Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sliders

These slow cooker BBQ Chicken Sliders require so little attention, but are so delicious and addictive. They are the perfect tailgating snack, especially if you have the ability to keep the chicken warm in your slow cooker and have people assemble their own.

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Pulled BBQ chicken sliders stacked on a little serving board with a glass and can of beer in the background and chips and bev naps in the foreground.

How to Make Pulled Chicken in a Slow Cooker

Truth is, if you’re making pulled chicken, you probably have other foods to prepare. You might want to make coleslaw to go with the pulled chicken, or a few side salads to go on the plate, or you might be having pulled chicken sliders as just part of a tailgating party with other items. Using a slow cooker is a perfect way to accomplish the task of making the pulled chicken, leaving you lots of time for everything else. You simply sear the chicken, add onions and then cook the chicken and onions in the BBQ sauce. After the set time, it’s tender and shred-able and all you’ll need to do is pile it onto slider buns.

A slow cooker on a counter with browned chicken thighs and onions inside, with a red and white checked towel in front with the lid.

What Kind of Chicken for BBQ Pulled Chicken

I like to use chicken thighs for pulled chicken because they are more flavorful and moist, but you can use chicken breasts if you’re really adamant about it, or a combination of both thighs and breasts if that’s what you have on hand. Whatever you choose, the chicken will get shredded and coated in sauce, so it will be juicy and full of flavor.

Hands pouring BBQ sauce over browned chicken thighs in a slow cooker.

Sauce for Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken

The BBQ sauce for the chicken is very simple. The onions are cooked with the chicken and spices and then you just stir in a mixture of ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Easy. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker all over the chicken and let it cook low and slow. It will cook down into a delicious sauce.

Looking down into a slow cooker with slow cooked BBQ chicken thighs inside.

What Sides go with BBQ Pulled Chicken

For me, coleslaw is an essential side dish for pulled chicken. You can put it right into the slider sandwich with the pulled chicken, or serve it on the side. Other traditional side dishes with pulled chicken are potato salad. You could make a classic version like this, or use your pressure cooker for this version with lemon mayonnaise. For a big gathering, you could also add a macaroni salad. This chicken macaroni salad can be made without the chicken for a delicious side. There are so many options.

Looking straight down into a slow cooker with shredded BBQ chicken and a pair of tongs inside.

What to do with Leftover BBQ Pulled Chicken

If you happen to have any leftover BBQ pulled chicken, you can put it into zipper sealable plastic bags, sealed with as much air removed as possible, and freeze it. If you freeze it lying flat in your freezer, it defrosts very quickly. Pulled chicken definitely lends itself to be put in a roll and devoured like a sandwich, but you can also use it to stuff a baked potato, or sweet potato. It also makes a great filling for a taco or quesadilla, or even a burrito. You could turn it into a tamale casserole or enchiladas, or put it on a pizza as a delicious BBQ chicken topping. This is all, of course, IF you have any leftovers! 

6 BBQ pulled chicken sliders on a wooden board in front of a slow cooker with a bowl of coleslaw.

Best Buns for BBQ Pulled Chicken Sliders

My choice of bun for BBQ pulled chicken sliders is a soft roll, like a potato roll or milk bread roll. You’ll want something that is easy to bite through so you don’t have to chew and tug at it. Warm them gently in an oven or toaster over and then pile in the chicken (and coleslaw)! These will go fast!

6 BBQ pulled chicken sliders on a wooden board in front of a slow cooker.

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Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Chicken Sliders

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Cook Time: 4 h
  • Total Time: 4 h 30 m
  • Servings:
    to 24 sliders


  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion chopped.
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 24 potato slider rolls or mini ciabatta rolls
  • 3 cups coleslaw


  1. Set the slow cooker on the brown or sauté function to pre-heat. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the vegetable oil to the cooker and sear both sides of the chicken pieces, working in batches if necessary. Alternatively, sear the chicken in a skillet on the stovetop if your slow cooker does not have a browning function.
  2. Set the chicken aside and add the onion to the cooker (or skillet). Sauté for a few minutes and then stir in the smoked paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper. Sauté for 2 more minutes.
  3. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, water, and salt in a bowl. Return the browned chicken to the slow cooker with the onions and pour the ketchup mixture over the chicken, making sure all the chicken gets coated. Cover the slow cooker with a lid and promise yourself that you won’t open it up until the cooking time is over.

  4. Slow-cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 8 hours.
  5. When the chicken is fork-tender, shred the chicken pieces with two forks or tongs and stir the shredded chicken into the sauce.
  6. Place 2 tablespoons of the pulled chicken on each bun and top with a spoonful of the coleslaw. Serve warm.
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Comments (4)Post a Reply

  1. Hi Meredith. In step #3 it says “Combine the ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, etc, I didn’t see tomato paste in the list of ingredients or under the instructions with the pictures. In the process of making this, and curious how much you suggest I add?

    1. Sorry for the confusion! The tomato paste was eliminated during recipe testing and was kept in the directions in error. Thank you for catching it, we will correct the recipe.

  2. I have a question on the ingredients and directions. 1/4 cup water is listed in the ingredients but do not see it referenced in the directions. In the directions tomato paste is referenced but do not see it in the ingredients list.

    Not sure if I did correctly but added the water to the sauce ingredients and added 2 T of tomato paste to the sauce ingredients as well.

    Everyone loved it.

    1. So glad everyone enjoyed your sliders! Sorry for the confusion in the recipe. There were changes made when this recipe was tested that were not corrected in the directions. The water is added to the BBQ sauce and the tomato paste was omitted altogether. The recipe has been corrected. Thank you!

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