Smothered in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, these easy Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs are fall-off-the-bone tender. You will love these slow-cooked, juicy chicken thighs. All the goodness of BBQ chicken without the grill!
We love a good slow cooker meal in our household. Start the crockpot in the morning; by early evening, dinner will already be ready. No matter what’s inside, the whole kitchen is permeated with tantalizing smells.
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 storebought BBQ sauce with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and garlic powder brings what once was a simply 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 is the easiest and best BBQ chicken to cook in a crock pot. The sauce is sweet and tangy, making it utterly addictive to eat.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- BBQ Sauce – The BBQ sauce for this recipe starts with the store-bought sauce. Use a thicker and sweeter sauce. *See below for suggestions.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – The vinegar adds tang and acidity to the sweet premade sauce. Apple cider vinegar is the most frequent vinegar you’ll find in BBQ. If you do not have any, suitable substitutes include red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and rice wine vinegar.
- Light Brown Sugar – Most BBQ sauces, if not all, already have sugar added. This little brown sugar contributes additional sweetness with a subtle molasses flavor.
- Garlic Powder – Or minced, fresh garlic. If using new, mince two cloves.
- 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.
How to Make Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
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. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, 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 transfer the browned chicken thighs to 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.
STEP 4 - Once the chicken is cooked, remove the thighs from 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.
Tips for Success
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 from frozen, which is undesirable in the finished product.
Cooking times vary when it comes to slow cookers; some run hotter than others. This is the one I have. It heats quickly and has a wide surface, which is excellent for casserole-type recipes.
What to Serve with this Chicken
When eating BBQ chicken, you cannot forget the sides! This chicken is delicious with rice, potatoes, and salads, you name it. 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 things to pair with crockpot BBQ chicken thighs:
Frequently Asked Questions
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Yes, you can freeze BBQ chicken thighs. Allow the chicken to cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe airtight container. Freeze the chicken for up to 2 months.
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.
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
- 1⅓ cups BBQ sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 lbs chicken thighs bone-in, skin on
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon water
- In a bowl, whisk together the BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce.
- 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 on 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.
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