Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs are fall-off-the-bone tender. Smothered in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, the slow-cooked chicken is juicy and delicious. This recipe provides all the goodness of BBQ chicken without the grill, perfect for any night of the week.
We love a good slow cooker meal in our household. There is a good reason that the trusty gadget has stood the test of time; it does all of the difficult cooking for you. For this recipe, that means succulent chicken with little effort.
This easy slow cooker chicken recipe starts with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The chicken skin is cooked just until slightly crispy and browned. Doctoring up store-bought BBQ sauce with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and garlic powder brings a flavored sauce to a new level.
Whether you do not feel like grilling or want an easy weeknight meal, this slow-cooker chicken thigh recipe is just what you need. This recipe provides the easiest and best BBQ chicken cooked in a crockpot. The sauce is sweet and tangy, making it utterly addictive to eat.
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
My favorite way to cook barbecue chicken indoors is using the slow cooker. It takes care of the hard work, leaving you with tender, juicy chicken full of bbq flavor. Here is why you want to cook your chicken thighs in the slow cooker:
- Easy Dinner Recipe - Minimal effort and active time are required to make this recipe, thanks to the slow cooker. It's the perfect dinner for busy weeknights that the whole family will love. BBQ chicken thighs are also an easy meal for game day.
- Simple Ingredients - All of the sauce ingredients are pantry staples.
- Slow Cooking - After slow-cooking for hours, the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and smothered in deliciously sweet BBQ sauce.
- Meal Prep - This is a great recipe for make-ahead meals. It makes a lot, and the chicken freezes well too.
- BBQ Sauce – The sauce for this recipe starts with store-bought bbq sauce. Start with a thick sauce like Stubbs Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q Sauce or Sweet Baby Ray's, or use your favorite BBQ sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – The vinegar adds tang and acidity to the sweet premade sauce.
- Light Brown Sugar – Most BBQ sauces, if not all, already have sugar added. The additional brown sugar in this recipe contributes sweetness with a subtle molasses flavor.
- Garlic Powder
- Worcestershire Sauce - The beauty of this kitchen staple is that it brings umami flavor to whatever you add it to, including this sauce.
- Olive Oil – The olive oil is used to brown the skin of the chicken thighs before they are transferred to the slow cooker. The browning process prevents rubbery and soft chicken skin.
- Chicken Thighs (Bone-in, skin-on) – If using boneless, skinless chicken thighs, you do not need to brown them in the pan. Place them into the slow cooker raw and smother them in the sauce.
- Cornstarch (plus water) – Otherwise known as a slurry, the cornstarch-water mixture thickens the sauce after cooking.
See the recipe card for ingredient quantities.
STEP 1 - Whisk together the BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl.
STEP 2 - In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Place chicken thighs, skin side down, into the pan and cook until golden. Flip over and cook for a few minutes more. *If using boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, skip this step. Or, if desired, remove the skin from the bone-in thighs.
STEP 3 - Carefully place the browned chicken thighs in a single layer at the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs, covering them entirely—cook for 3 hours on high or low for 4 to 6 hours until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees F.
STEP 4 - Remove the cooked chicken thighs from the bottom of the slow cooker. Carefully pour the sauce into a small saucepan. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring frequently. Whisk together the cornstarch and water until thickened. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Cook the sauce until thickened.
STEP 5 - Pour the thickened sauce over the chicken thighs - serve immediately.
- Chicken Thighs - Use skinless chicken breasts or thighs in this recipe too. Skip the browning stage (step 2) and put the chicken breast straight into the slow cooker. Shred the chicken using two forks and stir it into the sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - Suitable substitutes include red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and rice wine vinegar.
- Light Brown Sugar - Swap the sugar for honey or maple syrup.
- Garlic Powder - Use minced, fresh garlic. Mince two cloves. Or try swapping the garlic powder for onion powder.
- Add-Ins - Add sliced red or white onion to the base of the slow cooker to amp up the flavor. For a subtle kick, stir a pinch of cayenne pepper into the sauce.
What to Serve with Slow-Cooker Chicken
When eating BBQ chicken, you must remember the sides. This chicken is delicious with rice, potatoes, and salads. If using boneless chicken thighs or breasts, shred the chicken and serve with potato rolls and creamy coleslaw. Here are a few of my favorite sides to pair with crockpot BBQ chicken thighs:
- 20-Minute Pesto Potato Salad
- Easy Italian Pasta Salad
- Easy Honey Cornbread
- Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Frozen Green Beans
Store any leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Delicious Crockpot Recipes
- Slow Cooker Greek Chicken
- Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken
- Crockpot Frozen Turkey Meatball Subs
- Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
- Cuisinart 12-Inch Skillet, Nonstick-Hard-Anodized with Glass Cover
- Crock-Pot Small 3.5 Quart Casserole Manual Slow Cooker - This is the one I have. It heats quickly and has a wide surface, which is excellent for casserole-type recipes.
- Meat Thermometer
- Cuisinart 1-Quart Saucepan
- If cooking from frozen, use boneless skinless chicken. Remember that cooking times will be more significant because the chicken is frozen. Conversely, do not cook the bone-in chicken thighs from frozen. The skins will not brown appropriately, which is undesirable in the finished product.
- Cooking times vary regarding slow cookers; some run hotter than others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Allow the chicken to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe airtight container. Freeze the chicken for up to 2 months - thaw it in the refrigerator before eating.
This recipe is easily adaptable to different types of chicken. Some great options include chicken breast, chicken drumsticks, and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Skip the browning process on skinless chicken. If using chicken breast, keep a close eye towards the end of cooking to avoid overcooking it.
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
- Whisk together the BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook until golden. Flip over and cook for a few minutes more.
- Carefully transfer the browned chicken thighs to the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs, covering them fully.
- Cook for 3 hours on high or low for 4 to 6 hours. Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F, remove them from the slow cooker.
- Carefully pour the sauce into a small saucepan. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. While the sauce simmers, whisk together the cornstarch and water until thickened. Stir the thickened cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Cook the sauce until thickened or desired thickness has been achieved. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Pour the thickened sauce over the chicken thighs. Serve immediately.