Slow Cooked Smoky Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken

by Andie Mitchell on July 19, 2011

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.

fave foods 3 013

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.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellie@fitforthesoul July 19, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Delicious lookin’ dish~~I’ve been craving some kind of pulled chicken/pork dish and this is definitely making me hungry haha!


Raquel July 20, 2011 at 12:21 am

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 :_(


Johnny July 20, 2011 at 3:31 am

Everything looks fantastic, I envy your close friends! I like your idea for a leftover sandwich! :)


Nancy July 20, 2011 at 4:13 am

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


Taylor July 20, 2011 at 5:13 am

You have me craving chicken tacos at 7 in the morning!! These look so good!


Heather July 20, 2011 at 5:14 am

you may have outdone yourself this time around. I would like some now, please. for breakfast. thanks ;) xo


Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy July 20, 2011 at 6:54 am

This shall be my next crockpot venture. As always, thank you for the delicious idea :)


Michelle @ The Cooking Life July 20, 2011 at 7:08 am

WOW. this looks so delicious! AND I can make it in my crockpot – even better. Thanks for sharing!


The Chocolate Covered Kitchen July 20, 2011 at 7:11 am

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!


Kelly July 20, 2011 at 7:45 am

Can you make this in a dutch oven as well?


Cindy July 20, 2011 at 8:38 am

oh me oh my.

My husband can’t eat pork but chicken we can do!

well done!!!!


Heidi C July 20, 2011 at 9:05 am

Thank you for this recipe, it looks absolutely delicious.


Tara @ the pleased plate July 20, 2011 at 9:19 am

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!


Megan (Braise The Roof) July 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

This post makes me want to have a slumber party so badly. Will you come to Chicago and join me? You bring the slow cooker, I’ll make my Swedish meatballs. Deal?


Alexa @ Simple Eats July 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

Um, I need to make this NOW. Andrea, do you think I could make this without a slow cooker? I haven’t been blessed with one yet!


Caitlin July 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

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.



The Teenage Taste July 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

It’s like a fancier version of BBQ pulled pork…but with chicken! YUM! :-)


Lisa July 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm

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?


Stacy July 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I want to marry this chicken – my husband won’t mind


Rachel - Season With Love July 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I love my crockpot and look for any excuse to whip up an easy dinner with it. Thanks for my next Monday night dinner idea!


HootieMcBoob July 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm

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!!!!


Lu @ Clean Slate to Who Knows July 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm

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.


Amber W July 21, 2011 at 5:11 am

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.


Brooke @ Waiting to Rise July 21, 2011 at 6:00 am

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!


Erin July 21, 2011 at 7:19 am

Looks yummy! I love slow cooker recipes that take longer that 6 hours because a work day is longer than that!


Rachel @ the Avid Appetite July 21, 2011 at 9:06 am

This sounds purely fantastical! I cannot wait to try it!


Steph @ Running in the Kitchen July 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

That looks amazing! Now I know what I’m making for Sunday dinner!!!!


JaNelle July 21, 2011 at 11:19 am

I’m all over this recipe! Looks so yummy!


Sarah July 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I really want to make this recipe this week. I think everyone would enjoy it. Thanks for posting!


justine @ you're so martha July 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

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!


Nicole July 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Hmmm, that is being added to next week’s menu! :)


Ashley c July 27, 2011 at 7:15 pm

What size crockpot do you use. I only have the big 6 qt one and things tend to dry out on me.


Vickie C July 30, 2011 at 7:21 pm

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!


Grace August 1, 2011 at 6:31 am


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.


Kasey August 5, 2011 at 5:47 am

This is in the crock pot for dinner tonight. I can’t wait it smelled absolutely devine and it wasn’t even cooked yet!


Amber W August 6, 2011 at 9:03 am

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..


Kelly R August 8, 2011 at 11:16 am

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!


Beverly {Flamingo Toes} August 12, 2011 at 11:55 am

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!


Linda K October 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm

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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