November 28, 2022

meatatoneills

The Food Universe

Ultimate Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Thighs

Here is our favorite slow cooker chicken recipe! See how we make ultra-tender chicken in our slow cooker with lemony chicken gravy. So delicious, and thanks to a crock pot, most of the recipe time is hands-off! Jump to the Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Thighs Recipe

Ultra tender lemon chicken in our slow cooker.

Why I Love These Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

Quite a few years ago, we shared our original lemon chicken recipe. In that recipe, we brown chicken thighs on the stove, and then finish them in the oven. This recipe takes our original with all the herby, lemony goodness and adapts it for the slow cooker.

The first time we made this recipe, I knew it would taste good, but I honestly didn’t realize that it would be as tender or mouth-watering. The slow cooker does magical things to chicken thighs. Let’s walk through how to make them.

How to Make The Best Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

First, let’s talk about what happens to skin-on chicken thighs when cooked in a slow cooker. Many crock pot chicken recipes call for adding extra liquid into the pot, but you don’t need to do that.

To make the best chicken thighs in a slow cooker, you need to place chicken thighs directly into the cooker, season with salt, and cover with a lid. As the slow cooker heats up, the fat from the skin renders and falls down over the chicken. The chicken literally cooks in it’s own juices and fat.

Now, let me back up. Of course, you can just place the chicken thighs into the cooker, but for an even better result, I prefer adding extra flavor with herbs and lemon zest, and then browning the skin in a skillet. This adds color to the chicken, which looks much better in the end. Then since I’ve dirtied the skillet, I use it to make a delicious lemon gravy to serve with the chicken.

Chicken thighs in a slow cooker -- the chicken was browned in a skillet first, and then added to the slow cooker.
For the best slow cooker chicken thighs, brown the skin in a skillet first, and then add to the slow cooker. No additional liquid is required.

In the photo below, I’m showing how the chicken looks after 5 hours of cooking. See all that liquid in the bottom? That’s pure gold. It’s a rich chicken broth that’s delicious stirred into our lemon gravy or spooned over the chicken. Just skim most of the fat from the top, and you are all set.

I’m not sure I can even convey how tender the chicken turns out. It’s making my mouth water just looking at that photo.

Here's what the chicken thighs look like after 5 hours of cooking in the slow cooker.
Here’s what the chicken thighs look like after 5 hours of cooking in the slow cooker. They are so unbelievably tender!

For The Best Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken, Make My Lemony Gravy

We impart lemony flavor to this chicken in two ways. The first way is to rub the chicken with mustard, lemon zest, herbs, and salt. Then, after seasoning the chicken, I sear the chicken skin in a hot skillet until browned.

As mentioned above, the searing step is not 100% necessary, but it ensures browned, delicious chicken skin when the chicken is done cooking. It also gives us the perfect opportunity to make a flavorful gravy right in the skillet.

The lemon gravy is optional, but wow, is it tasty. It’s easy and made directly in the pan used to sear the chicken in. By using the same pan, you get to scrape up any browned bits of chicken stuck on the bottom, which adds extra flavor.

To make the gravy, we whisk some of the rendered fat from searing the chicken with flour. Once the fat and flour has had a chance to cook for a minute, I pour in chicken stock and lemon juice. Then I cook the gravy until it thickens slightly. It takes a minute or two, tops. (By the way, this is exactly how we make regular gravy).

And that’s it. Mouth-watering, tender, ultra-flavorful chicken thighs made in your slow cooker. It’s honestly one of the best chicken recipes we’ve shared.

Ultimate Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Thighs

More Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

Ultimate Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Thighs

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This is our favorite slow cooker chicken recipe! See how we make ultra tender lemon chicken in our slow cooker with a lemony chicken gravy. So delicious and thanks to a crock pot, most of the time for this recipe is hands-off!

We make a simple lemony gravy for the chicken. This happens in the same skillet the chicken is browned in before being added to the slow cooker and saved for when the chicken is done cooking. At the end of cooking, there will be just over 2 cups of chicken broth in the bottom of the slow cooker — some of this is rendered fat, which we prefer to remove. After skimming most of the fat from the broth, you are left with a flavorful chicken broth. For serving, combine this broth with the lemon gravy. It’s delicious.

Add as many chicken pieces (thighs or breast) that will fit in one layer at the bottom of your slow cooker. They can be quite snug — as they cook, they reduce in size.

Makes 6 to 8 chicken thighs

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

6 to 8 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat, about 2 pounds

1 tablespoon Dijon grain mustard

1 tablespoon lemon zest (1 teaspoon for rub and 2 teaspoons for sauce)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, see our chicken stock recipe

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions

  • Prepare Chicken
  • Make a rub for chicken. Combine mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest, oregano, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Use fingers or a brush to coat chicken on both sides with the mustard rub.

    In another bowl or measuring jug, combine the remaining lemon zest (1 1/2 teaspoons), lemon juice, and the chicken stock. Set aside.

    Make-ahead: The chicken and lemon-chicken stock mixture can be prepared up to one day in advance. Cover and keep them in the refrigerator.

    • Cook Chicken
    • Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a large oven-safe skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the skin turns golden brown and some fat has rendered.

      Transfer the browned chicken thighs to a slow cooker and arrange them, in one layer, with the skin facing up. Cover with a lid, then cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours or until the chicken is tender. Save the skillet with drippings for making the sauce.

      • Make Sauce
      • Remove all but two tablespoons of fat from the skillet used to brown the chicken. If there is not enough fat, add butter, so two tablespoons of fat are in the pan.

        Place over medium heat until hot, then whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk until the flour and fat turn into a smooth paste and look medium blonde in color; about 1 minute. Pour in the lemon juice-stock mixture and whisk until smooth.

        Bring the sauce to a low simmer. As it simmers, it thickens and becomes glossy. Transfer to a jar or measuring jug and refrigerate until the chicken is ready.

        • To Finish
        • When the chicken finishes cooking, it will be sitting in an inch or so of cooking liquid and rendered fat. Transfer the chicken to a plate, then skim as much fat from the liquid as possible. There should be almost 2 cups of liquid left in the slow cooker.

          Warm the lemon gravy made earlier, add it to the slow cooker, and whisk until blended. Place the chicken thighs back into the slow cooker for serving or serve with the gravy drizzled on top.

Adam and Joanne’s Tips

  • Can I use chicken breasts? Absolutely. If you can find them, use skin-on chicken breasts since the skin keeps the chicken very tender and adds flavor while it cooks.
  • Skip the lemon sauce: If you are short on time, you can skip the lemon sauce. The cooking liquid that is left in the slow cooker after cooking the chicken over 5 hours is delicious and works very nicely spooned over the chicken or any sides you plan to serve it with.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1 thigh / Calories 252 / Protein 23 g / Carbohydrate 2 g / Dietary Fiber 0 g / Total Sugars 0 g / Total Fat 16 g / Saturated Fat 4 g / Cholesterol 133 mg / Sodium 313 mg

AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher