Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

~ With a quick, five-ingredient sauce you mix directly in your slow cooker, these North Carolina-style barbecue chicken sandwiches are super easy and insanely delicious! ~

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Barbecue is one of those foods that sparks fiery debate and causes otherwise-rational people to draw some pretty strict regional lines of allegiance. Probably brings a lot of men to blows faster than a pretty woman. No, really.

It’s kinda like chili. (Beans in Texas? Oh no you don’t, cowboy!)

Or like pizza. (Chowing down on a deep-dish pie? Well Chicagoan … just be glad those New Yorkers are too busy folding their super-thin crusts in half to fight about it!)

Barbecue’s the same way. Even the spelling is up for debate … barbecue … barbeque … bar-b-q … BBQ???

But how about we put fiery debates and bickering aside for just one moment and drool a little together over today’s recipe. Take a peek at our tutorial video, and you’ll see just how crazy-easy our Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are to make … and you’ll completely stop caring about how to spell it or what city it came from!

Video Tutorial

So Just What Is Real BBQ?

The true mecca for barbecue in America is heavily concentrated in the southeastern states (y’all). But the variation is incredible, and the staunch supporters of each barbecue style will tell you their way is the best and only way. Competition at barbecue cook-offs is mighty intense as a result. Bragging rights, you know.

There are wet rubs and dry rubs.

There’s the sweet, thick, tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce or the more vinegary, peppery sauces of the Carolinas.

And don’t even get a die-hard barbecue fanatic started on the subject of which meat can be used in a proper ‘cue … the wrong choice is practically high treason in some states!

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

So I realize that I’m treading on hallowed ground in offering up a BBQ recipe today. But I’m game if you are.

Let me be clear, though. I love barbecue. Of any kind.

I’m not picking favorites or choosing sides.

And since I live in Ohio, I’m blissfully removed from having to choose at all (yay – score one for Ohio!). I can embrace the “cowboy style” of West Texas one day and cook up some delicious Memphis-style bar-b-q (topped with pickles, of course!) the next.

Carolina Barbecue … My Way!

So with all due respect, I’m going Carolina-style with this recipe. Eastern North Carolina, to be exact.

The specialty there is a thin but boldly flavored sauce made of vinegar with a bit of cayenne-inspired spiciness. It’s fabulous. My mouth waters just thinking about it (not kidding).

And yes, yes, my dear NC readers … I know you really don’t call it barbecue unless I’ve cooked myself up a hog. I know, I know. But this is my BBQ … m’kay? And I’m going with chicken. Lean and healthy and the perfect backdrop for such a delicious sauce.

Trust me. It works.

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

And here’s why we’re going NC-style today, friends. It’s because I miss North Carolina (sniff, sniff).

My family’s favorite unplug and reconnect vacation is, hands-down, the Carolina coast. Corolla, NC and South Carolina’s Hilton Head are our faves, but we’ve stayed all along the Outer Banks and Carolina coastline. From Duck to Avon to Emerald Isle.

It’s all good. It’s all beach (which is … good)!

I just got back from a fantastically raucous vacay in Corolla with 22 of my nearest and dearest. It was hilarious and spontaneous and delicious. My family’s just kind of like that. A whole lot of glass-is-half-full people who make terrible puns but fabulous food. A good kind of family to have, no doubt (except, maybe, for some of those puns).

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Yup … in NC, even the tiny quickie marts serve up BBQ! (For you OBX lovers: I spotted this sign outside of Wee Winks Market in Duck!)

I miss lots and lots of stuff about the beach, but BBQ is one thing I can recreate back here in Ohio. (Tossing sand all over my floor and permanently moving all 22 of those bad-pun-making aunts and uncles and cousins into my home weren’t great options … so I stuck to what I knew would work – food!)

Why You’ll Love this BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich Recipe

This recipe is insanely easy!

Prep time is about 5 minutes max (and that’s if you’re on sloooooow beach bum time).

No, it’s not the same as spending hours mopping my brow while I slow roast a whole hog over an open pit, but when I’m in a hurry, some chicken breasts and my slow cooker are the perfect substitute. Absolutely captures the barbecue flavor I love, and I’m still out the door in no time!

It’s crazy-good, and those spice lovers in your house can kick it right up with a little extra hot sauce.

