Smoky Barbecue Chicken Pizza

My Italian ancestors might roll over in their graves if they knew that the first pizza recipe I was posting on my site was for barbecue chicken pizza.  But then again, this isn’t your ordinary freezer aisle, supermarket BBQ chicken pizza.

Gone are the dry-as-cardboard chicken breast cubes and sugary-sweet barbecue sauce.  Instead, I use succulent, shredded dark meat chicken bathed in a smoky, homemade barbecue sauce that’s flavored with bourbon and chipotle chilies.  If that wasn’t enough, each pizza is topped with sweet red onions and a healthy sprinkling of mozzarella and smoked cheddar cheese for an added dimension of barbecue smoke flavor.  Garnished with some fresh chopped cilantro and you have a barbecue chicken pizza so good you may never feel the need to visit a certain California-based pizza chain ever again.


While I suggest you try making your own homemade barbecue sauce, you can easily substitute your favorite store-bought brand in this recipe.  I like to slowly poach my own chicken thighs in an aromatic broth for this preparation, but you can certainly use the meat from a supermarket rotisserie bird.  When it comes to topping a pizza, less is more.  If you opt to make your own sauce, you certainly will have more than you need for two pizzas.  Try not to the overload the dough with too much chicken or cheese — you’re looking for a balance of flavors, not maximum capacity.  I like to go easy on the smoked cheddar — it has a pronounced flavor that can easily overwhelm the pizza if used in too large of an amount.  Finally, if you’re at all serious about making pizza at home, a pizza stone is a must.


  • 24 ounces homemade or store-bought pizza dough, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • About 1 1/2 cups homemade sweet and smoky barbecue sauce (or store-bought)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shredded
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup grated, low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped


  1. Place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500°.  Allow the stone to heat for at least half and hour before baking pizzas.
  2. Allow the pizza dough to come to room temperature.  On a lightly-floured work surface, form the dough into two large balls, collecting the sides and tucking them under to create a smooth outer surface.  Cover the dough with a damp towel and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the shredded chicken along with about 1 cup of barbecue sauce and cook over low heat until the meat is moist and warmed through.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan set over moderately-low heat.  Add the sliced red onion and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened but not browned or caramelized, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Generously dust a wooden peel or the back of a sheet pan with flour or cornmeal. With lightly-floured hands, press the dough with your fingertips to form a flattened disk.  Lift the dough up and use the back of your knuckles to stretch and thin-out the dough into a circle with a diameter of 12-inches. Be careful to preserve the edge of the dough if you want a nice, chewy crust. Carefully position the stretched dough onto the prepared peel or baking sheet.
  6. Using a ladle, spoon a thin layer of the extra barbecue sauce onto the dough and carefully spread it to the edge of it’s borders.  Top with an even layer of mozzarella cheese followed by pieces of the warmed chicken and softened red onion.  Top with light sprinkling of the smoked cheddar and a bit more of the mozzarella.  Lightly brush the exposed crust with a bit of the leftover olive oil.
  7. Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone and bake until the crust is crisped and golden and the cheese is bubbling, about 6-7 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Makes 2 Pizzas



  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Small pinch ground clove
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring until browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, then add the bourbon and simmer for 2 minutes longer.  Stir in the vinegar, sugar, chipotle chilies, mustard, ancho chile powder, bay leaf, clove and allspice and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken stock, ketchup and tomatoes, cover partially and cook over low heat until reduced by half, about 1 hour.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Discard the bay leaf and transfer the sauce to a blender.  Puree until smooth. For a more velvety texture pass the sauce through a medium-mesh sieve.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Add the honey and taste the sauce again.  Add more honey to taste if you wish to balance out the acidity of the vinegar.  The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Makes about 2 cups

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    • Abbey
    • December 7th, 2009

    There are no words…

    Ok maybe there are three words…OH MY GOD! This looks amazing!!!

    • mjf
    • December 7th, 2009

    This pizza sounds delicious and looks beautiful. Nice twist indeed. Not too complicated for my skill level either. Thanks. Ymmmmmmmm!

  1. Is there a certain brand of pizza dough that you like to use? This pizza looks great. I really enjoy your posts. Lots of variety and things that I would like to make. I have yet to make the Vietnamese chicken wings from Pok Pok. -Tien

  2. Tien – Thanks for reading. I like to make my own pizza dough whenever I have the time, but I recently discovered a small Italian deli in San Francisco’s Mission District that sells their own delicious version (Lucca Ravioli Company). At $3.00 for a 24-ounce bag it’s an especially good deal. If you don’t want to make your own, I suggest you check with one of your favorite pizzerias in your home town. Oftentimes they’ll be more than happy to sell you some of theirs. I’ve never worked with it myself, but I’ve also heard good things about Trader Joe’s dough. Hope this helps.

    • Gary
    • December 7th, 2009

    Hai ragione tuo nonno sabrebe cipiglio. Sembra delizioso.

  3. Mmmmmm. My family will love this! Thanks for the idea Mike!

  4. This combo is one of the best ever. A while ago I made one with some really nice rotisserie chicken I had left over and smoked gouda and it was SO good. Your post reminded me I should make it again!

  5. That pizza looks really tasty!

    • lisa
    • April 15th, 2010

    Great BBQ sauce recipe. Loved the tang and the heat.
    I’m doing the Thai pizza next…..

  6. Lisa – Glad it turned out so well. I really feel like the sauce sets off the whole pie. The smoked cheddar doesn’t hurt much either….

  1. January 3rd, 2010
  2. January 23rd, 2011