Crockpot Chicken Breast
Looking for an easy way to add lean, healthy protein to salads, casseroles, and other meals? I make this Crockpot Chicken Breast every week for this purpose, and it always comes out perfectly tender and juicy, not rubbery or dry. This cooking method is the easiest way to prep chicken breast, and no additional liquid is necessary!
After I posted this Tex-Mex Chicken Casserole last week, I got a ton of messages asking exactly how I make chicken breast in the crock pot. It is incredibly simple, and a total gamechanger for meal prep.
You can dice the breasts and make Cranberry Chicken Salad or toss it in Buffalo Pasta, shred it and put it in a Burrito or soup, or slice it and layer it into a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It’s extremely versatile and a quick way to make a delicious meal healthier and heartier.
Why Use the Crock Pot?
Why make chicken breast in the crockpot, when there are much faster ways to make it? Because it makes for the most juicy, tender chicken of any other cooking method I’ve tried.
I find that with other methods like baking, poaching, braising, and the Instant Pot pressure cooker, it’s way too easy to overcook and end up with rubbery, dry meat! Cooking slowly and gently makes a huge difference. Plus, it’s completely hands off and simple to get going.
It’s always nice to have the option of adding protein to whatever healthy dinner I’m making, especially on busy weeknights, and poultry works so nicely. Slow cooker recipes like this and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork are staples for our entire family!
Tips for Best Results
Do not open the lid – No matter what slow cooker you use, try not to take off the lid at all during cooking, as this dramatically lengthens cooking time. The general rule of thumb is every time you take the lid off, you’re adding 30 to 60 minutes of extra cooking.
Single layer is best – In order to not require any liquid, the chicken breasts will need to be in a single layer, each in contact with the crock pot. If you really want to do multiple layers, you will need to add broth to cover so the meat cooks evenly, but I don’t like this as much because it dilutes the seasonings.
Season to your liking – Often times, I will make this crockpot chicken breast simply with salt and pepper, as I intend to use it in other recipes where there is a dressing or sauce. However, feel free to season the meat however you’d like. If I’m throwing this into a Tortilla Soup, I might add a little Sazon Seasoning, or if I’m making Curry Chicken Salad, I might throw some curry seasoning on top while cooking.
Let the meat cool before shredding or cutting – Rest the meat for at least 10 minutes before shredding or cutting, otherwise the juices will run out, and the meat will be dry.
Step by Step Overview:
First, you’re going to take a 2lb package of boneless skinless chicken breasts, and snuggle them as evenly as you can into the bottom of the slow cooker:
Can you use other cuts?
If you prefer to use a different cut, that’s totally fine, but cook times will vary. Always check for doneness by using a thermometer, targeting an internal temperature of 165F for white meat, and 170F for dark meat.
Bone-in breasts – Add approximately one hour (4 hours total)
Boneless chicken thighs – Subtract approximately one hour (2 hours total)
Bone-in thighs – Similar cooking time (3 hours total)
Whole chicken – Low setting for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
Make sure that most of the meat is in contact with the bottom of your slow cooker. This is important for the most evenly cooked, juicy slow cooker chicken breast or thigh meat.
Now, sprinkle both sides with salt:
Grind some black pepper on both sides as well:
You may also add whatever seasonings you like, and it’s an easy recipe to doctor up. If I know I’m using the meat for something Mexican-themed like tacos or burritos, I’ll sprinkle in some Taco Seasoning or Fajita Seasoning.
You can also go simple with a touch of garlic powder and Italian seasoning. I sprinkle it on by eye, but 1/2 a teaspoon of seasoning mix per pound is a good place to start.
Sometimes I do dried or fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme:
You may also add fats like butter or olive oil for flavor, or sauces like BBQ Sauce, Buffalo Wing Sauce, or soy sauce. Someone once told me they like to add a can of cream of chicken soup. But know that it isn’t necessary at all. I usually choose not to add any sauces.
Keep in mind that the meat will release quite a bit of its own juices as it cooks, which can dilute any sauce you use. So unless you want to reduce the liquid back down on the stove later, you may want to add hot sauce or other liquids like lemon juice or freshly squeezed lime at the very end, after you’ve removed the meat from the slow cooker.
Once you’ve sprinkled on the seasonings, put the lid on, and set the crock into the cooking unit.
Do You Need to Add Liquid?
As long as the breast pieces are in a single layer, in contact with the slow cooker, then no, it’s not necessary to add any chicken broth or chicken stock. If you’re doing multiple layers, you will need to add liquid to cover the meat, but I don’t recommend this. The seasonings won’t stick as well.
Cooking Time Required
How long does it take to cook chicken breast in the crockpot?
I find about 3 hours on low is just right, with one single layer, for the meat to fully cook through to 165F. This time may vary slightly with different brands of slow cookers, or with smaller versus larger breast pieces. Always check doneness with a meat thermometer.
The particular slow cooker I own is this 4-Quart Slow Cooker and it costs $15.
UPDATE: Up until 2019, this only got up to $18. It’s now close to $50. The point of this was that you do not need an expensive programmable slow cooker unit to get the job done. This one just has an on/off switch. Maybe one day I’ll get a more expensive one, but this unit does a great job and works for our small family.
If you have a different slow cooker, you can use a thermometer to test out how long your particular slow cooker needs to reach the proper temperature, but three hours on low should be close.
Cooked chicken breast is one of the most versatile ingredients on earth. Here are a few delicious meal ideas for using it.
Cut it up and use it for Waldorf Chicken Salad.
I recommend you do not use frozen, since it won’t cook evenly. Always thaw first. You can quick thaw the meat by placing in a plastic bag, squeezing the air out, and submerging in cool water for about 30 minutes.
Absolutely! Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
I recommend moving it from the freezer to the fridge the day before you use it. That way you’re not adding extra heat to the meat and drying it out.
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you want to keep it longer, store in the freezer.
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Crockpot Chicken Breast
For the Crockpot Chicken
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 lbs total)
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- herbs, spices, fats, sauces, as desired optional
- Place the chicken breasts into the bottom of your slow cooker. They should be in a single, even layer.
- Season both sides with salt and pepper, and any other seasonings, herbs, fats, or sauces that you like. See blog post for more commentary.
- Cook on low for approximately 3 hours* until the meat registers at least 165F on a digital thermometer.
- Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before shredding or cutting, otherwise the juices will run out of the meat. Then, it is ready to eat and be used in recipes.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
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