This easy slow cooker chicken breast recipe yields tender, juicy pieces with minimal effort! Season the meat, then gently steam it in the covered pot. The savory juices make for a delicious gravy to drizzle on top.
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I’m a big fan of using my Crock-Pot for cooking a healthy family dinner. When I’m not sauteing chicken on the stovetop, I love that I can just add the lean white meat to the pot, cover, and let the equipment do the work. The moist-heat cooking environment is similar to the French en cocotte method. The results are delectable- aromatic herb-infused bites in a flavorful juice.
This recipe is simple and easy, especially for those busy weeknights. To start, open up your spice drawer and grab some bold flavors. After steaming for a few hours, you’ll have flavorful drippings to pour on top or even make a sauce if you’d like. Pair this meal with creamy mashed potatoes and your favorite greens for the ultimate comfort food. It’s also a great meal prep or make-ahead option.
I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Look for pieces about 7 to 9 ounces in size. Any larger and they will require a longer cook time. Cut them in half lengthwise for those over a pound to yield four total pieces.
You can use bone-in split chicken breasts with the ribs still attached for more flavor. However, you’ll need to factor in about an additional hour since the bones act as an insulator, requiring more time to cook the meat thoroughly.
We all know that chicken can taste a bit bland on its own because it has very little fat. The seasoning mix can be kept simple with just salt and pepper. However, I like to add the earthy flavor of alliums like garlic and onions. When dried, their concentrated flavors are enhanced while the raw taste has been mellowed out. Just a little bit adds a lot of depth to the dish.
For a pop of color, I add some deep red-hued spices. There are different types of paprika, from a hint of sweetness to smoky and even spicy. Chef’s choice! If you like a citrusy flavor, this method also works well with my chicken marinade recipe.
Add fresh and dried herbs
Add Italian seasonings with herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, and marjoram for herbaceous notes. You can also switch it up using herbs de provence with a bit of lavender that changes the taste profile, depending on what you plan to serve on the side. I have fresh herbs in my garden, so I add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme to infuse its hearty aroma into the steam. It smells incredible!
Prepare the chicken
Dry the chicken with paper towels to soak up any excess liquid. This process makes it easier for the seasoning paste to stick to the surface. I mix the dried spices with extra-virgin olive oil. The fat helps dissolve the fat-soluble compounds in the seasonings, blooming them and providing more robust flavors.
The oil also provides a protective barrier around the meat, so it doesn’t dry out inside the slow cooker during the long cooking time. Just brush it on both sides of the breast and then add it into the vessel.
Add liquid to the pot
I add a small amount of chicken stock or broth to the bottom of the slow cooker—just 1/4-cup. The flavorful cooking liquid helps generate more steam and keep the meat moist. You don’t want the pieces wholly submerged, or they will poach and lose their surface seasonings.
I use unsalted stock because we already salted the meat, and I like to control the sodium level. Now you can add the chicken breasts on top, arranging them so they don’t overlap or they won’t evenly cook.
I recommend using the low setting for even cooking and moist, juicy pieces. You’ll be surprised how quickly it cooks. It will take between 1 to 2 ½ hours, depending on the weight and thickness of each breast.
The high setting can cause the meat to dry out unless submerged in a liquid. I prefer to use this setting for chicken noodle soup since you need consistent heat to simmer the liquid and dark meat gets more tender over time.
Checking for doneness
How can you tell when the chicken is ready? The meat will be opaque throughout with pink-to-clear juices. Use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. It should register between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Start with checking at the low end of the recommended cooking range when the surface no longer looks raw.
Avoid opening the pot until that time. It takes a while to get back up to temperature since you lose most of the trapped steam. Check every 30 minutes until it’s fully cooked.
To make a gravy
Transfer the drippings and juices to a measuring cup. I find that there is about ⅔ cups leftover in the pot. Add more chicken stock or broth to reach 1 cup (or desired amount). Use my gravy guide to make the sauce on the stovetop, creating a roux with equal parts of butter and flour for thickening. I like to strain it for a smooth consistency. Get ready to drizzle.
Ways to use leftovers
Serve this with
No, it’s not required. The poultry muscle contains around 75% moisture. As the proteins contract and release the juices as they cook, that liquid will help steam and cook the chicken. A small amount can help the meat stay moist, and you can use the residual juices to make gravy. Add ¼ cup of liquid per pound of chicken, but it will take slightly longer to cook since the liquid needs to heat up before cooking the meat.
It’s best to defrost the chicken before cooking it in the slow cooker. It takes a long time for a slow cooker to heat up then melt the ice in the meat. This can pose food safety risks if the meat is held for several hours between the temperature danger zone of 40 to 140ºF (40 to 60ºC), before thoroughly cooking to 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Bacteria like salmonella can multiply rapidly and can cause food-borne illnesses.
What’s the difference between low and high settings?
The slow cooker is a versatile cooking vessel. Whether you are using the low or high setting, the cooking temperature range is between 175°F to 215°F (79 to 102ºC). The main difference is that the low setting cycles on and off more frequently, so it takes longer. Typically you will need about double the time when using the low setting. However, for chicken breasts, I recommend cooking on low so that the lean protein doesn’t cook too quickly and dry out on the edges.
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Slow Cooker Chicken Breast
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoons paprika, sweet or smoked
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- 4 sprigs thyme, optional
- 2 sprigs rosemary, optional
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- chicken stock, or broth, as needed
- Thoroughly dry each chicken breast with a paper towel.
- In a small bowl combine olive oil, salt, Italian seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
- Brush the seasoning paste on both sides of each chicken breast.
- Add chicken stock to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken in a single layer in the pot. Place rosemary and thyme on top, if using.
- Cover and cook on the "Low" setting for 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). An 8-ounce breast takes about 2 hours.
- Transfer chicken to a plate or carving board. Loosely cover to keep warm while making the gravy.
- Transfer chicken drippings in the slow cooker to a measuring cup. Add additional chicken stock until the volume reaches 1 cup.
- Heat a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Melt the butter and then whisk in flour. Whisk and cook until a pale yellow roux forms, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the drippings. Turn the heat up to medium-high, continuously stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add more chicken stock if desired to thin the sauce. It will thicken more as it cools—season gravy with salt and pepper. If desired, strain the gravy for a smoother sauce.
- Storing: Cool completely and store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Freeze for up to 9 months.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute cassava flour or cornstarch for all-purpose flour. If using cornstarch, dissolve 1 tablespoon in 2 tablespoons of water. Add to chicken stock and then stir and cook on the saute function until the liquid thickens.
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