Slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs with rich flavors, prepared with a homemade BBQ sauce. The meat is very tender and great for making pulled chicken sandwiches or enjoying with pasta or mashed potatoes.
You can make BBQ chicken thighs by slow cooking it in a store-bought BBQ sauce or a homemade BBQ sauce. I like many commercially made BBQ sauces but inevitably come back to this tried-and-true, easy to make and delicious sauce made with a few simple ingredients. This recipe should satisfy most palates but you are welcome to tweak it to suit your taste.
To give BBQ chicken the most flavor I always pick skin-on chicken thighs and pan-sear them until the skin is golden brown. This not only adds flavor and color, but also helps render off some excess skin fat that you don’t want to end up in the Crock Pot.
While I recommend using chicken thighs or chicken legs in this recipe, you can also pick bone-in chicken breasts. The only difference is that slow cooker chicken breasts need less time to cook – about 3 hours on low. Cooked longer, they will taste dry and chalky.
The base for the BBQ sauce in this recipe consists of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock or chicken broth. These are staples in most kitchens which makes it very easy to make this sauce on a short notice. If you don’t have prepared chicken stock or chicken bullion cubes, use plain water.
Vinegar, lemon juice and brown sugar are added for sweet and sour taste. Finally, paprika, dry mustard, chili powder and cayenne peppers enhance the flavor profile with savory notes and add some kick to the sauce.
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs with Homemade BBQ Sauce
- 12 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks, or 6 leg quarters
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
For the BBQ sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken stock (or chicken broth)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 Tbsp dry mustard
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pat dry chicken pieces with paper towels, lightly season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the chicken skin side down and cook for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to slow cooker.
- Combine all of the ingredient for the BBQ sauce in a small bowl and whisk.
- Pour BBQ sauce over chicken.
- Set the slow cooker to Low and cook for 5-6 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
- Serve immediately, or set the slow cooker to 'warm' until ready to serve.