good stir. 

Note: If it’s too watery, you can put the pressure cooker on to sauté and cook down the sauce a bit. 

Ways to use Leftover Pulled Chicken

  • Add it to a salad (leave it cold) with corn, black beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce and top with honey mustard and bbq sauce.
  • Add it to a baked potato with some sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Make it into a bbq chicken quesadilla with some thinly sliced red onion and cheddar cheese.
  • Add it onto pizza dough with red onions, cilantro and cheddar like the famous CPK recipe.
  • Make it into tacos with finely shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and ranch dressing.
  • You can also use it a the filling for some amazing chicken sandwiches. Add some cheese and onion for incredible flavor!

More Fun, Easy Summer BBQ Recipes

How to Store BBQ Pulled Chicken

  • Serve: Don’t leave cooked chicken at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Store: Sealed in an airtight container, BBQ Pulled Chicken will be good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: This recipe is great for freezing! After cooling to room temperature, seal portions in freezer bags for 1-2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating on the stove, adding more sauce if needed.
BBQ Pulled Chicken on bun with coleslaw

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BBQ Pulled Chicken Recipe

BBQ Pulled Chicken with baked tender chunks of chicken breast, so easy and convenient you'll skip the slow cooker for this quick meal.
Yield 6 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 2 pounds chicken breast , boneless, skinless
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut diagonally into the chicken breasts about ¼ inch deep in an x shape to allow the bbq sauce to flavor more of the chicken (like how a holiday ham has the top cut into an x shape).
  • Add all the ingredients together in a large bowl and toss well together until mixed.
  • Add the chicken to a sheet pan, then pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.
  • Cook for 25 -30 minutes or until caramelized, browned and cooked through.
  • Shred the chicken with the forks and serve in your favorite bun, spooning the sauce over the chicken.
  • If the sauce didn’t cook down enough (if you use a pan that’s too small it may not), then add the sauce to a saucepan and cook on medium heat until thickened (likely 15-20 minutes).

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 282kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 947mg | Potassium: 795mg | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 550IU | Vitamin C: 4.5mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1.1mg
BBQ Pulled Chicken Pin 1

Photo used in a previous version of this post.

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About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. This is amazingly easy and also amazingly delicious! Thank you. What would be the best way to reheat the chicken BBQ?

    1. Thanks Diane! Be sure to reheat the chicken in the oven or on the grill until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Reheat the sauce in a stovetop pan separately and then add it over top the reheated chicken. Thanks for the five star review!

  2. I don’t eat pork and was searching for a chicked version of pulled bbq and found this recipe. I have made this several times. So easy and so yummy and my family loves it. Thank you for easy and delicious recipes!

  3. This is the best bbq sauce I’ve ever tasted and it was so quick and easy to make. I baked the chicken breasts in the oven and the sauce got nice and rich and thick. It’s addictive. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  4. I’d already cooked the chicken and was going to add some barbecue sauce from the fridge but the bottle was very old so I was looking for a recipe and found yours. Not only was it super easy but more importantly was totally loved by everyone and my daughter said tasted better than the one she’d had at a taco place not that long ago. For anyone looking for a really quick way to cook the chicken – I put the chicken breasts in a pot, covered with water and simmered for 10 mins or so depending on how big they are. Take out the chicken and then pull apart with two forks. I added the sauce to the chicken and then put in the oven for 10 mins to finish. Eldest daughter loved it so much she took the leftovers for lunch today.

  5. We were given a store bought rotisserie Chicken. Could I reheat this in the oven and make the sauce, shred the chicken off the bones and serve like sloppy sandwiches on buns?

    1. It just adds to the flavor. You can leave it out or use just apple juice if you want a sweeter twist.

  6. Wow! what an amazing recipe! i cooked this for my family and they loved it and gave it 5 stars! so thank you and i look forward to having some more great tasty meals from your website!

    what a blessing!

