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!
About 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!
- 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 To Make This Recipe
- 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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Erin, can this recipe be made in the instant pot. We live on our sailboat, so no room for my crockpot right now. Love so many of your recipes!
Hi Judi! Unfortunately, I’ve only tried this dish in the slow cooker, so I’m afraid I don’t have any specific advice to offer. I suggest checking out my full list of Instant Pot recipes for inspiration.
Soooo tasty! Perfect to make when you’re craving Chinese takeout. Bon appetit!
Hi Cole! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made this over the weekend and love it! Thank you.
I LOVE the flavor of this recipe, so delicious!
Question – the chicken almost tastes like it was rolled in the cornstarch (which I didn’t do) Did I do something wrong to make it have this consistency? Do you have any tips?
Hi Cameron, did you whisk the cornstarch well before adding it to the slow cooker? I’m not sure what else might’ve caused the cornstarch flavor. I’m so happy you still enjoyed the flavor of this dish!
Do you start with cooked chicken? It appears so from the photo.
Hi Jacquie! I used raw chicken for this recipe, and it cooked with the veggies in the slow cooker. I hope this helps!
This was super easy and very healthy. I finished off the leftovers today for lunch. Delicious! I did not change anything in the recipe and it turned out perfect.
I’m so pleased to hear that this was a hit, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
could you leave out the chili paste?
Hi Tonya! I’ve never tried this recipe without the chili paste, but you could experiment with it. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!
Hi Tonya, did you try this without the chilli paste?
Excellent meal, so easy and so tasty. I made for friends’ lunch. Everyone asked me for the recipe.
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Ann! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
Could you please just post the recipe?? I work 60 hours a week. I do NOT have time to search for your recipe.
Hi Angela! If you look at the top of the post, you can click the “jump to recipe” button. It will take you right to the recipe. I do invest hours and hours of time into making my posts helpful resources that include important information about the recipe. If you do not feel you need this information, I suggest either using the jump to recipe button I mentioned or seeking out a different, non-blog recipe resource, like All Recipes.
Recipe was amazing and so delicious! For what it’s worth, I also work 60+ hour weeks and appreciate your posts – Angela’s attitude was unnecessary.
I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Misha! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
Could rice vinegar be used instead of white vinegar?
Hi Melisa! Since the “sour” flavor in this dish comes from the white vinegar and rice vinegar has a completely different flavor profile, I’m afraid swapping it would impact the outcome.
I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Joelle! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
Made this recipe & loved it! Added a little broccoli, too close to the end.
I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Susan! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
Super easy and delicious, all the family loved. Winner winner sweet and sour dinner ??
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Linzi! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
fantastic-love that you didn’t add sugar!
I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Anita! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
Since this is my 1st comment ever here, let me say that your idea for cooking chicken breasts in the crock pot has been a total game changer in the kitchen for me.
I have completely reworked my repertoire of your recipes to add dishes like this one.
What could I substitute for the chili paste? (any one feel free to offer ideas. I know Erin in busy)
Campers have bigger kitchens than I have at home and it’s just not possible for me to have such a diversity of spices and such.
Thanks for all you do.
Hi Steven, you could use tomato paste instead but the flavor will be slightly different than the one intended. Hope you enjoy it!
No measurements were added for some of the ingredients mentioned. This isn’t a practical recipe because of this.
Hi Brandon! Which ingredients are you referring to? Also did you see the entire recipe in the recipe card? There is a “jump to recipe” button to help you get there quicker. Hope this helps!
Hi! This recipe looks great but all I have on hand are chicken parts on the bone? Could I use those instead? Thank you!
Hi Jackie! I’ve only tested the recipe as written so not sure how the bone-in chicken will work. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!
Amazing recipe! So delicious.
My family loved it. Definitely will become a regular meal of us.
Hi Alana! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Thank you for the recipe!
After draining 1/4 pineapple juice for mixing with the cornstarch, does the recipe call for draining the remaining juice from the canned pineapple ~ and reserving the remainder of the juice for another time . . . adding only completely drained pineapple for the finished dish
Hi Tricia! You’ll only need 1/4 cup of the juice and all of the chunks. Feel free to do what you’d like with the remaining juice.
Thank you so much for your quick reply!
You’re welcome Tricia!
Hi, after putting this in the slow cooker, I couldn’t help but think it’s a bit dry!… no sauce to cook the chicken and veggies in… is this right?… am i missing something?
Hi Mato, did you see all of the ingredients in the recipe card? There is soy sauce, honey, Worcestershire, and white vinegar that you’ll be adding then pineapple juice at the end. Hope this helps!
Made just as recipe as. Very delicious! Very easy! My 10 year old daughter made the sauce. Definitely a keeper!
Hi Kristy! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Delicious! Some salt could be added to enhance the delicious flavors. I ate an entire bowl, yummy. Added a pinch of salt to what was left and being kept warm.
Hi Aimee! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Absolouty horrible.. Followed recipe exactly.. having cooked this dish many times I thought I’d give this a go as a healthier option omg never again
Can’t even attempt to salvage it such a waste in these troubled times
Hi Jane. I ‘m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the recipe, but I am not understanding what exactly was wrong with it? I know it’s frustrating to try a new recipe and not have it turn out. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed them, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too!
Made this for tonight’s tea, very nice, this is added to our favourites and will definitely be on the menu again. Thank you for another great recipe Erin.
Hi Allan! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
This turned out pretty good, but despite my best efforts checking and watching the chicken, it did end up pretty dry. Might have been user error though! I thought it needed more salt to really draw out the flavor, but otherwise we really enjoyed this and I will make it again!
I’m sorry to hear you had problems with the recipe, Rachel, but I’m glad you were still able to enjoy it!
This was great! I’m such a huge fan of your recipes Erin, so I tried this one out of curiosity and wasn’t disappointed. The tomato paste is a smart choice, and I liked that it didn’t have brown sugar like many other recipes similar to it (I love brown sugar, don’t get me wrong, but I like seeing honey get some attention!)
I will say that I didn’t have sambal oelek as recommended, and I also did not have red chili flakes or sriracha! I’m a real wuss when it comes to heat, but I looked around online for a similar alternative and the only thing I had on hand was rice vinegar ?? LOLL I added some but it honestly did not impact the dish, and I think white vinegar adds such a kick you don’t notice it.
I used chicken thighs and found it nice and tender, even after cooking for several hours. I love the combo of sweet peppers and pineapple, it always reminds me of my dad making Betty Crocker’s Waikiki Meatballs :)
I’m excited to try more of your recipes – I always find myself coming back to your crockpot page to help me through a tough work week. Thanks again for sharing!
Hi Em! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Very good recipe. I used about 2.25 lbs of chicken and doubled the sauce. Worked out great!
Hi Carrie! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review and feedback about the chicken!
YAY! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe, SusieK! Thank you for taking the time to share this kind review!