Slow Cooked Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

When I slipped into my hostess *dress and threw a Mexican fiesta meets late ‘80s slumber party, this smoky chipotle brown sugar pulled chicken stole the show. I glanced ‘round my dinner table and smiled, my friends licking sticky fingertips while I, well, I licked the chipotle glaze that dripped, saucy and sweet, down my forearm and puddled at my elbow.  

*By dress I mean pajamas.

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Mmms and aaaahhhs and sighs and smiles and stains.

The chicken had simmered all day in my slow cooker, caramelizing as golden as the brown sugar

as fiery as the chipotle peppers

Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

as smoky as hickory

as bright and flowery as its fresh cilantro

and as rich as the fire roasted tomatoes.

Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

The secret really is in the sauce. I whirred a handful of wild flavors, poured it over chicken breasts, and let them soak and simmer all day long.

That night during our fiesta, we spooned tender strands of chicken onto warmed corn tortillas, cozied them with guacamole, crumbled queso fresco, shredded iceberg lettuce, caramelized red onion, and spicy homemade salsa.


Sloppy bliss.

Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

The next morning we three found ourselves in my kitchen, scooping cold chipotle chicken into salty tortilla chips.

Not a fork, a knife, or a napkin considered.

A sink full of dishes, dirtied but delightfully forgotten.

Three cases of wild brown bed head.

Six bags under our eyes, collectively.

A half eaten pie that we rationalized was a balanced breakfast of toast (pie crust), eggs (custard), and fruit.

The whole day was beginning as happily as it had fallen asleep the night before on my living room floor in a mess of blankets.

And then, later that evening when my girls had up and left me, I was left with just enough shredded chipotle chicken to build a saucy mess on my softest wheat roll. I sat my sandwich under the broiler, beneath a layer of bubbling extra sharp cheddar, and minutes later I had a dinner as delicious as the night before, only perhaps less fun because I was alone and not eating with my friends in pajamas in a [never to be publicly documented] 1980s flashback.

Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken


  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained (recommended: Muir Glen)
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (1 pepper pulled from a packed can)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smokeDirections:
    1. Place chicken in the base of your slow cooker.
    2. Puree all remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined and smooth.
    3. Pour over chicken breasts and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred using two forks.


  1. says

    I´ve never tried chipotle salsa! can you believe it? me either! O_O I´ll try to find it! In Spain, paradoxically, we don´t find so many mexican products :_(

  2. Nancy says

    I am new to this blog. I am a weight watcher. Do you ever convert to points. This chicken dish looks amazing.

  3. says

    Fantastically delicious. But with the chipotles: whenver I use them, I always end up with a molding can in the back of the fridge so I finally wised up. Now I puree them (with emersion blender, but upright or food processor would work) and freeze in ice cube trays. Unmold, put in freezer bag, label (you will forget and wonder what in the world they are) and freeze. Use often, in meats, sauces, chocolate truffles!

  4. says

    Those flavors together must taste divine!

    I love slumber parties! My best friend and I live 200 miles from each other, so each time we get together, we have a little slumber party with delicious food too!

  5. says

    You sound just like my group of girls. We often say our friendship revolves around food. You painted a beautiful picture here that had me wishing for more to read (and eat, obvs)

    How do you ALWAYS do that?

    Let’s have a sleepover soon….this chicken is definitely invited.


  6. Lisa says

    The chicken looks fabulous! Thanks for sharing it with us. I love looking at your pictures.

    May I ask? Where was Daniel for the slumber party?

  7. HootieMcBoob says

    No kidding, something told me last week to grab a can of chipotle peppers just in case. I have all ingredients on hand for a festive weekend. Viva los nom noms!!!!

  8. says

    That chicken looks amazing. I would absolutely eat it daily. Hearing about your slumber party reminded me of my youth. How one morning, back in the 80’s (geesh, I’m oldish) we woke to have Russell Stover chocolates for breakfast. Ahhhhh, those were the days.

  9. says

    Love this idea! It’ll be going onto the grocery list the few ingredients I don’t have for when payday comes and I will have delicious chicken.

    Also: Love the idea of immersion blender re: chipotle peppers and freezing them. I’ll have to do that.

  10. says

    Yum! What a recipe! I can’t wait to recreate this here at my house and to taste all the flavors of this chicken. I’m already daydreaming of the leftovers on a wrap, chips, pita…it goes on and on! Once again, great work! Take care!

  11. says

    this looks amazing. i am hosting a book club meeting this week and i was looking for something to make that i don’t have to be in the kitchen making, and it looks like i’ll be making this! how many would you say this served/how many tacos did this make? 2 pounds sounds like a good amount of chicken, but i need to make sure i have enough!

  12. Vickie C says

    Made this recipe today for the parents at my son’s birthday party to have a dish special for them. It was a big hit – and hours later the birthday boy decided he wanted to try some and loved it. Definitely the perfect party dish!

  13. says


    Once again, another super scrumptious recipe. I gotta say, I also 100 percent fall into the I LOVE MUIR GLEN TOMATOES camp. Makes everything good. Both my chili recipe and huevos rancheros recipe depend on them.

  14. says

    This is in my slow cooker now and the smells are oh so so fantastic. I can’t wait. I kinda feel like a little kid at Christmas waiting for the first peak at the presents..

  15. Kelly R says

    Oh. My. Chicken.

    I made this yesterday to pack for lunches this week. My favorite thing is that when you chill it overnight, somehow the brown sugar and smoky flavors intensify, so that the little taste I stole as I was loading it from the crockpot to the Tupperware was NOTHING compared to my first bite of sweet and smoky chicken this afternoon. Paired with sliced avocado, queso fresco, tomatillo salsa and a squeeze of fresh lime juice was, in a word, heaven.

    Thanks for this amazing recipe!

  16. says

    I wanted to let you know that I made this and the enchiladas last week and we LOVED them both. I didn’t have time to make the salsa but I’ll try it next time. Thanks for the fab recipes – we have two new favorites now!

  17. Linda K says

    Made this yesterday for a friend who came over for dinner. It was a big hit for both of us – so flavourful and absolutely delicious! Great recipe :)


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