Slow Cooker

Slow-Cooker Chicken Breasts With Lemon, Sage & Milk

by:
April 17, 2021
30 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Full disclosure: I used to despise breast meat because of its dry, stringy texture, its terrible flavorless monotony, its unforgiving tendency to go from raw to overcooked in the blink of an eye. But when I started working in food, I learned what a demand there was for it (Google "chicken breast" and you'll get back more than 200 million search results).

I've found that if I poach my chicken breasts low and slow in some milk with lemon and sage—à la Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk—then the meat will come out unutterably tender and moist. Even better if I add garlic here, or maybe swap out the sage for thyme or rosemary. What I love most about these Crock-Pot chicken breasts is that they're really just a blueprint, never hard or fast in their rules of what flavors can join them in the hot tub. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: I Finally Learned to Love Chicken Breasts, Thanks to My Slow Cooker. —The Editors

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Makes 2 pounds chicken
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zest peeled in thin strips
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus more (depending on the size of your slow cooker)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a slow cooker, place the chicken breasts down in a single layer. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest, sage, and milk (enough to cover the chicken).
  2. Cook on low for 1 hour, then flip the chicken and cook for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. (Times will vary depending on the thickness of your breasts and the model of your slow cooker.)
  3. Congrats! You have a week's worth of healthy protein. Chop the chicken up for salads, shred for soups or enchiladas, or eat on its own with a little olive oil and lemon, or your favorite condiment (I like spicy chile crisp or English mustard).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Darcie Sosa
    Darcie Sosa
  • gigi.hotchkiss
    gigi.hotchkiss
  • Nicole Haddock
    Nicole Haddock
  • lisa goldberg
    lisa goldberg
  • Kathcooks
    Kathcooks
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

28 Reviews

carswell April 9, 2021
I’ve made Jaime Oliver’s whole chicken version of this and enjoyed it. I will definitely give this a whirl.
 
Ellie January 5, 2021
Made this with skim milk but added some butter. Fabulous- the lemon zest really makes it. 2 hrs worked well - I did add extra milk to cover the meat as directed.
 
Darcie S. December 21, 2020
this looks really amazing, but I just cannot tolerate dairy milk. Does anyone suggest a non-flavored dairy substitute for this recipe?

Thanks!
 
Lynda December 21, 2020
Perhaps coconut milk would work. It is worth a try!! Good luck.
 
Kathcooks April 19, 2021
I would suggest trying almond milk. I love almond flour for sauteing chicken. I think the flavor would be delicious.
 
gigi.hotchkiss February 5, 2020
I really enjoyed this recipe - super easy! I found that 90 minutes was not enough time. Next time I'll try it at medium or high for 2-3 hours. I used the chicken to make wraps with spinach, feta, cucumber, and tzatziki sauce.
 
Nicole H. October 14, 2019
I made this last night with a few modifications based on the reviews. 1- added 3 crushed cloves of garlic to the mix. 2- squeezed half a lemon and tossed the juice and the lemon into the pot, in addition to the zest. I had to cook it about a minute and 45, but the result was some pretty darn amazing chicken. I will absolutely make this again for meal prep, and curious to see if it will work well with coconut milk.
 
Nicole H. October 14, 2019
Oh, and cooked to an internal temp of 145, and let rest for 15 minutes under tented tinfoil.
 
EMR April 24, 2019
This is the second time I have made this recipe and I really, really like it. The chicken is moist and stays moist the next day or so. I see that some reviewers have found the chicken breast to be bland but I see that as a plus. I cook several breasts at beginning of the week and then season a portion or two according to how I plan to use it in a meal...so one day Mexican, another Greek, another Asian etc.. I have prepared protein (so I am less tempted to overload on carbs when hungry) and I don't get bored with my meals..So, for me moist and bland are good, very good.
 
Lynda April 21, 2019
I made recipe exactly as directed and it was delicious and moist. I used a fair bit of salt and pepper on the chicken. Passed recipe in to a friend and she found it lacked flavour. It will be a keeper for me and I look forward to trying coconut milk or almond milk.
 
Tia April 18, 2019
I was so excited to make this and came away really disappointed. The chicken was fairly tender, but rather tasteless. I decided to make a roux and used the milk from the slow cooker to make a gravy - bad idea and it took a heroic effort to make the gravy taste like something. So sorry I can post a more glowing review...
 
Sallyann T. April 15, 2019
The texture of the chicken was perfect. I cooked for 2 hours in the slow cooker and it was moist and subtly delicious. I am seeking out the crisp chili oil for my next batch. I am also going to try with coconut milk and ginger/cilantro. Like another commentator, I used some of the milk and I moistened the yellow rice I made. It was a hit
 
lisa G. April 9, 2019
I didn't flip them and was very liberal with the lemon and sage. The poached result is so tender I could break them apart with a fork. Juicy and tangy. Just about perfect.
 
siri April 8, 2019
I am SO intrigued by this recipe! It makes a lot of chicken, and I'm not keen on eating the same protein all week. Could the cooked chicken be frozen? Or would it get hard and stringy anyway?
 
sf-dre April 8, 2019
Used leftover buttermilk from a baking project, which gave it a little tang. Looking forward to making chicken salad for lunch.
 
Amy April 6, 2019
It definitely took longer than 1 1/2 hrs. Plan for 2hrs.
This is the second time I have cooked chicken in milk, first time in a crock pot. I'm not impressed and won't do it again. It still just chicken and I have wasted a good amount of milk that could have been better used.
 
Liza April 6, 2019
I agree totally!
 
Erica M. April 12, 2019
My milk curdled and it was the driest chicken I’ve ever made. What did I do wrong?
 
Liza April 6, 2019
Just made it. It took 2 hours or so. Good way to make ahead for the week.
 
Beth April 5, 2019
How much sage.
 
Bonnie April 6, 2019
3 sprigs fresh sage
 
CMDHH April 6, 2019
Please tell us: length of sprig? number of leaves? weight of sprig?
 
Amy April 6, 2019
It really doesn't need to be exact, its just a background seasoning. Three springs of what ever length and number of leaves that happen to be on the springs.
 
Lrf April 5, 2019
What happens to the milk?
 
Patsy M. April 5, 2019
What a/almond milk
 
Annette C. April 6, 2019
Delicious so simple to make
 
Amy April 6, 2019
It looks curdled by the end and you throw it out.
 
Cindy F. April 14, 2019
I put the liquid through a mesh strainer and tossed out the curds. I stirred some of the resulting broth back into the chicken. Delicious!