I wish we all had time to stand in front of the barbecue and have parties on the deck (or by the pool if you’re so lucky) but man, sometimes we’re just busy and need to eat! That’s when this big batch of Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken is a lifesaver.
Make a big batch of Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken in the Instant Pot or the Slow Cooker (This is a meal prep recipe) and you’ll have a bounty of luscious shredded chicken on hand for all kinds of meals. Package some up and stash it in your freezer and you’ll have a leg up on dinner for any busy night.
About Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken:
When I first made my Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken I was really going for the flavors of that sweet Southern barbecue chicken that uses Dr. Pepper or Coke. What I found was that in the Slow Cooker or Instant Pot, both methods that cook with moisture, that sauce didn’t work; it couldn’t reduce properly. So I switched directions and came up with this Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken. The flavor is dependent on the sauce, so use a Honey Barbecue Sauce or add honey to your favorite barbecue sauce. I love Sweet Baby Ray’s or Cookies, a local Iowa brand. Gotta five a shout-out to the little guy!!
The recipe couldn’t be easier. It’s hardly a recipe at all, just the chicken, the sauce, and a little honey if your sauce doesn’t have it, but it works so well and is going to leave you with mounds of luscious, tangled barbecue chicken to use for all kinds of meals with an absolute minimum of effort. I did a little work on a meal prep plan using my Meal Prep Chicken not too long ago, but that was a chicken that had a rub, just for a little flavor, that could be morphed in different directions. This chicken is full-on barbecue flavor.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re limited to serving this chicken on a bun or as a barbecue meal. It still will be fantastic in all kinds of things. I love the fusion of Barbecue and Mexican flavors, and I tend to lean that way when it comes to using my Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken. Feel free to chime in on your fave ways to serve Pulled Chicken. I love me some new ideas!
Ways I serve my Honey Barbecue Chicken:
On a bun, of course, with or without slaw. A classic!
In Tacos, on Tostadas, in Burritos or Quesadillas. Try it with the Roasted Sweet Corn Salsa in a quesadilla!! Photo at the bottom of the page. Yum!
Any Southwestern Salad or Bowl. Just sub in the Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken for the Steak in this Southwestern Salad.
Making Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken:
Like I said, this is hardly a recipe. Since this is a large batch of chicken (I use breasts) I do have one consideration that helps in the cooking. When laying in the chicken, either in the Slow Cooker or Instant Pot, criss-cross as you go. For the Instant Pot, lay two breasts one way, then lay the next two breasts at right angles. Try to keep it away from the sides of the Instant Pot. It doesn’t matter in the Slow Cooker if it touches the sides, but lay down the first layer, each breast about an inch apart, then the next layer at right angles and so on. The chicken may slip and slide but do the best you can. The idea is to keep the chicken from being one solid mass and allow some circulation.
When the Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken has finished cooking, let it cool a bit in the juices. Then remove it from the juices for shredding, either by hand or by mixer. Save the juices. One cup goes back in the chicken and the rest of those juices (never waste flavor) gets used in my Barbecue Chicken Chili,
recipe coming soon here, and you’ll find other soups on my site that can use those juices, too. Brunswick Stew, anyone?
Whether I’m shredding with my kitchen aid (use the guard or a bit of foil around the top – thank me later, lol!) or by hand, I always make a couple of cuts across the length of the breast. It makes the job of shredding so much easier. Shredding the chicken while still warm is key, as well. Once the chicken is cold, it tightens up and doesn’t shred so easily.
The chicken goes back in the Instant Pot or the Slow Cooker (change the setting to keep warm or low or warm, respectively) with a cup of the juices and a little more sauce. Dinner’s ready, folks! For tonight and many more to come. How far your chicken goes is going to depend on how finely it is shredded. A very finely shredded chicken means there is a lot of chicken in one cup. A larger shred means there will be less chicken in one cup because the chicken is bulkier. Here’s a rule of thumb, though, from my Meal Prep Chicken:
Optional Secret Ingredient:
There used to be a fun restaurant not far from me, Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue, that served these amazing Jalapeno Peppers, free for the asking. That gave me the idea to recreate those jalapenos. Just put a couple of slits in the jalapenos and toss them on top of the chicken and let them cook right along with the chicken.
