An easy recipe for oven baked pulled chicken. The barbecue sauce is homemade, healthy, and very easy to make.
Delicious, succulent pulled chicken, 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.
Can you make pulled chicken with thighs?
Yes! That’s how I started making this recipe. 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!
I don’t recommend using chicken breast in this recipe. It’s too lean and will dry out during the long cooking. 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!
So how do you make shredded chicken in the oven?
It’s super easy! 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 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 and mix it well with the bbq sauce. Dinner is ready! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions.
But how do you make pulled chicken FAST?
Here’s a fun tip for you: pressed for time one afternoon, with only two hours until dinner, I baked the pulled chicken at 400 degrees 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?
Sure, you can serve it on (gluten-free) buns. But healthier and lower carb options are also good. You can use cloud bread or 90 second bread. You can also serve pulled chicken on a bed of cauliflower rice, microwave spaghetti squash, or shredded lettuce.
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 pulled chicken 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 and allow to 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.
What about leftovers?
You can keep leftover pulled chicken in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. It’s best to reheat the leftovers 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.