Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in a cranberry bbq sauce make for an easy weeknight dinner or serving a crowd on game day. It’s pure fall comfort food!

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Prepared cranberry bbq drumsticks stacked on a plate, photographed with chips and a drink.

About Crock Pot Cranberry BBQ Drumsticks

Fall and its trademark flavors are wonderful and all, but sometimes you want to have the best of both worlds – and these crock pot cranberry BBQ drumsticks are just one of the few meals that really does it all.

It embraces the ease of summer but also all the best comfort foods of colder weather. It’s like summer and winter decided to put aside their differences and worked together for an awesome dinner solution.

And, yes, the flavor is as amazing as it sounds. The drumsticks are fall-off-the-bone tender, the sauce is eat-every-bite delicious, and the method is set-it-and-forget-it easy.

This easy meal is bound to be a hit for anything from a weeknight dinner to your new main dish for the holidays.

What type of BBQ sauce should you use?

This recipe calls for using BBQ sauce, and overall, you can use any type that you’d like, whether that be mild, spicy, storebought, or homemade. I’d recommend sticking to more classic sauces over ones with a lot of added flavor.

However, a little flavor isn’t a bad thing – but since this sauce also has a strong dose of cranberry, you want to make sure any additional flavors are complementary to it. BBQ sauces with hints of sweet, earthy, or citrus flavors would be a good match for cranberry.

Top down view of cooked cranberry bbq drumsticks in a crock pot.

What type of cranberry sauce should you use?

For the cranberry sauce, you can choose between jellied cranberry sauce or whole berry cranberry sauce. Pick whichever one you think you’d like the most.

To give you an idea, I used jellied cranberry sauce for the images on this page; I thought it created a nice, smooth sauce and made for good presentation. I’ve also used a homemade whole berry cranberry sauce and thought the visible berries (and their bursts of flavor) were a delicious addition to the tender meat of the chicken.

Can you use frozen drumsticks?

The answer here may be a surprise, and it might go against everything you thought you knew about (or have done with) slow cookers for years.

Because, technically, according to the USDA, you’re not supposed to put frozen chicken in a crock pot. I know. I know. And if you’re anything like me, you’re now feeling like a rebel, because you’ve done this before and lived to tell about it, probably because an instruction booklet that came with your Crockpot said it was okay.

And there’s the rub: The USDA does not recommend it, and it’s probably safer to not do it, but Crockpot has been advising its customers that it’s okay to do for years, and there’s likely many (possibly even yourself) who have done it and everything turned out fine.

I personally cannot recommend going against the USDA (and now that I know better, I no longer put frozen chicken in Crockpots for my own personal use) so my suggestion would be to take the time to safety thaw the drumsticks before making this recipe.

How long are crock pot drumsticks good for?

Once cooked, these cranberry bbq drumsticks can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two to four days.

Can you freeze these drumsticks?

Yes, you totally can!

Once prepared and cooled, cranberry bbq drumsticks can be stored in a sealed container or freezer bag for up to three months.

Notes & tips for these drumsticks with cranberry bbq sauce

  • If you’re in the market for a new crock pot, I recently discovered this one and I’m seriously impressed. It has three sizes in one!
Close up of prepared cranberry bbq drumsticks stacked on a plate.

More great crock pot recipes

How to make cranberry bbq drumsticks

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Prepare the chicken by placing the drumsticks on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper, then broil the drumsticks until they’re a light golden color.

Step 2 – While the chicken cooks, whisk together the BBQ sauce, cranberry sauce, orange marmalade, quick-cooking tapioca, and mustard.

Step 3 – Transfer the broiled drumsticks to a crock pot, then pour the cranberry BBQ sauce on top. Gently toss the drumsticks to ensure they’re all coated.

Step 4 – Cook!

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Prepared cranberry bbq drumsticks stacked on a plate, photographed with chips and a drink.
4.19 from 16 votes

Crock Pot Cranberry BBQ Drumsticks

10 mins prep + 5 hrs 15 mins cook
544 kcal
Yields: 5 servings
Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in a cranberry bbq sauce make for an easy weeknight dinner or serving a crowd on game day. It's pure fall comfort food!

Ingredients 

Instructions

  • Check your oven to make sure there's a rack positioned 4-5 inches from the top, then preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Place drumsticks on prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper, then place baking sheet on top oven rack. Broil drumsticks for 12 minutes, turning half way through. Drumsticks will be a light golden color when ready.
  • While drumsticks cook, whisk together BBQ sauce, cranberry sauce, orange marmalade, quick-cooking tapioca, and mustard in a medium bowl.
  • Add drumsticks to a 6 quart crock pot and pour cranberry BBQ sauce on top. Gently toss drumsticks to coat.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
  • Serve immediately with sesame seeds as garnish (optional).

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 544kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 168mg | Sodium: 564mg | Potassium: 510mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 54g | Vitamin A: 198IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 2mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating




15 comments

    • judy
    • 5 stars

    Don’t have tapioca, will they turn out ok if I don’t add it?

    • Natalie

    Can you broil them after? Won’t broiling first make them not as crisp?

      • Chrisy

      Hey Natalie! For this recipe, the broiling is to brown the skin and get the cooking process started. The drumsticks will be tender and soft once they’re done cooking, so as it’s written, this recipe wouldn’t make crispy drumsticks. You can try broiling them after and that *should* crisp them a little, but I haven’t tried doing that myself so I’m not 100% sure how it will turn out.

    • Grace

    This is in the crockpot right now!! For some reason I don’t have mustard (that’s how much we don’t use it I guess) but figured it would probably be alright without it. I’m bringing it to a small broil Bible study tonight without any testing first, so hopefully it’s as good as it looks and smells!

      • Grace

      Small group ** not Broil!!

    • AB

    I’m making this today but we won’t eat it for a couple days. How would suggest re-heating? I was just planning on 350 in the oven, maybe 325?

      • Chrisy

      Hey Ab! You could do that or even put them back in the crock pot on warm setting for a bit. I think the sauce might caramelize a bit in the oven than in the crock pot, so keep that in mind. I would even suggest broiling the drumsticks and then chilling the chicken and sauce (in separate containers) until you’re ready to follow the instructions for the crock pot. Just depends on how much time you have the day you’re serving 😀

        • bobby john

        Well, while we are it…….why is broiling so important in this recipe? Can’t you just put the legs in the crock pot and let it cook them?

    • Citra Kale @Citra’s Home Diary

    your cranberry bbq drumstick absolutely looks a finger lickin … gorgeous idea for dinner!

    • Sophia @ Little Box Brownie

    I can’t wait for summer to get to my side of the world. Isn’t it funny how we always want what we don’t have. Maybe we should swap houses for a month or two. You’ll love Australia I’m sure xx

      • Nadine

      Always wanted to go down under.
      This chicken looks really good. Will have to try it

    • Jerry Russell

    Crock pot cooking is at the heart of cooking in South Texas. With temperatures in the hundreds outside there’s no way I want to crank up the oven or the stove. And anything with cranberry is a win!

      • bobby John

      I agree……there are other recipes for BBQ chicken in a crock pot without broiling first.

    • Dee Dee (My Midlife Kitchen)

    I am so with you on wanting Fall weather!!! Living in Texas, the weather is brutal, and “Fall” isn’t the same. And I am all over the use of a crock pot to keep the heat in the kitchen right now. Yum!

    • Diana Johnson

    I totally get not wanting to cook some days! This looks like a great dinner!