Indulge in the mouthwatering goodness of Slow Cooker Crockpot Pulled Chicken, a succulent and flavor-packed dish that effortlessly combines convenience with the rich, smoky essence of a homemade rub. As the chicken thighs slow-cook to tender perfection, the spices penetrate ensuring each bite is well seasoned. For the final touch, drizzle with your favorite BBQ sauce.
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Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Tenderness and Moisture: Slow cooking allows the chicken to cook gently over a longer period, resulting in incredibly tender and moist meat. The collagen in the connective tissues breaks down, transforming tougher cuts of chicken into succulent strands.
- Hands-off Cooking: The slow cooker or crockpot is a set-it-and-forget-it appliance. Once the chicken is seasoned and placed in the slow cooker, you can go about your day without actively monitoring the cooking process. When hosting gatherings or parties this is a convenient option. You can have a delicious, crowd-pleasing dish ready without the need for constant attention.
- Convenience: This recipe works well for busy schedules. You can prepare the chicken in the morning or early afternoon and have a delicious, ready-to-eat meal by dinnertime.
- Easy Shredding: Slow-cooked chicken becomes so tender that it practically falls apart, making the shredding process effortless. This results in the classic pulled or shredded texture that works well in a variety of dishes.
Pulled chicken refers to chicken meat that has been cooked until tender and then shredded or “pulled” into thin strands using forks or other utensils. The term “pulled” comes from the action of pulling the meat apart, creating a stringy texture. It’s a versatile and popular choice for various dishes, including sandwiches, tacos, wraps, salads, and more.
What Type of Chicken to Use
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs work best. Both cuts of chicken work well for making tender, juicy, and flavorful pulled chicken, though chicken thighs have the extra edge due to it’s fat content.
- Chicken Breasts:
- Leaner: Chicken breasts are leaner compared to thighs, which means they have less fat and are lower in calories.
- Milder Flavor: Chicken breasts have a milder flavor compared to thighs, allowing them to absorb the flavors of the seasoning and sauce.
- Chicken Thighs:
- More Moist and Tender: Chicken thighs have a higher fat content, which makes them more forgiving during cooking and results in a juicier, more tender pulled chicken.
- Richer Flavor: Thighs have a slightly richer flavor due to the higher fat content, which can enhance the overall taste of the pulled chicken.
I used chicken thighs. You can also use bone-in thighs if you wish. Boneless are just easier to work with.
Do You Have to Marinate it in Advance?
Marinating is not a common step for making the dish in the Crockpot, since the slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb flavors from the cooking liquid over an extended period.
Marinade and Dry Rub Spices
To keep the chicken moist during the slow cooking process, the recipe ensures there is enough liquid in the slow cooker. I like to use a combination of a liquid marinade (soy sauce) and my Homemade BBQ Dry Rub Seasoning. You can also use a store-bought rub if you prefer.
Soy sauce contains enzymes that break down proteins in the meat. It also helps the chicken retain moisture, preventing it from becoming dry during cooking. You can use apple cider vinegar if you prefer.
How to Make Slow Cooker Crockpot Pulled Chicken
Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Add the chicken to the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Combine soy sauce with the BBQ rub and drizzle it over the chicken.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook.
Cook Time/How Long to Cook
Cook the chicken for 7-9 hours on Low or 4-5 hours on High.
How to Tell When it’s Done and Finished Cooking
Chicken is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, but with pulled chicken when the internal temp reaches 175 degrees, it will typically shred really easily and yield tender meat. Use a meat thermometer.
Pulled chicken should be tender and easily shred with forks or tongs. If the meat resists shredding or feels tough, it may need more time to cook.
How to Use the Chicken
- Pulled Chicken Sandwiches: Load pulled chicken onto a soft bun or roll. Top it with your favorite coleslaw, pickles, or additional sauce for a classic sandwich.
- Tacos and Burritos: Create tasty tacos or burritos by filling tortillas with chicken, along with your choice of toppings such as salsa, guacamole, shredded cheese, and sour cream.
- Chicken Salad: Toss the chicken with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, and your favorite dressing for a light and refreshing salad.
- Chicken Wraps: Roll the chicken in a tortilla with fresh vegetables, lettuce, and a drizzle of dressing for a quick and satisfying wrap.
- Quesadillas: Layer the chicken between tortillas with cheese and any desired extras, then cook until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy.
- Chicken Pizza: Use pulled chicken as a pizza topping along with barbecue sauce, red onions, and cheese for a unique and flavorful pizza.
- Chicken Nachos: Top tortilla chips with chicken, cheese, black beans, jalapeños, and other nacho toppings. Bake until the cheese is melted, and then add fresh salsa and sour cream.
- Chicken Soup: Use my Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup or Rotisserie Chicken Soup recipes.
- Stir Fry: Use my Shrimp Stir Fry recipe and incorporate the chicken into a stir fry with colorful vegetables and a savory sauce. Serve it over rice or noodles for a quick and flavorful meal.
- Stuffed Peppers: Mix the chicken with rice, black beans, corn, and salsa. Stuff bell peppers with the mixture and bake until the peppers are tender.
- Pulled Chicken Enchiladas: Use my Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas recipe and roll the chicken in tortillas, cover it with enchilada sauce, and bake it with cheese for a comforting and flavorful enchilada dish.
- Chicken Mac and Cheese: Add the chicken to my Southern Soul Food Baked Mac and Cheese recipe for a protein-packed twist on this classic comfort food.
- Lettuce Wraps: Use my PF Changs Lettuce Wraps recipe.
How to Store
The dish can be stored tightly covered and sealed for 3-4 days in the fridge. I like to store it with the juices leftover from the slow cooker. This helps keep it from drying out.
How to Reheat
The best way to reheat it is on the stove at medium heat with liquids. This helps to keep the initial texture intact.
You can also heat it in the microwave in 1-minute intervals, stirring between each interval.
You can use the air fryer or oven at 350 degrees until warm.
If the chicken seems dry, you can add a small amount of broth, water, or sauce during reheating to add moisture.
You can freeze it tightly covered and sealed for 2-3 months (for optimal quality). Defrost in the fridge overnight.
More Slow Cooker BBQ Recipes
Pair With These Recipes
Slow Cooker Crockpot Pulled Chicken
- 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or sweetener
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste I like to add this once the chicken is cooked and taste repeatedly and adjust.
- 1 cup BBQ sauce Optional for sauced chicken.
- Add the chicken to the bottom of the slow cooker. Mine is 7 quart.
- Combine the soy sauce and all of the spices and drizzle it over the chicken.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 7-9 hours on Low or 4-5 hours on High.
- Chicken is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, but with pulled chicken when the internal temp reaches 175 degrees, it will typically shred really easily and yield tender meat. Use a meat thermometer.Pulled chicken should be tender and easily shred with forks or tongs. If the meat resists shredding or feels tough, it may need more time to cook.
- Drizzle BBQ sauce over the chicken (optional) and serve.