Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Update: Like a goose, I left the onions out of the ingredients list and instructions. I have fixed and updated the recipe. My apologies to those who might have printed it before seeing the correction. I imagine it will still taste marvelous made sans onion, but with onions, it sings!

Everybody wants a unicorn recipe. It’s the kind of dish we all secretly hopes exists but despair of actually finding.  You try recipe after recipe after recipe trying to find something, ANYTHING that isn’t a burger (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) or a hot dog (Nothing wrong with that, either, but EGADS, give us some variety, please.) that will make everyone happy. All we want is tasty unicorns.

What would you say if I told you that I have a slow-cooker recipe that requires no more work than chopping an onion and a few garlic cloves and a wee bit of ginger, whisking a few liquids together and pouring it over some boneless skinless chicken thighs in the slow cooker? And then if I were to tell you that you didn’t have to do any pre-browning on that chicken? Wait, then I also said that it was easy on the wallet, too.

But what if I followed all that up by saying that four hours after doing that, you would have a dish that (even out of the slow-cooker) was deep and complex, flavourful and beautiful, and made every single person in my family happy. Would you think I was a liar?

Or would you believe me if I told you this is a unicorn?

Normally something that simple doesn’t yield palatable let alone fabulous. This, however, is fabulous.

Sweet, tangy, spicy, garlicky, gingery with a velvety sauce and tender chicken. It’s just so very good. I first saw this over on my friend Amy’s blog and knew I had to try it. True to Amy’s promise of success, we had no leftovers the first time I made it (and I had doubled her recipe!) And as a testament to the taste of this unicorn, I made it again just under a week later, this time with a few changes that I wanted to try. My husband was on (ANOTHER) business trip, and again, I doubled the amount of meat. And again? No leftovers. I repeat. NO LEFTOVERS. My five sons and I polished off a batch of it that was every bit as large as the batch that my adult male husband helped us consume earlier in the week.


A.) These guys eat a lot. Okay. I’m no slouch. But still… I weep for my food budget.

B.) I may have to triple the recipe next time.

C.) Help.

When I told my husband later that night what we’d eaten for dinner as we caught up over the phone, he said, “Oh man. I missed it? That stinks.”

He had gone out to a restaurant that night and was jealous of our dinner. I call that a score for me.

Let me tell you one more thing, though… I’ve mentioned my picky pants gruesome-twosome anti-veg contingent before, right? They sucked this up like hoovers. They didn’t slow down to realize there were itty bitty minced onions in the dish.

Saddle up this unicorn and believe!


Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken
Sweet, tangy, spicy, garlicky, gingery: You never expect something that is this simple to make to taste this deep and complex. With a maximum of 10 minutes of hands-on time required to put this together, you will be thrilled and so will the rest of your family! Adapted with big thanks from my dear friend, Amy of Very Culinary
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup of water
Serve with:
  • Hot cooked rice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  1. Very lightly season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, canola and sesame oils, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  3. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.
  4. Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes.
  5. Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker. Serve the pieces of chicken over the hot cooked rice, spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.



  1. says

    So glad you loved it like I did! Next time I make it, I’ll try your changes. I’m still stunned that I made a crock pot recipe this easy, this yummy, and that didn’t require a can of cream “something”. Blech. AND can you believe it?…I have another one coming next week that I’m sure you’ll love too 😀

  2. says

    Thank you, Aimee!My slow-cooker is a good friend with our busy schedule right now, it really takes the pressure of constant observation (as in with a flame) off so I can run here and there and do everything I have to do. I haven’t always been a slow-cooker fan (while I’ve always loved braises) because of the spotty results, but I’ve been making peace with it lately. Happy day!

  3. Traci says

    Who knew my hubs read your blog more than I do…but alas he emailed me this link to ask if I would make it for him! Mmmmm Yes please!!! Looks like we will be eating good this weekend!

    • says

      Well, as I’m not actually a nutritionist I’m going to give you the most honest answer I can… Not enough. But seriously? Usually an adult sized portion of chicken is considered to be 4 ounces, I believe. If you’re talking real world, eating at our table portions, I would say you probably get close to 10 servings from this recipe.

  4. Dani says

    “Real world portions” was definitely what I was looking for. (who decides these portions anyway? They’re so unrealistic!) Thanks!

  5. says

    This looks amazingly delectable Rebecca. My wife recently made an Orange Chicken in our slow cooker that came out quite well. The best part was the reduction in fat that comes with the territory when ordering take out. We really did not miss it at all. Honestly. We are definitely going to try this recipe as well.

  6. Jennifer says

    Would this suffer if left in the slow cooker for 8+ hours? Since we both work outside the home, a 4 hour slow cooker meal isn’t really helpful 😉 But I really want to try this!

