Crockpot Sesame Chicken

Crockpot Sesame Chicken knocks the socks off of traditional Sesame Chicken with the additional depth of sweet and spicy Asian Sweet Chili Sauce – you will never want to make another sesame chicken recipe again!

Crockpot Sesame Chicken is a healthier version of your favorite takeout that is wonderfully tender, juicy and smothered in the most intoxicating sweet heat sesame sauce – AND all you have to do is add the ingredients to your slow cooker and dinner is served!  This Sesame Chicken  super customizable – add your favorite veggies to the crockpot, or serve with veggies, rice, noodles, zoodles, etc.  It’s kid friendly, freezes wonderfully and makes an excellent meal prep chicken recipe. 

Crockpot Sesame Chicken in a blue bowl over white rice with two chopsticks taking a piece of sesame chicken

Sesame Chicken

I have been grilling a lot this summer and have so many grilling recipe ideas to make/share before the summer is over that I have neglected my other favorite summer cooking method – the crockpot!  This little counter cooker allows you to beat the summer heat by adding all your ingredients then walking away as your home fills with the enticing aroma – and in this case  – the sweet and spicy aroma of Crockpot Sesame Chicken.  Its a beautiful thing.

But also kind of tortuous.  But the wait is sssssoooooooooo worth it.

WHAT is SESAME Chicken?

If you’re wondering what Sesame Chicken is, it is an American-Chinese chicken dish – you won’t find it in China.  The chicken is traditionally breaded and deep fried then enveloped in a rich reddish-brown sauce that is slightly sweet and savory.  It’s name has very little to do with sesame flavor, unlike my Sesame Noodles, but simply refers to the garnish of sesame seeds on top of the finished sesame chicken.

How healthy is sesame chicken?

Classic Sesame Chicken is deep fried.  We are skipping that step and instead creating healthier Sesame Chicken.  We get to enjoy the dynamic flavor of Sesame Chicken without all the greasy breading calories!  To make this Crockpot Sesame Chicken healthier, add additional vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, etc.

far away shot of healthy sesame chicken in a blue serving bowl with sesame seeds scattered around

What ingredients are in sesame chicken?

This Crockpot Sesame recipe is a perfect balance of savory, sweet, and tangy with a kick of heat.  It’s savory from the soy sauce, aromatic from the garlic and ginger, sweet from the brown sugar, tangy from the hoisin, ketchup and rice vinegar finished off with a splash of sweet heat from Asian Sweet Chili Sauce.  I’m drooling all over again.  Here is what you’ll need for this Sesame Chicken recipe:

  • chicken breasts:  you are welcome to substitute chicken thighs if you prefer.  Chicken thighs often require less cooking time, so adjust cooking accordingly.
  • Asian sweet chili sauce:  this is my secret ingredient to this Crockpot Sesame Chicken.  It is often called Thai Sweet Chili Sauce as well and can be found in the Asian aisle at your grocery store (I use Mae Ploy brand).    It is made of chilies, sugar, vinegar and garlic and is an addicting balance of sweet and spicy.  It’s often used as a dipping sauce for egg rolls but I love to use it in everything.  
  • soy sauce:  use LOW SODIUM or reduced sodium soy sauce so your Sesame Chicken isn’t too salty.
  • ketchup:  most Sesame Chicken recipes contain ketchup.  It adds a rich tanginess but I promise your Crockpot Sesame Chicken will NOT taste like ketchup!
  • brown sugar:  adds the depth of sweetness.  You can use more or less depending on how sweet vs savory you like your Sesame Chicken. 
  • hoisin sauce:  If you aren’t familiar with hoisin sauce it it can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store and is like Asian BBQ Sauce.  Its rich, sweet and tangy.  Not all hoisin sauces are created equal (and you can TASTE the difference) so I suggest only using quality hoisin sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkkoman.  I use hoisin sauce all the time in my recipes so if you are interested in making my Beef and Broccoli Kung Pao Shrimp, Mongolian Chicken etc., then I promise it will not go to waste!
  • rice wine:   adds a sweetness and depth of flavor.  I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry. Do NOT substitute rice wine with rice vinegar, they are NOT the same.  Rice vinegar will add an acidic flavor without the sweetness.
  • toasted sesame oil:  adds a toasted nuttiness to the Crockpot Sesame Chicken.  If you only have regular and not toasted sesame oil, you can use that as well. 
  • garlic:  you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder or 3-4 garlic cloves minced.
  • ginger:  you can add 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder or 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
top view of sticky sesame chicken being shredded on a white cutting board

How do you make easy sesame chicken?