  7. I was a bit doubtful about this, I have to admit– it seemed too easy. And I did have to make one substitution (a teaspoon of pretty potent red pepper flakes for the two teaspoons of chili powder) so I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out. But it was absolutely delicious! I made it with chicken breast tenders that I had left from a large frozen bag, and they worked beautifully; the sauce is tangy and delicious, not too heavily tomato-ish nor vinegary, but just right. Really good! I’ll definitely repeat this one in the future. Thank you!

  8. This was a great base recipe. However, the sauce just tasted like ketchup after adding the ingredients. Doubled most of the added ingredients and added some liquid smoke. Ended up being the best bbq chicken I’ve ever had. My chef hubby also loved it. Wouldn’t be my go-to recipe as it is currently written, but it was good to have a general idea of what flavors I needed to add to get the desired result. Thanks!

  9. Ok this turned out PERFECT!!!!!! I didn’t even make the sauce, but instead used bottle for lack of ingredients, but I loved how the chicken breasts turned out juicy and so easy to shred. I will try the sauce next time for sure!!!! This chicken is better than crock pot to me. Nice chunks of juicy chicken drenched in bbq sauce… yes please!
    So I had 3 nice size chicken breasts so I cut horizontal to have 6 thinner even sized breasts. I seasoned my chicken with garlic, salt, and pepper. Still did the slits like you said and poured my sauce all over. I chopped up onion and place on top. Cooked following your directions for 30 min. Served on toasted buns = Perfection! Thank you!

    1. It’s a 1/4 of a teaspoon. Sorry about that – looks like the recipe card didn’t save correctly… or I didn’t have enough coffee that day 🙂

  10. I basically never comment on blog recipes but this one is just way too good to pass! I tried this recipe about 2 months ago and it just blew my mind. This is the best bbq sauce I’ve ever had and I use it for pulled pork, chicken, as a basting sauce, in hot dogs, etc. My friends rave about it and I can’t count the times I’ve shared this post with them.
    It’s now my go to summer recipe for when I have people over.
    Great job!

    1. Oh my gosh!! Thank you so much for coming back and making my day. I’m so glad you love it so much.

  11. My family loves this recipe! It’s quick and super easy. I use only a cup of ketchup and that still leaves me plenty of sauce for 3 large chicken breasts. I sometimes pound the fuller part of the breast down to create a more uniform sized piece of chicken to ensure quick, even cooking. Thanks Sabrina!

  12. I made these for dinner (I used chicken legs…adjusting the cooking time accordingly) I took the chicken out to shred and debone and put back in the pot to cook for the last 20 minutes. I made it in my castiron pot and it turned out wonderfully.
    My husband and my 22 month old both cleaned their plates!

    1. I’d call that a winner! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know how much everyone enjoyed it, Sarah.

  13. Hi!

    Please don’t take it as an offence…

    “a bit less processed”, and the main ingredient is ketchup!
    Tomato purée or sauce would be a nice change!

    1. You can reheat it either way. If you use the oven (no higher than 350 degrees), make sure to lightly cover with foil. Enjoy!

  14. 30 minutes at 350, the chicken is only halfway cooked. Good thing I gave myself extra time. I’ll comment again once the chicken is actually cooked. And yes, I prepared according to directions. We’ll see!

  15. Made this in oven for Memorial Day – scaled back measurements on sauce as I did not have 2 lbs of chicken – cut into chicken fingers and put in sauce and set in fridge till I baked at around 400 for 22 minutes – I did not shred served as is – great chicken and wonderful sauce – will make again and with more chicken – thanks for the recipe

    1. So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Sounds like it was a good addition to your family meal! Thank you for coming back to let me know how they turned out!

  16. Not sure where else I could leave this comment; I am new to your site and love your recipes. I know you do a lot of copy cat recipes; I would love one for the chicken noodle soup at Chick-fil-a. The broth has creaminess I can’t figure out how to replicate at home. Keep up the great work!!

    1. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Your question was stuck in my spam filter. That soup is on my “to do” to replicate. Stay tuned.

  17. I am so excited about this dish! The leftover ideas sound as great as the first go round!

    1. Oops, that would be helpful right?!? So sorry. You’ll want your oven at 350 degrees. Thanks for catching that!