Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
Save the white styrofoam container for a more desperate time—today we’re making easy Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken. Its sweet, sticky sauce has all the allure of your favorite takeout but is made of healthy, natural ingredients. The recipe is only eight ingredients (nine if you are a stickler and count the rice), and if you cook Asian food regularly (meaning you own soy sauce), you have all of them in your pantry right now.
I regularly hear that you are constantly on the lookout for healthy, easy crockpot chicken recipes. As a fellow appreciator of keeping dinner simple (but delicious!) and healthy (but by no means “diet”), recipes like this slow cooker honey garlic chicken thighs are some of my absolute favorites to create.
The recipe index also suggests that when it comes to picking a slow cooker chicken recipe theme, I have a serious penchant for this entire “takeout/fake out” approach. (Although, I do have an extensive list of other Healthy Crock Pot Chicken Recipes.)
Current delivery-goes-healthy menu options include (though are not limited to): Pineapple Chicken, Crock Pot Cashew Chicken, Asian Lettuce Wraps, and Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken, with a side of Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli.
Does reading that recipe list make anyone else want to borrow a few extra slow cookers and create one of those restaurant-style combo plates? (I’ll have the #2 with slow cooker honey garlic chicken, the cashew chicken, and a side of Quinoa Fried Rice please!)
For today, however, this tasty slow cooker honey garlic chicken is exactly what I want at the center of my plate.
The breezy ingredient list only takes a few minutes to stir together, the honey sauce merits nothing short of universal praise, and the leftovers easily pack for lunch and reheat like a dream.
About This Easy Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Recipe
- Chicken. I opted to make this a juicy and flavorful boneless skinless chicken thighs slow cooker recipe, but you certainly can make this a honey garlic chicken chicken breast slow cooker recipe. Either will be tasty!
- Honey and Garlic. This is a seriously under appreciated ingredient combination. The honey gives the sauce its signature sweetness and stickiness, without the need for any additional sugar.
- Soy Sauce. The salty ying to balance the honey’s sweet yang.
- Tomato Paste. Wait, don’t go. I know that tomato paste sounds odd in a takeout-type recipe, but it gives the sauce richness and a touch of acidity. Don’t skip it.
- Chili Paste. (Also known as sambal oelek.) You can find it in the Asian or international food aisle of most major grocery stores (and even Target). If you don’t have it, swap red pepper flakes. This dish isn’t spicy, but you can always add more if you like a good kick.
- Rice Vinegar. To make the sauce punchy and addictive.
- Add your chicken to the slow cooker. In a mixing bowl, whisk your sauce ingredients together, and pour over the chicken. Cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours or HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, until the chicken is done. The chicken will bathe the yummy sauce!
- Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Whisk the cornstarch directly into the slow cooker and cook until your sauce thickens.
- Shred the chicken, and return it to the slow cooker. Stir and coat your chicken in the sauce. Serve as desired (I like to serve it over rice topped with green onions and sesame seeds), and ENJOY!
As noted above, after the chicken has cooked, I add cornstarch directly to the slow cooker to thicken the sauce further because we like our sauce nice and thick.
If you are in a hurry, you can 1) skip the cornstarch step entirely and live with a thin (but still flavorful) sauce or 2) speed things along by transferring the sauce to a small saucepan, adding the cornstarch, then it on the stove instead. See recipe instructions below for tips.
- To Make Gluten Free. Use gluten-free tamari in place of the soy sauce, and swap the rice vinegar for apple cider vinegar.
- To Make Paleo. Use arrowroot starch in place of the cornstarch.
Tips for Cooking Chicken in the Slow Cooker
Choosing Between Breasts and Thighs, Bone-In or Bone-Out
- As far as which type of chicken to use for this crock pot chicken recipe, you have options. Boneless skinless chicken thighs are what I used in this recipe. Dark meat is more forgiving, so it won’t dry out as easily. If you like, you can certainly make this a slow cooker chicken breast recipe instead. Be sure to check the chicken early to ensure it doesn’t overcook.
- To make slow cooker chicken thighs bone in, I suggest removing the skin first so that the sauce doesn’t become greasy. You will also need to extend the cook time. I’d estimate 4 to 6 hours on low, depending upon the size of your chicken. The same is true of slow cooker bone-in chicken breasts.
About Using Frozen Chicken for Slow Cooker Recipes
- While it is safe to cook raw chicken in the slow cooker, the chicken must be thawed. Do not put frozen meat in a slow cooker. It will spend too long at room temperature and may not be safe to eat.
- If you do have your heart set on cooking with frozen chicken—say dinner is around the corner and you just realized you forgot to pull the chicken thighs out of the freezer (not that this has ever happened to me before!)—I’d suggest my Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken, which can be made safely with frozen chicken thighs or chicken breasts.
How to Serve Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
Make this recipe more filling by adding a side dish, or turn it into slow cooker honey garlic chicken and veggies.
- Veggies. Simply sauté or steam broccoli or mixed vegetables while the sauce finishes thickening in the slow cooker. I used a frozen stir-fry blend that I sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and a few shakes of soy sauce. Steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies are an easy option too.
- Try your honey garlic chicken over the top of Sautéed Cabbage for a low-carb meal.
- Rice. Pile the veggies over cooked brown rice (or cauliflower rice) with lots of the juicy chicken. Spoon the tasty honey garlic sauce generously over the top.
- Or, you could serve this honey garlic chicken with Homemade Fried Rice.
- Salad. Tasty Asian-inspired, crowd-pleasing Ramen Salad would be delicious.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze
- To Store. Store cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat gently in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, with a splash of broth or water if needed to keep it from drying out. You can also rewarm this in the microwave until heated through.
- To Freeze. Place cooked and cooled chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I like ones like this that switch to “keep warm” after the timer is up to help deter overcooking.
^^THAT SAID, every slow cooker model is different. I always recommend checking slow cooker recipes early to test for doneness.
- Small Whisk. I use a 9-inch whisk 99.5% of the time over my large, standard whisk—so much so that I just ordered a second one, because my first one always seems to be dirty from recent use. It’s perfect for the slurry you’ll need for this sauce.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The best, most accurate way to know when the chicken is cooked through.
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
For the Chicken:
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs - or chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chili paste - sambal oelek, sriracha, or hot sauce of choice
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Prepared brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Chopped green onion
- Place the chicken in the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. In a medium mixing bowl or very large measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, tomato paste, chili paste, garlic, and rice vinegar. Pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours or HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If you are available, flip the chicken over once halfway through to coat both sides. (If not, don’t stress; it will still be tasty.)
- Remove the chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. Whisk the cornstarch into the slow cooker cooking liquid. Cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. If you'd like the sauce particularly thick, you can cook it for a full 30 minutes in the slow cooker OR follow the stovetop method below.
- For quicker sauce thickening, reduce the sauce on the stove: After whisking in the cornstarch, transfer the cooking liquid to a medium saucepan. Cook on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring often until the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. (If your slow cooker insert is stovetop safe, you can remove it from the slow cooker and place it directly on the burner, but do not do this unless you are POSITIVE your insert is stovetop safe or it may crack.)
- With two forks (or your fingers if the chicken is cool enough), shred the chicken and place it in the slow cooker. If you reduced the sauce on the stove, add it back to the slow cooker now. Stir to coat the chicken with the sauce. Serve over rice, sprinkled with green onions and sesame seeds.
- TO STORE: Store cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat gently in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, with a splash of broth or water if needed to keep it from drying out. You can also rewarm this in the microwave until heated through.
- TO FREEZE: Place cooked and cooled chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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