Weeknight Shorts: Slow Cooker Takeout

At least once a week, I'm just not around for the hour or three before dinner. Is that the night we get takeout? No way! That's the day that I rely on my favorite kitchen tools to get dinner on the table for me. One of the biggest work horses in my home is my slow cooker. And why wouldn't I turn to it again and again? It helps me put dishes like this on my dinner table when I just don't have time during rush hour:

That's my version of orange chicken. I like it hot, so there's sriracha and red pepper flakes in it. If you're not up for that kind of heat, use two tablespoons of tomato paste (you can use ketchup in a pinch, too) instead of one and omit the pepper flakes entirely. It will still be amazing. If you don't have fresh ginger to grate, use a little less than a teaspoon of ground ginger. I like the fresh kind in this dish, but it will work without it, too. The same is true for the minced garlic as well. This recipe is nothing if not flexible. But do yourself a favor and use chicken thighs. I've tried using chicken breasts before and it just turns out too dry. Thighs are just better for the slow cooker.

Now, when I'm busy, I just toss rice in my rice cooker and make sure I have some fun garnishes to add to a bowl of this lovely chicken. You could also opt for having spring rolls or wontons on the side. If you want something a bit healthier, why not thinly slice some cucumbers and add a splash of honey and rice vinegar to them? However you choose to serve this, enjoy a fantastic meal that keeps you from resorting to takeout.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs — trimmed
  • 6-8 mini-sweet peppers, sliced into rings
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce (choose Tamari for a GF option or Tiger Sauce for a GF/soy free option)
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 3 T. orange juice
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. sriracha sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic — minced
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Rice (for serving)
  • Black sesame seeds (optional garnish)
  • Scallions (optional garnish)

Place the chicken in a single layer at the bottom of a slow cooker. There is no need to thaw the chicken if you are using individually flash frozen thighs. Sprinkle the sliced peppers evenly over the chicken.

Place all of the remaining ingredients (except for the rice and garnishes) in a bowl and whisk until combined into a sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken and peppers; turning once to ensure even coating.

Cook the chicken in the slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Carefully stir the chicken to break it into smaller pieces and distribute the sauce. If the sauce is too thin, sprinkle a little quick cooking tapioca over the top, stir to combine, and allow the slow cooker to cook the chicken for another 30 minutes.

Serve the chicken over hot cooked rice and garnished with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 4-5 hours