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Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken

Make Carolina BBQ in the comfort of your kitchen. This no-fuss Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken recipe makes two pounds of fall-apart pulled chicken soaked in Carolina’s signature vinegar & mustard sauce. Instant Pot, Crockpot, AND stovetop instructions included!

pulled chicken with mustard bbq sauce

You’re probably familiar with Kansas City-style BBQ sauce as it’s a restaurant staple, but have you ever experienced Carolina vinegar & mustard sauce? This regional masterpiece is nothing like the thick, gloopy bbq sauce we grew up on.

It is a distinctly tangy, slightly sweet, and pleasantly sour sauce with a thin, glossy consistency, perfect for coating pulled proteins. Taking a page from this all-purpose shredded chicken guide, you can make pulled chicken in your Instant Pot or slow cooker, and on the stove, then give it an instant upgrade with Carolina BBQ Sauce.

Now to decide which Carolina BBQ sauce is your favorite. Check out the selection at your grocery store, or skim the online reviews and order one with high ratings. There are several to choose from!

💭 This BBQ Pulled Chicken Is

  • VERY easy to make in a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or on the stove.
  • Made with 3 ingredients, including time-saving bottled BBQ sauce.
  • Great for BBQ chicken platters, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and more.
  • Perfect for busy weeknights and casual gatherings.

🍴 Ingredients & Tools

  • Chicken – Use chicken breast, filleted chicken breast, or chicken tenderloin for tender white meat pulled chicken. If you like the gamier, meaty taste of dark meat, you can also use chicken thighs.
  • Chicken Broth/Stock – This is your cooking liquid. In a pinch, you can use water, but chicken broth, chicken stock, or chicken bone broth lends flavor and added nutrients to the meat.
  • Carolina BBQ Sauce – No need to make your sauce from scratch. Save the stress and buy a bottle at the store or online. Check out the list below for popular brands and their Carolina-inspired flavor.
  • Sticky Fingers; Carolina Classic Barbecue Sauce
  • Guy Fieri; Carolina #6
  • Heinz; Carolina Vinegar Style Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce
  • Heinz; Carolina Mustard Style Sweet Mustard BBQ Sauce
  • Scott’s Barbecue Sauce
  • Lillie’s Q; Carolina BBQ Sauce
  • Texas Pete; Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce
  • Equipment – You can make your Carolina BBQ pulled chicken in an Instant Pot, Crock pot, or in a large saucepot.
  • Meat Shredding Claws – These things are optional, but they’re a handy tool for shredding chicken and other proteins (like a bear!)

🥣 How To Make Pulled Chicken with Carolina BBQ Sauce

Slow Cooker Instructions

1️⃣ Add liquid and chicken to the slow cooker. Add chicken stock, broth, or water to the slow cooker (while water is fine to use, stock or bone broth will add additional flavor and nutrients to the chicken). Then, add the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper.

2️⃣ Slow cook chicken breasts. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours or on LOW for 4-6 hours. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 165°F to consume safely.

3️⃣ Shred chicken. Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the slow cooker to a cutting board, and pull the chicken apart into shreds.

4️⃣ Soak chicken in sauce. Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the slow cooker along with the Carolina BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and cook on low for 30 minutes allowing the flavors to absorb. Serve hot

Instant Pot Instructions

1️⃣ Add liquid and chicken to the pressure cooker. Add chicken stock, broth, or water to the Instant Pot (keeping in mind that stock or bone broth will add more flavor and nutrients). Add the chicken breasts to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

2️⃣ Cook chicken in Instant Pot. Set the valve to the SEALING position and pressure cook on manual HIGH pressure for 12 minutes. Manually release the pressure or let it naturally release. Check that the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

3️⃣ Shred chicken. Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the pressure cooker to a cutting board, and pull the tender meat apart into shreds.

4️⃣ Warm with sauce. Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the pressure cooker along with the Carolina BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and cook on the WARM setting for at least 15 minutes allowing the flavors to absorb. Serve hot.

Stovetop Instructions

1️⃣ Cover chicken with broth. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Then, add to a large, deep pot with enough stock, broth, or water to fully submerge the chicken with 2″ of liquid above.

2️⃣ Boil chicken. Set the heat to medium-high and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling hard, lower the heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked (about 15-18 minutes depending on the size of your chicken).

3️⃣ Shred chicken. Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the pot to a cutting board, and pull the tender meat apart to make pulled chicken.

