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Pulled Slow-Cooker Chicken with Cherry-Chile Barbecue Sauce

Andrew Hugh Purcell

Servings: 4 to 6

This fresh seasonal sauce—so good you’ll be glad to have leftovers—features less sugar than traditional barbecue sauces. Serve the moist, flavorful chicken on warmed burger buns. Wear rubber gloves when mincing the jalapeño so you don’t burn your hands. When prepping the fresh cherries, wear a dark shirt, use a good cherry pitter, and work over two bowls: one for the pits and stems and the other for the usable flesh. Feel into the center of each cherry after pitting and de-stemming to make sure that no pit remains.

This recipe is excerpted from Year-Round Slow Cooker.


  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbs. peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeño (seeds and membranes removed)
  • Scant 4 cups dark sweet fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed (3 cups afterwards)
  • 2 14-1⁄2-oz. cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1⁄4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. chipotle chile from a can of chipotle chiles en adobo
  • 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1-1⁄4 tsp. chile powder, divided
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 15 grinds black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 3 lb. bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed if necessary (about 8)
  • 4 to 6 warmed burger buns, for serving


  • Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, chipotle, 1 Tbs. mustard, 3⁄4 tsp. chile powder, 1-1⁄2 tsp. salt, and 5 grinds pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer half to a blender; purée until smooth, about 20 seconds. Purée the second half until smooth (you should have about 5-1⁄4 cups). Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, mix 2 Tbs. mustard, 1⁄2 tsp. chile powder, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 10 grinds pepper, and the brown sugar in a large bowl; add the chicken and mix well with your hands. Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 1-1⁄2 cups of the barbecue sauce on top (reserve the remainder for serving and extras). Cover and cook on low until the meat is cooked through and tender, 4 to 4-1⁄2 hours.
  • Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carefully use a fork to separate the meat from the bones, discarding the bones (you should have about 4 cups meat).
  • To serve, stir together 1 cup of the remaining sauce and the shredded meat, and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Spoon some meat and sauce onto the bottom half of each bun, cover with the top bun, and serve.

    year-round slow cooker book


To adapt a slow-cooker recipe to a conventional oven, follow these guidelines: add more liquid, to accommodate for greater evaporation; bring the dish to a boil over high heat in a Dutch oven, then cover the pot and put in a 350°F oven. Plan on the dish taking roughly half the time to cook in the oven as it would in the slow cooker.


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Reviews (8 reviews)

  • NatalyC | 08/16/2021

    Making the recipe for the first time I was a bit disappointed (agree with the other reviewers about its blandness and runny texture). The tomatoes were just overwhelming and there was no flavor of cherries.
    Making it next time, I simply halved the tomatoes. I loved the sauce then! The reserved leftover went well as a spread.

  • xtogel | 07/10/2019


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