Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken

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A tender, lemony dish that'll send your taste buds singing

Looking for something to cheer you up on a gloomy day? I’m no expert in color psychology but just looking at the bright yellow of lemons tends to make me feel a bit lighter. Talking about bright and light, this Lemon Chicken recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs, green olives and cumin, to combine with the robust citrus to create this easy, bubbling slow cooker dish. This Slow Cooker lemon chicken is so easy because this is truly cooking where you can discard timing! Leave this on the heat and come home to enjoy in as little as 3 hours.

Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken FAQ’s

“Can I use Chicken Breasts?”

If you’re going to use the leaner breast, make sure you correspondingly lower the cooking time. Chicken breasts that are steamed or cooked for too long become incredibly dry. The only way to get around this is completely submerging them in sauce and making sure not to cook too long. Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs are much more forgiving. There is almost no way to overcook them.

“What if the Thighs I bought aren’t Skinless?”

This recipe does call for skinless thighs but really, both work. What you have here is a compromise. Exclude the skins and you lose some flavor, but use them and you up the fat content of this recipe and risk some greasy residue. If you’re cooking with the chicken skins, you have two options once the chicken thighs are cooked through. Either remove and discard the skin. It will be super easy to remove at this point. Or, remove the chicken thighs on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. The skin will crisp up super nicely and taste absolutely fantastic.

“What if I don’t have any Green Olives?”

Black olives work just great too. Although capers are typically eaten with fish, I think they work surprisingly well with poultry.

“Do I need to use Whole Lemons?”

While the bottled lemon juice you keep in your refrigerator works just fine for adding here and there to sauces, we’d recommend skipping the bottle for this recipe. First of all, using freshly squeezed lemon juice will guarantee the brightest, most flavorful sauce for this slow cooker lemon chicken. Secondly, if you have a lemon, why not grate a little of the outside rind into your slow cooker? This adds essential oils into your sauce. As long as you avoid the pith (the white layer that separates the rind from the flesh), you’ll be left with a bright citrusy flavor. So, how many lemons do you need to buy for this recipe? As a general rule of thumb, one lemon should produce 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

Now what?

My first thought is how good this slow cooker lemon chicken would be with some roasted or sautéed zucchini slices. Pair with brown rice and you’ve got yourself some dinner! Alternatively, I like shredding up this slow cooker lemon chicken, adding a dash of cream and adding it to penne for some creamy lemon chicken pasta. All you need now is lots of freshly ground black pepper!

Another idea is to make this into a one-pot slow cooker meal. For some carbohydrates, pearl barley would be delicious. Potatoes are a great option because they don’t need to be submerged in any liquid to cook through. You can place them all to one side or layer on top of the chicken. If you’re using potatoes, the best variety to use here would be baby potatoes. They hold their shape the best. No need to peel them either because the skin is very soft and stays stuck on the potato halves as opposed to fall off and float around in the sauce. If you’re adding vegetables, be warned that many may turn to mush if you add them in at the beginning. The only vegetables that can withstand long cooking times are root vegetables. Try carrots or celery.

 

You know how much we like these slow cooker chicken dishes… If you liked this, you might also enjoy our Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken. Equally yummy, what about our Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken or this Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken? 

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Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken

This robust chicken recipe with its citrus flavors is just the thing for dinner after a long day at the office.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Yield 12 people
Serving Size 1 each
Course Dinner
Cuisine Universal
Author SkinnyMs.

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
  • kosher or sea salt to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 lemon sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup chicken broth fat-free, low sodium
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup flour optional cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup pitted green olives

Instructions

  • Sprinkle chicken thighs evenly with salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add half of the chicken. Cook about 3 minutes per side, or until browned. Transfer to a slow cooker. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and repeat the procedure with remaining chicken.
  • Combine broth, juice, flour, and cumin, stirring with a whisk. Pour broth mixture over chicken.
  • Top with olives and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours. Add lemon slices as a garnish to serve, if using.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1each | Calories: 275kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 329mg | Sugar: 1g |
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 5
Keywords Budget-Friendly, Diabetic-Friendly, Keto, Slow Cooker

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65 Comments

  1. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! Made this last night and it was a big hit! I used 6 thighs (only 2 of us), but the whole sauce recipe and it came out perfect. Served over brown rice with steamed broccoli. I forgot to put in the lemon slices, but it still had a good lemon 'tang' to it from the juice.

    1. I made this today with chicken breasts. My crockpot may run a little hot, but my chicken was done after 4 hours. I would recommend using a instant-read meat thermometer rather than gauging my cooking time.

  2. I made this today. I like it but I have some observations. There was some bitterness from the lemon pith, so I would recommend zesting the lemon and then trying to cut off most of the peel/pith. The other issue I noticed was (and it may be a result of me using a large 6 qt crockpot and creating shallow "sauce", or perhaps my crockpot runs hot) I had to add a second cup of chicken stock/broth because after two hours I almost had a catastrophe where most of the broth liquid has cooked/evaporated away. All that being said, I will make it again with these things in mind. :0)

  3. I made this last week and it was awesome! I did make as couple minor changes though. I omitted the lemon slices and instead used the zest from one lemon and the juice from one lemon instead of only 2 tbsp. I had plenty of yummy sauce and the chicken was nice and tender.

  4. I'm wondering if I could use preserved lemons instead of fresh? I'm always looking for recipes to use them and this looks like it might work. Thank you!!

  5. Has anyone tried chicken breasts? I don't like chicken thighs because of the skin and greasiness – I'm guessing it might make it drier using the breasts instead?