    • Jennifer says

      Ok, so I answered my own question…unfortunately it is NOT a recipe you can leave in the crock pot all day unless you like black food. Guess I’ll be trying this again on a weekend!

      • says

        Oh Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t see this ahead of time. The honey doesn’t like being in the slow cooker all that long, I guess. :-( I hope it works out better for you next time (I’m so glad you’re willing to give it another go!)

  7. says

    I adore this recipe! I am so self limiting in my crock pot recipe choices as I don’t like to brown the meat 1st and then put everything in the crockpot. I always feel like I am making a mess during the prep with a extra pan to clean before running out the door in the morning. Great recipe, I will be trying this soon.

  8. says

    Three cheers for anything that makes picky-pants eaters hoover with wild abandon! I’m hoping to have the same successful unicorn show up at my door. All I have to mention is that honey is involved, and that should should be enticing enough.

  9. Monica Jacob says

    Pinned this recipe. It looks great, I am going to try it this week. Skimmed your blog tonight and I am interested, I am now following on igoogle. Thanks!

  10. Queenie20 says

    ohh looks delicious. 😀 i would love to try this recipe tomorrow! i have a friend coming by, we could do some cooking!

  11. Katie says

    This recipe saved my life yesterday when my husband and I were both sick. We ate the leftovers for dinner tonight and are both on our way to recovery! This will definitely be added to my list….

  12. Melissa says

    This brought back childhood memories of a dish my grandmother made! I cut up boneless chicken breasts instead of thighs and it was wonderful! We will definitely be having this again soon…thank you for sharing

  13. Kim says

    Can you use chicken tenders instead of chicken thighs or do you need to have bone in chicken for the receipe to work well??

    • says

      Actually, Kim, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, so I imagine you could use tenders. You’d just have to watch the cooking time because white meat chicken is less forgiving of cooking it for long periods of time.

  14. Andrea says

    This looks great! Can’t wait to try it. I have a slow cooker that you can set for 4 or 6 or 8 hours so this is perfect! The newer slow cookers have that. Mine goes into a keep warm setting after it is done cooking.

  15. KW says

    Looks like a great recipe. I do a lot of “once a month” meals and I was wondering if you by any chance have cooked this recipe from frozen?

    • says

      I would say you can definitely make it with breasts instead of thighs, but keep in mind that white meat has a less forgiving “done” window. You’ll probably want to revise the cooking time if you try it out!

      • Beth says

        If you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, what would be your recommended cooking time? VERY interested in trying this, but my other half prefers white meat!!

        • says

          I don’t have a hard and fast recommendation because we always make it with thighs, but I’d say you’ll want to be sure to check it frequently so that it doesn’t overcook. White meat isn’t as forgiving as dark meat when it comes to cooking times… :-) If you end up making it, I’d LOVE to know what your cook times were! Thanks!!

          • Beth says

            Ok…I love to cook, and do pretty good at it, as long as I have a recipe!!! :-) But i definitely want to give this a try. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know my results!!

            Thanks so much!!!!

            Happy Cooking!!

  16. Steven says

    Had my 7 year old son make the sauce for our Saturday dinner. He was so pleased with ‘his’ dinner. All 6 of us really enjoyed the dish. I threw in some steamed broccoli to the dish when plating. Even better as leftover lunches. Thanks for your blog!

  17. Amy says

    I made this with half chicken breasts and half thighs. The thighs were juicier! The meat was done after 3 hours in my crock pot. I served it with an orange wheel garnish. My whole family cut it up and ate it. They said that it is a must with it! I cook EVERY night and my husband said that it was the best meal that I had cooked in a long time!

  18. JS says

    Delicious! Just made it using 1/2 the chicken amt b/c it was perfect amount for my family BUT now I have a lot of left over juices. Can i refreeze the juices and use next time or do i need to toss it all? i would hate to throw away but wasn’t sure! please let me know.

  19. Ann H says

    OMG! I made this yesterday & my husband & I think this is better than any restaurant!! I didn’t use the crockpot (because I forgot it was a crockpot recipe & ran into a time crunch). I browned chicken breasts chunks (we are white meat fans) and added some broccoli after pouring the cornstarch mixture for the last 15 minutes. No kidding… soooo.. good! I think you could add almost any meat/vege you wanted & it would still be fantastic! Keep up the great work Rebecca!!!

  20. jenn says

    First, I love your site! Thank you so much for this wonderfully easy and delicious recipe. Every member of the family enjoyed it! It’s a rare occasion when my 7-year old picky-pants son sits at the dinner table and doesn’t complain about a new dish (or, old ones for that matter). He asked for seconds!!!!!

