Sweet, salty, tangy and a little spicy, this slow cooker chicken thighs recipe excites every tastebud. Skinless, bone-in chicken thighs are slow cooked with dried cherries, leeks, sweet wine, orange juice and aromatic spices, until they are wonderfully tender and flavorful.
This easiest of crockpot recipes requires no sautéing or fuss. Just throw everything in the pot and let the magic happen. This can be made in an electric slow cooker or on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. Instructions are included for both.
Weeknight Easy - Special Occasion Worthy
Although this slow cooker chicken thighs recipe is easy, family friendly and perfect for a weeknight dinner, I also love making it for guests. The chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender and there's such a great balance of exciting, contrasting flavors at play here, with salty olives, sweet tangy cherries, hot red pepper flakes and rich fruity wine, just to name a few. Everyone who tries this dish is wowed, and I always get requests for the recipe.
It's worth telling you a fun story about my friend Shari who made these slow cooker chicken thigh for celebrity chef Ming Tsai. I'll never forget her S.O.S. phone call: Lisa help! Ming Tsai is coming to dinner? What am I going to make? I remember reassuring her that "It doesn't really matter what you cook. Throw some burgers on the grill and I'm sure Ming will be thrilled. It's the people and the conversation and the warmth of your home that will make the night special." But of course we both wanted to come up with something delicious.
In the end I suggested this slow cooker chicken thighs recipe because it's easy, fail-proof, and out-of-this-world delicious. Shari did a test run and agreed this dish was perfect for the occasion. She served the chicken over couscous, with a simple green salad and some beautiful sage rolls from a local bakery. I called her first thing the next morning to hear how things went. She said it was a great night and that Ming and his wife loved the meal. (Phew!)
Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs Recipe
What you will need for this recipe
- 3 ½ pounds of bone-in chicken thighs with the skin removed. It's hard to find skinless bone-in chicken thighs at the market. I always buy whole bone-in chicken thighs and remove the skin myself. Sometimes you need to make a small slit with a knife to loosen an edge of the skin so you can grab onto it. Then you can pull the skin right off the chicken thigh, in one piece, relatively easily.
- 1 large leek, sliced thin and rinsed. Leeks have multiple layers which tend to hold sand and grit. The best way to remove the grit is to slice the leeks and then rinse them in a salad spinner or swish them in a bowl of water and then drain them in a mesh colander.
- 1 cup of ruby port. Ruby port is a fortified wine with sweet fruity flavors. If you don't have ruby port, you can substitute another sweet wine such as Madeira or Tawny port.
- ¾ cup of dried cherries. Dried cherries come in both sweet and unsweetened versions. I prefer the natural unsweetened cherries but both are tangy and delicious in this recipe.
- ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives.
- Dried spices: 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, not hot or smoked), 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (or Aleppo pepper), and 1 cinnamon stick, Kosher salt.
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Suggested Toppings: chopped cilantro leaves and toasted slivered almonds
How To Make These Delicious Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
As slow cooker recipes go, this one could not be easier. Slicing the leek is the only thing you have to do, beside plopping everything into a pot and turning on the heat.
- Crockpot Instructions: Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker except the cilantro and almonds. Mix, cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
- Dutch Oven Method: Put all the ingredients except the cilantro and almonds into a Dutch oven. Mix, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender.
The final step of this recipe is removing the bones and cinnamon stick from the pot, and stirring the tender chicken so it falls apart into the luscious sauce.
What to serve on the side
- Couscous, rice or quinoa is a must, something to soak up the delicious sauce.
- A green salad with citrusy dressing goes beautifully with this dish.
- Toppings of toasted almonds and chopped cilantro are great. The splash of fresh green herbs and the toasty crunch of the nuts adds a wonderful final layer of flavor and texture to this dish. If you don't like cilantro, (several of my friends and family members don't), you can use parsley.
Other Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes to Try:
Here's the Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs Recipe. If you try this recipe, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print
Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs with Dried Cherries and Leeks
Bone-in chicken thighs are slow cooked with dried cherries, leeks, sweet wine, orange juice and aromatic spices, until they are wonderfully tender and flavorful. An easy recipe that's family friendly and also worthy of a special occasion.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Total Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
- Yield: 5 - 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Method: slow cooker, crock pot
- Cuisine: Out of this world
- 3 ½ pounds of bone-in chicken thighs with the skin removed
- 1 large leek, white part and a bit of the green, sliced thin and rinsed (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup ruby port or sweet red wine
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- ¾ cup unsweetened dried cherries (The sweetened ones are fine too)
- ¾ cup Kalamata olives (pitted)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or Aleppo pepper)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cinnamon stick (3-inch piece)
- ½ bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (or substitute parsley)
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (see notes below)
- Conventional Stovetop Method: Put everything in a large heavy cooking pot or Dutch Oven, except the cilantro and almonds. Mix to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower to a very low simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Check after 90 minutes and add a little water (¼ cup or so) if the pot is looking dry.
- Slow Cooker Method Put everything in the slow cooker, except the cilantro and almonds. Mix to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
- To finish the dish, remove bones, thyme sprigs and cinnamon stick. Stir to break up chicken so it has the consistency of pulled chicken. Serve over couscous or quinoa, topped with cilantro and toasted almonds.
How to toast slivered almonds: toss almonds in a small dry fry pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat for a couple of minutes until they start to turn golden brown. Attend to them constantly so they don't burn. As soon as they start to turn golden brown, turn off the heat and continue to stir them. They will continue to brown from the heat of the pan.
Cook a big batch and freeze some: This dish freezes beautifully. To freeze, cool to room temperature, then transfer to a large resealable freezer bag, being sure to take out as much of the air out as you can before sealing. Getting rid of the excess air prevents freezer burn. To reheat, run a little cool water over the bag until you can pull the plastic away from the contents. Put the frozen chicken into a large heavy pot. Add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover the pot and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is heated through.
Keywords: slow cooker chicken thighs, sweet salty tangy spicy slow cooker chicken thighs, crock pot chicken thighs, Dutch oven slow cooked chicken thighs
Originally published November 16, 2012. Updated January 12, 2021 with new photos, clarifying details in the written post and more details in the recipe about how to cook this in a Dutch oven. Same delicious recipe!