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A kid-favorite Crock Pot dinner!!! This garlic, sesame, and brown sugar chicken is tender, juicy, sweet, savory, and full of delicious flavor — and it only requires about 10 minutes of prep. Serve the shredded chicken and sauce with rice, broccoli, egg rolls, fried rice, or ramen noodle salad, for a family-friendly, easy meal that suits your busy schedule.

Bowl of rice with sesame garlic chicken

3 Ingredient Brown Sugar Chicken

I don’t like to play favorites when it comes to my recipes (they’re all good, and different moods call for different meals)…BUT. This right here? It’s definitely one of my kids’ favorite dinners. In fact, my youngest calls the Crock Pot brown sugar chicken, “the best chicken in the world!” Whether you prefer the Instant Pot or the slow cooker, it’s a hands-off supper that suits your busy life.

My family actually enjoys this Chinese sesame chicken more than the carry-out version from the local Chinese restaurant. Considering that this is lighter, cheaper, easier, and not fried, that’s a HUGE compliment! I’m not kidding when I say that this brown sugar chicken recipe is so easy — and the sauce is the best part! You need just three ingredients: soy sauce, brown sugar, and water.

Adding chicken thighs to crock pot

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for our favorite Crock Pot brown sugar chicken thighs with a 3-ingredient sauce. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Chicken: I recommend boneless skinless chicken thighs, which stay tender and juicy in the slow cooker and Instant Pot. You can substitute with boneless skinless chicken breasts if you like, but be careful not to overcook the white meat chicken or it can become tough and dry.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
  • Sesame oil: this is a key ingredient that gives the chicken that classic Asian sesame flavor. Please don’t try to substitute a different oil (such as olive oil) for the sesame oil. The dinner just will not taste the same. Plus, you can find tiny little bottles of sesame oil in just about any grocery store these days, and you’ll plow through it quickly with even more easy recipes like my Peanut Sesame Noodles, Short Cut Sesame Chicken, Dump-and-Bake General Tso Chicken, and One Skillet Egg Roll in a Bowl!
  • Onion and garlic: adds savory flavor to the dish.
  • Brown sugar: adds sweetness and richness to the sauce.
  • Less-sodium soy sauce: for salty, umami flavor. Sub with coconut aminos if you prefer.
  • Water: to thin and dilute the sauce slightly. You can use chicken broth for even more flavor if you have it.
Pour sauce into slow cooker

How to Make Brown Sugar Chicken

This recipe could not be easier — you don’t even have to turn on the stove or oven, and you don’t have to spend extra time to sear the meat! With about 10 minutes of prep, you can “set it and forget it.” I’ve shown the Crock Pot method here, but the Instant Pot pressure cooker instructions are also included in the printable recipe box below.

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk together the three-ingredient sauce by combining the brown sugar, soy sauce, and water.
  3. Spread sesame oil in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  4. Arrange the onion and smashed garlic cloves on top of the oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the chicken on top of the onions.
  6. Pour the sauce over top.
  7. Cover the Crock Pot with the lid and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours, or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, but not too dry.
  8. Slice the chicken or shred with two forks. Return the meat to the Crock Pot and stir into the sauce and juices.
Square side shot of slow cooker sesame chicken over rice in a bowl

What to Serve with Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken

Serve the shredded chicken and sauce over sticky white rice from a rice cooker (my family’s preference), or pair it with cauliflower rice for a lighter, grain-free option. You can also add the chicken to salads, serve it over pasta, stuff it into baked potatoes, or pair it with stir-fry veggies. The sauce makes everything taste good! Additional good options include rice noodles, ramen noodles, sesame peanut noodlesramen noodle saladsesame ginger snap pea salad, steamed broccoli, or baked store-bought egg rolls. Don’t forget fortune cookies for dessert, too!

Side shot of a bowl of rice with garlic sesame brown sugar chicken on top

Storage

The shredded Crock Pot chicken thighs and sesame brown sugar sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also store leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

How to Reheat Brown Sugar Chicken Thighs

Place the cooked chicken and sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop. Cover with a lid and warm over low heat, just until the meat reaches the desired temperature (stirring regularly). You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes.

