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Elyse Kopecky Shows You How to Make Her Pulled Chicken Recipe

This is a go-to meal prep protein.

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I make this dependable and easy pulled chicken recipe regularly. Having a simple slow cooker chicken recipe in your back pocket can save so much meal planning stress. This recipe is super versatile so my family never tires of the leftovers. We serve it taco-style the first night, and then the second night, we enjoy it on rice bowls. We usually have enough leftover for lunch too—it’s great served warm on top of salads or in a simple quesadilla.

This recipe is mild to appeal to young kids. If you want to spice it up, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cayenne or 1 or 2 chipotle peppers (canned). I prefer using a slow cooker chicken recipe instead of a pressure cooker one because slow cooking works best for the tenderest meat. I recommend using a mix of chicken breasts and chicken thighs for the best flavor and texture. Don’t fear the fat in dark meat chicken. Dark meat is actually more nutrient dense.

Get creative with the leftovers. This recipe even freezes well.

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[Part of the Mastering Meal Prep with Elyse Kopecky series]

Read the transcript, and find the recipe below:


Hi, today I’m going to teach you how to make one of my favorite go-to proteins to meal prep, and that is slow cooker pulled chicken. I love this recipe because it’s super simple to pull off during meal prep. It can cook while you’re doing everything else in the kitchen, and it’s a really versatile dish. You can use it for multiple meals back to back and it’s super flavorful. You’ll never get tired of it. You can use it in tacos, rice bowls, salad, sandwiches. It really is a go-to protein for our family. We make it just about every other week.

You can do this at home. If you have a slow cooker or an instant pot, any kind of pressure cooker will work. I like to use the slow cooker setting versus pressure cooking because it gets the chicken really soft and you can just set it and leave it for a few hours—leave it for the day while you’re working.

So just to start off, we put our chicken in the pot. So I have three pounds of skinless, boneless, dark meat and white meat. So I have about two pounds of dark meat, chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, and a pound of white meat, chicken breasts, also skinless boneless. This recipe is super simple to make because you just basically throw everything in the pot. There’s no, sautéing the onion in advance. You don’t need to soak anything. You don’t need to really do anything in advance. Everything’s just going to go right into your slow cooker, all in one go. So before I get started, I’m going to generously season the chicken with some salt and pepper. And now the chicken is going to simmer in a really simple sauce that’s just got onion and garlic and chili powder.

So I’m going to dice up this onion to add. You’re going to throw the onion in with the chicken. You have to have—when you’re slow cooking, if you want your chicken to get really juicy and flavorful, you need to have some liquid in there that it simmers in.

So I’ve got a couple different ingredients. I’m going to add a little apple cider vinegar. So the recipe calls for a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar. And just add that to half a cup—two tablespoons of soy sauce that adds a ton of flavor. And then I’m going to do chili powder, the recipe calls for a tablespoon of chili powder. And you can scale—this recipe’s easy to scale up or down. So you can do two pounds of chicken, four pounds of chicken, depending on how hungry your family is. So one tablespoon of chili powder—I’m going to add a little extra cause I’m leaving out the Chipotle peppers.

And then we are going to add some honey, you just add in—just two tablespoons of honey adds just a teeny bit of sweetness to the chicken, but you really can’t taste it in the end. You could definitely skip the honey if you’re avoiding sweeteners, but it does add a different dimension to the finished result. We’re going to add some garlic. You can do like three to five cloves of garlic. My cloves are pretty big, so I’m just going to add three cloves and mince those up roughly. They don’t need to be done finely, they’re going to get really soft in the pot with the chicken. So just a rough mince on the garlic is all you need. I’m going to add a little water to the pot. You want to have enough moisture for the chicken to simmer in. So with just the soy sauce and vinegar, that’s not enough. So I’m going to go add a half a cup of water. You want to make sure that the chicken is fully submerged in the sauce. So I just want it to be coated with the spices and the onion. So I’m just kind of working it down into the pot. So the chicken is in there with the spices and the liquid, everything is ready to go.

All right, once you add half a cup of water, we are just going to stir it up and that’s it. It’s ready to then just put the lid on and slow cook for three or four hours. So you can do pressure cooking if you’re in a rush, but I’m going to vent my instant pot and do it on a slow cooker setting. I have done this recipe, pressure cooking, but I think it turns out better when you slow cook it. So I’m going to set it here for four hours and then we’re going to let that just cook while we do some other things in the kitchen. We’ll come back and check on it later.

Slow Cooker (Instant Pot) Pulled Chicken

  • Serves: 8


  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken (half dark meat)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (shoyu)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice


  1. Step 1

    In the inner pot of your slow cooker or Instant Pot, combine the onion, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, chili powder, and salt. Add the water and stir to combine. Add chicken and stir until well coated.

  2. Step 2

    Set your slow cooker to HIGH for 1½ to 2 hours. If using an Instant Pot seal the lid and set to Vent. If your slow cooker does not have a High setting, increase the cook time to 3 hours.

  3. Step 3

    Remove the chicken to a low-sided bowl (do not toss out the juices) and use two forks to shred it (it should fall apart and shred really easily). Return the chicken to the slow cooker and cover with the lid. Slow cook for 30 more minutes, to allow the chicken to absorb the flavors and the sauce to thicken.

  4. Step 4

    Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve hot.

Leftovers should be transferred to a glass container, cooled briefly, covered, and stored in the fridge. Will stay fresh for up to 4 days, if handled properly. Freeze any portions that you won’t use within 4 days.