The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

216 Reviews / 4.7 Average
I’ve tried a ridiculous amount of crock pot chicken recipes, and this is by far the best (and easiest) slow cooker whole chicken recipe that keeps the meat super moist and falling-off-the-bone delicious—plus it's a great way to switch things up if you usually only make chicken breasts!
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Cooked whole chicken in a crock pot
Finished whole chicken in a crock pot

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Have you tried cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot before? The outcome is so much better (and better-for-you!) than the standard grocery store rotisserie chicken. And if you have a well-stocked spice rack, you’ll hardly have to buy anything to make this recipe.

Why Cook a Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot?

If you’ve only been using your slow cooker for soups and stews you’re seriously missing out! You can make just about anything in a Crock Pot; that includes a whole chicken.

Easy Meal Idea

We’re a busy family and there isn’t always time to make big meals, especially on weeknights. The slow cooker lets us “set it and forget it” and not have to worry about what’s for dinner. Just whip up a few sides, or even a salad, and serve!

Use the leftovers in many dishes, including this Creamy Pasta with Buffalo Chicken.

Healthier Alternative to Store Bought Rotisserie Chicken

Have you read the ingredients on your favorite rotisserie chicken? Between sugar and other additives, it’s definitely not real food approved. By making my own chicken from scratch I get to decide exactly what goes into the food we eat.

Cook Once, Eat Multiple Times

This is probably my favorite part of this recipe! A whole chicken can be divided up and used for several different recipes and meals. Don’t forget to use the bones to make your own homemade chicken stock so nothing goes to waste.

Ideas for Your Leftover Chicken

Homemade chicken that's been cooked in a slow cooker
This recipe is a staple in our house…here’s a “vintage” photo from 2010!

How to Cook a Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

Whole chicken rubbed with rotisserie style spices. It is ready to be added to a crock pot.
Chicken rubbed with spices and ready for the crock pot

Step 1: Chop and Add Onion

Cut a whole onion in half or quarters and add it to the bottom of your slow cooker.

Step 2: Mix Chicken Seasoning in a Small Bowl

Simply combine a few basic herbs and spices. I used paprika, salt, onion powder, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to make a rotisserie style chicken. You could also season your chicken with butter and herbs, Italian spices, or your favorite blend of seasonings.

Step 3: Season the Whole Chicken

Rub seasoning all over the chicken (I even season inside the cavity and under the skin on the breasts). After seasoning, place the whole chicken in the Crock Pot on top of the onion bed, breast side down.

Step 4: Cook on High for 4-5 Hours or Low 7-8 Hours

Cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 F and juices run clear, but also when it’s so tender you can shred it with a fork.

Whole chicken inside a slow cooker on a bed of chopped onions
Chicken and chopped onion, ready for slow cooking

Once the chicken is done, it is flavorful enough to eat by itself as the main dish, or you can incorporate it into something else like pasta, chicken salad, chicken pot pie, or a casserole (I’ve listed some of my favorite ideas below). You don’t need anything fancy, we use a very basic crock pot that can be purchased on Amazon for about $40.

Cooked chicken pieces
Delicious, tender cooked chicken

Troubleshooting Crock Pot Chicken

My Chicken is Too Soft and Mushy

Most of the time mushy Crock Pot chicken is a result of cooking it too long. As you cook meat, the collagen breaks down into a gelatin. The longer chicken is cooked, the more this process happens. Do it right and you have perfectly tender meat; too long and your chicken becomes mushy.

  • Don’t add any additional liquid
  • Cook on high instead of low
  • Adjust cooking times based on weight
  • Remove chicken as soon as it’s done
  • Let chicken cool to help it firm up before cutting and serving

Slow Cooker Chicken Comes Out Dry

Dry chicken usually happens when there’s not enough moisture in the slow cooker. This is more likely to occur when you’re only roasting lean cuts like chicken breasts or have too many moisture-absorbing veggies in with your chicken. A simple solution is to add some water or chicken stock to the slow cooker when you start cooking.

Another common reason for dry chicken is cooking in a Crock Pot that’s too big for the recipe; too much empty space around the meat will dry it out.

