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Simply Savor: Barbeque Pulled Chicken

by Agnes Wong, Dietetic Intern

Pulled chicken is a simple yet full-of-flavor recipe that can be prepared in 10 minutes with a short list of ingredients. This versatile dish can be enjoyed throughout the whole week at any time of the day in sandwiches, tacos, nachos, wraps, salads, on top of a baked potato, with rice, or on its own. This dairy-free, gluten-free, soft, juicy, full of protein dish is great for anyone who is experiencing weight loss, dry mouth, or loss of taste. You can make this recipe with either chicken or pork tenderloin, but it is important to note that pork tenderloin is considered red meat and should be consumed in moderation up to 3 portions per week or 12 to 18 ounces or less per week [i].

Ingredient Highlights

Chicken: Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein containing complete amino acids essential for growth, tissue repair, and healthy immune function. It is important to consume enough protein during cancer treatment to prevent muscle breakdown and aid in recovery from illness [ii].

Onion and garlic: Allium vegetables onion and garlic are great sources of micronutrients, including selenium, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Their bioactive sulfur compounds have cancer-preventative, detoxification, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory benefits [iii]. They are good flavor enhancers in dishes which can be helpful when experiencing altered or loss of taste from cancer treatment side effects. Onions and garlic are also prebiotics that serve as food for probiotics.

Probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms collectively called the gut microbiome which can have benefits regulating intestinal flora, maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier, improving inflammation, and strengthening immune function. Consuming probiotic-containing foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, or yogurt can improve compromised immunity, diarrhea, inflamed mouth or gut caused by cancer treatments [iv]. (Note: patients with severely impaired immune function should consult with a medical practitioner).


Barbeque Pulled Chicken

Serves: 6-8
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4-5 hours
Tool: slow cooker


  • 1.5 to 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Remove chicken from the package and place it in the slow cooker.
  2. Add all the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix well together.
  3. Close the lid and cook for 4-5 hours.
  4. Open the slow cooker and use two forks to pull the chicken apart.
  5. Close the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. 
  6. Serve on a toasted bun.
  7. Optional: add your favorite garnish such as sliced pickles, jalapeños, picked vegetables, coleslaw, or cheese
  8. Optional: add your favorite fresh vegetables such as green beans, cucumber, tomatoes, spinach, or collard greens


  • Chicken can be substituted for pork tenderloin but should be consumed in moderation given it is considered a red meat.
  • Try it on a whole wheat bun, ciabatta bread, in a wrap, or with rice. 
  • You can add your favorite vegetables in the slow cooker such as tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, carrots, onions, or potatoes, but make sure to add them towards the end of the cooking process.
  • Flavor and spice level may be adjusted by experimenting with different herbs and spices.
  • Look at the bbq sauce you’re selecting and opt for versions that are lower in sugar and sodium if those are dietary concerns for you.


[i] Red Meat (Beef, Pork, Lamb) – American Institute for Cancer Research. (2020). American Institute for Cancer Research. https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/food-facts/red-meat-beef-pork-lamb/

[ii] Benefits of Good Nutrition During Cancer Treatment. (n.d.). Www.cancer.org. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/coping/nutrition/benefits.html

[iii] Nicastro, H. L., Ross, S. A., & Milner, J. A. (2015). Garlic and Onions: Their Cancer Prevention Properties Garlic and Onions: Their Cancer Prevention Properties. Cancer prevention research, 8(3), 181-189.

[iv] Lu, K., Dong, S., Wu, X., Jin, R., & Chen, H. (2021). Probiotics in cancer. Frontiers in Oncology, 11, 638148.

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