Boneless chicken thighs are seasoned with dry rub and tossed with your favorite BBQ sauce. They're slow-cooked until juicy and fall apart tender! Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs are smokey, sweet, and savory, and they only require a few ingredients!
Ultra tender Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs are one of the easiest and tastiest dinner recipes you'll make all week! This is a dump-and-go crock pot recipe that requires minimal effort and can be prepped in advance.
After only 2.5 hours in the slow cooker, the chicken gets transferred to a sheet pan and placed under the broiler. This step is essential if you want your chicken thighs to have crispy edges!
On nights that I want to use my air fryer, I'm making my Air Fryer Boneless Chicken Thighs!
Why you'll love this recipe
- This recipe preps in under 10 minutes! It takes practically no time at all to mix the herbs and spices together and to slice the onion.
- Crockpot BBQ chicken only calls for 3 main ingredients (not including the spice blend). Fewer ingredients means that this is a cheap and budget-friendly meal!
- The chicken thighs finish cooking in 2.5 hours. You can get home from work in the afternoon and still have time to make a slow cooker dinner recipe for later in the evening.
- This is a high-protein recipe that you can easily modify to be low-carb, keto, or Whole30-friendly.
- Tender, pulled chicken can be served in dozens of different ways!
- These are super moist and flavorful BBQ chicken thighs, full of rich bbq flavor, with the perfect amount of sticky, tangy, BBQ sauce.
Boneless chicken thighs: You'll need boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. Open the thighs up and lay them flat in the bottom of your slow cooker. You do not need to trim the fat. The fat will add some extra flavor to the thighs!
BBQ seasoning blend: My homemade BBQ seasoning blend contains chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, yellow mustard powder, brown sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. It's really simple to mix up your own BBQ dry rub. However, if you have a bottled blend that you love, you could use that too!
White onion: Thickly sliced white onion will add some flavor and texture to the BBQ chicken thighs.
BBQ sauce: I love Rib Rack BBQ Sauce! It's on the sweeter side and is really thick and syrupy. It does a great job of coating the meat with sauce. Sweet Baby Rays is also a popular and yummy bottled BBQ sauce!
A detailed ingredient list can be found in the recipe card below.
- Slow cooker or Crock Pot - I use a Crock-Pot 7-Quart Manual Slow Cooker at home. The next slow cooker I purchase will definitely be this 7 Quart Slow Cooker with a locking lid and cook time technology.
- Additional kitchen tools needed - You'll also need a rimmed baked sheet, measuring spoons, measuring cups, a chopping knife, large tongs, and a cutting board.
How to make Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs
- Season the chicken thighs.
- Place them in the slow cooker with sliced white onion.
- Mix with BBQ sauce.
- Cook on low for 2.5 hours.
- Broil on a baking sheet for 5 minutes.
Step 1: Make your BBQ seasoning blend. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, yellow mustard powder, brown sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper.
Place the raw chicken thighs in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the BBQ seasoning blend over the thighs. Use kitchen tongs to toss the chicken into the seasoning blend so that all sides of the chicken thighs are coated in seasoning.
Step 2: Add 1 cup of thickly sliced white onions to the crock pot.
Step 3: Pour 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce over top of the chicken thighs and the sliced onions. I prefer a sweeter sauce with rich, smokey flavors.
Step 4: Use tongs to toss the chicken and onions into the sauce, so that everything is fully coated in BBQ sauce.
Step 5: Slow cook the chicken thighs on low for 2.5-3 hours. After the chicken is done slow cooking, transfer the chicken thighs to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I like to pull them apart a little while I'm spreading them out on the baking sheet.
You can drizzle some extra BBQ sauce on your chicken at this point.
Broil the chicken thighs on high for about 5 minutes. This will make some of the edges around the shredded chicken thigh pieces crispy. This really adds a lot of flavor and texture to the crock pot chicken!
Serve with an extra side of BBQ sauce and enjoy!
- As you're adding the raw chicken thighs to the slow cooker, open them up flat. It's okay if they overlap. Most chicken thighs are rolled up when they're in packaging. Unrolling them will ensure that you can season every single inch of the raw chicken.
- You may not use all of the BBQ seasoning. That is okay. Use your best judgment when seasoning the thighs.
- I instruct you to use thickly sliced onions because the onions will cook down quite a bit in the slow cooker. Cutting them into large slices will make it so they don't totally disappear while they're slow cooking!
- I do not recommend cooking boneless chicken thighs on high. I tried this out and it overcooked the chicken. I know a lot of slow cooker bbq chicken thigh recipes say that you can cook them on high. After my recipe testing, I really do not recommend this! 2.5-3 hours on low will give you the best results!
- The short cooking time makes this recipe very convenient for busy weeknights! You can get home from work at 4:00 and still have a slow-cooker meal ready for dinner at 6:30.
Substitutions and variations
Chicken thighs: My recipe is for boneless skinless chicken thighs. I do not recommend substituting bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Bone-in chicken will be fattier and may have a longer cooking time. Since I have not tested this out, I do not recommend making this substitution.
BBQ seasoning blend: My bbq seasoning blend is full of pantry-friendly ingredients! You should already have everything you need to make your own blend. If not though, you can buy a premade blend or play around with your own variation!
BBQ sauce: Use your favorite BBQ sauce or make your own from scratch. If you want this recipe to be keto-friendly and low-carb, you'll need to find a BBQ sauce without sugar and eliminate the brown sugar from the bbq seasoning dry rub. You can use a Whole30-approved BBQ sauce to make this recipe Whole30-friendly. I recommend a few Whole30 BBQ sauces in my Whole30 Pulled Pork (slow cooker) recipe!
Variations: A variation to this recipe would be using chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. Chicken breast will take much longer to slow cook on low though.
How to store, freeze and reheat
How to store: Store leftover chicken thighs in a glass, airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How to freeze: Freeze leftover shredded chicken in plastic freezer bags. Squeeze the air out of the bag and lay the bag flat in the freezer. Label the freezer bag with the name of the recipe and the date it's going into the freezer.
How to reheat: Let frozen chicken thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. Reheat in the microwave for 1 minute at a time, until you've reached your preferred warmth. Reheat on the stovetop in a small skillet over low heat. To reheat in the oven, transfer the pulled chicken to a baking dish and cover the dish with foil. Reheat at 350°F for about 15 minutes.
What to serve with
One of the reasons that I love this recipe is because you can serve it with basically any side dish! BBQ chicken goes well with salad, rolls, potatoes, rice, vegetables, and even mac and cheese!
Frequently asked questions
If you're cooking bbq sauce in a slow cooker on high for a long period of time, yes it can burn. In this recipe, we're cooking on low for a shorter amount of time so the bbq sauce will not burn.
No, since these are skinless chicken thighs you do not have to brown the chicken thighs before adding them to the crockpot.
It's always best to cook chicken in the slow cooker low and slow.
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