This incredibly easy tender and tangy BBQ Shredded Chicken can be made in less than 30 minutes and is perfect for sandwiches, salads, and wraps.
BBQ shredded chicken is one of those recipes you’ll be happy to have in your back pocket on busy weeknights. The cooking time is mostly hands-off, it’s made with just a few ingredients that you probably have on hand already, and you can do so many things with it.
The chicken is *so* good. It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and pretty much any way you eat it is going to be a good time.
Pile it on to sandwiches, serve it on its own with a side of mashed potatoes, or wrap it in a tortilla and make a quick chicken wrap. The options are endless.
- About 4 small or 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts: Chicken breast size varies wildly, so you’ll need between 2 and 4 chicken breasts for the 1½ to 2 pounds of chicken called for in this recipe. If using 2 large breasts, you’ll cut them down into cutlets before cooking so they cook more quickly in the sauce.
- Barbecue sauce: The sauce you use has a huge impact on the flavor of your chicken, so use your favorite BBQ sauce here. This is my go-to brand.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar gives the sauce an extra kick of flavor. If you don’t keep apple cider vinegar on hand, you can use half the amount of white distilled vinegar. (White distilled has a much stronger flavor, so you don’t need as much.)
- Butter: Browning the chicken in butter gives the sauce a little added richness and flavor. Salted or unsalted will work fine.
How to Make Shredded BBQ Chicken
- If starting with large chicken breasts, cut each piece of meat into 2 even cutlets by placing your hand on top of the chicken breast and running a sharp knife horizontally through the breast, slicing the top and bottom into two thin, even pieces. Lightly salt and pepper both sides of all chicken pieces.
- In a bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, and water.
- In a large skillet, melt butter and lightly brown both sides of the chicken.
- Pour sauce over the chicken and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to keep the sauce at just a simmer and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, flip the chicken breasts, and continue to cook, covered, until they are cooked through. If at any time the sauce begins to get too thick and seems like it might burn, you can add just a bit more water to the pan.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before shredding. If the sauce seems a little watery, let it simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
- Return the shredded chicken to the sauce, toss to coat, and enjoy!
A Note on Shredding Chicken
Not quite sure how to shred chicken? You have a number of different options…
- Two forks: Hold one fork in each hand, and use one fork to hold the chicken breast down and the other to tear away pieces of meat and shred them into smaller sections.
- Handheld electric mixer: Place chicken in a large bowl, turn the mixer on medium-low and press the beaters into the chicken breasts. They will break up the meat as they spin. Continue until the chicken is mostly shredded and the beaters don’t seem to be breaking anything up any longer. Use your hands to tear apart any remaining larger pieces of chicken.
- Stand mixer: With the paddle attachment, set mixer to low, working up to medium and process chicken until mostly shredded. Don’t over process–there will be a couple of pieces you will need to finish pulling apart by hand.
What can I make with shredded BBQ chicken?
You can use shredded bbq chicken in all sorts of recipes. Some of my favorites are:
- BBQ Chicken Sandwiches: Serve the chicken on a lightly toasted bun with mayonnaise and coleslaw.
- Bacon Pineapple BBQ Sandwich: Assemble sandwich with a slice of pineapple, bacon, and Monterey Jack cheese.
- BBQ Chicken Nachos: Top chips (or fries!!) with chicken, shredded cheese, red onions, jalapeños, cilantro, and BBQ sauce.
- BBQ Chicken Salad: Top romaine lettuce with bbq chicken, shredded cheese, red onions, and ranch dressing.
- BBQ Chicken Pizza: Spread BBQ sauce over pizza dough and top with shredded BBQ chicken, red onions, smoked gouda cheese, and cilantro.
Can I make this ahead of time?
Yes. You can make the chicken up to 48 hours in advance. Store the shredded chicken covered in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze shredded BBQ chicken?
Yes! Shredded chicken freezes really well. Just store the chicken in a freezer bag, press all the air out of it, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, defrost the chicken overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave.
More BBQ Recipes
More Easy Chicken Recipes
Quick BBQ Shredded Chicken
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1½ to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts about 4 small or 2 large*
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons (42g) butter salted or unsalted is fine
- In a medium bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, and water. Set aside.
- Pat chicken breasts dry and lightly salt and pepper both sides. Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat and melt butter.
- Add chicken breasts to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Flip the chicken breasts and pour barbecue sauce mixture over the top.
- Bring sauce to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low, keeping the sauce at just a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken, re-cover, and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 165°F, usually around 3 to 6 minutes more.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow the sauce to continue simmering uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.
- Shred chicken breasts and return shredded chicken to the pan of sauce. Stir until well-coated. Serve and enjoy!
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