Oh – and this pulled chicken sandwich is the whole reason I created the recipe for No-Mayo Greek Yogurt Coleslaw. They’re perfect for each other. Perfect. Highly recommended!

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

So, pile that coleslaw on nice and high, and you’re good to go. Really, really good. Lip smackin’, finger lickin’, chillaxin’ by the ocean good.

I promise, no matter where you live and what kind of barbecue you swear by, you’re gonna love this quick and easy version.

And hey – if you need to, just call it something besides barbecue. Call it your new favorite chicken sandwich. Or go with I-Can’t-Believe-How-Delicious-This-Is Pulled Chicken. Whatever works.

No matter the name, you’ll definitely be gobbling this up!

Looking for More Easy, Healthy Crock-Pot Chicken Recipes?

We’ve got lots of ideas for you here at THK! You can peek at all of ’em by clicking here: Crockpot Chicken Recipes. Or, hop directly over to one like:

Or, if you’d just love to try this North Carolina Barbecue recipe in your Instant Pot, instead of your slow cooker, you’ll want to try our Carolina-Style Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

And, for an entirely different (but equally scrumptious!) barbecue chicken experience, check out our Easy, Cheesy BBQ Chicken Wraps. They’re ready in under 10 minutes!

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Yield: About 4 cups of chicken – enough for about 6 sandwiches
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes

With a 5-ingredient sauce you mix directly in your slow cooker, these North Carolina-style Crock-Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are super easy and so delicious!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine vinegar, brown sugar, salt, hot sauce, and black pepper in your slow cooker. Add chicken.
  2. Cook in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. If using a larger 5-6 quart crock-pot, cook on low for about 6 hours. (See note.)
  3. Just before serving, shred chicken (with two forks) and stir into sauce to incorporate.
  4. Serve on buns with coleslaw on top or as an accompaniment on the side, and pass hot sauce as needed.

Notes

Cook time: Through all of our testing, we found that this recipe works best in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. If you're using a larger 5-6 quart crock-pot, we recommend cooking on low for only about 6 hours. We do not recommend cooking this recipe on high in a 5-6 quart crock-pot because the chicken tends to overcook and become dry. At the end of cook time, the chicken should be cooked through and should shred easily but also still be really moist and dripping with a bit of vinegary sauce once shredded.


Slow cooker variations: The exact heat and speed of cooking can vary between different slow cookers. Some slow cookers, especially newer models, may cook hotter and faster than others. Our research has also led us to believe that some models allow for imperceptible evaporation of liquid (although you'd expect that no liquid would be lost when using a slow cooker), which can leave your recipes less saucy and moist. Because this particular recipe uses very little liquid, it's particularly sensitive to these variations. No need to worry – it's delicious even when cooked until it's a bit drier. However, that's why we recommend shorter cooking times and/or lower heat for this recipe so that it will still be very moist and a bit saucy once fully cooked and shredded. Adding more liquid will lead to an unpleasantly sharp-tasting sauce (we've tried it) ... the key is simply to control the cook time and temperature to yield the most juicy, fall-apart-tender result.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 servings Serving Size: 2/3 cup chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 206Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2g

Nutrition information is provided for cooked, shredded chicken only, as nutrition can vary for the buns and coleslaw depending on what you choose to use. Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may additionally vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

Did You Make This Recipe?

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Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

86 thoughts on “Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches”

  1. I stumbled across the recipe while Googling, and I made this dish tonight, as it looked promising. I must say, it was sooo GOOD! I’m an eastern NC native, and I have high standards when it comes to BBQ, and this recipe was beyond great. I made some minor adjustments to suit my taste: I used 1/4 cup of white vinegar + 1/4 cup of ACV instead, and I added some red crushed pepper flakes with a few drops of liquid smoke to give it a tad of hickory smoked flavor. I’m on a health journey and trying to change my eating habits, so finding tasty healthy recipes like this excites me; I get bored easily with the typical salad, steamed veggies and grilled chicken which sometimes leads me to unhealthy food options to satisfy my taste buds. I’m looking forward to trying out your other recipes. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Wow, Toya – this is truly high praise coming from an eastern NC native! Thank you so very much! (And yes … I’m super duper jealous that you’ve lived in eastern NC … one of our very most favorite places! 😉 ) Anyway – I’m just delighted that you enjoyed this BBQ recipe so much, and I really appreciate hearing the little tweaks and customizations you used. I always think that it’s so helpful for other readers to hear how people have tried different twists and flavor variations – really helps others to feel more confident in trying their own little twists, and it’s so much fun to swap suggestions! So thank you, not only for the lovely compliment, but also the great suggestions! And I hope that you’ll find more recipes here on our site that will inspire you … I absolutely believe that eating nutritiously for a long-term healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring, but actually can be tremendously delicious and satisfying! Good luck – and please let me know if you have recipe question along the way, and what other recipes you try and enjoy! ~Shelley

