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Tangy Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Onions, Apple, and Smoked Cheese

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

Inspired by Carolina-style barbecue, this sandwich gets plenty of zing from a spicy, vinegary sauce and quick-pickled red onions. Any leftover onions can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.


  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin rings (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce; more to taste
  • 3 cups pulled chicken (preferably dark meat), plus 1/4 cup reserved chicken broth or lower-salt chicken broth
  • 4 large sandwich rolls, such as pretzel rolls, split
  • 4 thick slices (about 4 oz.) smoked Cheddar or smoked Gouda
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 560
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 340
  • Fat (g): 38
  • Saturated Fat (g): 7
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 11
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 17
  • Cholesterol (mg): 80
  • Sodium (mg): 800
  • Carbohydrates (g): 19
  • Fiber (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 41


  • Inspired? Find more recipe ideas for pulled chicken.
  • In a large bowl, toss the onion with the sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup cold water, press down with a plate to submerge the onion, and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the honey, cider vinegar, Tabasco, and 1/2 tsp. pepper over medium heat until the honey melts, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and broth, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken heats through and absorbs most of the sauce, about 5 minutes. Add more Tabasco to taste.
  • Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Put the rolls on a baking sheet cut side up and broil until lightly toasted. Remove the tops of the rolls from the baking sheet, top the bottoms with the cheese, and broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Top with chicken, onion, apple, and the roll tops. Cut in half, and serve.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • Megann | 04/13/2018

    This is a really good sandwich. All the ingredients really work well together. The chicken does come out on the spicier side so my kids did not love it as much. Pretzel rolls were a good choice for this having tried those and regular hamburger buns.

  • DebInPortland | 03/01/2016

    Generally, this is quite good, although I found the onions to be excessively salty. Also, a heads' up on the smoked cheese. Not all brands are alike. The smoked Gouda I bought was not smokey enough and a bit sour. That wasn't the fault of the recipe. I should have sampled the cheese before buying it. The pulled chicken is very good. Be careful not too overcook it, which I almost did. The apple slices are a nice touch.I served this on homemade hamburger rolls.

  • ellen_in_charlotte | 12/30/2014

    Awesome! We live in NC & this is a great alternative to pork bbq. I made the pulled chicken recipe using boneless thighs I had on hand-about 1 1/12 lbs. Ended up with nearly 3C pulled chicken. You would need at least 3C, maybe 4C for 4 sandwiches. Everything about the recipe worked - a little sweet, a little spicy; onions & apples were a great counterpoint. We used somewhat thin sliced of cheese - would definitely make them thicker next time - the smoky flavor of the cheese adds another dimension. Served on grocery bakery Kaiser rolls - really elevated them to the next level. Would be even more awesome on real bakery rolls. This will go into the regular rotation.

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