Spicy BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Yogurt Slaw

There's a part of me that really wants a slow cooker. There's another part of me that is apprehensive about buying yet another kitchen appliance.  I know some people swear by it - make most of their meals in it - and you can make incredible stuff in there! But I have this mental block about buying one. I've been seeing a lot of slow cooker pulled chicken recipes lately and I couldn't stop thinking about it - I need some BBQ pulled chicken. I do have a dutch oven, though - and I came across this stove-top recipe for spicy pulled chicken on Portuguese Girl Cooks, which made me very happy. The Mr. LOVES pulled chicken - pulled anything, really (that sounds weird, but you know what I mean). So I decided to make him one of his favorites - this is what he always orders at a BBQ joint - spicy BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches. And what are pulled chicken sandwiches without the slaw?! Gotta have coleslaw. So I made my healthier version of cole slaw and we piled that with the chicken and sliced pickles on soft white wheat buns - oh yeah. These are easy enough for a weeknight meal, as long as you can start early - the chicken takes about 90 minutes to cook (totally hands-off). The chicken was even better the next day - all saucy and tender and yum. This is a pretty healthy rendition of something that can be a bit naughty at a regular BBQ joint - I'll definitely be making this again soon, probably for company. In any case, these chicken sandwiches were amazing, and The Mr. was very excited. 


Spicy BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Yogurt Slaw

adapted from Portuguese Girl Cooks

serves 4


for the chicken:

  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely minced (leave the seeds in if you like it spicy, remove for a milder sauce)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cups no-salt-added tomato puree
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 2-3 Tbsp Frank's hot sauce (we like it spicy and love the flavor, but use less if you prefer a milder sauce)
  • pinch cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 tsp salt-free chili powder
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 soft white whole wheat hamburger buns
  • sliced dill pickles

for the slaw:

  • 1/2 a head of cabbage, thinly sliced (my cabbage was pretty huge, so you may need to scale down the mayo/yogurt depending on the size of your cabbage head)
  • 4 Tbsp nonfat or lowfat plain Greek yogurt (I like Fage)*
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • juice from 1/2 a lime
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil spray


  1. In a dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the jalapeno and onion and cook, stirring now and then, until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  3. Add the tomato puree, brown sugar, Worchestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. 
  4. Taste it - season with salt and pepper to taste (I added a tiny pinch of salt and about 1/4 tsp of pepper). 
  5. Add the chicken thighs to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 90 minutes, until chicken is fall-apart tender and completely cooked through. Remove from heat.
  6. Using two forks, tear/shred the chicken (this should be very easy to do - if not, simmer the chicken a bit longer). Allow the shredded chicken to sit in the sauce another 30 minutes or so, and reheat before eating if necessary. 
  7. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Open each bun and lightly spritz the flat sides with olive oil. Lay the buns flat-side down on the skillet and cook until the bottom is golden brown and toasted, about 1 minute.
  8. Pile the chicken onto the toasted buns, top with sliced pickles and slaw. 

For the slaw:

  1. Combine the yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add sliced cabbage to the bowl and toss until cabbage is evenly coated in yogurt mixture. 

*If you prefer, you can use all yogurt for the slaw - basically use whatever combination of yogurt, mayo, and sour cream you like for a total of 1/2 cup. I generally only add the sour cream if I already have it on hand - if I don't have it, I just use more yogurt. 

Find similar recipes at Feastie:

fried chicken sandwiches with pickle coleslaw from Foxes Love Lemons
Grilled Breaded Chicken Sandwich - Grill it or Bake it! from The Slow Roasted Italian
Crock Pot Buffalo Pulled Chicken from Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
buffalo chicken burger from Sophistimom
Grilled Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw from Culinary Science with Jessica Gavin


Almost a year and a half after the post, eesh, hope you don't mind a late comment... I made this tonight and it was delicious. Omitted the onion because my partner has trouble digesting some things in them, and left the jalapeno seeds in but didn't put in any Franks. Also ended up using gochugaru (Korean pepper powder) instead of some other chili powder.

We'll definitely eat this again. It was a big hit with everyone. The coleslaw was perfect on it too.


This sounds really delicious, and easy to make, thank you for sharing this recipe.


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Will blog for food.