  • Step 1 – Add chicken to crockpot:  Use defrosted chicken breasts or thighs because frozen chicken will release a lot of liquid while it cooks which will make your sesame chicken sauce watery.  
  • Step 2 – Add sauce:  Whisk the Sweet Chili Sesame Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour over chicken.  If you don’t like heat at all, start with 2 tablespoons Asian Sweet Chili Sauce. You can always add more at the end of cooking.
showing how to make crockpot sesame chicken by adding chicken and sesame sauce to the crockpot
  • Step 3 –  Cook:  Cook on low for 5-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is tender enough to shred then remove to a cutting board to shred.  The key to tender chicken is to cook it long enough.  If it’s not easily shredding, it simply needs more time to tenderize.   
  • Step 4 – Shred Chicken:  I shred my chicken directly in the crockpot with two forks for ease but you may transfer chicken to a cutting board if you prefer.
  • Step 4 – Thicken sauce:  Add 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup water to the crockpot. Stir contents around. Cook on high for 20-30 minutes until sauce thickens.  Alternatively, you can add the cornstarch slurry and liquid from the crockpot to a saucepan and simmer until thickened on the stove – this will create a thicker sauce.  If you make the sauce on the stove top, add it back to the chicken and cook on LOW for 20 minutes so the sesame sauce has time to absorb into every nook and cranny for more flavorful sesame chicken.
  • Step 6 – Customize:   Taste and add Sriracha for spicier, brown sugar for sweeter if desired.  For more sweet heat, add additional Asian sweet chili sauce.
  • Step 7 – Garnish:  Top with sesame seeds and optional green onions.
  • Step 8  – EAT!:  Finally the hard wait is over.  Move over chopsticks.  This is no time for pretty eating.

Can I Add Broccoli to Sesame Chicken?

You are welcome to add broccoli to steam in the slow cooker after you have shredded your chicken but I like to just steam mine in the microwave for 3 minutes  – because then it just takes 3 minutes.

You can also add any cooked veggies to your chicken.  Carrots should be added in the beginning but other tender vegetables such as bell peppers should be added the last 30 minutes or so when the cornstarch slurry is added.

Can I freeze Crockpot Sesame Chicken?

To freeze Crockpot Sesame Chicken:

  1. Let Sesame Chicken cool completely.
  2. Transfer to either a large freezer size bag or divide into smaller portions.
  3. Press air out of the freezer bag, seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. When ready to eat, defrost Sesame Chicken in the refrigerator.
  5. Heat on the stove until warmed through.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CROCKPOT SESAME CHICKEN?

CAN I SUBSTITUTE PORK FOR CHICKEN?

Yes, you can substitute pork for chicken in this Crockpot Sesame Chicken recipe. I recommend using pork shoulder/butt and searing first like in my Asian Caramel Pulled Pork.

Looking for more Asian recipes?

top view of crockpot sesame chicken piled on a bowl of white rice with a pair of red chopsticks resting on the bowl

WANT TO TRY THIS SESAME CHICKEN RECIPE?

Pin it to your Dinner, Crockpot, Chicken or Asian to SAVE for later!

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com


Asian Sweet Chili Sesame Chicken

Servings: 6
Total Time: 4 hrs 5 mins
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 4 hrs

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts (thawed)*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • sriracha to taste (optional)

Sweet Chili Sesame Sauce

Garnishes

Instructions

  • Add chicken to the bottom of your crockpot.
  • Whisk the Sweet Chili Sesame Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour over chicken.
  • Cook on low for 5-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours OR until the chicken is tender enough to shred.
  • Shred chicken in the crockpot and add 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup water to the crockpot. Stir contents around. Cook on high for 20-30 minutes until sauce thickens. Taste and add Sriracha for spicier, brown sugar for sweeter if desired. *Alternatively, you can add the cornstarch slurry and liquid from the crockpot to a saucepan and simmer until thickened on the stove – this will create a thicker sauce.*
  • Serve with rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Notes

*You can use frozen chicken breasts but just be aware that they will release more water so you will need to increase the cornstarch in order to thicken the liquid at the end.
**If you don’t like heat at all, start with 2 tablespoons Asian Sweet Chili Sauce. You can always add more at the end of cooking.
***Hoisin sauce can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.

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93 Comments

  1. Laura says

    Could I use extra soy sauce instead of housing? My husband is gluten free but I’m hoping to still make it.

    • Jen says

      Hi Laura, hoisin is sweet and tangy (like a Chinese BBQ Sauce), so unfortunately you can’t swap one of the other in this recipe. I would look for “Kikkoman Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce” -good luck!

  2. ED says

    Just a heads up, you have rice wine vinegar listed in the beginning of your blog, but in the actual ingredients you have rice wine (mirin) listed instead.

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