Interrupting the holiday feasting with an easy, healthy crockpot chicken recipe that you can toss into your slow cooker, forget about for a few hours, then return with delight to find dinner prepared! Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken.
This recipe is my slimming spin on the classic takeout sweet and sour chicken that I remember loving at our mall food court in high school. I ate a fair amount of fast food growing up. These days, I much prefer recipes made with real, whole food ingredients, but I certainly haven’t lost my affinity for take-out style Asian food.
Creating healthy crockpot versions of those fast food favorites has become one of my preferred recipe genres, and many of those recipes have become reader favorites too: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken, Pineapple Chicken, Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli, Crock Pot Cashew Chicken, Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken, Asian Lettuce Wraps…it’s one tasty list!
Combining juicy lean protein, fresh vegetables, and a sweet, sticky sauce, then serving the whole shebang over fluffy rice—what is not to crave about this situation?
If you enjoy Asian flavors and are looking to add another healthy crockpot chicken recipe to your dinner routine—or if you are just busy and stressed and the idea of cooking dinner sounds overwhelming to you right now—this sweet and sour chicken recipe is here to make your nightly routine easier. You’ll love the leftovers warmed up the next day too!
What is Sweet and Sour Chicken
Despite being a staple of most Chinese food restaurants in the United States, the sticky and brightly-colored sweet and sour chicken we know today did not actually originate in China.
A version of sweet and sour sauce was used in China, but it was typically served with fish and was not nearly as sweet. When Chinese restaurants started to gain to popularity in America, chefs began to make a more flavorful and colorful version of the sauce using common ingredients like ketchup and sugar for sweetness and white vinegar for the sour flavor. The chefs also began serve the sauce over chicken or pork instead of fish.
While the sweet and sour chicken recipe we know and love may not reflect traditional Chinese cooking, it is both delicious and easy to make. Plus, just like this Crockpot Chicken and Broccoli, this recipe is much healthier than the version you’d get from your local takeout place.
How to Make the Best Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
My goal for this recipe was to make it with simple, natural ingredients, including sweetening it more naturally.
Believe it or not, 99% of the sweet and sour chicken recipes I found online call for brown sugar and ketchup, an ingredient that is high in sugar and often made with high fructose corn syrup (even the slow cooker sweet and sour chicken recipes from Cooking Light and Taste of Home mention it).
This recipe leaves out both ketchup and brown sugar, without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. You’ll feel like you are eating a gourmet slow cooker sweet and sour chicken, and it’s better for you too.
- Chicken. I used chicken breasts, as we always have them on hand in the freezer. I think boneless chicken thighs would be even better, as they do not dry out as easily.
- Fresh Vegetables. I used a myriad of bell peppers, carrots, and onion. They give the dish great color and boost its nutritional value.
- Tomato Paste. My workaround to make this recipe without ketchup. It gives deep flavor, without the processed ingredients.
- Honey. Putting the “sweet” in “sweet and sour.”
- White Vinegar. For the “sour.” White vinegar is mild, so the sauce won’t be too tart or acidic.
- Canned Pineapple. Be sure to look for pineapple in 100% juice, not syrup. You can also make this crockpot sweet and sour chicken without pineapple, though you will still need juice to make the sauce.
- Pineapple Juice. Make the most of your canned pineapple; use the juice too! It also sweetens the recipe naturally. Some recipes call for brown sugar, but I found the sweetness of the pineapple juice to be perfect.
- Worcestershire Sauce. A surprising, but oh-so-effective ingredient! It gives the sauce a deep, umami factor (just like in this Crock Pot Pepper Steak).
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce + Fresh Ginger + Fresh Garlic. Building blocks for any stellar Asian recipe.
- Add the chicken and vegetables to the slow cooker. In a bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients, then pour the mixture over the chicken.
- Cover and cook as directed. Check early to ensure your chicken doesn’t overcook. When done, transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and cut it into small pieces.
- Drain the pineapple juice into a measuring cup, and whisk in the cornstarch. Pour mixture into the slow cooker. Place the pineapple chunks in the refrigerator.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 30 additional minutes to thicken the sauce. Add the chicken and pineapple, and stir to coat. Serve with desired sides and toppings. DIG IN!
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Sweet and Sour Chicken
- To Store. Place cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently reheat leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop until warmed through. You can also rewarm this recipe in the microwave until hot.
- To Freeze. Store crockpot sweet and sour chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What to Serve with Sweet and Sour Chicken
Like the other DOZENS of healthy crock pot chicken recipes on my site, this recipe is an all-in-one meal. But if want to serve this recipe with a side dish, here are a few ideas:
- Salad. This Ramen Salad is a family favorite, and it would pair nicely with this recipe.
- Fried Rice. For extra flavor and veggies, serve your crockpot sweet and soup chicken over a bed of Homemade Fried Rice or Healthy Fried Rice.
- Broccoli. An easy and healthy side of steamed or roasted broccoli would be delicious.
Recommended Tools for Making Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I love this one, and it works perfectly for all my slow cooker recipes.
- Small Whisk. Mix your ingredients together without splashing all over the counter.
Raise your chopsticks (or your forks, no shame) to this easy, healthy crockpot sweet and sour chicken. Over here, I’ll also be raising a spoon. The sweet and sour sauce is far too tasty to let a morsel be left behind!
Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts
- 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced into thin coins
- 2 red bell peppers cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 yellow bell pepper cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 small yellow onion cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic about 3 cloves
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek ground fresh chili paste plus additional to taste
- 1 can 8-ounce can pineapple chunks in 100% juice
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion for serving
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for serving
- To a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, add the chicken, carrots, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, onions, and carrots. To a medium bowl, add the soy sauce, honey, Worcestershire, white vinegar, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and sambal oelek. Whisk to combine. Pour over the chicken.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours or HIGH for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. The timing will vary based on your particular slow cooker model, so check early to make sure the chicken doesn’t overcook, especially if you are using chicken breasts. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Cover and set aside.
- Drain the pineapple juice from the can into a measuring cup, stopping as soon as you have ¼ cup. Whisk in the cornstarch, then pour into the slow cooker. Reserve the pineapple chunks in the refrigerator.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 30 additional minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Stir the chicken and reserved pineapple back into the crock pot to coat. Serve over rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds and green onion.
- TO STORE: Place cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently reheat leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop until warmed through. You can also rewarm this recipe in the microwave until hot.
- TO FREEZE: Store crockpot sweet and sour chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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