4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Barbecue Cola Chicken

In Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, he tells a story about his childhood, going to bed while his parents were throwing a party, unable to fall asleep, waiting for his mother to come say goodnight to him.

Sometimes he’d still be awake when she’d come, and she’d give him a madeleine, and that sweet cookie was often the last thing he’d taste before drifting into dreams.

So powerful was the memory of those madeleines that years later, tasting a bit of one, it was as if he were transported back to his bedchamber, sitting with his mother before bed.

Overhead closely cropped shot of a white serving platter of chicken breasts with barbecue sauce next to a plate with more meat, steamed broccoli, and a baked potato with butter, with a light blue and white folded cloth napkin topped with silverware, on a blue cloth on top of a dark brown wood table, printed with orange and white text.

I’ve had my own Proustian moments – you probably have, too. The thing about these involuntary memories is that they hit you without warning, often when you’re not least expecting them.

For me, this came recently in the form of a new recipe for chicken.

Overhead shot of a white rectangular serving platter of chicken breasts in barbecue sauce with a pair of metal and black plastic tongs, a bowl of steamed broccoli, a glass of white wine, and a plate of food next to a knife and fork with a blue folded cloth napkin, on a blue tablecloth on a dark brown wood surface.

My grandma was a brilliant home cook, so skilled that she baked stacks of cookies for friends every Christmas, and found that her food was appreciated and received more enthusiastically than any other gift.

She even ventured into catering at one point, creating tall wedding cakes of impressive beauty. She, like many stay-at-home women of the 1950s and 60s, clipped recipes from newspapers and magazines regularly.

She hand wrote suggestions in the margins in her cursive penmanship. And when I visited her, she always cooked for me.

Many of her meals were memorable, but there’s one that especially stands out: her barbecue chicken

Oblique vertical overhead shot of three chicken breasts in barbecue sauce on a white rectangular serving platter with tongs, with a plate of food in the background and a glass of white wine, with a cloth napkin topped with silverware, on a blue cloth-topped dark brown wood table.

It was tender – so tender – and packed with flavor. She served it with white rice, on clear glass plates, while my brother and I sat on her sofa and watched I Love Lucy.

When she died, my family inherited everything she owned, which wasn’t much: old clothes, boxes of newspaper clippings, a few books, and some photographs. And most importantly, a few card-sized boxes of recipes.

They’re like a biography of her life: the clusters of delicious, unhealthy ingredients transforming into low-cholesterol finds as the years wore on and she developed high blood pressure and other health problems.

I’ve gone through them all, even organized them with neat dividers, but I’ve never found a written recipe for her barbecue chicken.

But I’ve tried to replicate it in my own kitchen, and finally, this is what I came up with.

The directions couldn’t be simpler: dump just four simple, store-bought ingredients into a slow cooker, and let it do its thing for 3 to 5 hours.

That’s it.

Vertical shot of a plate of broccoli with a barbecue cola chicken breast and a baked potato with butter, with a folded cloth napkin and silverware to the left and a glass of white wine to the right, with a serving platter of more of the meat with tongs in the background beside a bowl of steamed broccoli, on a blue cloth on top of a dark brown wood table.

While the ingredients cooked and started to meld together in the Crock-Pot, I noticed something wafting into the upstairs hallway: it was the smell of my grandma’s house, I was on the sofa watching TV, and she was bringing me a clear glass plate.

I know this isn’t her recipe. For one, she didn’t have a Crock-Pot. And she didn’t ever cook with Coca-Cola.

Nonetheless, through some sort of culinary alchemy, this easy, could-not-be-simpler, impossible-to-mess-up chicken is the spitting image, I’d swear up and down, of my grandma’s dish.

Eating it on a Saturday night at my own house as an adult was like eating with my grandma, and the memories that it brings back for me are a remarkable gift.

Overhead vertical shot of a white bowl of shredded chicken with barbecue sauce and a spoon, a square white plate with a sandwich topped with melted cheese and cabbage slaw, and a blue and white cloth topped with rolls, slices of cheddar, and a dish of shredded cabbage, on a dark brown wood surface.

