Pulled chicken sandwiches with crunchy homemade coleslaw is an easy grilled recipe. Tender white meat tossed in a tangy barbecue sauce and served on a toasted bun for the ultimate handheld meal!
Pulled chicken sandwiches are just what you need for the summer grilling season! I love barbecuing as there are fewer dishes to clean, and I get to cook outdoors. With this recipe, you can’t go wrong with lean shredded chicken drizzled with a sweet and tangy sauce and piled high on a soft toasted bun.
The trick to this protein-packed meal with bbq flavor is that the chicken breasts are coated with a generous amount of spices and then cooked over a hot flame. A vegetable coleslaw salad with a creamy dressing is added to the sandwich for extra texture. I’m ready, how about you? Ready, set, grill!
How to make easy pulled chicken sandwiches
- Protein Selection: Choose boneless skinless chicken breasts. Pound the meat to even thickness, so it cooks on the grill evenly. Another option is choosing chicken thighs because the dark meat contains fatter and stays juicier longer. It’s a little extra insurance to reduce the chances of moisture loss. You can also do a mixture of white and dark meat if you like the combination of textures.
- Add a Dry Rub: For instant flavor without the need to spend time marinating, make a sweet and spicy dry rub. The dried spices like cumin, onion, garlic powder, chile powder, and paprika give a quick boost to the surface of the chicken. The rub contains brown sugar, so make sure you flip the chicken after 4 minutes so that the pieces don’t get overly charred on one side from the caramelization of the sugar.
- Cooking on the Grill: The grill is heated until very hot so that the Maillard Browning Reaction can rapidly occur giving those gorgeous grill marks and added flavor. The chicken finishes it’s cooking covered, creating an oven-like environment to evenly cook the inside of the chicken through conduction as the heat circulates throughout the grill. These two methods create the most flavor on the surface while maintaining a moist piece of meat. Use a thermometer to test for an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees to gauge when the chicken is ready to come off the barbecue.
Those marks on the pulled chicken give some extra flavor and smokiness that is perfect for the pulled chicken sandwiches.
Let’s talk about barbecue sauce. These pulled chicken sandwiches are very flavorful with the spices alone, but the sauce adds extra layers of flavor and moisture.
I use my go-to homemade barbecue sauce recipe, which is ready in less than 30 minutes so you can smother it all over your meal. Oh my goodness, this condiment is sweet, smoky, spicy out of this world! It’s made from things you may already have in your pantry like tomato paste, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and a whole lot of spices. I hope you love it as much as I do!
If you’re super pressed for time, go ahead and reach for a bottle of pre-made BBQ sauce (it’s okay I won’t tell!). I currently have stocked in my fridge a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s for barbecue emergency purposes.
Delicious smoky and sweet barbecue pulled chicken sandwiches deserve a fantastic bun. I like the rich brioche buns or whole wheat. My pet peeve is hamburger buns that disintegrate with each bite, so find one that holds together. Sandwich architecture is essential!
I toast the buns on the grill just until the bottoms are nice and crunchy but still soft to the touch. I like to top the bread with a generous amount of chicken, more sauce, and some creamy coleslaw, come to mama!
It’s always a nice contrast to have some fresh and crunchy coleslaw to go with these pulled chicken sandwiches. The coleslaw base is just a mixture of red and green cabbage and some shredded carrots, simple! The dressing is a combination of Greek yogurt, a hint of mayonnaise (optional), apple cider vinegar, honey, and paprika. Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious.
How do you make homemade BBQ Sauce?
BBQ sauce is a simple combination of tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices. As you’re preparing the sauce, taste every 10 minutes to see how it changes as the acids cook-off, and it thickens. Acids like vinegar and lemon juice are very volatile (evaporates with high heat) and aromatic. As the sauce reduces, acids are natural flavor enhancers, so you retain the tangy flavor. A sweetener like sugar, honey, jams or preserves help to balance and bring richness, and it helps reduce bitterness. If you can be patient, the barbecue sauce will taste better the next day because all of the flavors have time to infuse together.