I like to think some of the juices from the jalapenos flavor the chicken, although it’s really hard to tell, but what comes out are beautifully softened jalapenos. There is no need for roasting or peeling. Dip them into the cooking juices and then roll in kosher salt. Make sure to use kosher, though. If you use table salt the jalapenos will be too salty and if you use sea salt the salt will just dissolve. Handle the jalapenos very gently or they’ll just fall apart.
Serve the jalapenos alongside your Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken or seed and chop them and stir them in for a little heat. Save them if you’d like and use in any of your subsequent dishes, like the Roasted Sweet Corn Salsa or the Barbecue Chicken Chili or stash in the freezer for future creations. Serve them as an appetizer, just as is or with cream cheese and crackers. Make as many or as few as you’d like.
Saving Money on Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken:
Really shop for your chicken well and know the highs and the lows in your area. Chicken breast can run from 99 cents a pound up to $4.99 a pound and count on paying more for free-range and/or organic chicken. Buy the big family packs like I did for this chicken and you’ll know every meal you make from it reflects that sale price. Since this chicken freezes so well, it’s ideal even if you’re a “single” and perfect for any sized family. Just break it down into meal-sized portions that make sense for you and freeze. I like to go with about 2 cup portions. Thaw overnight in the fridge or use the microwave.
Barbecue sauce, being a pretty basic condiment, is at a low in the summer. Stock up for the year during the big summer sales. Use coupons if you can. If you miss the summer sales, there are usually great prices during the weeks leading up to the Superbowl. If you have a favorite homemade barbecue sauce that will be great in this recipe!
Honey is getting pricey. I do love good honey and am lucky my friend Jenni picks some up for me every year on her travels. Thank you, Jenni! Honestly, though, I wouldn’t use super pricey good honey in a recipe like this. Any grocery store or drug store (yes drug store – a surprising place to find great priced honey! Watch the ads.) honey will do, here.
Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken
- 5 to 6 pounds chicken breast, trimmed of fat and cartilage
- 2 cups barbecue sauce, divided 1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup, more if desired
- 1/4 cup honey, if barbecue sauce isn’t already a honey sauce
- 1 cup chicken stock for Instant Pot, 2 cups for Slow Cooker
- Jalapenos, optional, as many or as few as you’d like, and kosher salt
For the Instant Pot:
If your barbecue sauce isn’t a Honey Barbecue Sauce, mix sauce with 1/4 cup honey.
Add rack to Instant Pot Liner.
Place rack in the bottom of Instant Pot Liner. Add one cup of stock. Add chicken on top of the rack, trying to avoid touching the sides of the pot. Lay down two breasts side by side with a little space between them. Add another two at right angles. Then add two more, at a right angle to the previous layer and continue until all the chicken is in the pot (the amount of layers depends on how many breasts are in the package.) Pour 1 1/2 cups sauce over chicken.
If using jalapenos, make a slit in the side of the jalapeno and lay on top of the sauce.
Seal Instant Pot and set to High Pressure, 25 minutes. Let Instant Pot go to the Keep Warm function for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure. Check to make sure chicken is tender and cooked through.
Remove chicken. Save juices. Shred chicken, return to Instant Pot, set to Keep Warm, along with 1 cup of the juices and the additional 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.
For the Slow Cooker:
If your barbecue sauce isn’t a Honey Barbecue Sauce, mix sauce with 1/4 cup honey.
Add two cups of stock to the slow cooker. Add chicken, placing several breasts across the bottom with about an inch between them. Add the second layer crosswise to the first, and add a third layer if necessary.
Pour 1 1/2 cups sauce over chicken. If using jalapenos, make a slit in the side of the jalapeno and lay on top of the sauce. Cover and cook on high for six to eight hours or on low for four to six. Remove chicken. Save juices. Shred chicken, return to slow cooker, set to Warm, along with 1 cup of the juices and the additional 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.
For both recipes:
- Honey Barbecue Chicken will keep in the fridge for four to five days and may be frozen for up to six months.
- For jalapenos, remove, dip in the juices, then roll in kosher salt.
I’ll be sharing my Honey Barbecue Pulled Chicken at Fiesta Friday #233. Stop by to checkout all the links and stop by again on Tuesday to vote on your favorite ones!