Crockpots are an invention designed for convenience, and frozen chicken breasts are produced for convenience. That makes them the perfect pair for delicious and simple weeknight meals. Easy doesn’t mean bland, though. With a few tips in the kitchen, you can take a simple crockpot meal and turn it into something delicious and satisfying for your whole family.
We’re going to briefly cover some common questions and tips on how to make the most of your ingredients in a crock pot, and then we’ll go through our favorite crockpot recipes that we’ve chosen based on quality and variety.
Can you put frozen chicken in a crock-pot?
Yes, but you need to be careful and the texture can suffer sometimes. As long as you cook the chicken to 165° within an appropriate time frame, you can cook the chicken on low or high straight from the freezer.
There are differing opinions on this topic, though. Some always argue to thaw. Others say don’t worry about it. The danger in cooking frozen chicken is having parts of the chicken sitting in the temperature range that facilitates bacteria, which is between 40 and 140 degrees.
So if you toss a very thick chicken breast on low into a cold crockpot, there is a risk that as the chicken slowly heats up it spends too much time in that range. The risk is low, but it is there.
There are, however, strategies to mitigate this risk. You can:
- Do a quick thaw before placing the frozen chicken in the crockpot.
- Preheat your crockpot.
- Cube or thinly slice your raw chicken before freezing to allow quicker heat distribution when you cook it.
- Toss your frozen chicken in on high for an hour, and then begin to shred or cut it into smaller pieces once it thaws out a bit.
Some of those strategies require more time. Others require you to make shredded chicken or cubed chicken instead of keeping the chicken intact. Seasoning also doesn’t stick as well to frozen chicken, so keep that in mind. The balance between time, effort, and risk is yours to make.
16 amazing frozen chicken crockpot recipes
Here is a really nice variety of frozen chicken crockpot recipes. Some have instructions straight from frozen and others are written for thawed chicken, but you can make any of them work by using the thawing methods we showed you in the last section. Happy cooking!
Since shredded chicken is what most people make, let’s start there. This recipe from a Pinch of Healthy has a whopping 4 ingredients, so it’s as weeknight as it gets. Try layering some potatoes below the chicken for a delicious side.
It’s best to thaw the breasts before making this one, but this is an equally simple recipe from Jo Cooks. You just need salsa, cheese, and chicken. Try adding chipotle in adobo sauce and jalapenos for some extra depth and spice.
For whole chicken breasts instead of shredded chicken, use this recipe from The Recipe Rebel. She gives you a bunch of options to switch things up and shows you how to get juicy, tasty chicken every time.
For a Mexican spin that’s more of a complete meal, try this recipe from Garnish and Glaze. It uses corn, taco seasoning, black beans, cilantro, and lime, making it perfect to spoon straight into some warm taco shells or to put in a bowl and top with some avocado, sour cream, and cheese. Delicious.
For a fantastic pasta topping, use this recipe from The Country Cook. With butter, mayo, cheese, garlic, and Italian seasoning, there is no way you can go wrong. It ends up tasting like country alfredo.
Where are my dark meat friends at? Chicken thighs in a crockpot are amazing, especially when tossed in a sauce like honey garlic. From searing the thighs before slow cooking to adding in a bit of cornstarch to thicken up the sauce toward the end, Dinner at the Zoo shares all their secrets.
Bring a bit of Thanksgiving to your crockpot with this super simple chicken and dressing crockpot recipe from Passionate Penny Pincher. As the name suggests, these ingredients aren’t fancy or expensive. This recipe is easy, cheap, and delicious, and that’s the point.
For a different spin but equally homey spin, try this creamy ranch chicken crockpot recipe from Life in the Lofthouse. The potatoes and carrots make it a complete meal, and don’t skip on the fresh parsley.
What if you have a whole chicken instead of just thighs or breasts? This recipe from My Kitchen Love shows you how to make one in a crockpot straight from the freezer. The trick is to end it with a high broil for color, and always check that the thickest part of the chicken hits 165°.
Potatoes aren’t the only thing you can cook up with slow cooker chicken. Rice works really well too since it soaks up all the delicious juices as it cooks down. You end up with a sort of faux risotto. The Girl on Bloor also adds in a bit of sour cream at the end for extra creaminess — delicious.