    1. If you buy boneless, skinless thighs then you won't have to worry about the skin. Also in the crockpot I feel like the thighs keep their moisture and make it just perfect.

  6. Put frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot instead of cooking in the pan – added a tablespoon of olive oil and the ingredients above. 30 minutes before taking the chicken out I put fresh spinach leaves and put that over brown rice. It took about 5 hours for it to be cooked and I added about 4 or 5 chicken breasts. Delish. Great recipe! Thanks so much!

    1. Tina, You can add 1/4 cup capers instead, or sliced red bell pepper, or simply omit the olives without a replacement.

  7. I made this for dinner tonight, and I just tasted the sauce and it's awful. The bitterness of the lemon rind overpowers all the other flavors. I would say that it's inedible. My husband had to pick up take-out.

    Where did I go wrong? I used one lemon, and I washed the skin before slicing it. After only about three hours in the crock pot, I tasted it and the lemon slices had totally ruined the sauce.

    1. Sarah, So sorry to hear that! It must have had a very thick rind or been a strong lemon. I would say to just add the lemon juice if ever trying it again. It's the white pith in the fruit that could have made the sauce bitter but this is the first complaint we've had about that.

      1. I'm going to definitely try that. I am almost certain that had it not been for the bitterness of the pith, the sauce would have been robust and delicious.

        The first time I made chicken francaise, I juiced the lemon in my saucepan, and I thought, what the heck? and threw in the whole lemon, figuring it would give my sauce a more concentrated lemon flavor. It also turned out bitter and inedible, and I'm guessing the same problem applied here.

        From now on if a recipe calls for cooking with lemon slices I will follow the suggestion of an earlier commenter who said she would zest the lemon then peel off the bulk of the pith before slicing the lemon for the dish. Sounds like it would be worth the effort so as not to risk the dish.

        1. Sarah, Yes zesting the lemon would be good too. Sometimes you can balance out a bitter sauce with sweetener and some salt. Honey might have worked here, but you are so right that the white pith is extremely bitter, so not including that is your best bet.

    2. Same happened to me, i was so disappointed! I Was looking forward to a savory meal and could barely eat one serving, wayyyyy to bitter from he lemon slices. 🙁

      1. Cherie, Thanks for the feedback. I have now tweaked the recipe to include lemon slices at the end as an option and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice:).

  8. The recipe calls for green olives, but the picture looks like kalamata olives. I have green with pimento or kalamata olives. Which ones should I use?

  9. The lemon slices are a garnish for the finished dish. They are not supposed to be cooked with the chicken. Just the lemon juice.

    1. Looks like the lemon slices were originally cooked it the crock pot. There is a post from Skinny MS where she says she changed the recipe to add the lemons at the end after some feedback about the sauce. (But I thought the same thing you did at first.)

  10. Made this as I was craving lemon chicken picatta…this was not it! Followed recipe exactly but replaced olives with capers. The cumin gave it a weird taste…I think garlic would've been much better. Will keep looking for a recipe to satisfy my craving!

  11. I was not impressed with this recipe. After tasting the sauce toward the end of the slow cooking time, I added extra lemon juice and more salt and let the chicken cook about 30 min longer in an attempt to make the sauce more flavorful, but it still tasted bland. I am also not convinced chicken thigh meat works with the lemon flavors…chicken breast perhaps a better option, along with more fresh lemon juice and some fresh herbs in the sauce. Sadly, I am considering tossing the leftovers.

    1. Charity, We have had a lot of positive feedback from other readers who made this recipe. Your instincts about modifying the recipe to suit your taste does sound right on.

  12. I made it last night and it was delicious. I added extra lemon because I love lemony chicken and my husband wants more olives, I was thinking about adding onions next time thinly sliced. I also cubed the chicken. So yummy.

  13. I used chicken breasts since I don’t like thighs and it turned out pretty good. I also used more lemon juice as i like Lemon flavors! I think I’ll add spinach to it as its heating up today and put it all over brown rice. Thank you!

    1. Anne, The lemon slices are optional, to add after the dish is cooked on top as a garnish. The lemon juice is added during cooking. Thanks for checking!

  14. What makes the calorie count for this recipe so much higher than the lemon and potato chicken? Is one of the counts off?

    1. Sandy, Actually the data should be for 12 servings, one thigh per serving. Please check back as we’ll get the data recalucated.

  15. I’ve been on the hunt for good recipes without garlic and onion (allergy, which I’ve recently discovered is more prevalent that a lot of people realize), and this is perfect! Thank you so much! Keep the garlic/onion-free recipes coming!

  16. I’m going to do chicken breast and maybe double the recipe as we are going to take for lunches.
    Do I still pan fry the breast off?
    And can I double the recipe?

    1. Hi Alana! You can use chicken breast and I would still pan sear the chicken breast. You can double the recipe, I would substitute 4 or 5 chicken breast in place of the 12 chicken thigh (so 8 to 10 breasts if you’re doubling).

  17. Cooked this yesterday for some guests and it was delish! I added lemon zest instead of lemon slices, and red pepper strips, halved white button mushrooms and some capers (in addition to the green olives). I intended to add some chopped cilantro at the end, but — whoops — forgot! Oh well! It was wonderful even without that garnish.

    1. Hi Ellen, most chicken recipes will take about 15 minutes in the Instant Pot on high pressure. You can follow the instructions on this recipe and just change to cook time to what I mentioned previously.

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