Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Blue Cheese Coleslaw

I should have known.  I really should have.  There was no way that that combination of ingredients was going to create a BBQ sauce worthy of this sandwich, and yet I went ahead and made it anyway (mistake #1).  Not one of my finer moments, but who writes these recipes anyway?!  And do they not actually test them?!?

But let me back up…I’ve had this recipe for a pulled chicken sandwich lingering in the file for quite a long time, but then the other day I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for blue cheese coleslaw, and the light bulb above my head started flashing (yes, I do have one of those).  I wanted very badly to put that coleslaw together on a bun with the pulled chicken.

I have no idea where the pulled chicken sandwich recipe came from (mistake #2), and what it created in that pan was so far from a BBQ sauce that I was tempted to scrap the entire thing.  But into that watery, tomato-y liquid, I began to add molasses, catsup, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, yellow mustard, hickory smoke seasoning; anything that would move this mess into the realm of BBQ sauce.  And dang if I didn’t eventually create the most amazing BBQ sauce I’ve had in a very long time (mistake #3).  I have no idea how I got there, so I have no way to re-create it.

Let’s move on to the coleslaw part, shall we?  If you like blue cheese (and I do), the idea of a blue cheese coleslaw is pure genius.  But I had a few reservations about this recipe before I ever made it (seemed like too much mayo, too much blue cheese, a very high ratio of dressing to cabbage), which I completely ignored; this was Ina’s recipe, after all (mistake #4).  Alas, my fears were confirmed…. the sauce was too thick, the cabbage overdressed and the blue cheese was way too dominant.

A saner person would have at this point given up and ordered Chinese, right?  Not me, no sir; I kept going (not a mistake).  I started over and reduced the mayo and blue cheese, added a little buttermilk to the dressing and mixed this sparingly with the shredded cabbage.  Perfect.  Perfection.  Delicious.

The husband and brother-in-law were working outside, so I heated up some sandwich buns, topped them with some of the pulled chicken that I’d cooked in the transformed BBQ sauce, topped that with the new version of the coleslaw and offered them to my hungry worker men.  Granted, I think they would have loved and appreciated just about anything I’d have handed them at that moment, but what followed were actual moans and groans of enjoyment and deliciousness.  All’s well that ends well, so they say.

And the moral of this sordid tale?  Well, there are several... Be adventurous but trust your instincts; know the source of your recipe (although that’s never a guarantee); never say die. 

Here’s the recipe for one very good pulled chicken sandwich with blue cheese coleslaw.   I’ve included my favorite BBQ sauce recipe which I should have used to begin with, but you can just use a good store-bought one if you like. 

P.S.  These would make awesome sliders for your Super Bowl party.

Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Blue Cheese Dressing

Click here for a printable recipe

Serves 4

2 lbs boneless chicken thighs
1 ½ cups BBQ sauce (see below)
Blue cheese coleslaw (recipe follows)
4 fresh sandwich rolls or burger buns

For the chicken:

Place 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce in a large skillet.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken and cook another 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and let the chicken simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and use 2 forks to shred or “pull” the chicken.  Or you can let the chicken cool enough to handle and use your fingers to shred.  Add more sauce to the chicken until it’s moist and lightly sauced.

For the Sauce:

Yield = 3 cups

2 cups good quality ketchup

1 cup  water

1/2  Tbs garlic powder

1/2  Tbs onion powder

1 Tbs  dried oregano

1 Tbs molasses

1 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. Hickory Smoke Seasoning

2 Tbs Dijon mustard

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1  tsp celery salt

1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar

1Tbs  lemon juice

1/2 Tbs black pepper


Place all ingredients in a sauce pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Season to taste for salt.  This will make more than you need for the recipe, but will keep quite well in a sealed container in the fridge.


Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten


1/3 cup light mayonnaise

1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ tsp celery seed

½ tsp black pepper

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (preferably a mild variety)

¼ cup buttermilk

Salt to taste

2 cups shredded cabbage


Mix together the first 7 ingredients and combine with the shredded cabbage.  Increase or decrease the amount of blue cheese and salt to your taste.

A Yummy Coleslaw Variation:
Substitute feta cheese for the blue cheese and add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon sugar.