This tangy and spicy pulled chicken is delicious and easy to make. You dry rub boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a mix of Hungarian paprika, ground chipotle and chili powder, then bake the chicken in a low-temperature oven until tender. To finish, you toss the meat with a tangy tomato, apple cider vinegar and honey sauce. It’s a great make-ahead meal and requires time in the oven but otherwise not much work at all.
What is pulled chicken?
Pulled chicken is chicken that is cooked in such a way that it becomes so tender that it can easily be pulled apart into small bites with two forks.
For the recipe here I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs that I rubbed with a mix of spices and then slow-baked in the oven until they were fall-apart tender.
I made the sauce for the chicken with tomato, honey, diced onion and a healthy helping of apple cider vinegar for a great sweet and sour flavor. The sauce mellows out the spiciness of the chicken a little bit for a well-balanced flavor.
How to make it (overview with photos):
Prep the chicken:
- Trim the excess fat off of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Mix spices and salt together and rub on the chicken. Place the thighs in a bowl, cover and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, set a wire rack on it and place the chicken thighs on the rack.
Bake the chicken:
- Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and tightly seal the foil around the edges so the meat doesn’t dry out in the oven.
- Bake the chicken for 2 hours, then take it out and let it cool a bit. Carefully remove the cover foil (there will be a lot of hot steam underneath) and then shred the chicken with two forks.
Make the sauce:
- Heat vegetable oil in a pan, then sauté minced onion in it until soft.
- Stir in tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, canned crushed tomatoes, honey and salt. Bring to a boil, then toss the chicken with the sauce and serve.
Recipe notes and tips:
- As always, I recommend that you buy the paprika, chipotle and chili powder for this recipe from a dedicated spice shop. High quality spices make a huge difference in a recipe and that is definitely true here. If you want to make your own chili powder, I have a great recipe in this post: Chunky Chili.
- You will need only 4 teaspoons of tomato paste for this recipe. A standard can of tomato paste contains about 10 tablespoons. For tips on how to store and/or use the remaining paste, check out these delicious recipes that use tomato paste.
What goes well with spicy pulled chicken?
I like to stuff the pulled chicken into a burger bun along with a pickle or two and eat it by itself as a sandwich. For a good pickle recipe, I can recommend these refrigerator pickles.
More light chicken dishes:
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Spicy Pulled Chicken (Oven Baked)
For the chicken:
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon half-sharp Hungarian paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder*
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup minced onion
- 4 teaspoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the chicken:
- Trim excess fat off the chicken.
- Mix Hungarian paprika, chipotle pepper, chili powder and salt together in a bowl, then rub evenly on the chicken.
- Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on it. Set the meat on the wire rack and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Make sure to seal the foil well around the edges of the baking sheet.
- Transfer to the oven and slow-bake for 2 hours.
- Take the meat out of the oven and let cool a bit.
- Carefully remove the cover foil from the chicken (there will be a lot of hot steam underneath).
For the sauce:
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Add the onion and saute until slightly soft.
- Stir in the tomato paste, cider vinegar, crushed tomatoes, honey and salt.
- Bring to a quick boil, then turn the heat off.
- Pull the chicken with 2 forks and toss with the sauce.
- Serve with pickles in a bun.