These Sweet and Saucy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches Are Clucking Awesome
Top with a crisp slaw and sweet brown sugar bbq sauce for the dreamiest, drippiest sammie. Cook the chicken perfectly with the Yummly Smart Thermometer.
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Article and recipe by David Bonom. Photographs by Brittany Conerly
I’ve cracked the code on the perfect bbq chicken sandwich.
First of all, I love saucy, juicy, messy sandwiches — the kind that require at least five napkins. Top a sandwich with some coleslaw, the creamy kind, and you’ve got a laundry disaster in the making — and that’s just the way I like it. Ok, it’s not really about the mess, but the great flavor burst in every bite.
There is more to a great sandwich than just the sauce and slaw. You need the right bun, the perfect blend of spices, and chicken breasts cooked to the perfect temperature for maximum juiciness — my Yummly Smart Thermometer ensures that.
There is one last thing for the sandwich to be amazing: It’s gotta be simple to make. I don’t want a million and one difficult-to-source ingredients — a simple well-balanced spice rub will do the trick. The recipe shouldn’t be complicated or use time-consuming techniques. That scrumptious, drool-inducing sandwich has got to be ready for eating in under 45 minutes!
If you appreciate a good messy sandwich like I do, you’ll love this Sweet and Saucy BBQ Chicken Sandwich. Let's dive in.
Jump ahead to:
Preparing the spice rub, slaw, and bbq sauce >>
Score ultra juicy chicken breasts with the Yummly Smart Thermometer >>
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Get to know the ingredients you’ll be using in this fabulous Sweet and Saucy BBQ Chicken Sandwich recipe
Once a specialty spice, smoked paprika is available in almost every supermarket. Sometimes called Pimentón, it is made from red peppers that are dried and smoked before being ground. The result is a sweet, robust, smoky flavor without any heat.
This spice is a key component in bbq spice rubs and sauces as well as curry blends. It is a very versatile spice that has an earthy, nutty, slightly citrusy flavor.
Not just a single spice, chili powder is actually a combination of ground chili peppers and spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic, and salt. It is an important addition to bbq rubs and sauces.
Ground chipotle chile pepper
Ground chipotle pepper is made by grinding dried smoked jalapeño peppers. It has an earthy smoke flavor with a nice kick of heat. Ground chipotles may be considered mildly hot on the Scoville scale (how chilies are evaluated for their spiciness) but they pack enough of a punch for those who are sensitive to heat, so be mindful when using.
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
There’s no getting around it: Chicken breasts are getting huge. It’s nearly impossible to find chicken breasts that are less than 6 ounces and you are more likely to find them to be 7 ounces and up to 14 ounces. For our sandwich the ideal size breast half will be around 8 ounces. The moderate size breast will be easier to not overcook, especially with the help of the Yummly Thermometer.
Broccoli slaw mix
Sold in the produce section of most supermarkets, broccoli slaw mix is made from shredded broccoli stems, shredded carrots, and some shredded red cabbage. It is more colorful than traditional green cabbage slaw and tends to keep its crunch longer than regular slaw. Broccoli slaw gives the sandwich great visual appeal as well as textural contrasts to the bun and chicken breasts.
Creamy and slightly tangy, mayo, in my opinion, gives slaw its raison d'etre.
Apple cider vinegar
Cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugar from apples. It adds additional tang to the slaw and helps balance the richness of the mayonnaise.
Sugar gives the slaw a touch of sweetness.
Ketchup is the base ingredient for many bbq sauces because of its tangy-sweet flavor profile.
Dark brown sugar
Dark brown sugar is white sugar that has been flavored with molasses. It gives depth to the barbecue sauce as well as a light molasses-y taste.
Garlic powder is a versatile spice that enhances the flavor of meats, chicken, sauces, vegetables, and so much more. Garlic powder can be a bit confusing because it comes as both a powder and granulated (sometimes called granulated garlic). We use the granulated form which is less intensely flavored than the powdered version.
Sometimes called ground mustard, dry mustard is made from ground yellow mustard seeds. It is intensely flavored and used in recipes instead of prepared mustard, which can have added ingredients such as vinegar, salt, and other spices.
Seeded soft sandwich buns
Any kind of sandwich roll will do, but we especially like an oblong roll since it mimics the shape of a chicken breast better than a round roll. We like seeded soft sandwich buns because they have a nice textural contrast to the chicken and slaw, and also because the soft porous bread absorbs the bbq sauce, slaw sauce, and chicken juices so nicely.
Preparing the spice rub, slaw, and bbq sauce
This chicken sandwich recipe is essentially three short, simple recipes in one: the rub, the slaw, and the sauce
Preparing the spice rub
The rub is simply combining the spices in a bowl then rubbing the mixture over the chicken breast halves (that we’ve pounded with the heel of our hand to approximately 3/4-inch thickness) to flavor it. We let the rubbed chicken stand for 15 minutes at room temperature. This does a couple of things: It allows the rub to stick to the chicken better, lets the temperature of the chicken rise slightly for more even grilling, and allows us time to make the slaw and start the sauce.
Preparing the slaw
The slaw is even simpler than the rub. Toss the slaw mix with the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and salt. That was exhausting. Just kidding!
Preparing the bbq sauce
The sauce combines all 6 ingredients at once in a saucepan. Then we bring them to a simmer and cook for a whole 5 minutes to allow them to thicken slightly.
Score ultra juicy chicken breasts with the Yummly Smart Thermometer
We cook our chicken over medium direct heat — that means cooking right over the flames. Medium heat has a temperature range of 350° to 450°F. This should cook our chicken in about 10 to 12 minutes while giving us nice grill marks. The grill marks add a touch of char flavor as well as visual appeal. To achieve perfectly moist chicken, we insert the Yummly Thermometer into the thickest part of one of the chicken breast halves and set our desired temperature of 160°F on the app. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
You can also make this recipe with boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer; just remember to cook those to 170°F.
Get the recipe
This impressive-looking sandwich is as delicious as it sounds, with a burst of flavor in every bite. And it’s way easier than it looks! In fact, while these sandwiches make an awesome bbq event main dish, their easy prep makes them achievable on a weeknight.
While you will want to eat these hot, they are just as good at room temperature or left over the next day.
Sweet and Saucy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
The bbq fun continues
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