If you’re throwing a football party, check out this slow cooker buffalo chicken recipe from A Southern Soul. You can toss this chicken on sliders, make a sandwich out of it, or even use it as a dip. I recommend Frank’s for the most classic buffalo flavor.
You may be sensing a theme here. Crockpot recipes are simple, which is exactly the point. This recipe from The Spruce Eats is no different, but this one gets you delicious chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce. Perfect for pasta or eating alongside mashed potatoes and green beans.
For an herb-forward angle, use this recipe from Taste of Home. Frozen or raw works just fine, and for the best results try thawing and salting your chicken in advance. Don’t forget you can always add in extra broth if the chicken starts to dry out, too.
Grab your frozen chicken, pick your favorite BBQ sauce, mix the sauce with some Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce, throw it in the pot, and cook it to temp. This recipe from Nums The Word is the world’s easiest BBQ. Try making some quick pickles and homemade slaw to elevate those sandwiches if you have time!
For a bright and healthy angle, give Persnickety Plates’ recipe a try. This would be so very good alongside some mashed potatoes with herb butter and some dark greens!
I’m in love with rice bowls, and this teriyaki chicken from Lil’ Luna is a great protein to top them with. Combine this with some sesame seeds, sauteed broccoli, green onions, and a homemade yum-yum sauce, and you will be in love.
How to cook frozen chicken breast in a crockpot
Here are a few tips on making your frozen chicken extra good and budget-friendly.
Sear your chicken before placing it in the pot when you aren’t shredding.
Assuming you’ve thawed it beforehand, searing the chicken before placing it in the pot adds additional depth and color.
Place starchy vegetables below the chicken.
Placing tubers like potatoes and carrots below chicken lets all of those delicious juices integrate with the starchy vegetables. I like to cook my starchy vegetables like that and then make a separate salad or vegetable with an acidic angle like green beans tossed with lemon juice to round out the meal.
Don’t add extra broth or water if you are aiming for shredded chicken.
Frozen chicken breasts release a lot of liquid into the pot, so you don’t need to compensate by adding in extra liquid if you’re making shredded chicken.
Add your sauce early.
The longer the chicken is in the sauce, the longer the sauce has time to mingle with the chicken. So toss in the sauce early. You won’t regret it.
Preheat your slow cooker.
If you have time, turn on your crockpot a bit early. This helps the chicken get up to temp faster and lowers time in the danger zone.
Stagger your vegetables.
As long as I’ve been cooking crockpot meals, I still throw in kale too early sometimes. The result is a bad texture, bland flavor, and an unsettling color. Think critically about what vegetables cook faster before throwing everything in. The size of your cuts matter as well. For example, similar chopped celery and carrots can be thrown in at the same time, but if you have thinly sliced celery you may wait until an hour before the chicken is done.
Don’t overcook your chicken.
This is obvious, but it is possible to overcook chicken, even in a crockpot. Overcooking frozen chicken will result in a tough, chewy texture.
Buy in bulk and refreeze to cut costs.
If you spot a bunch of chicken breasts close to their expiration and on a good sale. Take them home, slice them or cube them, and toss them in the freezer. You can do this for almost anything on sale, but doing it with chicken can save a lot of cash.
Add lemon at the end.
Adding lemon slices on top of your chicken in the last 30 minutes or so is a great way to add some brightness and acidity to your dish. And if lemon doesn’t make sense, you can sub whatever acidic ingredient makes sense for the dish you are making (e.g. lime for taco meat).
Thaw the frozen chicken whenever you can.
If you have time to thaw the chicken, it will be better and safer. You can toss it in the fridge overnight, use the microwave, or place it in a bag with cold water.
Use broth or bouillon cubes when serving the chicken as a main.
If you plan on the chicken being the main event, as opposed to shredded chicken in chili or sandwiches, try using chicken broth or bouillon cubes instead of water to up the depth of flavor.
Test the chicken’s temperature at its thickest point.
Don’t poke the edge of the chicken and call it. You want to test the deepest, thickest part of the chicken, that’s where it takes the longest for heat to penetrate.
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Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.