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Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

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It’s summertime and that means it’s time to grill! These easy grilled BBQ chicken sandwiches are just what you (and your backyard) ordered. Tangy barbecue sauce, shredded chicken, and toasty bun piled high crunchy slaw make this a family dinner win!

Photography Credit: Nick Evans | Art Banner Credit: Andy Christensen

I’m always excited for summer grilling. This summer, there will be WAY fewer BBQ blowout parties at my house, but I’ll still be using the grill to fire up easy family recipes like these Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches!

These sandwiches have a nice tang to them thanks to a homemade BBQ sauce (but you can use store-bought as well) and a pickle slaw, which is just my favorite. Will my kids eat these sandwiches though?! Read the report card below to find out!

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HOW TO GRILL JUICY CHICKEN BREASTS

It’s easy to grill chicken breasts so they stay juicy. The problem is, most people grill them into submission. I gave some rough time guides in the recipe, but an instant-read thermometer is your friend.

Generally, chicken is considered fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165˚F. But remember meat continues to cook once it’s been taken off the heat. Not overcooking chicken is the best way to make sure it’s juicy and delicious.

Also, when I grill my chicken, I like to butterfly the chicken breasts so they cook faster and there is less of a chance of drying out the meat. 

BBQ chicken on the grill to make Homemade BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

OTHER CUTS YOU CAN SUB?

You absolutely don’t have to use chicken breasts for this recipe. Boneless chicken thighs are a great option as well and work well.

For eight sandwiches, you will need six to eight chicken thighs OR three to four chicken breasts.

TIPS FOR SHREDDING CHICKEN

You can either shred this chicken with two forks or chop the chicken roughly with a knife. Be sure to let the chicken cool briefly so you can work with it, but it will shred easier if it is warm. I like to stir in more sauce as I shred the chicken to boost the BBQ flavor!

GO AHEAD, GIVE HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE A TRY!

I’ve tried a bunch of homemade BBQ sauces over the years, but this Kansas City Barbecue Sauce written by Hank Shaw is one of my favorites.

It’s the perfect balance of tangy and sweet and works so well with chicken sandwiches. I didn’t really feel the need to rewrite the book for this one!

A hand holding the best bbq chicken sandwich with the bbq sauce, chopped chicken and pickle slaw visible inside the hamburger bun. A plate with pickles on it are in the background.

WHAT’S IN PICKLE SLAW?

This is a twist on the classic coleslaw. Rather than use vinegar, I use a little pickle juice to give my slaw some tang and stir in some chopped pickles as well. It cuts through the richness of the BBQ chicken and makes the sandwich work. Don’t skip it!

STORE AND FREEZE LEFTOVER BBQ CHICKEN

Leftover chicken will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to three months.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH SHREDDED CHICKEN SANDWICHES

I serve these sandwiches with potato chips, but any BBQ side would work great.

Eat Your Food - Dad AddThe DAD ADD

Grilled Serrano Mayo! While you are grilling the chicken, toss on a few serrano peppers. After they are charred, remove the seeds and blend them with some mayo and lime juice. This boosted mayo packs a punch and will add a spicy kick to the sandwich!

 

Eat Your Food - Kid Report v2REPORT CARD

Ohhh, if only all meals could be as easy as BBQ chicken! My kids absolutely loved this meal. They insisted on eating all things separately and putting butter on their buns, but other than those weird quirks that I had zero desire to fight, they ate big plates of everything! One dinner to rule them all!

MORE GREAT BBQ RECIPES!

Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 sandwiches

Ingredients

Pickle Slaw:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 green cabbage, thin shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles

Chicken Filling:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups Hank’s Kansas City BBQ Sauce or store-bought
  • 8 hamburger buns

DAD ADD! Serrano Mayo:

  • 2-3 grilled serrano peppers, seeds removed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt

Method

1 Make the slaw: Whisk together mayo, pickle juice, and sugar. Stir in shredded cabbage, carrots, and pickles. Stir together and taste. Season to your liking. Slaw can be made a day or two in advance with no problem.

Shredded carrots and cabbage in a bowl to make pickle slaw for easy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

2 Heat the grill and prepare the chicken: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. To butterfly the chicken, use a sharp knife to slice the chicken horizontally – leaving the edge connected so you can open the chicken breast – making it thinner and therefore faster-cooking. Then drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Pour 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce into a bowl and set it aside. You will add it to the cooked chicken later.

3 Grill the chicken and chiles (if using): Add chicken to grill and spoon BBQ sauce over each piece of chicken. You will use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce for this part of cooking.

Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on the first side. Flip and add BBQ sauce to the second side. Grill for another 5 to 6 minutes on the second side or until the chicken breasts reach 165˚F. Remove from the grill.

As the chicken grills, add 2 to 3 serrano peppers to the grill. Grill them for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and let cool.

NOTE: If you do not butterfly your chicken breasts, you will need to grill them for 8 to 10 minutes longer than this.

Chicken breasts on the grill and being coated with bbq sauce for shredded bbq chicken sandwiches. BBQ chicken on the grill to make Homemade BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

4 Shred the chicken: When chicken comes off the grill, let it cool briefly and then use two forks to shred or roughly chop the chicken. Stir the 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce you set aside in step 1 into the shredded chicken.

Chopped grilled chicken in a bowl with bbq sauce on top and a spoon to the right. This will be the filling for the best BBQ chicken sandwiches.

5 Making the serrano mayo: Split grilled peppers in half and remove seeds. Add to a small food processor with mayo, lime juice, and salt. Pulse until combined.

Roasted serrano pepper sliced on top a bowl of mayo to make topping for homemade BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

6 Make your sandwich: Toast your sandwich buns (if you want to) and smear with serrano mayo if you’re using it. Top with a heap of pickle slaw and shredded BBQ chicken. Serve with chips and pickles on the side.

Leftover chicken will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to three months.

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Nick Evans

Nick has been writing delicious recipes for the home cook for almost a decade. He lives in Denver, CO and embraces a delicate balance of diaper changing, trail running and beer drinking. His website is Macheesmo and his first book is Love Your Leftovers.

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A plate with pickles, chips and shredded bbq chicken sandwich with pickle slaw and topped with bbq sauce. A second plate with two sandwiches and sarrano mayo are behind the plate.Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches