Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Pull-Apart Chicken (with Instant Pot instructions)

If you’ve done the live Conscious Cleanse program with us then undoubtedly you recall Jo’s infamous “chicken breast story.” You may have also picked up that I’m someone who is powered by a plant-based diet, eating the occasional piece of fish here and there when I crave it.

That being said, I’m the least likely person to be writing a blog post on chicken but since I live with two growing boys and a hubbie who says, “salad is what dinner eats,” I’ve had to (and continue to) educate myself on all-things meat related.

We always encourage our participants to become label detectives and this skill is never more important than when it comes to shopping for meat. Unfortunately, these labels can be the most confusing–causing the best of us to become a vegetarian! (Wink, wink.) Although these labels can guide us into making healthier decisions, they can also be misleading because the regulations behind the stickers are often vague.

So let’s demystify some of these marketing claims!

Let’s start with the term “Organic.” Just as with produce, buying “organic” chicken is always solid choice. Organic poultry means that the birds were raised on feed containing no antibiotics, hormones, artificial ingredients or preservatives. Yet unless the labels reads “100% Organic,” the chicken feed likely contained GMO-components, like corn and soy.

Next option is “Vegetarian-Fed.” This too can be misleading because a normal chicken diet is omnivorous, since chickens naturally eat grubs, insects and worms, in addition to grasses and grains. In fact, the omission of bug protein usually means even more GMO corn and soy!

Stickers that read “Free-Range” or “Cage-Free” are widely used and sadly, generally useless. These terms do imply that the chickens are not tightly compartmentalized and that they have access to open air, yet there are zero requirements ensuring that the chickens actually spend time outside. “Pastured” or “Pasture-Raised” may be a more transparent term because it has been widely adopted by small farmers who insist that their grass-fed chickens actually see the light of day. Unfortunately, it has no legal definition and, therefore, can be applied without consequence.

So how do we stop playing chicken with our chicken?!

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Pull-Apart Chicken (with Instant Pot instructions)

The best way to find out where your chicken comes from is to go right to the source. If buying from a local farmer, ask about their practices for feeding and raising their birds because even if they’re not “certified organic,” they might be doing everything right. If you’re unfamiliar with your local agriculture, use a farm finder such as LocalHarvest to find fresh produce and meat. Participating in a local farm’s CSA program is another way to hone in on clean poultry sources.

The bottom line when shopping in your everyday health food grocery store is to look for “100% Organic” poultry.

Now that you’ve done your research, we bet you’re expecting a pretty great chicken recipe.

Well, you’re in luck! This week, our natural chef extraordinaire and Conscious Cleanse certified health coach, Jessica Bartlett, helped us create a spin on a favorite finger-licking dish: pulled pork!

Instead of pork, we’re using our well-sourced chicken and a BBQ sauce that isn’t tomato-based. Just like the original dish, we’re slow cooking the meat (in a slow cooker so it’s easier) and the result is spicy, sweet and downright comforting!

Enjoy and please be sure to leave us a comment below. This recipe was a request by one of our readers so we’re ready and listening. What other favorite comfort food can we make cleanse-friendly for you? Be sure to tell me in the comment section below.

With 100% organic grass-fed love,


Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Pull-Apart Chicken

Yield: 5-6 cups

  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5-6 breasts)
  • 1 ¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock, divided
  • 2 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder, divided
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into discs (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TB. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 TB. pure maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 TB. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce or romaine lettuce
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Green onions, chopped (optional)
  • Red cabbage (optional)
  • Brown mustard (optional)

Place onion slices on the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with whole chicken breasts. Pour ¼ cup stock over the top. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon sea salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle these spices over chicken and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

After chicken has been cooking for about 4 ½ hours, begin the sauce by adding 1 1/2 cup stock and water to medium saucepan. Add carrot slices and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until carrots are soft enough to skewer with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together molasses, maple syrup (or honey), apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Being careful to reserve broth, drain softened carrots. Add cooked carrots to a food processer fitted with an S-blade, along with 4 tablespoons of carrot broth. Blend until creamy. Add blended carrots (about 1 cup), as well as 1 tablespoon carrot broth to large bowl with sauce ingredients and mix well with a spatula or spoon.

At the 5-hour mark, check to make sure the chicken is cooked (there should be no pink flesh and an inserted thermometer should read 160o – 165o). If chicken needs more time, allow it to cook for another 30-45 minutes. If the chicken is cooked, add sauce to slow cooker and use two forks to shred the chicken and mix in the sauce. Let cook for another 10 minutes.

Spoon ½ cup filling onto 1 lettuce leaf and top with cucumber, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, or any optional topping. Roll or fold in half, and serve.

Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days or in freezer for 2 months.

Variation: For more heat, add ¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to chicken while it cooks.

Instant Pot Instructions:
Place sliced onions and carrots on the bottom of the Instant Pot. Poor ½ cup of stock over the onions and carrots.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon sea salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Rub the breasts with the seasoning and place the breasts on top of the onions and carrots. Any leftover seasoning can be added to the pot.

Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Turn the venting knob to seal. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Allow for 10 to 15 minutes natural release then a quick release. Leave the Instant Pot on Warm.

Once all pressure is released, open lid and place the cooked chicken on a plate.

Add to the liquid in the Instant Pot, molasses, maple syrup (or honey), apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper and mix. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully transfer contents to a blender. Cover the closed lid with a towel and blend until smooth. Be careful since contents will be hot. Then transfer contents back to the Instant Pot.

Using two forks, shred the chicken. Add the shredded chicken back to the sauce in the pot.

Spoon ½ cup filling onto 1 lettuce leaf and top with cucumber, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, or any optional topping. Roll or fold in half, and serve.

Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days or in freezer for 2 months.

If you liked this recipe and would like to learn more about the Conscious Cleanse, we invite you to join our online community! As a welcome-gift, we’ll send you our Taste of the Conscious Cleanse Free eCookbook, a collection of more of our favorite recipes!

We’ll also be sure to share new recipes and healthy lifestyle tips. Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here.

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Showing 9 comments
  • Tracey Blitz

    so I think you may get this question this time around. if i don’t own a slow cooker what is the best way to cook this dish?

    • Julie Peláez

      Hey Tracey, Try this – 1. Poach the chicken breasts. Place whole breasts on the bottom of a large pot. Cover chicken by an inch or so with cool water. Bring water to boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook on low for about 10-14 minutes. Use thermometer to check for doneness. Remove chicken from water, add to large bowl, and shred.

      2. While chicken is cooking, saute onion slices over medium heat with spices and 1 TB. coconut or olive oil for about 8-10 minutes.

      3. Combine shredded chicken and onions together in large bowl. Make sauce as usual and add to bowl, coating chicken and onions. Add poaching liquid or carrot broth for moisture, if needed.

      Let me know how it goes! :)

  • Adelaide Farrell

    Better than any pulled chicken recipe I’ve ever had! I topped my pulled chicken boats with the summer coleslaw (without the walnuts) and it is so so delicious! Thanks for the great recipes

    • Julie Peláez

      That’s great to hear, Adelaide! Yum!

  • Kim Lucier

    Hi Jules,

    I’m wondering if this recipe is Cleanse-friendly? I’m about to start my 2nd Conscious Cleanse on Monday and I’m a big meat-eater (and I need protein as I’m currently breastfeeding) so this recipe seems like a great option. Can you please let me know if it is cleanse-friendly. Thanks so much!


    • Jules Peláez

      Yes Kim! It’s definitely cleanse friendly. Enjoy and have a great cleanse!

  • Jenny Rothkopf

    Completely delicious!!!!!!!

  • Jen Houghton

    Hi there,

    It’s day 5 and the challenge today is to cut our sugar! I was thinking of doing this recipe as it looks so delicious but it has blackstrap molasses. Is this ok to use given that it is a by product of sugar.



    • Jo and Jules

      Hi Jen, Welcome to Day 5! Great question! In small quantities, blackstrap molasses is fine while on the cleanse. Molasses is a sweetener but it also has a lot of beneficial nutrients as well. We find small qualities like in this recipe tends not to affect the blood sugar. Great job keeping your eye out for added sugar. XO, Jo & Jules

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