Coming of age in the High Mall Era meant the food court was the first stop before buying a new halter top or catching Freddie Prinze Jr.'s latest flick. Despite being a mall regular, I always debated between choosing the oversized pizza slice or sticky-sweet chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki always won. Today, I rarely make it into a mall, but on days when my energy is low and the need to feed my family is high, the urge for chicken teriyaki takeout is strong.
Slow Cooker Honey Teriyaki Chicken: Watch the Video
Although the name hints at Japanese ancestry (teri means to shine, and yaki to broil or grill), this is clearly a busy mom's take on the ubiquitous mall chicken with barely a whiff of authenticity. Chicken teriyaki might not seem like an obvious weeknight meal, but teriyaki sauce is just a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sweetener, garlic, and ginger, thickened with a simple cornstarch slurry. Once I realized that I'm much more likely to have those things in my pantry than a bottle of the pre-made stuff, this meal has been a staple on my dinner table.
Go Thighs for the Slow Cooker
Chicken thighs are the right choice for this take on takeout because their meaty flavor isn't overshadowed by the rich teriyaki sauce and they are more forgiving than chicken breasts, consistently remaining juicy after a couple of hours in the slow cooker. That said, if you've only got chicken breasts on hand, you can substitute them with no change in prep or cook time — just be sure to check doneness with a thermometer.
Slow-cooking chicken thighs in a homemade honey teriyaki sauce means the meat slowly soaks up the flavor without requiring my full attention. To finish, I simmer the sauce to concentrate the flavors, then thicken it with a mixture of cornstarch and water. The result is tender, juicy chicken dressed in a gloriously sticky glaze. The teriyaki sauce is what you're here for, and don't worry — there's plenty of it to toss with leftover chicken or to dress up steamed broccoli and rice the next day.
Slow Cooker Honey Teriyaki Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 thighs)
medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
cloves garlic, minced
tamari or soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
grated peeled fresh ginger
For serving: Cooked rice, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, sliced scallions
Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Scatter the onion and garlic over the top. Whisk the soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, pepper, and ginger together in a small bowl and pour over the chicken.
Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 2 to 3 hours or on the HIGH setting for 1 to 2 hours. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest piece registers 165°F.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Pour the sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced by half, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the water and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Once the sauce has reduced, whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Return the chicken to the slow cooker and pour in enough sauce to coat the chicken. Reserve any remaining sauce for leftovers. Serve over cooked rice and garnish with red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and scallions.
Storage: Refrigerate leftover chicken and sauce in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make ahead: The chicken and sauce can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Warm in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave before serving.