Overhead shot of a bowl of rice with brown sugar chicken on top

Recipe Variations

  • Make it a freezer meal! You can freeze the raw ingredients together (including the sesame oil, veggies, chicken, and sauce) in a large Ziploc freezer bag if you’re prepping a batch of freezer meals. Thaw the bag in the refrigerator overnight, and then dump everything from the bag into a slow cooker when you’re ready to cook the meat.
  • Serving a larger group? Double all of the ingredients.
  • Make it spicy by adding some cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes as a garnish. Sriracha or other hot sauce is also a nice touch.
  • Brown sugar chicken breast: Use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. We find that the dark meat thighs stay a bit more moist during the slow cooking process, but they are both great.
Square side shot of a green dinner table with rice, broccoli, egg rolls, and brown sugar chicken

Tips for the Best Brown Sugar Chicken Recipe

  • Be careful not to overcook your chicken. I find that the chicken breast or thighs have the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2-3 hours (at the most — sometimes they’re done in just 90 minutes). That keeps them moist and juicy, and prevents them from drying out. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Also remember — every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly.
  • Garnish each serving with sliced green onion, herbs (such as fresh parsley or thyme), toasted sesame seeds, or crushed red pepper flakes for added flavor.
Close overhead image of a bowl of white rice with garlic sesame brown sugar chicken

More Crock Pot Chicken Thigh Recipes to Try

Square side shot of slow cooker sesame chicken over rice in a bowl

Crock Pot Garlic Sesame Brown Sugar Chicken

4.88 from 8 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 336 kcal
This Crock Pot (or Instant Pot) garlic, sesame, and brown sugar chicken is an easy dinner that the whole family will love!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ½ – 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or substitute with an equal amount of chicken breasts)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup less sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Optional garnish: sliced green onions, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes
  • Optional for serving: rice or cauliflower rice

Instructions

CROCK POT METHOD:

  • Season chicken with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, and water. Set aside.
  • Spread sesame oil in the bottom of a large slow cooker to coat the bottom.
  • Place onion and garlic in the slow cooker and season with additional salt and pepper.
  • Place chicken on top of onions and pour sauce over everything.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry.
  • Slice chicken or shred with forks; return to the pot and stir into the sauce. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve chicken and sauce over rice or cauliflower rice. Garnish with sliced green onion, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes, if desired.

INSTANT POT (PRESSURE COOKER) METHOD:

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, and water. Set aside.
  • Press the “sauté” button and add sesame oil to coat the bottom of the pot. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and additional salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
  • Add the chicken to the pot and pour the soy sauce mixture over top. Turn off the sauté function and close the Instant Pot (locking the lid).
  • Press the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” button and set the cooking time to 10 minutes for chicken thighs or 7 minutes for chicken breasts (if your chicken pieces are bigger than 8 ounces each, you can cut them in half or increase the cooking time to 9 minutes).
  • When the chicken is finished cooking, release the steam and open the lid right away to prevent over-cooking.
  • Slice the chicken or shred with forks; return to the pot and stir into the sauce. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice. Garnish with sliced green onion, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Notes

  • Be careful not to overcook your chicken. I find that the chicken breast or thighs have the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2-3 hours (at the most — sometimes they’re done in just 90 minutes). That keeps them moist and juicy, and prevents them from drying out. The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Also remember — every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly.
  • Garnish each serving with sliced green onion, herbs (such as fresh parsley or thyme), toasted sesame seeds, or crushed red pepper flakes for added flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the chicken and sauceCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 37gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 179mgSodium: 882mgPotassium: 558mgSugar: 18gVitamin A: 45IUVitamin C: 1.8mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 2.1mg
Keyword: brown sugar chicken, crock pot chicken thighs, instant pot chicken recipe, Slow Cooker Chicken Recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Author: Blair Lonergan

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

This recipe was originally published in September, 2018. The photos were updated in September, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

      1. 5 stars
        This recipe is a “go-to” for us! I like to add red pepper flakes to the sauce before cooking, makes it super spicy!