  21. Valerie in Colorado says

    This was a hit with my friends and family. I just wanted to let others know that I originally purchased sesame seeds at a grocery store in a 2.5oz bottle for $6.79, so you can imagine my delight when I found it at the Vitamin Cottage for $3.05 and got a 160z (1lb) bag and organic to boot! I started comparing their bulk spices with the grocery store and whoa…such a difference! I live in Colorado and I don’t know if the Vitamin Cottage is nation wide, but I would imagine any good natural food store has a good bulk section. Thanks for the great recipes and love Make Ahead Mondays! The Sloppy Joes were a hit and we are making the Southwestern Egg Rolls this weekend.

  22. Leah says

    This was delicious, my family loved it! My only issue was with the sauce….it didn’t thicken in the slow cooker, after about 20 minutes with no thickening, I transferred it to a saucepan and let it go on the stove. It thickened nicely. I would definitely double the recipe next time, since the single batch only made enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for another great recipe!

  23. claudia says

    I’m making this for the first time today and I have everything ready to go but I have one question. Your instructions say “on low for 4 hours”, however, my crock pot’s settings are 4 or 6 hours high / 8 to 10 hours low. What do you suggest I put it on?
    Hope to hear from someone really soon, or I’m going to have to plan another mean for tonight…..

  24. Argie says

    Watching the pictures shown above is so mouthwatering. I really want to cook this and present it to my friends. I hope you don’t mind if I will grab your menu.

  25. martha says

    I am relatively new to your site, but I love it! This recipe is absolutely the best. I am a busy physician and this recipe was gobbled up by my 16-year-old son in minutes. I shared it with a friend who loved it too. I am trying to be more DIY myself and most of your recipes sound great. Thanks!

  26. Debi says

    This was wonderful! Little preparation for big flavor. I did used chicken breasts so I wanted to share that I cooked them for about half of the time (they were done), removed them and cut them up. Then I returned them to the pot to cook more which really tenderized the meat. I also added some Sriracha just because I knew we’d want a little ‘kick’. Wonderful recipe. Also, very economical meal as my chicken breasts still had the bone and were $1.00 a lb. :-) Thanks for sharing.

  27. Marybeth Kass says

    Planned on grilling but of course the weather person was wrong. Instead of a beautiful sunny, warm October day, we are having one of those raw damp New England fall days. So grilled chicken has become sesame chicken in the slow cooker. Can’t wait for dinner. I make a few changes and if it works I will post them later on.

  28. Sharon Heritch says

    Thank you for this recipe. I tried it this evening, adapting it for my Dutch oven, and it was totally delicious.

    I made basmati rice, and stir-fried some Japanese choi from our CSA. A lovely meal. It’s definitely a keeper.

  29. Frankie says

    I know I’m going to be in the extremely small minority on this – but I *hate* ketchup. Any substitution ideas!?

  30. Janis Jeffries says

    Do you have the nutritional stats, PLEASE?! I never make a recipe anymore without having the nutritional stats. Thanks so much!

  31. Robert says

    I made this last night and everybody loved it! Not one bite for leftovers. I’m going to double this recipe next time. Thank you so much!!

  32. suzi says

    great recipe! i tried this last night and my husband and 2 picky children all loved it! i didnt use my slow cooker (which i love to use, but was pressed for time), and i browned the thighs and onions first, but other than that i followed it to the tee. it was delicious!! thx for posting it!

  33. Karen says

    I am really looking forward to making this + I need to take an appetizer to an upcoming event. I was wondering about making it ahead and putting it into lettuce pieces like a little lettuce wrap. Do you think the flavors would work for this? Or would it be better in pieces with a toothpick?

  34. Kathy says

    Can’t wait to try this and I think I have all the ingredients. Is toasted sesame oil that same as regular sesame oil?

    • says

      The answer is a qualified yes. If toasted sesame oil is what you think of as regular sesame oil (which it is for me) then it’s a yes. There is, however (as I learned when making a purchasing error) un-toasted sesame oil. It’s much lighter in colour and doesn’t have that, well, TOASTY quality of toasted sesame oil. Is that not at all helpful?

  35. Kathy says

    Yes Rebecca, that’s very helpful. Thank you! I’m going to try this recipe tonight.

    When I looked at the ingredients on my bottle of sesame oil, it said from “toasted” sesame oil and canola oil. Are all sesame oils combined with canola oil or is that a “watered down” version of the pure form of sesame oil?

  36. Debbie says

    This was fabulous! I had friends over for dinner and tried this for the first time. Everyone
    Loved it. I cannot believe how easy this was, and will NOT be ordering from the Chinese
    restaurant for sesame chicken anymore. Next time I may add some broccoli just because!
    Thanks for sharing this!!

