By now we hope every home cook knows the pure dinnertime pleasure that is chicken in milk. The original dish, credited most popularly to Jamie Oliver, turns a whole chicken into a succulent, fragrant delight with a rich sauce ideal for sopping up with fresh bread.
This riff on that classic technique uses the slow cooker for ease and convenience, and coconut milk for those avoiding dairy or just looking for a flavor upgrade to this splendid supper sensation.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker
In many ways, cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker is as easy as dropping the chicken in the slow cooker and turning it on. When you add broth, you have the added benefit of extra moisture and flavor, but you want to avoid covering the chicken completely or you’ll end up with chicken soup!
Instead of whole milk and lemon, like the original chicken in milk, this recipe uses coconut milk and tons of fresh basil, ginger, and garlic to make a whole chicken that tastes like Thai basil chicken.
For Your Information
- This recipe calls for six-quart slow cooker. The chicken will cook for four to six hours on low.
- You’ll need one whole (three- to four-pound) chicken, coconut milk, chicken broth, ginger, garlic, and two bunches fresh basil for this recipe.
Better Slow Cooker Chicken Starts with the Broiler
Of the many wonderful attributes of the slow cooker, browning is not one of them. Many beef- and pork-based recipes call for browning the meat before moving it to the slow cooker. This step adds a layer of flavor that the slow cooker would otherwise be unable to deliver. Instead of trying to wrangle a whole chicken in a hot pan on the stove, try using the broiler to brown the skin of the chicken before slow cooking it.
Step-by-Step to Slow Cooker Chicken
- Brown the whole chicken under the broiler. First, season the chicken inside and out with salt. Then slide the chicken onto a middle rack under your broiler — the goal is golden chicken skin. Once broiled, flip the chicken and broil the underside as well.
- Make a fragrant broth. Get the broth started before adding the browned chicken. Using a whisk to combine the chicken broth and coconut milk will help break up the coconut milk solids before adding the aromatics.
- Cook the chicken breast side down for 4 to 6 hours on low. Cooking the breast meat directly in the coconut milk mixture will keep it from drying out and make it tender and juicy.
Serving Chicken in Basil Coconut Milk
Fair warning: Your chicken will be fall-apart tender when it’s ready, so don’t expect to serve a beautiful whole chicken on a platter. Instead, spoon the fragrant broth over rice and top with the shredded chicken.
How To Cook a Whole Chicken in Coconut Milk in the Slow Cooker
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 (15-ounce) cans coconut milk
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 fresh Thai red chile
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Brown the chicken under the broiler. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the broiler to high. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and season on all sides and inside the cavity with the salt. Broil, breast-side up, until the skin has browned and crisped slightly, about 8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven, carefully flip it, and broil until the underside is also golden-brown, about 6 minutes more.
Make a fragrant coconut broth. Set your slow cooker to low, add the coconut milk and chicken broth, and whisk until smooth. Add the basil, garlic, ginger, and chile, and stir to combine.
Add the chicken to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Place the chicken in the slow cooker breast-side down. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and fragrant, on the LOW setting for 4 to 6 hours.
Remove the chicken and blend the sauce (optional). Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Stir the lime juice into the sauce. You can serve the sauce as is, or blend with an immersion blender right in the slow cooker's crock and add a handful of fresh basil before serving.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Meghan Splawn is the Food Editor for Kitchn's Skills content. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.