Is there anything better than a recipe you can throw together in about 10 minutes, put it in a slow cooker, and walk away? That’s exactly what we’re looking at with these slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs. The finished product is super tender and juicy pulled chicken in a smoky BBQ sauce. It’s perfect for making sandwiches, loaded nachos, pizzas, salads, and more. And don’t worry, I’ll show you how to make all of them!
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How to Make Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
Below you’ll find a recipe walkthrough with ingredient notes, tips, and tricks. If you’d like to skip to the recipe card, there’s a jump to recipe button above. You can hop back up to the post if you have any recipe questions. Now, let’s get to it.
Step 1: Season boneless skinless chicken thighs with smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and brown sugar.
If you’ve tried my Instant Pot pulled BBQ chicken thighs or BBQ smoked pork tenderloin this seasoning blend will look very familiar. Unlike the Instant Pot version, however, you won’t need any added BBQ sauce since you’ll increase the brown sugar.
Nutrition facts side note: You could reduce the carbs by using a brown sugar substitute like the Swerve Brown I used for my homemade chicken breakfast sausage.
In case you’re curious about using chicken breast instead of chicken thighs, I’ve included a note on adding a bit of liquid to the slow cooker and extending the cook time for chicken breast. Like I talked about in my buffalo chicken thighs recipe, the thinness of boneless skinless chicken thighs will cause them to cook faster. And the extra fat will render off, alleviating the need for extra liquid in the slow cooker.
Step 2: Place the chicken thighs in a slow cooker and cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours.
I used a 6.5-quart Ninja Foodi for slow cooking. You can get an idea of the surface area in the photo above. The size of your slow cooker may affect the cook time, but I doubt it’s that significant. I will add that if you have a larger slow cooker, you could probably get away with doubling the recipe. Just aim to keep most of the chicken in a single layer.
The recipe calls for cooking on high for about two and a half hours but if you wanted to get your BBQ chicken thighs going in the morning before work and cook on low, I’d go with something around the 6-hour mark.
You’ll want the chicken thighs to reach an internal temperature of 165ºF before shredding. If you don’t have a food thermometer, get one! I use a Kizen Instant Read Food Thermometer that’s around $22 on Amazon.
Step 3: Shred the chicken thighs.
If you get the cook time just right, your slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs should fall apart. If that’s the case, you can shred the chicken without ever leaving the pot. Just use some tongs or a spatula to pull the chicken apart. There’s no shame in transferring to attack with the two forks method, though!
Once the chicken is shredded, give it a stir in the sauce and you’re good to go. You can serve the chicken as-is, or you can take it to the next level by broiling.
Optional: Broil the BBQ chicken thighs in your slow cooker or on a baking sheet in the oven.
One of my favorite things about using something like the Foodi or my Instant Pot Duo Crisp is that you can cook and broil or air fry right in the same pot. Just close the lid and fire it up. If you’re using a traditional slow cooker, have no fear. You can transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and broil in the oven like I mentioned for my Mexican shredded chicken thighs.
Serving Your BBQ Chicken Thighs
If you only make sandwiches with these BBQ chicken thighs, you’ll miss out on loads of fun and flavor. Here’s a quick roundup of some great recipe ideas to use up your leftover chicken:
- BBQ chicken sliders
- loaded BBQ chicken nachos
- BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potatoes
- leftover BBQ chicken and rice casserole
- BBQ chicken enchiladas
- 5-ingredient BBQ chicken mac and cheese
Be sure to let me know what you end up using your slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs for. Come back and leave a comment and recipe review while you’re at it. And if you have any recipe questions I missed, feel free to drop it in the comments section as well. I’d be happy to help!
- 24 oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs*
- 1 Tbsp (16g) Olive Oil
- 1/4 C (48g) Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Dry Mustard
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- Toss the chicken thighs in the olive oil to evenly coat.
- Mix the brown sugar and spices in a separate bowl before adding to the chicken. Use a rubber spatula to fully coat the chicken in the seasoning blend.
- Place the chicken in a slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours or low for 5-7 hours. (Or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.)
- Shred the chicken and either broil in the pot (Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot Duo Crisp) or broil in the oven using a baking sheet. OR serve without broiling.**
*For chicken breast, you may need to add a bit of liquid (try 1/4 cup chicken broth or water) and extend the cook time by 30-60 minutes.
**Note: Broiling will affect the serving size. The nutrition facts listed are for non-broiled chicken.
Each serving of BBQ chicken has 4 WW SmartPoints (blue).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 7 Servings Serving Size: 3 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175Total Fat: 9gCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 19g