  37. says

    Wow! I’m not always a big fan of crockpot dishes, most of the time I find they just aren’t well, that good, this one? Fabulous! We all loved it, I’ll definitely be making it again. My youngest two (10, 12) were even fighting over who got the leftovers in their lunches. Wow indeed!

  38. says

    Sounds like something my brood would eat – thanks for sharing. And I hope you do get a chance to do your Christmas shopping and relaxing before Christmas. We’ve been on school holidays for a week now but it’s so hot I don’t feel like doing anything.

  39. Diane says

    “Honey Sesame Chicken”, my first Chinese dish to make… and it was sooo good! Tastes as good as what I’ve eaten out. I just started using a crock pot and I’ve been very pleased with the few dishes I’ve made so far. Glad I stumbled upon this one, hubby said it was a definite “keeper”! Looking forward to trying more of your great dishes. Thanks for sharing. :)

  40. Lisa C. says

    I just made this last night and it was out of this world! My boyfriend couldn’t get enough of it. I served it over homemade pork fried rice and it tasted just like a combination platter from a chinese restaurant. The only thing i was disappointed about was that the sauce never thickened. It was still delicious, though. Thank you so much.

  41. Linda says

    I know this is an old one now, but anything that BOTH my boys like (instead of one or the other) is worth a comment! Delicious and so convenient!

    • says

      I haven’t tested it with chicken breasts, Juliet, but if you scroll through the comments, I think some other folks have to good results! I’m thinking you’d probably want to cut back a smidge on cooking time since chicken breasts dry out more quickly, but that’s just instinct and not experience talking! Please let me know if you try it!

  42. Caroline says

    i work 8-10 hour days without the ability to come home…i need crock pot recipes that can be set before work and ready when i’m home…how can i adjust this recipe?

    • says

      I haven’t tested it in other temps, times, or methods, so I would suggest experimenting with it a bit! Maybe you could try setting it on low and watching its progress on a day you can be home in case something goes wrong?

      • Annylem says

        I need 8-10 hour crockpot recipes too, since I work an 8 hour day. I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but what I do for 4 hour crockpot recipe’s is freeze the meat and put it in the crock to slowly thaw. I plug the crock into an electric timer switch (they’re about $5 at walmart) and set the timer so that it starts up 5 hours later. The meat is just thawed by then and it cooks as expected!

  43. Jenna says

    I skimmed the comments but didn’t see anything about possibly using arrowroot instead of cornstarch since my husband can’t have corn. Think it would produce the same results?

    • says

      Any time you put less in a slow cooker it’s going to use a little less time. I’m not sure how much time you’ll need to knock off of the overall total… just start checking it earlier. It’s hard to have too much of that sauce, so I’d leave that!

  44. Polly says

    Tried the recipe this evening. Some chicken close to raw after 3+ hours on low. I turned it up to high for 2 hours which worked out. Like another reviewer mentioned, the sauce did not thicken. I will try gently boiling it next time. It tasted very good though, over rice with steamed broccoli. I will tweak it a little and will make again.

  45. Heather says

    This was a big hit at my house tonight. As my 2-year old was eating it, we looked over at her and her head was in her bowl and she looks up and goes “Mmmmm, I love this juice Mommy!” I’d say that is a winner!

  46. Karin says

    I have to say, I personally wasn’t over the moon about this one but my kids went crazy for it! My 9 year old picky eater had two helpings (that NEVER happens) and my 15 month old ate almost two whole chicken thighs. They both acted like they hadn’t eaten in a week. My husband and I were slightly baffled. We both thought it was ok but nothing that special. Oh well, at least I know it’s a kid pleaser!

    • says

      Thanks for looking out for me, Agnes, but I can see they gave credit for adapting it from Six Sisters’ Stuff and mine was adapted from my friend at Very Culinary, so I think they’re alright!

  47. Shelly says

    There’s so many comments, I started sifting but gave up. So my question is….is it okay to use a frozen package of thighs? I didn’t use them for what I wanted so I stuck the package in the freezer. Should I thaw first? Will the texture be off since they’re not fresh anymore?

      • Shelly says

        Thank you for your SWIFT reply! I’ll put the chicken in the fridge today and thaw the rest of the way in the morning. I can’t wait to try the recipe and tell everyone about it tomorrow!

  48. Corey says

    I’ve been searching for my go-to chicken thigh recipe with much trial and error. Although it’s hard to mess up chicken thighs in the crockpot, no recipe was worthy of repeating. However, my search is now over. I will never make chicken thighs any other way than this recipe. It is amazing! A perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and salty. I make this almost weekly and it is our go to leftovers when we need something filling.


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