Slow Cooker Sweet and Tangy Pulled Chicken

January 29, 2015

Slow Cooker Sweet and Tangy Pulled Chicken recipe | One Hungry Mama

So, I have a love-hate relationship with my slow cooker. The love part is that it cooks for me. I mean, c’mon: that’s pretty awesome. The hate part is that it’s hard to find great slow cooker recipes. Having developed a few over the years, I know they can be tricky. It’s all too easy to end up with a soupy mess, anemic meat, or greasy slop.

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic with greasy slop, but you know what I mean, right? That slick of fat from meat that’s been cooked for hours. Not cute.

When I started working with clients, one of the challenges that I posed to myself was to find a great resource for slow cooker recipes. I thought that maybe I just hadn’t looked hard enough and being proactive would make the difference. I thought wrong. The challenge proved to be harder than expected. Until now.

Once again, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen have provided us with a go-to cookbook packed with tons of easy, family-friendly recipes. Their new book, Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution, has helped me churn out 3 easy, delicious meals in the last 2 weeks: Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin (recipe coming soon), Cuban White Bean and Plantain stew (a hearty, meatless stew that was a hit with all of my boys) and, my favorite, this Sweet and Tangy Pulled Chicken.

Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution is a well-rounded collection of 200 recipes that spans soups and stews; roasts, steaks and chops; chicken and turkey; seafood; pasta; casseroles; vegetable mains and sides; and so much more. Even desserts. Some of the recipes, like the one below, even come with quick additional recipes for sides and accompaniments. As in, dinner—not just main dish—is completely done.

Review of Healthy Slow Cooker cookbook by America's Test Kitchen | One Hungry Mama

One of the things that has always bugged me about slow cooker recipes is the stovetop prep. Once I get out a pot and turn on a burner, I’m left wondering why I don’t just do the whole thing on the stove. I know my thinking is flawed and that some great slow cooker recipes—including some in this book—require a fast stovetop step that’s worth the effort. That said, all of the recipes that I tried from this book use a quick one-bowl-in-the-microwave step to ready the ingredients for the slow cooker. There are a ton of other easy-prep recipes that don’t require stovetop work and can be prepared in 15 minutes. Then, remember: the slow cooker does the rest.

I can get down with a 15-minute investment in dinner.

Like every other America’s Test Kitchen publication, this one is impeccably researched and chock full of tried-and-true tips on equipment and technique. Like that microwave prep step I mentioned above: it’s a way of blooming spices with minimal fat. Genius.

Try this recipe and, if you’re still not sold, be on the lookout for the Teriyaki Pork Loin coming up. Try that, too, and I bet you’ll be ready to grab Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution, which will get you through the rest of winter. Oh, and summer, too: I use the slow cooker to keep from having to turn on the stove or oven when it’s super hot out. You can also grab more recipes and find a slow cooker buying guide at

Sweet and Tangy Pulled Chicken
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Serves 4

1 onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
2 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, skin and ribs removed, trimmed of all visible fat (I substituted trimmed boneless, skinless chicken thighs with great success)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1. Microwave onion, tomato paste, chili powder, oil, paprika, and cayenne in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in ketchup and molasses. Season chicken with salt and pepper, place in slow cooker, and turn to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 2 to 3 hours on low.

2. Transfer chicken to carving board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite sized pieces using 2 forks; discard bones.

3. Stir vinegar and mustard into sauce. (Adjust sauce consistency with hot water as needed.) Stir in shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

On the side: Carolina-Style Coleslaw
Toss 4 cups shredded red or green cabbage and 1 small shredded carrot with 1 teaspoon salt and let drain in colander until wilted, about 1 hour. Rinse cabbage and carrot with cold water, then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Whisk 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, and pinch celery seeds together in a large bowl. Add rinsed cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Season with extra vinegar, extra sugar, and salt to taste and refrigerate until chilled.

*Note from One Hungry Mama: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend meat starting at 10 months as a personal preference. If your younger eater is already enjoying chicken, feel free to puree, pulse or chop this into an age appropriate consistency to share plain or mixed into quinoa, rice, or their favorite grain. The flavor is mild to us, but will excite their palate!

6 Responses

  1. cc says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I was searching for a homemade hoisin sauce recipe (I’ll be trying yours this week!), when I found your blog. This recipe for the pulled chicken looked so good. Like you, I am always looking for slow cooker recipes with rich flavor that don’t veer into slop territory. I made this one tonight, and my family loved it. Even after the dishes were cleared, my husband kept talking about how tasty it was. Of course it’s from America’s Test Kitchen! I love those folks. Thanks for introducing me to the recipe, and pointing me in the direction of their new cookbook. I’ll be purchasing it tonight. And I can’t wait to browse the rest of your site.

  2. One Hungry Mama says:

    So glad that you found this cc and I hope you like the book as much as I do! Keep me posted.

  3. daniela says:

    What size crockpot do you use for this recipe? I’m making this right now and my crock pot is large … i’m worried the chicken will come out dry! Should I add any liquid (chicken stock?) to keep it moist? Thanks!

  4. daniela: I’m not sure what size my crock pot is, but the sauce is thick when the cooking starts. You want to coat the chicken in it, but it’s not going to cover the chicken. Over time, the chicken will release liquid and fat, which will turn the almost paste-like rub into a sauce. I’d skip adding anything for now. If you’re worried and around for the cooking process, check on it in an hour or so—I bet it’ll be fine, but you can always add a little broth then if need be. Let me know how it turns out.

  5. Kathy says:

    I made this tonight. It was awesome. It’s easily the best thing I’ve cooked in at least 7, maybe 10+ years.

    Needless to say it was a big hit.

  6. Kathy says:

    Woo hoo! I got a shout out in your Cool Mom Picks e-newsletter! (Which of course is how I found your site in the first place.)

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