How To Make Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken

updated Mar 30, 2020
How To Make Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken
Ready your rice and your slow cooker for this better-than-takeout slow cooker General Tso's chicken at home.

Serves4

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The craving: General Tso’s chicken from your favorite Chinese takeout spot. The problem: You’ve got different diners eating at different times. The best solution: General Tso’s chicken from your slow cooker. Yes, you’ll be investing a little more time than dialing for takeout, but you’ll make the best General Tso’s you can at home without stir-frying and you can feed your family in shifts as they stagger in the door tired and hungry.

This slow cooker General Tso’s chicken hits all the high points of your Chinese takeout favorite — crisp golden chicken with a tender interior, coated in a glossy, spicy sweet sauce. Ready your rice and your slow cooker for this better-than-takeout slow cooker General Tso’s chicken.

What Is General Tso’s Chicken?

General Tso’s chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish of golden, crispy deep-fried chicken coated in a sweet and spicy sauce that’s often tossed with stir-fried vegetables. Since it’s a popular takeout dish, General Tso’s history has been chronicled in numerous stories and even a documentary. General Tso’s tender chicken pieces are in no small part a result of velveting the chicken before stir-frying. Here, we’ll quickly brown our chicken before slow cooking for similar — but easier — results.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For Your information

  • You can use breast or thigh meat (or a combination) for this recipe — you’ll need 1 1/2 pounds of chicken total.
  • Grab fresh ginger, garlic, and dried chiles from the market too. You’re likely to have all the other ingredients on hand already.
  • The chicken cooks for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on LOW.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Making the Best Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken

Traditional General Tso’s chicken requires stir-frying the coated chicken in hot oil before coating it in the sauce, creating a golden, thin crust. Taking a cue from that tradition, slow cooker General Tso’s is coated in cornstarch and cooked to golden crispness in a skillet before slow cooking. This is the most important step for the best slow cooker General Tso’s chicken at home.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3 Steps for the Best General Tso Chicken

  • Coat the chicken pieces in cornstarch: Cornstarch gives chicken a crust and helps thicken the sauce.
  • Crisp the chicken pieces on the stovetop before slow cooking: You’ll use little oil and a large frying pan. The chicken should be golden and crisp, but it might not be cooked through. Don’t worry — it will finish cooking in the slow cooker.
  • Slow cook the chicken in the General Tso’s sauce: Slow cooking gives the chicken time to soak up the flavors of the sauce while thickening into a sticky, velvety sauce that coats the chicken.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

About Japones Peppers

Long, thin, red dried chile peppers called Japones peppers are best for General Tso’s chicken. They may be labeled as Hontaka, Santaka, or Oriental-style chile peppers. Although Mexican in origin, these fiery red peppers are often used in Sichuan-style cooking.

Serving Your General Tso’s Chicken

When the chicken is tender, cook up a pot of rice (or hey, reheat frozen rice) and serve your General Tso’s chicken and its cooking sauce over the rice with a sprinkling of chopped green onions. Turn your slow cooker to warm and let any straggling diners serve themselves within an hour. Then revel as they each tuck into bowls of your favorite takeout dinner, made at home.

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You can use breast or thigh meat or a combination for this recipe – you’ll need 11/2 pounds of chicken total. Grab fresh ginger, garlic, and dried chiles from the market too. You’re likely to have all the other ingredients on hand already. (Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How To Make Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken

Ready your rice and your slow cooker for this better-than-takeout slow cooker General Tso's chicken at home.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the General Tso's sauce:

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    rice vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons

    low-sodium soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Asian sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon

    grated peeled fresh ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

  • 6

    small, dried red chile peppers, such as Japones chiles

For serving:

  • Cooked white rice

  • Thinly sliced scallions

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Gallon zip-top bag
  • Large nonstick skillet
  • Tongs
  • 6-quart slow cooker
  • Spoon
  • Microplane or rasp grater
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Instant-read thermometer

Instructions

  1. Coat the chicken in seasoning and cornstarch. Mix the cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Add the chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake until the chicken is well-coated.

  2. Cook the chicken until the coating is crisp. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, and cook about 2 minutes per side. The chicken might not brown, but the cornstarch coating will become crispy and dry. The chicken will not be completely cooked at this point, and that is OK. Transfer the chicken to a 6-quart slow cooker and repeat with any remaining chicken.

  3. Make the sauce and pour over the chicken. Whisk the sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, cider vinegar, sesame oil, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Pour over the chicken, then scatter the dried red chile peppers around the chicken.

  4. Slow cook the chicken. Cover and cook until chicken reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the LOW setting or 45 minutes on the HIGH setting. Toss the cooked chicken with the sauce.

  5. Serve General Tso's chicken. Serve with steamed white rice and top with sliced scallions and additional red pepper flakes if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days