The most flavorful slow cooker chicken thighs served with hearty vegetables! Tender pieces of chicken, potatoes, carrots, and corn, all simmered in a lemon garlic herb sauce.
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Slow cooker chicken thighs are the perfect meal for lazy Sunday suppers or busy weeknight dinners. Protein and hearty root vegetables simmer in a light lemon sauce that infuses tons of flavor. I recommend searing the chicken on the stovetop to elevate this dish before adding it to the vessel. Doing so adds a flavorful golden brown hue to the skin and a crisp texture.
The skin-on chicken thighs braise inside the Crock-Pot, creating tender pieces of meat and vegetables that absorb the fragrant gravy. Adding in fresh rosemary and thyme creates earthy and enticing aromas. Make sure to drizzle a little more sauce liquid over your plate before serving. This is a delicious recipe that your family will love.
Sear the chicken
Affordable chicken thighs are chosen for this recipe because they are rich in flavor. The increased amount of fat compared to lean chicken breasts keeps them juicy. I like bone-in pieces because it prevents the poultry from overcooking. Leave the skin on; the extra fat renders onto the meat during slow cooking for a richer taste.
Because the skin is fatty, I first like to brown the chicken on the stovetop. Searing adds more flavor and an attractive appearance. Skipping this step will create a flabbier texture and greasier sauce. The moist environment will soften the skin, but you will have an opportunity to further crisp the skin in the broiler before serving.
Prepare a lemon sauce
The best part of this chicken recipe is that the sauce is made right in the same pot, thickening and becoming more flavorful as time passes. The mixture of chicken broth or stock, flour, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and thyme simmers together gently, forming a delicious liquid. Add one tablespoon of soy sauce if you want a more robust umami flavor. For a bit of spiciness, sprinkle in red pepper flakes.
As the temperature gradually increases in the sealed slow cooker, the starches in the flour absorb the liquid, swell and gelatinize at its endpoint cooking temperature for maximum thickness.
How to slow cook chicken thighs
Use at least a 6-quart Crock-Pot to fit all of the ingredients. Make a bed of vegetables using onions, potatoes, carrots, corn, and garlic in the bottom of the vessel to elevate the chicken pieces. Add seared chicken, thyme, and rosemary sprigs followed by the sauce. Cover and cook on the high setting for 2 to 4 hours or 4 to 6 hours on the low setting.
This thickest part of the chicken should reach between 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC), and the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife. If desired, strain the sauce to make it smooth and remove any bits. To crisp up the chicken skin after slow cooking, brush it with oil, then broil it on a sheet pan until crunchy.
The benefits of braising
Braising chicken thighs in the slow cooker creates the ideal steamy and hot environment for the poultry and vegetables to tenderize over an extended period. With a bit of patience, the collagen in the connective tissues of the meat breaks down and turns into gelatin, adding flavor and body to the sauce.
The baby red potatoes, carrots slices, and corn wheels gently bubble in the fragrant garlic and herb gravy for a complete dinner.
Serve this with
Dark meat contains more chewy connective tissue and fat. For meat that falls off the bone, it’s best to simmer the thighs. Braising in a slow cooker creates a moist heat environment to turn the collagen into rich gelatin and fat to render, creating moist and tender pieces.
Browning the meat or skin adds more flavor due to the Maillard browning process. It also renders the excess fat from thighs to prevent greasiness. Don’t thoroughly cook the meat, just create the golden crust since it can’t be achieved in a steamy pot.
If not carefully monitored, lean white meat like breasts can become tough in the slow cooker. Dark meat like thighs and legs benefit from the moist heat environment and long cook time. The fat adds flavor and a proactive barrier to the meat. Bones don’t heat up as fast and won’t overcook as quickly.
It does not need to be fully submerged in liquid. As the ingredients in the pot cook, the heat will cause the chicken and vegetables (if used) to release some juices. Plus, any additional liquids added to the pot will generate steam to cook any exposed ingredients in the covered pot.
Benefits of bone-in chicken thighs
Bone-in chicken thighs stay tender and juicy when cooked for extended periods. This happens because meat contains more fat, the connective tissues soften, and the calcium-rich porous bones don’t retain as much heat, cooking it more evenly for a longer time. Boneless skinless thighs can be used. However, they will cook faster. Remove from the pot once it reaches between 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC), and cover to keep warm. Briefly sear the meat.
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Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, about 1 to 1 ½ pounds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup red onion, 1" dice
- 1 ½ cups carrots, 1" pieces
- 1 pound baby red potatoes, cut in half, quartered if large
- 1 ear corn, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoons garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 ¼ cup unsalted chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus 4 wedges for serving
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- Prepare Chicken – Trim excess skin and fat from the chicken thighs. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Sear Chicken – Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add olive oil. Add the chicken skin-side down. Sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.
- Add Vegetables – To a 6-quart slow cooker, add onions, carrots, potatoes, corn, and garlic. Add the seared chicken on top of the vegetables, plus thyme, and rosemary.
- Prepare Sauce – In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, chicken stock, flour, and lemon juice. Add the sauce to the slow cooker.
- Slow Cook – Cover and cook for 2 to 4 hours on the High setting, or 4 to 6 hours on the Low setting, or until the chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender.If desired, place the chicken on a sheet pan and broil to crisp the skin (see notes).
- To Serve – Transfer the chicken and vegetables to serving plates. If desired, strain the sauce liquid, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the meal with lemon wedges and sauce.
- Crispy Chicken Skin: To make the skin on the chicken crispy again after slow cooking, transfer the chicken to a foil-lined sheet pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and broil in the oven about 10 inches from the upper heating element, about 3 to 7 minutes.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute all-purpose flour with 2 ½ tablespoons arrowroot powder, or 3 tablespoons cassava flour. Alternatively, make a slurry by mixing 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water. Mix it into cooking liquid in the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 30-second increments until hot.
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