A little sweet plus a bit of heat, this sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken is super simple and requires very little hands-on time. Serve over rice with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice and fresh cilantro.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Why you should make this recipe
- Easy – Mix sauce ingredients together and combine with chicken in slow cooker. It’s that simple.
- Make ahead – This Crock-Pot meal can be made ahead and re-heated.
- Versatile – Serve this sweet and spicy chicken over rice, noodles or with stir-fried vegetables.
Sweet & spicy slow cooker chicken
My friend Stacy from Food Lust People Love wrote this recipe for the blog several years ago while I was recovering from surgery. I’ve updated it and changed a few things since, but the heart of the recipe is hers.
I love the simplicity of this meal. It is packed with flavor, it’s mostly hands-off cooking and you can easily scale it up to feed more people.
It’s also a perfect meal prep recipe, because it will last week in the fridge and it reheats very well.
- Chicken thighs – I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe.
- Sweet soy sauce – This thick, syrupy sauce adds amazing flavor to the dish.
- Ginger – Ginger not only provides great flavor, it provides heat. It’s a different kind of heat than you’d get from chilies, but it is still heat. Adjust as needed.
- Water – The sauce needs a bit of water to prevent it from becoming too thick.
- Cornstarch – This will help the sauce to thicken.
- Brown sugar – Sugar will help to balance the heat in the sauce.
- Honey – It sweetens the sauce.
- Hot sauce – You can use your favorite brand. I use sambal oelek, because I love it and I think the flavors pair perfectly here.
- Soy sauce – Look for a reduced-sodium version to control the amount of sodium.
- Garlic – Garlic belongs in almost every recipe. It’s magical.
How to make
Here’s a quick summary of how to make sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken. Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
- First, mix together the ingredients for the sauce. Stir together until cornstarch and sugar are dissolved.
- Next, place chicken thighs in slow cooker. Pour sauce over chicken thighs.
- Cook for 1 1/2 hours, then flip chicken thighs over and give it a stir. Replace cover.
- Cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours. Serve with lime wedges and fresh herbs.
Spicy slow cooker chicken FAQ’s
Yes. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Yes. To make it in the oven: Place chicken in an oven-safe dish. Combine sauce ingredients, then pour over chicken. Cover and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes. Uncover and cook another 8 – 10 minutes to let the sauce reduce and thicken.
Variations and substitutions
If you prefer to use skin on, bone-in chicken thighs, that also works here. You can also use chicken breast, but please use bone-in. Skinless, boneless chicken breast will dry out and it won’t be as good.
You can substitute sambal oelek for your favorite hot sauce. Swap out the honey for agave, date syrup or a sugar substitute.
Sweet soy sauce, called kekap manis, is a thick, sweet sauce. It has amazing flavor. I use it all the time. You can substitute molasses, if you can’t find it.
We like to serve this over rice, but it would also be delicious over rice noodles. Think outside the box a little and use this as a filling for bao or tacos.
As a vegetable side, my sautéed Bok choy would be perfect.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Slow cooker – This is the exact slow cooker that I own and used with this recipe.
- Measuring spoons – This set of measuring spoons has both metric and Imperial measurements, they have a rounded end and an oval end to get into narrow jars, plus they are magnetic. Basically, the perfect set.
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- 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
For the sauce
- 1/2 cup or 120ml water
- 1/4 cup, firmly packed or 50g brown sugar
- 1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger – about 40g, peeled and grated
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sambal oelek or your favorite hot sauce, to taste
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sweet dark soy (kekap manis) or molasses if you can't find it.
- Mix all of the sauce ingredients together, stirring well to dissolve the sugar and the cornstarch.
- Put the chicken thighs in the slow cooker.
- Pour the sauce over the top. Cover the slow cooker tightly.
- Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn the chicken thighs over, give the sauce a stir and cover again. Cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours.
- Serve over rice (white or brown) with lime wedges, plus additional garnishes.
For the garnish
- Lime sections – a good squeeze of lime elevates this dish. Don’t skip the lime.
Optional other garnishes
- Crushed red pepper flakes – for more heat, if desired
- Sesame seeds
- Toasted sesame oil – just a drizzle
- Chopped cilantro
As with anything you are cooking in a slow cooker, resist the urge to open the lid except at the prescribed interval.
Every time you remove the lid it takes the slow cooker some time to get back up to temperature.
Not a fan of thighs? Use breasts but please at least get the bone-in ones and cook on low for the three hours or reduce the cooking time on high.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 420Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 208mgSodium: 1635mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 27gProtein: 43g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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