      Reply
  2. Hello…I stumbled across this recipe and love the way it sounds! I wanted to make it for my daughters graduation party but my question is … have you ever made it in advance and froze it? I’m cooking for a huge crowd and that would be a time saver but don’t want to take away from the flavor.
    Thank you for your response!

    Reply
    • Hi Kim! I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner, and I hope I’m still in time to help. I’ve been trying to do a bit of research for you. I haven’t ever frozen this after cooking, and normally I would have no reservations about you doing that … except for the fact that this particular recipe includes a vinegar-based BBQ sauce.

      Vinegar and other acidic ingredients like lemon juice react upon uncooked meats – sometimes “cooking” them (as in ceviche). Or, as with marinades, these acids can actually make meat a bit mushy if the RAW meat is left too long in the acidic environment, which is why you often see recipes for those types of marinades strictly advising a short marinade time. I’ve read that this process is not halted by freezing, and that the “mushy” outcome can still happen if you freeze uncooked meat directly in an acidic marinade.

      Now, I understand that you’re asking about freezing this AFTER cooking, not as a marinade BEFORE cooking. But I haven’t been able to find a resource that makes me 100% certain that you might not run into textural problems even AFTER cooking. So … that’s my reservation/concern here … and also the question that I haven’t been able to find a good answer to: If you freeze this, in a cooked state, will the acidic, vinegar BBQ sauce in any way compromise the texture of the COOKED meat? I’m just not positive about the answer, and I would feel absolutely terrible if your daughter’s graduation party was in any way less than fabulous.

      On one hand, my gut tells me that freezing this for just a few days to help yourself get ahead would probably be ok … but I just can’t recommend it for sure. It’s not the flavor that I’m worried about, but the texture.

      I’m sorry that I can’t be more definitive, but I’d rather not see you take a chance with such an important event! Good luck – and I hope her party is wonderful! (My kiddos will be graduating in just three years now, and I can already begin to feel the mix of emotions, excitement, anxiety … 😉 ) All the best … Shelley

      Reply
  3. So I just made this today, and WOW! So Good!!! I doubled the sauce recipe ( I’m a sauce girl, and I am always afraid there will not be enough), and used Sriracha because it was the only hot sauce I had in the house. I didn’t use the full amount of hot sauce, just squirted some in the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Whisked it all together and put the chicken in. I also have a freezer full of Hatch Chiles, so I seeded 2 of them and laid them across the top of the chicken. I will absolutely, 100% make this again!!! Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe.

    Reply
    • Oh, Carrie! You sure know how to make someone’s day! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment – I’m thrilled you enjoyed this recipe! And, I really appreciate you letting other readers know about the subs and adaptations you made – that’s so helpful! (Lucky you to have a freezer full of Hatch Chiles!!) Truly – thanks bunches! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply
  4. This is what I’ve been looking for! I’m also going to try it with turkey. We don’t eat pork, so this is just what the doctor ordered!!!

    Reply
  5. This was outstanding! I’ve grown up eating NCBBQ and this is a delicious, healthier alternative. I paired it with your yogurt slaw, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
    • Wow, Rusty! I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your feedback – especially coming from someone who grew up eating NC Barbecue, your compliment really means a lot! So glad you liked the coleslaw, too! That’s actually become one of our most popular recipes ever, which is so funny because at first I didn’t even really think of it as its own recipe – I really just created it to go with the BBQ Sandwiches! Anyway – thanks a million for taking a moment to pop back and let us know how much you liked these! That means the world to me, really! I hope you’ll try more of our recipes and let me know what you think! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply

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Published on
Updated on April 14, 2022
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