Slow cooker firecracker chicken is an Asian-inspired dish jam packed with flavor and so easy to make! Cubes of juicy chicken bites browned and then slow cooked in a sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce. This dish is made right in the crockpot so you can set it and forget it, allowing the flavors to meld together and the chicken to become perfectly juicy and tender.
Make this sweet and spicy, and oh-so-saucy recipe the next time you’re craving takeout. It’s even better than Panda Express!
It’s made with tender bites of chicken, seared until golden brown then slow-cooked in a flavorful sauce. By flavorful I mean flavor FULL and packed with sweet and spicy flavors from hot wing sauce, brown sugar, and some vinegary tang!
This dish can be made in the oven or the Instant Pot as well, but I love the slow cooker because there’s no deep-frying or shallow-frying ahead of time. Just a quick sear and right into the crockpot.
You’d think by the name it might be super spicy, but it’s not. It’s totally manageable and can easily be adjusted to suit your preferences.
So, I’d say the firecracker name comes from the explosion of taste!
What is Firecracker Chicken?
It’s a Chinese-American recipe made with crispy chicken coated in a delicious firecracker sauce.
It’s sweet, spicy, and tangy and thanks to the cornstarch, the sauce becomes thick and sticky and coats everything so beautifully.
Why you’ll love Slow Cooker Firecracker Chicken
So much flavor – It’s sweet like crockpot sweet and sour chicken with the kick of kung pao chicken, but the added element of buffalo chicken, if you can believe it!
Versatile – Crockpot firecracker chicken is an easy way to copycat the best Americanized takeout recipe and is great served with rice, fried rice, or noodles for a complete meal. I bet it would be just as great as an appetizer too. Just serve with toothpicks and dig in!
Ridiculously easy – It’s made with a few simple ingredients, an initial searing, then the slow cooker does the rest of it. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner idea or for the weekend instead of ordering out.
Equipment you’ll need
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1” pieces. You can also choose to use boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
- Cornstarch: Coating the meat in cornstarch helps to absorb the moisture on the surface so that it gives it a nice even sear as it browns. It will also help to thicken the sauce.
- Oil: Needed to brown the chicken before adding it to the crockpot. I use olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Hot Wing Sauce: I use Frank’s wing sauce, but use whatever your favorite brand is.
- Brown Sugar: For a sweet element that balances the spicy and the tang. Using brown sugar as opposed to white sugar will also add extra flavor.
- Water: Adds extra liquid to thin out the sauce and make sure it coats everything evenly.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Gives the sauce acidic tang which also helps to tenderize the chicken.
- Scallions: For garnish.
How to make Slow Cooker Firecracker Chicken
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: Toss the breast cubes in cornstarch. You can do this in a bowl with tongs or use a sealed zip-top bag and give it a shake. Either way works as long as all the pieces are evenly coated.
- Step Two: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pieces of chicken to the skillet in a single layer being careful not to overlap or overcrowd the pan. Only do this once the pan is HOT! Lightly brown all sides of the chicken, but do not cook them completely, then transfer them to the slow cooker basin.
- Step Three: Whisk together the hot wing sauce, brown sugar, water, and apple cider vinegar and pour the sauce over the chicken. Toss to coat and cover with a lid.
- Step Four: Cook on LOW for 4 hours, stirring occasionally so that the sugars don’t burn. Garnish wish scallions and serve over a bed of rice. Enjoy!
What to serve with Slow Cooker Firecracker Chicken
We love it over white rice brown rice, or fried rice along with some steamed broccoli, oven roasted carrots, green beans, or your favorite vegetable side dish.
Sometimes we’ll even toss it with some noodles for a quick fix, similar to the way we enjoy slow cooker honey garlic chicken and noodles.
If you’re feeling like keeping it low-carb, cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, or just a side salad would be a great pairing.
Tips & Suggestions
- If you don’t have wing sauce on hand, sriracha will work too. So will red pepper flakes. It’ll make a spicy firecracker sauce but won’t have the buffalo sauce flavor.
- Double or triple this recipe to make more. Just be sure to brown the meat in batches to not overcrowd the pan.
- If using chicken thighs, trim any excess fat.
- Honey works in place of brown sugar.
- For a little variation, you can use this recipe with chicken meatballs, turkey meatballs, or even cubed pork.
- Toss in some veggies to bulk it up! Red or green bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, etc.
- Chunks of pineapple and a bit of pineapple juice for extra sweetness can be a great addition.
How to reheat and store Slow Cooker Firecracker Chicken
How to store leftovers
Keep leftover slow cooker firecracker chicken in an airtight container. Allow the chicken to completely cool first before sealing it with the lid.
How long will crockpot firecracker chicken last in the fridge?
Enjoy leftovers for up to 3 days when kept in the fridge.
Can I freeze firecracker chicken?
You can! Make a double batch and freeze half for later. Once cooled transfer leftovers to an airtight container or freezer bag and keep frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
How to reheat leftovers
You can use the microwave for a quick reheat or on the stovetop in a skillet. You may want to add a bit of liquid to loosen up the sauce again.
What is firecracker sauce made of?
There are different versions made with a variety of ingredients, but in the end, they all lead to a sweet and spicy sauce.
I make mine with brown sugar, Frank’s wing sauce, and apple cider vinegar.
Some people use honey, some add ginger and garlic, while others use rice vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar.
Can I make this recipe in the Instant Pot?
Totally! Use the sauté function to brown the meat. Then, cancel the sauté and pour the sauce over the chicken. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes followed by a quick release. Remove the cubes and return the pot to sauté. Add a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
What about the oven?
You can, however, this method is usually done with not only a cornstarch coating but also a coating of egg. Once they’re coated, place them in a single layer of hot oil in a large skillet. Brown them for a few minutes then transfer them to a foil-lined baking sheet, pour the sauce overtop and bake for 35 minutes, stirring halfway.
What ways can I use leftover firecracker chicken?
Use these chicken bites in wraps, lettuce wraps, cut up finely, and sprinkled over nachos, or use it as a pizza topping. So good no matter what!
Need more crockpot chicken recipes? Try these:
Creamy Ranch Slow Cooker Chicken
Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Carrots
Click here for my entire collection of slow cooker recipes.
If I was to add the pineapple would I put the chunks of pineapple in when I start the cooking
Melissa Williams says
Yes, you can.
I strongly dislike hot sauce, is there an alternative? BBQ sauce? Any other kind of sauce?
Melissa Williams says
That’s really the base of the sauce. BBQ would likely work but I haven’t tested it. My bourbon chicken might be a better fit!