An easy recipe for oven-baked pulled chicken. The barbecue sauce is homemade, healthy, and very easy to make.
Deliciously succulent pulled chicken is smothered in an easy homemade barbecue sauce and cooked in a slow oven for several hours.
The homemade barbecue sauce is far healthier than store-bought sauces and very easy to make, but you can obviously use any bbq sauce that you like.
The ingredients you’ll need
You’ll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty chicken recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs
- For the homemade bbq sauce:
Salt and pepper
Spices: garlic powder and smoked paprika
Sweetener – maple syrup or a low-carb alternative
Using chicken instead of pork
Pulled pork is amazing, but the first time I made this recipe, I had boneless skinless chicken thighs in the fridge. So I decided to make pulled chicken. I honestly think it’s just as good!
Use chicken thighs, not chicken breast
I don’t recommend using chicken breast in this recipe. It’s too lean and will dry out during the long cooking time. Use that to make baked chicken breast.
Boneless skinless chicken thighs are fattier and far more suitable for slow cooking. Plus they are way more delicious!
How to make pulled chicken
It’s super easy! The detailed instructions are in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
- Place the chicken thighs in a baking dish.
- Add bbq sauce.
- Cover in foil and bake in a 300°F oven for 3-4 hours.
I usually bake this dish for three hours. Baking for four hours works well to make the dish super tender. But if you bake for so long, the barbecue sauce sometimes reduces too much despite the foil.
Once done cooking, shred the meat with two forks or a spatula (as shown in the video below) and mix it well with the bbq sauce.
Secret tip: you can cook it for just 2 hours!
Here’s a fun tip for you: pressed for time one afternoon, with only two hours until dinner, I baked the chicken at 400°F, covered, for 2 hours.
The result was delicious and moist – so this is definitely an option if you’re in a rush.
How to serve pulled chicken?
You can serve it on (gluten-free) buns. But healthier and lower carb options are also good.
Easy cleanup tip!
One important tip I have for you is to line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with foil.
The barbecue sauce gets beautifully caramelized as the dish slowly bakes, which makes for a very tasty dinner, but also for a tough cleanup job later on.
However, if you prefer not to use foil when cooking, what I usually do is allow the Pyrex baking dish to cool a little (so it doesn’t explode), then fill it to the brim with very hot, soapy water.
I let it soak overnight, on a dishtowel on the counter (never put a hot Pyrex dish directly on a cold counter!). The next morning, cleanup is a breeze.
How to keep leftover pulled chicken?
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days.
It’s best to reheat them very gently so as not to dry them out. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power.
- 1 lb. chicken thighs, boneless skinless
- 1 (7 oz jar) tomato paste (3/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey, or a low carb alternative)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place the chicken thighs in a square 8-inch baking dish. Make a few slits in the chicken with a sharp knife.
- Mix together the barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken, coating evenly. Use your hands to make sure the sauce not just covers the chicken, but also gets inside the slits.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with a double layer of foil and place in the oven. It will start to smell amazing after about 2 hours, but cook it for 3 hours, until very tender.
- Remove from the oven. Carefully remove the foil – hot steam will escape – and allow to cool about 5 minutes, until easier to handle.
- Using a knife and a fork, shred the meat while still in the baking dish, and toss with the sauce.