Spicy Pulled Chicken

Do you like spicy food? I’m talking lip-tingling, sinus-clearing, runny nose-inducing spicy fare.

Like this pulled chicken.

Thanks to the trifecta of a whole jalapeno pepper, chipotle chile powder, and cayenne pepper, this Spicy Pulled Chicken definitely lives up to its name. Juicy chicken thighs are slow-simmered in a thick tomato-based sauce (that can be equated to a hot sauce-barbeque sauce hybrid) until they become tender enough to shred.

I made this spicy pulled chicken on a cold, rainy afternoon, (where’s the snow, Boston?!), and it was the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather. Although I was tempted to attack this bowlful with a fork, I piled the shredded chicken onto lightly toasted whole wheat burger buns and served the pulled chicken sandwiches with a mouth-cooling broccoli slaw.

Plans for leftovers include pulled chicken quesadillas with an avocado & Greek yogurt sauce for dipping. Trust me, you’ll want an accompaniment to lessen the burn of this Spicy Pulled Chicken!

Spicy Pulled Chicken

serves 4-6


  • olive or canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper, seeded or not depending on heat preference
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground dry mustard
  • 2 tsp ground chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper, depending on heat preference
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless & skinless chicken thighs


  1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large dutch oven (or other heavy-bottomed pot) over medium heat. Add in the onion and jalapeno and cook until softened about 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato sauce through salt and pepper. Add chicken and stir to coat.
  3. Reduce stove heat to low and cook until chicken is fork-tender and easily pulls apart, about 1 hour.
  4. Using two forks, shred the chicken right in the sauce.
  5. *Allow the shredded chicken to sit in the sauce over low heat for 20 minutes, or until it has warmed through and has absorbed more of the sauce.

*I like to make the pulled chicken early in the afternoon, let it sit at room temperature (off of the heat) for a few hours, and then warm it through right before serving. The extra few hours of sitting allows the chicken to absorb even more of the sauce flavors.

What is the best spicy meal you’ve ever had?

12 thoughts on “Spicy Pulled Chicken

  1. The recipe was good, but your directions leave out a few things (the molasses & spices!) I figured you just tossed it in there, which I did and it was really good. I topped it with some cool shredded cabbage and it was so good. Thanks for the recipe

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the pulled chicken!

      In step two I wrote to “stir in the tomato sauce through salt and pepper” in other words, the tomato sauce, vinegar, molasses, spices, tomato paste, Worcestershire, mustard, and s&p. Sorry for the confusion!

  2. for those of us on Weight Watchers i ran this recipe through their recipe builder and based on 6 servings this would be 5Points Plus per serving.

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  4. you should adjust the recipe so the instructions are more clear in regards to the missing ingredients, especially since “tomato sauce” is a specific ingredient. i was quite confused and had to go back and add everything after putting the chicken in the pot. it’s hard enough to cook with two kids needing attention! haha

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