Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken with Apple Cider

4.64 from 11 votes
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Slow Cooker Apple Cider Chicken simmers in your crockpot all day with hard cider, apple slices, and onions. Then pile the pulled chicken on bread or rolls with cheddar cheese for an easy dinner on a busy autumn night. You can even make this family-friendly recipe in a flash in your Instant Pot.

Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Recipe

Apple Cider Chicken – a Crockpot Shredded Chicken Recipe

Did you ever flip through a cookbook or magazine or browse the web and find a recipe you really wanted to try, then you want to change one ingredient, don’t like another, ran out of something else, and by the time you are eating it, it is absolutely nothing like the recipe you just HAD to have? Yeah, that happened here.

I was checking out How Sweet It Is, one of my favorite blogs, and saw Jessica’s Crockpot Cheesesteak Pulled Chicken, and it sounded awesome. Only it had beer, but since I am gluten free, I figured I’d use hard cider.

I don’t really like green peppers, and I didn’t think red ones would taste really good with the cider. So instead I went with sliced apples. Then once I put in apples, I thought garlic would not be a good addition, so I left it out.

And I didn’t really want to melt the cheese into the chicken, so I just shredded it and put it on top. And there you go, this is NOT the Crockpot Cheesesteak Pulled Chicken from How Sweet It Is.

But it’s still a really, really good pulled chicken crockpot recipe, even if it’s not what I originally intended.

Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches on a roll

Why This Recipe Works

When you walk in the door after a long day of work or errands or running around with the kids, Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are a perfect dinner because they are easy, comforting, and not too heavy.

The fall flavors of sweet apple and hard cider as the cooking liquid along with sweet onion give the slow cooker pulled chicken so much flavor. And even though it was originally just a crockpot shredded chicken recipe, I have also tested it in the Instant Pot.

Whether you let it cook all day in your slow cooker or make it fast in your Instant Pot, this is sure to be a dinner the family will love.

Slow Cooker or Instant Pot Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with apple cider, apples, and onions

Ingredients

For the apple cider chicken

  • Apple: You’ll just need one that is peeled and sliced. You can really use any kind of aple yo uhave, but a firmer apple like a red or golden delicous will hold up a little better.
  • Onion: I like to use sweet onions such as a Vidalia.
  • Chicken: you’ll use about 2 pounds of boneless, skinless breasts
  • Seasonings: I like to use paprika and dry mustard powder to enhance the savory flavors with hint of smokiness and balnce the sweetness. And of course yoe need salt and pepper.
  • Hard apple cider: If you choose not to cook with alcohol you CAN use sparkling cider. If you cannot find 12 oz. bottles of sparkling cider, just use 1 1/2 cups from a full-size bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, or your favorite brand.

How to Make Crockpot Shredded Chcken with Apples

Add everything to the slow cooker: Peel and slice your apples, then slice your onions. Lay them in the bottom of your slow cooker, and place the chicken breasts on top. Sprinkle salt, pepper, dry mustard, and paprika over the chicken, then pour hard cider or sparkling cider over the top.

Cook and Shred: Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours, or until it is tender and shreds easily. Remove the chicken to a plate and shred with tongs and a fork or two forks. Return it to the slow cooker and mix to combine with the apples, onions, and juices.

How to serve Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

Make Sandwiches

To make the pulled chicken sandwiches, you’ll want some nice thick, crusty bread or rolls (brioche or potato rolls are a tasty option) and sharp cheddar cheese. Be sure to use gluten free bread or rolls, if needed.

Toast the bread or rolls in the oven or on a grill pan or griddle, if desired. Pile on the chicken and top with sharp cheddar cheese.

Make Sliders

The slow cooker pulled chicken also makes the perfect party or potluck food. Similar to these Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Chicken Sliders, you can buy Hawaiian rolls or small slider rolls like Martin’s Potato Rolls. You can even use Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits.

Have your chicken cooked in advance, and then party guests can make their own sliders or you can prepare them and put them out on a platter.

Other Serving Suggestions

Alternatively, there are other gluten free options, or just something different if you love the chicken but want to change it up. You could enjoy it over brown rice or Browned Butter Cauliflower Rice, or stuffed into baked sweet potatoes. A drizzle of Bourbon BBQ Sauce is a great way finish it off, along with the cheddar cheese.

It is also delicious on top of a salad, especially when you drizzle it with Creamy Greek Yogurt Maple Dijon Salad Dressing.

Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Sandwiches on toasted sourdough bread

Tips for Success

Make it in the Instant Pot

You can make Instant Pot Pulled Chicken. While this was originally developed as a crockpot pulled chicken recipe, I have tested it in my Instant Pot and it works great. The apples and onions do get a bit softer, but they still hold up and it’s still delicious.

You’ll just use the Manual setting for 15 minutes. It only takes about 10 minutes to cook the chicken through, but those extra few minutes will ensure it is super tender and shreds easily. However, feel free to adjust as you try this recipe based on the size of your chicken breasts.

Additionally, I would NOT recommend using frozen chicken for both food safety reasons and because it will take longer to cook, so the apple slices likely will not hold up.

Make it Gluten Free

The pulled chicken itself is gluten free. As always, be sure to read labels on your spices, and make sure to get hard apple cider or sparkling cider, not an Apple Ale. I’ve used Strongbow and Angry Orchard to make this shredded chicken.

If you are making the Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, just be sure to use gluten free bread or rolls.

Storing Leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. You can also freeze extras, especially if you make a double batch. Cool the chicken completely and transfer to an airtight container or plastic freezer storage bag. If you use a container, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Enjoy it within 2 months for the best quality.

