Marinade + slow cooker = super tender.
This recipe actually involves making a marinade in your food processor or blender. For those of you willing to take that extra step, I assure you that it will be worth it. This whole chicken recipe works best when you let things marinate overnight. I know, you like easy dump-and-go recipes. You hate food prep and waiting, I know. Don’t fret kids, this recipe will help save you time over the next couple days when you have these delicious leftovers to spice up your salads, lunches, and even breakfast scrambles.
This recipe uses a dry chili rub for the chicken and a wet cilantro lime marinade. This bird will come out of your slow cooker fragrant, moist, and super tender. You won’t be able to lift the bird out in once piece. You can try, but I will be there standing over your shoulder, laughing and mocking you. Fatty foods slow down the effects of certain drugs. Well, not really, but you will have a fall-off-the-bone chicken that will set you up for a few days of clean eating. Cooking a whole chicken while you’re at work is a great plan of action to take.
I swear this came out of my slow cooker.
What you need:
- One large free-range organic whole chicken. Mine was 6 pounds for a 6 quart slow cooker.
- Dry rub (black pepper, sea salt, chili powder, cayenne powder, ground cumin). I used about a teaspoon each of salt, pepper, cumin, and a tablespoon each of the chili powder and cayenne .
- 1/2 cup of lime juice (about 2 limes).
- 1 extra whole lime for stuffing inside your chicken (yes that makes 3 limes total).
- 2 generous handfulls of fresh cilantro.
- 3 cloves of garlic.
- 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- 6 quart CrockPot slow cooker, or an Instant Pot set to regular heat slow cooker mode.
How you make it:
- Wash your chicken off under cold tap water and then dry with paper towels.
- Dust your chicken with salt & pepper, and apply an even coating of chili powder, cayenne, and cumin to your taste. There is no magic amount or formula to use, yet do try to cover the whole bird with some spice. This also helps give the golden brown color you see in the picture.
- In a blender or food processor, combine your lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and olive oil. Pulse until an even consistency is reached.
- Take your extra lime and poke lots of holes into it with a fork. Now dust this lime with chili powder and stick it into the cavity of your chicken.
- Find a ziplock bag or crock pot liner large enough to hold your whole bird. Place your bird in the bag and pour your wet marinade over it. Use your hands to make sure the marinade is applied evenly around the chicken and under the skin, this is the important part. You can puncture the chicken breasts a few times with a knife for the marinade to seep into, yet this is not necessary. Making sure you get the marinade well applied and under the skin will do the trick.
- Seal your bag tight so that the marinade is making contact with the chicken all over. I used a crock pot liner bag which I pulled tight around the chicken and marinade, and then stuffed that into another large ziplock bag.
- Let your chicken marinade overnight. I know, you have to wait, but the morning will be true dump-and-go style cooking.
- Place your chicken in your slow cooker along with any marinade left over in your bag.
- Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. I would recommend closer to 6. It will be glorious.
I posted the before picture, after. Please don’t be confused. Slow cooking is fun!
What did you serve it with? I think it would be perfect with tortillas and rice but obviously can’t have that…
Try some Boston lettuce or romaine hearts to make your tacos, top a salad with it, or toss some leftovers into a skillet after sauteing some veggies for a quick stir fry. I even added some in with my breakfast scramble this morning!
I think it would be great with sweet potatoes thrown in and some red beans maybe
I made it last week with some Mexican flavored cauliflower rice on the side. Was perfect, made a big batch of each and had lunches for the week at work.
How spicy is it with the 1T of Cayenne? I have 3 kids and they don’t do spicy well. I’ve used heat spices in the slow cooker before and they seem to really mild while in the cooker. I’m hoping you tell me the Cayenne does the same in this recipe.
Yes, spices do mellow down after being cooked. I would suggest you tone down the cayenne powder anyways just to be on the safe side. You can always add more seasonings after the cook. Just use mostly chili powder with a tsp of cayenne.
Does the skin get nice and crispy in the crock pot?
I wouldn’t say it gets crispy, but it definitely cooks up some and the brown coloring you see in the photo is from the spices. If you want crispy skin I’d throw it in the oven instead!
I think I will make this tomorrow night. Looks delicious. Perfect way to use cilantro left over from another recipe.
Thanks for posting!
Looks super yummy can’t wait to make it this weekend!
Do you think this would work taking frozen breasts, putting on the marinade and sticking them back into the freezer (still frozen), and then letting it defrost and sit in the marinade 24 hours before putting into the slow cooker? Trying to get several meals done at once as well as helping my college student get freezer meals ready. What do you think?
