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BBQ Chicken Packed Pita

Serves 4

This recipe was contributed by Adam Gertler, a finalist on Food Network’s The Next Food Network Star show. Rachael was so impressed by this recipe, which was created as part of a challenge round to cook a kid-friendly meal – that she encouraged Adam to share it with the Yum-o! community!


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or a combination of breasts and thighs)

  • 1/2-3/4 cup BBQ rub (recipe follows)

  • Oil, for grilling

  • 2/3 cup BBQ sauce (recipe follows or store-bought)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 1 bag washed baby spinach leaves (8 ounces) or 1 cup frozen spinach, drained and chopped

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened

  • 4 whole wheat flatbreads, such as naan or Mediterranean-style pita

  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar/Jack cheese blend

For the Smoky BBQ Rub:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed slightly with spice mill
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup granulated garlic

For the BBQ Sauce:

  •  2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon BBQ Rub (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup Creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 4 cups ketchup


  1. Prepare a hot grill outside or pre-heat a grill pan to high.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  3. Toss the raw chicken in a bowl with the BBQ rub, adding a few pieces at a time until all chicken is well coated. Grill the chicken on a well-oiled grill or grill pan for about 2 minutes on each side, until nice grill marks are formed. If the chicken pieces are very thick, finish cooking for 5-10 minutes more in the pre-heated oven.
  4. Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes, then pull it apart into nice shreds. Toss the chicken with the BBQ sauce so that it is well coated but not overly wet. Keep the chicken warm in a warm sauté pan until ready to use.
  5. Heat the olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic with awooden spoon. After 30 seconds, add the spinach and turn off the heat. Toss the spinach in the hot oil; when the spinach is wilted completely, season with salt. Set aside.
  6. Spread the butter evenly over one side of each flatbread. In a large sauté pan, grill each flatbread over medium-high heat, buttered side down (work in batches if necessary). Top each flatbread with a quarter of the cheese, a quarter of the spinach and a quarter of the chicken. Fold each flatbread over and continue grilling until golden brown on each side. Cut in half crosswise, transfer to platter and serve.

For the Smoky BBQ Rub:

Combine all the ingredients, using a whisk, wooden spoon or your hands. Use your hands to break up the lumps of brown sugar.

For the BBQ Sauce:

Heat the canola oil in a 1 gallon saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat them until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat 1 more minute. Add all the dry spices and the BBQ rub and stir to combine. Cook the sauce until the spices become fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add remaining the ingredients and simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or hand blender), puree the sauce until smooth.