Whether you look back on a similar dish with fond remembrance or you’re simply craving a flavorful main course that’s easy to prepare, try this chicken. It’s perfect served on its own as is alongside your favorite starch and vegetables, or shredded and used to fill sandwiches. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Print
A white plate with a black decorative pattern is topped with barbecue chicken breast, a baked potato, and steamed broccoli, with a folded blue and white cloth napkin and silverware to the left, and a serving platter of chicken beside a bowl of vegetables with a glass of white wine in soft focus in the background, on a blue cloth on top of a dark brown wood table.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Cola Chicken


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

This is the best 4-ingredient slow cooker BBQ cola chicken recipe out there. With just a few simple steps, you’ll love how flavorful it is.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 20 fl oz Coca-Cola
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on High for 3 hours, or Low for 5 hours. Serve as is or shred to make sandwich filling.

  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: Crock-Pot, barbecue chicken, coke, coca-cola

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Measure All Ingredients

Measure out all ingredients as listed on the ingredients list. Set out the boneless, skinless breasts.

Overhead shot of two small bottles of Coca-Cola, a black plate with four uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and two glass bowls of ketchup and barbecue sauce.

If you like, you can use homemade ketchup and barbecue sauce made from scratch, but in a pinch, store bought versions will also do nicely.

Step 2 – Slow Cook

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker insert.

Raw chicken breasts in barbecue sauce and cola, in the metal insert of a slow cooker with black plastic handles, on a brown wood surface with vertical stripes.

Stir to combine and be sure to coat the chicken evenly.

Top-down shot of team rising from a slow cooker filled with chicken and cola barbecue sauce, on a brown wood surface.

Cover and cook on Low for 5 hours, or High for 3 hours.

Step 3 – Serve

Four cooked chicken breasts in barbecue sauce are arranged at a diagonal on a white plastic cutting board with black rubber edging on the two short sides, and two forks arranged on either side of the meat, on a dark brown wood surface.

Switch to the Warm setting until you are ready to eat, or serve immediately with your favorite starch and vegetables.

Shredded cooked chicken breast with barbecue sauce on a white and black plastic cutting board with two forks, on a dark brown wood surface.

You can also transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred it with two forks.

Overhead shot of a bowl of shredded barbecue chicken with a food, Kraft singles, sandwich rolls, and a square plate topped with a chicken sandwich, with a smaller dish of cabbage slaw at the top left corner, on a blue and white cloth.

Return the chicken to the sauce and serve as a filling for sandwiches, or even tacos.

What Should I Serve Alongside This Easy Entree?

So you’ve made the chicken, and now you are wondering how to serve it in the best way.

You can keep the tender chicken breasts whole and serve them with sauce ladled from the slow cooker on top, alongside your favorite starch and a vegetable or green salad.

I love serving this dish with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes, or even roasted broccoli and potatoes, but you can choose any combination that sounds delicious to you.

A white plate with a black decorative pattern is topped with barbecue chicken breast, a baked potato, and steamed broccoli, with a folded blue and white cloth napkin and silverware to the left, and a serving platter of chicken beside a bowl of vegetables with a glass of white wine in soft focus in the background, on a blue cloth on top of a dark brown wood table.

Another genius way to enjoy this chicken is to shred it and serve it on rolls with plenty of sauce.

Vertical closeup of a barbecue chicken sandwich with shredded meat and cabbage and a slice of melted orange cheese on a roll, on a square white plate, with a white bowl of meat with a spoon in the background, on a folded blue and white cloth napkin, with scattered rolls in soft focus towards the top right of the frame.

I like to melt a slice of cheddar or American cheese on top under the broiler, and then top it with some crunchy slaw. Barbecue chicken sandwiches perfect for any time of year, no grill required!

For another amazing poultry dish, try our crispy chicken fingers or roasted lemon sage garlic chicken!

Do you need even more slow cooker inspiration? Check out some more flavorful favorites that you can make in the Crock-Pot:

How will you serve this flavor-packed protein? Tell us in the comments below. And once you make the recipe, be sure to come back to rate it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 20, 2008. Last updated: June 16, 2019 at 19:51 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

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