I haven’t tried doing this with just breasts, but it should work. I’d suggest letting the breasts defrost in the fridge first, then apply the marinade the night before you go to cook them. Let me know how your trial run works out!
Alena – did you try with the breasts yet? I have some fresh chicken breasts at home and was looking for something to make in the crockpot. This recipe sounds awesome…just wanted to get your thoughts on how the breats fared if you indeed tried it.
yes, I have done it with the breasts and just did it tonight with chicken thighs. I got my breasts frozen, put the rub on them and bagged them with the marinade. The marinade stuck to the frozen breasts. I then put them back into the deep freeze to be pulled out when I needed them. I have a large family, so I did 20 pounds worth broken down into family meal sizes. When I cook them, I take them out of the freezer, dump the whole thing into the crock pot on high with a can of coconut milk dumped on top. I cook about 6 hours for 4-5 large breasts.
I love the idea of the whole chicken and marinating overnight, but I do two weeks of shopping in one day for a large family. I have that same evening to get things prepped and frozen for the next 2 weeks as I have a very busy household and am also going to school full-time. It works great to have them in the freezer ready to go any morning that I’m hankering for this yumminess!!
Adding coconut milk to this is this more like eating Thai food I love Thai ?
This looks sooo good, except, my boyfriend and I are just not fans of cilantro. We have tried! Any thoughts as to a substitute?
You could try to use some parsley along with the lime, or just skip that all together and just add some more chili seasoning to the marinade and just get the spicy and citrus flavor…
Parsley sounds like a winner…could definitely do that 🙂
question – I want to do this in my dutch oven at a low temp vs. my crock pot (it cooks too fast IMO). What temp would you suggest? I have a 7 qt Le Creuset and will probably do a 5# chicken…
What model/size slow cooker do you have that it cooks too fast? I don’t own a Le Creuset and I’m not sure of the cooking times when keeping the lid on one. I’d probably try something just above 300 and check on things after a couple of hours. Anyone else here with a dutch oven have some better advice?
Covered, 325F for 3 hours. It will be falling off the bone amazing.
I made this today and served it with cumin baked cauliflower. Delicious chicken. Looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
I made this for dinner tonight with a couple of small changes. One, I didn’t get it marinating last night, so I just threw it together this afternoon. Two, I cooked it on high for 3 hours (5 pound bird). Results: delicious! I shredded the dark meat for chicken tacos tonight served with cheese, avocado, red bell pepper and salsa. I used bibb lettuce leaves to wrap it all up. I’m sure it would be even more amazing with the overnight marinade. I look forward to eating the leftovers this week and will try it with chicken thighs next time. This will be my go-to recipe for chicken taco meat. Thanks for the recipe!
My 5 year old son just watched me make this and asked, “is that what it said to do? It said to pop a lime in its booty?” Lol!!!
Yes, tell them PaleoPot said to do it, beyond that have fun with the explanations 🙂
Made this tonight, the skin ended up being a little too spicy, but not so that we didn’t devour the chicken. It was so super tender and juicy. Definitely will make again.
I have my chicken marinading in the fridge, do i have to add any other liquid to the pot when I cook her up tomorrow
No added liquid needed, just keep the lid on. Plenty of fluid content in the chicken itself. Enjoy!
Ermahgerd. Just made this today and it was amazing. I only have a tiny 2-qt crockpot so I just used two chicken leg quarters which was just enough for me and the boy for dinner. Shoved lime slices up the skin since I didn’t have a cavity to put it in. Everything just fell off the bones. The only thing I regret is not having enough for leftovers!! Will make again…and again. 🙂 Thanks!
W00t you said ermahgerd! Glad you liked it and now have an easy recipe to go to! Thanks for the kind words as well!
Thanks so much for posting your variation! I have some chicken quarters defrosting and remembered this recipe when I was out shopping, so I picked up some lime and cilantro (figuring I had everything else.) Started to panic a little when I saw the recipe said a whole bird. Which I have a whole bird but that would be another 3 days waiting on defrost. LOL I want to do this tomorrow, not in 3 days!
I guess I cooked mine too long. It did not want to come out of the crockpot, so no beautiful picture like you got. Mine literally fell apart, and some of the bones broke apart into tiny tiny pieces. Also, mine must have been extra fatty b/c there was a LOT of liquid left in the crockpot – like 3 cups worth of liquid. My boy won’t keep his hands out of it, though, which is an enormous plus!
