Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I’m so happy that the weather is finally cooler because now I can make my favorite comfort foods again. The list includes:

  1. Chicken and Dumplings
  2. Tortilla Soup
  3. Beef Stew and Roast Beef
  4. Thyme-roasted Chicken

Unfortunately, all of those recipes either heat up the kitchen too much or they’re just too hot to eat on a muggy summer day so I haven’t made them in what feels like forever. When I was excitedly making up a new weekly meal plan full of these recipes I realized I hadn’t yet shared one of my very favorite comfort foods: Barbecue Pulled Chicken!

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Back when I lived in Florida, Brandon and I had a favorite barbecue restaurant nearby that we ate at regularly but when we moved to Charlottesville the nearest good barbecue was a 45 minute drive away. That’s when I started making this recipe so that we could still get our barbecue fix. Barbecue sounds like it could be time-consuming to make and in the past I have tried other recipes that took a lot longer which is why I love this recipe. You pretty much just throw everything into a pot with your favorite barbecue sauce and let it cook. It only takes 90 minutes in the oven or you can leave it in a slow cooker all afternoon.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken

Another important thing that makes this recipe stand out from others I’ve tried is that it uses chicken thighs. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of dark meat but I have to admit that thighs work much better for barbecue than chicken breasts. They’re also quite a bit less expensive which is always a good thing. Since thighs have a bit more fat on them, they don’t dry out and after 90 minutes of slow cooking they are extremely moist and tender. You barely even have to put effort into shredding the chicken because it falls apart all by itself.

Now that we’ve moved to Nashville there are a lot more barbecue restaurants but I still wanted to make this barbecue pulled chicken for dinner instead of trying any those restaurants. This recipe makes a lot so it’s great for a large gathering but if you have a small family like me you can easily freeze the leftovers for when you need an easy dinner in the coming weeks or months.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

adapted from The Kitchn

Dinner | Servings: 8 to 10
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 1 hour 30 min | Total time: 1 hour 50 min

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or vidalia onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) of your favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F).
  2. In a dutch oven or oven-safe pot with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the paprika.
  3. Pat the chicken dry and add each piece to the pot, stirring to mix with the onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir well.
  4. Pour the barbeque sauce into the pot and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and cover the pot with a lid. Transfer to the oven and bake for 90 minutes or until the chicken is tender and falling apart.
  5. Place the pot back on the stove and use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a large bowl or cutting board. Shred the chicken with two forks.
  6. Meanwhile, bring the remaining sauce in the pot to a boil. Continue cooking, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced by half. The thickened sauce can be stirred into a bowl with the shredded chicken or served separately.
  7. Serve with buns and extra barbecue sauce.

Refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe Notes:

To make this in a slow cooker, follow steps 2 through 4 but put everything in your slow cooker instead of the oven. Cook on Low for 5 to 7 hours. If desired, remove the chicken as directed and transfer the sauce back to a pot on the stove to thicken it.

You can use a mixture of chicken thighs and breasts if you want. I find that the breast meat is less tender than thigh meat so I prefer to use all chicken thighs.