Make Overnight Chicken Stock (Optional)

Another great trick (that I learned from a friend!) is that after you pick off the good chicken meat you can leave the bones in the crock pot to make some stock overnight while you are sleeping—see more on that in the FAQ below.

Draining the chicken juice over a sieve to make homemade stock
Overnight chicken stock is great for soups and sauces! We make it almost every time we cook a whole chicken at our house.
Featured Comment

Wow!! Mind blown! Thank you so much for this recipe. I had to call my mom and my mother-in-law about this recipe. The chicken is perfectly cooked. We are cooking the stock right now and I’ll make homemade noodles to go with it. Way to go!
– Bridget

More Crock Pot Chicken Recipes


Can I cook a frozen whole chicken?

Due to food safety reasons, you should not cook a frozen whole chicken in the slow cooker. Make sure to thaw it out completely before cooking (see how to safely defrost meat for more info). The ideal way to defrost meat is in the fridge overnight. If you think your chicken is still a little frozen in the middle you will need to increase the cooking time.

  • A small chicken (5 pounds or less) usually can defrost in 24 hours or less

  • A large whole chicken can take 2-3 days to safely defrost in a refrigerator
  • Is it safe to cook a whole chicken in a slow cooker?

    Absolutely! If you want to be extra cautious you could always be sure to cook the whole chicken on high heat for at least the first hour (if you also plan to cook on low). Since we give an option to cook it on high the entire time for this recipe, this requirement is met.

    How long to cook chicken in a crockpot?

    For a typical 3-4 pound chicken, you’ll want to cook in your slow cooker for about 4 to 5 hours on high or 7 hours on low. Timing may vary based on the size of the bird as well as your individual slow cooker and how tender you want the end result. 

    Do I need to add water to the crockpot?

    There is no need to add water because the chicken and onion will create their own juices while cooking. Adding water will just produce a soggy chicken in the end. 

    How to get brown, crispy skin

    If you’re a fan of crispy chicken skin, you can still achieve this by placing the chicken on a rimmed baking sheeting after it’s done and placing it under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes. Be sure to let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    How to remove meat from a whole chicken

    1) Use tongs and a fork to remove the large parts of the chicken (thighs, legs, wings) from the slow cooker and place them on a platter/cutting board separately so they can cool briefly.
    Pieces of chicken
    2) Run your fingers (or a spoon) under each breast to separate from the rib bones and then remove the meat in one piece.
    Cooked chicken
    3) Trim the large parts if wish to serve them whole, or carve off pieces of meat and set aside. Throw any skin/fat/bones back in the crock pot as you go to make your overnight chicken stock.

    4) Next, remove the carcass from the slow cooker and place it on the platter/cutting board. When cool enough, use a fork and your fingers to pick off every little piece of meat and place in a bowl or storage container. The little bits are great for making chicken salad, soups, enchiladas, etc! Put anything other than meat back in the crock pot.

    How to make overnight chicken stock

    See my Overnight Chicken Stock Recipe for details, but here is how it’s done:

  • Once you are done picking off all the meat, throw the carcass and bones back into the crock pot (leaving the onion and cooking juices in there as well) so that you can make chicken stock. It’s a great way to not waste any part of the chicken.

  • I usually start the chicken stock after dinner by filling the slow cooker to the top with water and then adding a bay leaf, carrot, celery, onion, parsley, and thyme. Even if I’m missing parsley or celery I still make it anyway, and it always turns out just fine.

  • I keep it on low all night and then in the morning, I strain it into wide-mouth jars (without shoulders) to store in the freezer. It works great and couldn’t be easier.

  • For grilled chicken, try this Chicken Marinade!

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    Recipe Rating

    1. 5 stars
      While I’ve cooked a whole chicken in a crock pot before, I didn’t use all of these flavorful spices. This is my new go-to recipe! (Although I substitute smoked paprika for the “regular” variety.) Such an easy way to cook a whole bird!

    2. 5 stars
      Everyone was satisfied with our 4th of July celebration! We had this whole chicken in a crockpot and it turned out beautifully! Plus, it was seasoned well, so tender and juicy!