Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

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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 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!

How to make easy pulled chicken sandwiches

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!

Two pieces of chicken with dark grill marks on a sheet pan with a toasted bun

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 produce 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 dark grill marks give extra flavor and smokiness that is perfect for the pulled chicken sandwiches.

Shredded pieces of barbecued pull chicken mixed with bbq sauce

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!).

Close up photo of a pulled chicken sandwich with bbq sauce and coleslaw

The buns

Delicious smoky and sweet barbecue pulled chicken sandwiches deserve a fantastic bun. I prefer 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! While you’re at it, get a sturdy plate too so you can pile on a scoop of All-American potato salad.

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!

A sandwich with homemade coleslaw piled on top of pieces of pulled chicken

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.

More BBQ recipes you might also like

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.

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Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

Pulled chicken sandwiches with crunchy homemade coleslaw recipe. Tender white meat tossed in a tangy barbecue sauce and served on a toasted bun for the ultimate handheld meal!
Pin Print Review
4.12 from 18 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 4 sandwiches
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Coleslaw

  • 1 cup green cabbage, shredded into fine pieces
  • 1 cup red cabbage, shredded into fine pieces
  • ½ cup carrots, grated
  • ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • black pepper, to taste
  • kosher salt, to taste

Chicken Sandwiches

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili pepper, ground
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, or boneless thighs
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions 

Coleslaw

  • In a large bowl combine cabbage and carrots, set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, and paprika. Add as much dressing as desired to the cabbage mixture, toss to combine and season with pepper and salt as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Grilled Chicken

  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine cumin, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  • Pound chicken to even thickness, ¾-inch thick pieces.
  • Season both sides chicken with 1 teaspoon of seasoning mix.
  • Clean and oil the grill grates. Add chicken, cover, and grill 4 minutes.
  • Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes covered or until a themometer registers 160°F.
  • Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then shred into small pieces with 2 forks.
  • Combine shredded chicken with the desired amount of barbecue sauce. Toast buns on the grill over low heat.
  • Add pulled chicken to each bun and top with coleslaw.

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Nutrition Facts
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw
Amount Per Serving
Calories 301 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 144mg48%
Sodium 692mg29%
Potassium 213mg6%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 16g18%
Protein 44g88%
Vitamin A 3300IU66%
Vitamin C 28.9mg35%
Calcium 60mg6%
Iron 0.5mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Reader Interactions

11 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re so welcome Steve! I hope you and the family are enjoying the summertime 🙂 Miss you guys!

  1. Maria says

    I made this tonight. My husband and I enjoyed the flavors and textures. Will make this again. The coleslaw on it’s own is also really good.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Maria! Thank you so much for making the recipe, I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the chicken sandwich and coleslaw too 🙂

  2. Joel says

    Is it possible to make this on the stove instead of on the grill. I understand that it won’t be the same, however it’s like 10 below zero here and I’m not grilling, but i love this recipe. Thanks.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Joel- Oh man, I feel for you in that cold weather, but I love that you are still craving some BBQ! Yes, I would just saute the chicken breasts in a pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Saute the first side on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then flip over. Lower the heat to medium and cook until no longer pink, about 4-7 minutes (165 degrees F). Pull the chicken into smaller pieces and you’re ready to go!

  3. Alison says

    This is just what I was looking for. However, 2 pounds of boneless breasts for 4 sandwiches? Thats 1/2 # per sandwich. Those are big sandwiches

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Allison- Feel free to make smaller sandwiches if you prefer 🙂 They make good sliders too!

  4. Teila says

    This is seriously one of the best recipes ever! It remains in our rotation all year long. We just had the chicken tonight with rice and veggies, since it was an “on the fly” night and I didn’t have everything to make the sandwiches. Still AH-MAZING!!! I like to make the chicken keto-friendly by substituting monk fruit sweetener for the brown sugar, I can’t even taste the difference. I also use this spice on bone-in BBQ chicken and it’s fantastic. Favorite buns to use are brioche buns. Highly, highly recommend this recipe.

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