Our slow cooker chicken thighs cooked in the most delicious lemon chicken gravy are tender, juicy, and easy! See how we make ultra-tender chicken in our slow cooker. So delicious, and thanks to a crock pot, most of the recipe time is hands-off!
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Why I Love These Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
Many years ago, we shared our original recipe for Lemon Chicken Thighs. In that recipe, we brown chicken thighs on the stove and then finish them in the oven. This slow cooker recipe uses the original recipe ingredients like fresh lemon, garlic, and herbs and adapts it for the slow cooker.
The first time we made this recipe, I knew it would taste good, but I didn’t realize how tender and mouth-watering slow cooker chicken becomes. The slow cooker does magical things to chicken thighs. Let’s walk through how to make them.
Making the Best Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
First, I want to discuss 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, place them directly into the bottom of the slow cooker, season them with salt, and cover them with a lid.
As the slow cooker heats up, the skin fat renders and falls over the chicken—the chicken cooks in its juices and fat. So even if you were to skip the lemony gravy element of our recipe below, you have an incredible dinner ahead of you. Chicken thighs, salt, and a slow cooker make delicious chicken.
To make the chicken even better, brown the skin of the thighs first before placing them into the slow cooker. It only takes a few minutes and helps add the golden brown crust you see in our photos.
For our lemon slow cooker thighs recipe below, we recommend using the same skillet to brown the chicken to make the lemony gravy. It reduces dirty dishes and makes this dish even more delicious.
In the photo below, I show 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 you can stir into our lemon gravy or spoon 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. Slow cookers do wonderful things, definitely take a look at our Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. It’s so tender and delicious.
Making My Lemon Gravy
We add fresh lemon flavor to this chicken recipe in two ways. First, we 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. It also allows us to make a flavorful gravy in the skillet.
The lemon gravy is optional, but wow, is it tasty. It’s easy and made directly in the pan for searing the chicken. Using the same pan allows you to scrape up any browned bits of chicken stuck on the bottom, adding extra flavor.
To make the gravy, we whisk some of the rendered fat from searing the chicken with flour. Once the fat and flour have had a chance to cook for a minute, I add chicken stock and fresh lemon juice. Then I cook the gravy until it thickens slightly. It takes a minute or two.
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.
If you would like a more traditional gravy, here’s our Gravy From Scratch for you to look at. It would be delightful with slow cooker chicken thighs.
Ultimate Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Thighs
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.
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 ½ 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 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken stock, see our chicken stock recipe
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Prepare Chicken
1Make a rub for chicken. Combine mustard, 1 ½ 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.
2In another bowl or measuring jug, combine the remaining lemon zest (1 ½ teaspoons), lemon juice, and the chicken stock. Set aside.
3Make-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
1Heat 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.
2Transfer 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
1Remove 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.
2Place 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.
3Bring 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
1When 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.
2Warm 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.