Boneless, skinless chicken breast is considerably lower in fat and calories than chicken breast with the skin left on. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), half a chicken breast with skin has about 13.4 grams of fat and 249 calories; without the skin, the same amount of chicken breast meat has only 136 calories and 3 grams of fat.
But one disadvantage of skinless chicken, however, is its tendency to dry out. Avoid this by using a slow cooker — the long, slow cooking process will concentrate the flavors of the chicken and added seasonings without drying the meat, and you won't have to add any fat.
Below is the basic method for how to cook chicken breasts in a slow cooker, but it can be easily adapted to include other ingredients.
- Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes
- Cooking Time: 3 to 4 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low
- Total Time: 3 to 8 hours
Things You'll Need
2 to 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasonings (salt, pepper, thyme, sage, poultry seasoning or a marinade)
Liquid (vegetable or chicken broth, white wine, lemon juice or water)
Step 1: Prep the Chicken
First, wash your hands with hot, soapy water and make sure all cooking and prepping surfaces are clean, too. Arrange the chicken breasts in the bottom of your slow cooker. Try to keep the meat in one layer without overlapping.
Sprinkle seasonings, such as freshly ground black pepper, fresh or dried herbs, and a little salt, over the chicken breasts. Sodium-free seasoning blends are a good choice if you are on a low-salt or salt-free diet.
Step 2: Add Your Liquid
Add just a dash of liquid — about a tablespoon or two — to the slow cooker. The small amount of liquid will help the chicken remain moist as it steams in the cooker.
For a neutral taste, use low-fat chicken or vegetable broth. For a more distinct flavor, try white wine or lemon juice. If you're looking for no taste added whatsoever, perhaps if you're cooking for picky children, just add cold water.
Turn the chicken breasts over with tongs so they get a thin coating of liquid. This will also prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the cooker.
Step 3: Cook Chicken Breasts in Slow Cooker
Place the lid on the slow cooker. How long to cook chicken breast in the slow cooker depends on the temperature. Turn it on and adjust it to cook on high for three to four hours or low for seven to eight hours — or the closest standard setting on your particular model.
In general, the longer the cooking time in your slow cooker, the more flavor in the dish. As the Crock-Pot site notes, "It's called a slow cooker for a reason!"
Remove the lid about halfway through the cooking time and turn the chicken breasts over with tongs. Replace the lid and continue to cook the chicken. You'll know the chicken is done when you insert a meat thermometer into the middle of the breasts and it reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 4: Prepare to Enjoy!
When your timer dings, switch the slow cooker to the “warm” setting if it has one, and leave the lid in place until you are ready to serve the chicken.
Otherwise, transfer the chicken to a cutting board with tongs. Slice into one of the chicken breasts with a knife and examine the middle. It should be steaming and white all the way through.
Nutritional Information for Chicken Breasts
For a four-ounce boneless, skinless, chicken breast without marinade, the USDA offers the following nutritional information:
- 136 calories
- 3 grams of fat
- 25 grams of protein
- 0 grams of carbohydrates
Tips for Cooking Chicken in a Slow Cooker
- Don't rinse your chicken breasts off before cooking them. According to the National Chicken Council, rinsing them in your sink does not remove bacteria and can actually help spread it.
- Cut down on the cooking time by cutting the chicken breast into pieces before adding it to the slow cooker.
- Other seasoning options include honey, teriyaki or soy sauce; or any number of spices you might already have in your pantry. Experiment to find a blend or a marinate you like best.
- After your chicken breasts are in the slow cooker, make sure you wash any surface that the raw chicken came in contact with. This includes (but isn't limited to) cutting boards, knives and you kitchen countertop. Use hot, soapy water.
- Slice, dice or shred the chicken breasts, or serve them whole. Place leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Make sure your fridge is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and only keep chicken for two to three days.
- Keep plain, cooked chicken breast in your refrigerator for an easy, low-fat sandwich filling or a topping for salads. Add it to vegetable soups or tomato-based pasta sauces.
Healthy Slow-Cooker Chicken Recipes
Once you have your delicious, tender chicken breasts cooked in a slow cooker, you can get creative with how you use your poultry. Sure, chicken and broccoli is a go-to meal for bodybuilders and other looking to get lean, but it gets boring after a while. So try these healthy chicken recipes to keep things interesting.
- Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
- Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita
- Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna (Family-Style)
- Almost Cobb Salad Bowl
- Slow Cooker Jambalaya
- Pesto Chicken Farro Risotto
- Arroz Con Pollo
- Asian Chicken Stir-Fry Salad
- Oaxacan BBQ Chicken & Poblano Soft Tacos
- Instant Thai Peanut Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup
Or you don't even need a fancy recipe! Cube the chicken breast and toss it in your kid's lunch (or your own), make a simple chicken salad or add it to a burrito, sandwich, stir fry or salad. The options are nearly limitless!