    1. 5 stars
      So good, my new favorite easy quick meal with rice and steamed broccoli! I added a little bit of chili garlic sauce to the Crock-Pot also. Going in my rotation!

      1. That sounds like a delicious addition! Thank you for trying it out, Melissa. We’re so glad you enjoyed it!

  1. 5 stars
    We love this recipe! Fast and delicious. The only thing is we are trying to cut our sugar intake and it’s just so hard with asian cooking. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    1. Thanks so much, Debra! I’m really glad to know that you enjoy this dinner! It’s one of my kids’ favorites, too. 🙂

    2. 5 stars
      We are doing the Standard Process diet (an elimination diet similar to Whole30 that cuts out sugar). I made it without brown sugar and added red pepper flakes and a couple extra cloves of garlic. We added the chicken to an Asian salad for one meal, and mixed it with avocado and served over quinoa for the next! It was so delicious!

      1. Oh, wow — that’s good to know that you enjoyed it without the sugar, Samantha. I’m sure that will help a lot of other folks as well. Thanks for your note!

  2. 5 stars
    My husband and I really like this recipe! We omit the sugar in the sauce since we’re trying to limit our sugar consumption and it’s still very tasty!

      1. Yes! You can definitely put it in the instant pot frozen — you’ll likely just need to increase the cooking time a little bit. 🙂

  3. What pressure level should the instant pot be at? High? Thanks so much! I’m cooking it now with frozen breast!

    1. Hi, Rachel! When it’s on “manual” mode, you just set a time — not a level (at least on my model). If your model requires a level setting, I would go with high. 🙂

    1. Hi, Steph! I’ve never tried cooking shrimp in the slow cooker or instant pot. It cooks so quickly that I worry it would be easily overdone in no time. Feel free to experiment and let me know if you give it a shot! 🙂

  4. Just double-checking. By sesame oil, I assume you mean the toasted sesame oil which you can find in the Asian ingredients, right? Not the untoasted sesame oil which would be in with the rest of the cooking oils, correct?
    Sounds delicious and easy. And I’m pleased that I can use it as a freezer meal! Do you think you could make a collection of freezer meals? Your weekly collections are so great!
    Thanks! I hope all of you are recovering well from the stomach bug. Take care and my love to all!

    1. Yes, ma’am! The toasted sesame oil from the Asian section is perfect!

      I’ll add your freezer meal suggestion to my list. I won’t get to it for awhile (so many others to do in the meantime, but I promise it’s coming)! 🙂

      1. Thanks. I was thinking of buying boneless pieces and cutting them up to freeze in useful amounts. That will take care of some of the work and the worst of the mess. I was wanting to double check about how much do you use in a typical recipe which calls for raw small pieces? Half a pound or a pound or what? How big do you consider a bite-sized piece? One inch or two inches? And how long would it take the chicken to thaw. 24 hours? Thanks so much!

        1. I don’t know…I don’t often call for pre-diced raw chicken in my recipes. I’d say maybe freeze in about 1-lb. packages? A bite-sized piece would be about 1 inch. Thaw overnight in the fridge. 🙂

          1. You have diced raw chicken in some of the dump-and-bake recipes. My kitchen is so small and my patience, and sometimes my strength, is so limited that I think if I can handle some of the messiest work, such as cutting chicken, it would help me

          2. Yes, that’s true. I had forgotten about those! For those dishes I’d say about 1 inch pieces are perfect. I sometimes use kitchen shears to cut the boneless chicken…maybe those would be easier for you?

  5. 5 stars
    Made this tonight. In the last hour in the crock pot I added a bag of fresh green beans. Turned out perfect! Next time might double the sauce though.

  6. I am cooking this in my crock pot as we speak. However, I am using pork tenderloin in lieu of chicken. I will let you know how it turns out.

  7. 4 stars
    I tried this tonight in the Instant Pot. I love these flavors but next time would cut back on sesame oil, sugar and soy sauce.