Slow Cooker Balsamic Barbecue Pulled Chicken


I’m silly excited about this recipe.  It’s the type of recipe that made me want to drop everything and tell you about it, unedited pictures and all (I didn’t.  I edited.  For you).  It’s the type of recipe that is so simple yet so eye-opening it makes me look at my slow cooker in a whole new light.
That may sound hyperbolic, but this chicken will do that to you.

You all know about my love affair with my family’s pulled pork recipe.  If I were on Next Food Network Star, pulled pork would be my signature dish.  This would be assuming that for the first time ever a food show decided to hold a competition without a time limit.  Ah well, one can dream.  With pulled pork in mind, as it almost always is, I decided to stitch together a recipe that draws the very best from pulled pork and a few other interesting recipes found here and there.  The result is a lighter, more weeknight friendly, totally mind blowing

This recipe gets most of its flavor from a surprising source.  Balsamic vinegar makes up the bulk of the sauce, with other more traditional barbecue ingredients help it along.  The amount of vinegar scared me a little, but the result was a balanced sauce that ended with a little vinegar kick.  It makes you go back for more, just to figure out what it is you’re tasting.  It’s vinegar, and it shouldn’t be limited to your salad.

Enough talk, let’s barbecue.

It starts with chopped onion and minced garlic.

Distribute the onions and garlic in an even layer at the bottom of your slow cooker, then place 3 large chicken breasts on top, trying to give them as much room as you can.
Season with salt and pepper.  Then, drawing from our pulled pork, press on some brown sugar.
Next, mix together the sauce.  I tried to take pictures of this, but when you add a cup of almost black balsamic vinegar, all the other ingredients get lost.  You’ll have to trust me here.  Whisk together balsamic vinegar, ketchup, honey, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
Mix the sauce very, very well then pour it over the chicken breasts, making sure it covers them evenly.
Next, add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock just to make sure the chicken is completely covered in liquid.
Secure the lid of your slow cooker then set it to cook on high for 4 hours.
Walk away!  After about an hour and a half, turn the chicken.  Then, after 3-3 1/2 hours have passed, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and shred with two forks.  It should be fall-apart tender.
Return the shredded chicken to the sauce and mix it around.  Let it finish cooking with the lid off so the sauce thickens slightly, at least 30 minutes.
While that’s finishing, whip up some corn bread.  Like ranch dressing, I trust the professionals and use Jiffy corn muffin mix because it’s easy and delicious.  If you have a favorite corn bread method, by all means, do it.

When the cornbread is finished and the sauce has thickened slightly, it’s time to eat.  Split open some corn muffins, or squares of corn bread if you’re me and you hate cleaning muffin tins (seriously, I get why muffin liners were invented, not that I own any.  That thing is torture and I hate it).  Top the corn bread with the barbecue chicken, some chopped cilantro and a few slices of pickled jalapeños.  Spoon a  little sauce over the top for good measure.
Let’s start with the actual chicken.  It’s so tender and not at all dry, all credit going to the slow cooker. It literally pulls apart with a fork, which you know because I shredded it with two of them.
The sauce, though.  The sauce is a revelation.  It has a cup of balsamic vinegar, which I was certain meant that it would be bracingly acidic and taste more like a salad dressing than barbecue sauce.  But I was wrong.  Mind you, there’s also a lot of sweetness balancing the vinegar, but you can definitely taste it and it’s not offensive at all.
The brown sugar, honey and ketchup bring the sweetness that we’ve all come to know and love about barbecue sauce, and the Worcestershire sauce is a nod to the beginning of it all, pulled pork.
With the added spice of the pickled jalapeños and a bit of freshness from the chopped cilantro (from my garden!) this dish is balanced.  The buttery cornbread doesn’t hurt either, but you already knew that.
Promise me you’ll try this.  I feel like it’s a good book in that I can’t really enjoy it until I talk it out with someone.  Be that someone?  Please?

Here’s the recipe!

Slow Cooker Balsamic Barbecue Pulled Chicken 

  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Pickled jalapeños and chopped cilantro for serving
  • Corn bread


  1. Layer the onions and garlic evenly in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Add chicken on top.  Season with salt and pepper then evenly pack brown sugar on top.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, ketchup, honey, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Pour evenly over chicken, then top with chicken stock just to make sure everything is covered.
  3. Set slow cooker to cook on high for 4 hours, turning chicken once.
  4. At 3 hours, remove chicken from slow cooker and shred with two forks.  Return it to slow cooker and let it finish cooking with the lid of to slightly thicken the sauce, at least 30 minutes.
  5. Arrange corn bread on a plate and top with pulled chicken.  Spoon a little extra sauce over then top with pickled jalapeños and chopped cilantro.  (That’s optional, of course.  K didn’t use jalapeños or cilantro and liked his just fine.)


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