If frozen, thaw the shredded chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can either put it back in the slow cooker on Low until it heats through. Or warm it in a pot over medium heat on the stove. And you can even heat it up in the microwave. I recommend covering it with a damp paper towel and stirring every minute or two until it is hot.

Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken can by used on sandwiches or salads

Make it a meal

Turn your apple cider chicken into a full meal with some of our favorite sides.

Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Things You’ll Need

Brianne Recommends
  • I usually use my Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Slow Cooker, especially if I want to make a double batch. But the 4-Quart Slow Cooker works just fine too, and is super afforable.
  • As mentioned, you can also make it in a pressure cooker like this Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1.
  • I prefer to use tongs for shredding and serving.
4.6 from 11 votes

Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

Simmer chicken in the slow cooker with apple cider, then pile on sandwiches and top with cheddar cheese for an easy, flavorful fall meal.
Servings: 6 -8

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 12 oz. bottle of hard apple cider or 12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) non-alcoholic sparkling cider
  • 12-16 slices of sourdough or your favorite bread, or 6-8 rolls toasted
  • 8 oz. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

Instructions

  • Place the onion and apple slices on the bottom of your slow cooker or Instant Pot.
  • Lay the chicken breasts on top of the apples and onions, and sprinkle on the salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard. Pour the hard cider over the top.
  • Cook on in the slow cooker low for 6-8 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Or set the Instant Pot to Manual for 15 minutes and, after the cooking time is completed, use the Quick Release to release the pressure.
  • Remove the chicken from the slow cooker or Instant Pot, shred with two forks, and return to the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
  • Using tongs, toss together the chicken, apples, onions and cooking liquid until evenly distributed.
  • Top one slice of bread or bottom of a roll with the shredded chicken mixture, sprinkle with about 1 oz. (1/4 cups) shredded cheddar cheese, and top with the other slice of bread or top of the roll.

More recipes with apple cider

Whether it is regular, sparkling, or hard apple cider, it is one of my favorite ingredients to add fresh fruity flavors to sweet and savory dishes like these.

54 Comments
  1. Cinnamon Vogue

    5 stars
    Oh my good this looks so good and healthy. Well done. I see some people have used Apple Cider Vinegar as opposed to Apple Cider. I am thinking you can use Apple Cider Vinegar in this recipe if you use very little. True or not?

    1. Brianne Cupcakes & Kale Chips

      I’ve never tried substituting apple cider vinegar for apple cider, but I imagine it would bring a completely different flavor to the finished dish. The apple cider is obviously sweeter. 🙂

  2. Annette

    4 stars
    You had the question as to whether I will be using the recipe as printed or as a guideline, probably as a guideline. I get migraines and need to stay away from onions, gluten and hard cheeses. I have chicken breasts on hand and want to use some hard apple cider. I was looking for spices to add, this is great. This would probably be great over brown rice, quinoa or on gluten free rolls too.

    1. Brianne Cupcakes & Kale Chips

      I’m sorry to hear that you struggle with migraines, Annette, but it sounds like you’re aware of some of the trigger foods, which is great. Serving the pulled chicken over rice or quinoa would be a delicious gluten free option!

  3. Randi

    I saved this recipe probably 3 years ago when I was trying to do a lot of crockpot meals. FINALLY tried it today and OMG this was AWESOME! I am scouring your site now for more recipes – thank you!

    1. Brianne Cupcakes & Kale Chips

      I’m so happy to hear that you love the slow cooker chicken sandwiches recipe, Randi! I hope you find a lot more new recipes to try.

  4. Caitlin

    I wanted to love this. It sounded so good! However, I found it to be super liquidy and very bland. It tasted like plain white meat chicken with a hint of apple cider vinegar, but I had been hoping for a tangy apple spiced chicken. I piled it on Texas toast with a great spicy BBQ sauce and aged Gouda which was delicious, but Texas toast with BBQ sauce and aged Gouda could make literally anything delicious.

  5. mike

    Couple questions: 1) Does the type of apple matter? 2) I made it and it smelled sooooo funky. Tasted pretty good but smelled strange, any idea why?

  6. Jennifer Silk

    Wondering any thoughts? I made apple cider (intended for this), missed that it’s supposed to be hard apple cider. Any suggestions?

  7. Courtney

    Okay, so I’m going to do the same thing you did, because I think of apples and onions, and I have to sub out the cheddar for some smoked gouda!

  8. This is just what I was looking for! I’m going to put this in the slow cooker before I go to bed so that it’s ready for shredding in the morning. (using fresh cider mixed with veggie broth to prevent it from being overly sweet)

      1. 5 stars
        Results: success! And it made a lot so we can enjoy leftovers. It doesn’t need cheese (which I was out of) to be enjoyed. I’m going to take this recipe to Mom’s house over the holidays. I bet she’d like it too. 🙂 I’m also thinking an apple cider pulled chicken stromboli would be tasty too.

  9. Hmm-this sounds really good-I’d add brie to the top of this and melt it just a little…if I were planning on making this supper and had bought the ingredients beforehand of course;)
    Like your creativity!

  10. Courtney

    5 stars
    Now THIS is my kinda meal, weeknight or any night. Holy deliciousness and convenience! Just out of curiosity, what kind of hard cider did you use? I have a jug of apple juice/cider at home (non-alcoholic) but I’m not sure if the extra sweetness there would be too much. I much prefer the carbonation of hard stuff, so maybe I’ll just postpone this recipe until I pick some up.

    Speaking of sweetness, with subbing the cider for beer and apples for peppers, would you consider it more of a sweet or savory dish?

    1. I think mine turned out savory with a hint of sweet, which I loved, especially with the salty cheese. I think regular cider would make it a bit sweeter – perhaps use less and use half chicken broth?

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