4️⃣ Heat the chicken with sauce. Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the pot. Pour the Carolina BBQ sauce over the top, stir well, and cook for 10 more minutes on medium heat allowing the meat to soak. Enjoy!

bbq pulled chicken sandwiches

👉 Recipe Tips

  • Shred with a stand mixer: With the paddle attachment, shred the chicken in a stand mixer over medium speed.
  • If pressure cooking frozen chicken: Forget to thaw the chicken? No biggie. Set the Instant Pot on manual HIGH pressure for 15 minutes (instead of 12).
  • Slow cooking frozen chicken: If slow cooking from frozen, add at least an hour to the cook time.
  • Cook to temperature. 165F is the minimum internal temperature for safely cooked chicken.
  • Adjust timing accordingly. If you’re using thicker breasts, they may need to be cooked for a few extra minutes. Likewise, if you’re using thin breasts or filets, you’ll need to reduce the cook time.
  • If the chicken is undercooked, add it back to the Instant Pot and cook on HIGH for 3-5 more minutes.
  • Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes before shredding for.

🧆 Variations & Serving Suggestions

Whole30 Carolina BBQ: Use a paleo-compliant sauce, like The New Primal Mustard BBQ or Primal Kitchen’s Golden BBQ. Make it a meal and serve over a bed of leafy greens and Whole30 coleslaw.

Make it spicy: Season the chicken with fiery spices (cayenne, chili powder, cumin, etc.) and add your favorite hot sauce.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches: Serve on soft buns (or slider size buns) with dill pickle slaw and crunchy pickles.

Rice & quinoa bowls: Serve in deep bowls with fluffy rice or quinoa and a balanced variety of sides like BBQ baked beans, corn, collard greens, or BBQ sweet potato fries.

Have leftovers? Elevate these delicious BBQ recipes with Carolina pulled BBQ chicken.

🧊 Storing & Freezing

Storing: After cooling, store pulled chicken in a shallow airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Freezing: Once the chicken is cool, you can transfer it to freezer-safe resealable bags or containers, and store in the freezer for up to 4 months.

FAQ

Can I have this on Whole30?

Yes, as long as you use Whole30 compliant Carolina BBQ sauce like The New Primal or Primal Kitchens.

Is Carolina BBQ sweet?

It’s not nearly as sweet as other BBQ sauces. It’s delightfully vinegar u0026 mustard forward with zing and a pleasant sour bite.

How can I keep chicken breast from drying out?

Start with small chicken breasts or larger breasts pounded out to an even thickness. Set the chicken out 10-20 mintutes before cooking to take the chill off, and cook low and slow until the chicken reaches 165F. Let rest before shredding.

More BBQ Recipes

Looking for more simplified homemade BBQ recipes, don’t miss these Thyme & Joy classics.

Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket
Boneless BBQ Wings
Thick Cut Grilled BBQ Pork Chops
Instant Pot Pork Ribs

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bbq pulled chicken sandwiches

Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken

Bring the sweet and tangy flavor of Carolina-style BBQ to the comfort of your kitchen. This no-fuss recipe yields two pounds of melt-in-your-mouth pulled chicken soaked in Carolina's signature vinegar-based BBQ sauce. Instant Pot, Crockpot, AND stovetop instructions included!
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Servings: 8 1/2 cup servings
Calories: 204kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot or slow cooker or large stockpot
  • Tongs
  • forks (to shred) or shredding claws

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 12 ounces Carolina-style BBQ sauce about 1½ cups
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • Add chicken stock, broth, or water to the slow cooker (while water is fine to use, stock or bone broth will add additional flavor and nutrients to the chicken). Then, add the chicken breast to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and slow cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours or on LOW for 4-6 hours. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 165°F to consume safely.
  • Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the slow cooker to a cutting board, and pull the chicken apart into shreds.
  • Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the slow cooker along with the Carolina BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and cook on low for 30 minutes allowing the flavors to absorb. Serve hot.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Add chicken stock, broth, or water to the Instant Pot (keeping in mind that stock or bone broth will add more flavor and nutrients to the chicken). Next, add the chicken breasts to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
  • Set the valve to the SEALING position and pressure cook on manual HIGH pressure for 12 minutes. Manually release the pressure or let it naturally release. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the pressure cooker to a cutting board, and pull all the tender meat apart into shreds.
  • Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the pressure cooker along with the Carolina BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and cook on the WARM setting for at least 15 minutes allowing the flavors to absorb. Serve hot.

Stovetop Instructions

  • Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Then, add to a large, deep saucepot or stockpot. Add enough stock, broth, or water to the pot to fully submerge the chicken with 2" of liquid above.
  • Set the heat to medium-high and heat the liquid to a rolling boil. Once boiling hard, lower the heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked (15-18 minutes depending on the size of thr breasts).
  • Using tongs, transfer the chicken from the pot to a cutting board, and pull the tender meat apart into shredded chicken.
  • Finally, discard the cooking liquid and add the chicken back to the pot. Pour the Carolina BBQ sauce over the top, stir well, and cook for 10 more minutes on medium heat allowing the meat to soak in the sauce. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 824mg | Potassium: 524mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 130IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

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