How to Make Grill-Comparable Barbecue Chicken in a Slow Cooker

Roast chicken wings on cutting board
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  • 7 hrs 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 7 hrs
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Ratings (17)

All you need for this slow cooker barbecue chicken recipe is chicken parts, an onion, and a bottle of barbecue sauce. You won't have grill marks when it's done, but the flavor is close to what any charcoal-fired cooker can create.

Serve this simple crockpot chicken with traditional barbecue fixings or treat it as any other main course and accompany it with hot cooked rice or other starch and veggies.

What You'll Need

  • 3 to 4 pounds chicken pieces
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups barbecue sauce (bottled or homemade)

How to Make It

  1. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels, season them with salt and pepper and place them in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the onions and barbecue sauce.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for about 6 to 8 hours, or until the chicken is tender but not falling apart.
  3. If you want to check for doneness, use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest pieces (not touching bone). The minimum safe temperature for chicken is 165 F.
  1. Serve with French fries and coleslaw for a traditional barbecue meal, or with rice and veggies.

Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce

If you have the time or the inclination to make your own barbecue sauce instead of using bottled sauce, this easy recipe is just the ticket.

  • In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup vinegar of choice, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir well until completely mixed.
  • Heat over medium until the mixture starts to simmer around the edges, stirring often. Remove from the heat and let it come to room temperature before using it in this crockpot barbecue chicken recipe.

Sauce Variations

  • Use molasses in place of sugar and add hot sauce to taste.
  • Double the ingredients of the basic barbecue sauce recipe and add 1 cup beer or 1/2 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey or 1 cup Jim Beam bourbon.
  • Add 1 large peeled and puréed mango and 1 clove peeled and minced garlic.
  • Make it Thai style by eliminating the ketchup, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, dry mustard, and paprika. Replace the brown sugar with 1/4 cup honey and add 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3 cloves peeled and minced garlic, and fresh minced hot chiles to taste. 

Barbecue Variations

Instead of chicken, use 3 pounds of meaty country-style ribs or pork spareribs cut into serving-size pieces. Rinse them, pat dry, season with salt and pepper and follow the remainder of the recipe.


Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 770
Total Fat 36 g
Saturated Fat 10 g
Unsaturated Fat 14 g
Cholesterol 221 mg
Sodium 1,115 mg
Carbohydrates 36 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Protein 71 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)