Glad the kid liked it. Trust me I put some styling effort into the breasts on the plate to get a good picture. Other than the breasts coming off the bird easily, lots of the rest did cook down like you said. I perhaps should edit the post and type some notes about how one might want to trim some of the fat off of their bird. While some of that 3 cuts of liquid is indeed rendered fat, some of it is also just water than the chicken’s meat held. Thanks for posing your take on it!
That liquid will depend on the chicken you purchase. Most packages state how much retained “solution” they contain. That solution varies from just water to a list of ingredients. Most commercially grown chickens are tumbled in a bath before packaged hence the source of your extra liquid.
Hopefully she got a pastured chicken like was recommended, and not a commercial one! yuck!
We all do the best we can with our budgets.
Amen to that! Btw I’m excited about this recipe! I only have a 4 pound chicken. Does the time need to be reduced from the 6 hours?
Just scanning the comments after saving this recipe – almost 4 years later!!! It’s comments like this one that will turn me into a regular! Happy New Year!
Just getting ready to put in the crockpot but it doesn’t say whether I should put it on low or high?? I probably won’t get an answer in time so I’m starting w/ high I guess & we’ll see how it goes. Clearly, I don’t use the crockpot too often.
Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. I would recommend closer to 6. Enjoy!
Thank you,. Hopefully the first 2 hours on high won’t be a problem.
I made this and it turned out wonderful!!!!! The only thing I changed was that I stuffed it with a few sprigs of rosemary from my indoor herb garden. This was so fragrants, succulent and I have never had chicken fall off a bone like that. I used a huge, free range, organic chicken. We paired it with some organice white rice and mixed greens. My teenage son loved it and wants it again soon.
I have never made a whole chicken in the crock pot, but this is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever made! (Thanks to you!) It was so moist and flavorful that I couldn’t stop eating it! I will definitely make it again, thank you.
Thanks Tami! Saying you’ll make it again is the best compliment I can get! Glad you loved it.
I made this the other night and was so disappointed, it was not as flavorful as I had hoped (& I followed the recipe completely). I’m wondering if I should have marinated the chicken for two nights instead of the suggested one night.
I’m sorry you didn’t love it. Marinating it just one night worked out well for me.
This was super easy and delicious . The only changes i made was instead of regular chili powder , i used chipotle chili powder ( we love spicy food ) , and i added ground coriander in the dry rub also . The result was a spicy and a very flavorful chicken . Thank you !!
I made this Wed night and crock pot it almost 12 hours on low. We were busy all day. I made it word for word. Once we got some chicken it just fell apart! So moist with flavor. The broth was excellent. I made a cauliflower rice with lime cilantro garlic to go with it! It was delish. I brought it to work and my coworkers kept saying it smelled great! I’m doing the Whole30. This all new to me. I will definately make this again! My only complaint are the bones that are in it. Maybe chicken breast next time. Thanks for posting this!
Thanks for the kind words! I hear you on the bones. I myself actually plan to do this in the future with chicken breasts as well!
Yum! Wanted to get this started last night, but needed to run out to get a whole lime this morning. In a bit of a rush, since I *really* wanted this chicken for supper tonight, I marinated for 4 hours and cooked the bird (~6 lbs) on high for 3.5 hours, though 3 may have been just fine. Will be making this again!
Thanks for the positive feedback and the best compliment I can get, is that you’ll be using the recipe again.
Has anyone tried the recipie with just thighs or breasts? I’d love to know how they turned out…
I made this last night! It was quite delicious and moist and tender. I’ve never cooked a whole chicken in a slow cooker before and now I realize it’s not so scary! I don’t think I’ll be doing the breast-only thing again (they can get dry!). The bones keep everything moist and flavorful, and it’s no big deal to shred the meat off the bone. I was proud that I made all that chicken (organic too!) for only $7! Delicious and a budget buy meal. Thanks!
I really want to try this recipe but I don’t have a crock pot. Just wondering at what temp and how long to cook it in the oven (electric)? Thanks 🙂
Ive got this cooking in my crockpot as I type. It smells divine and I really hope I get the same result as everyone else who commented – as I have guests for dinner tonight 🙂
I’ll let you know how it turns out in 3 1/2 hours!!
I made this last night using breasts instead of the whole chicken. Making a whole chicken just gives me the heebeejeebeez. I used the juice of 3 limes, since I wasn’t sticking the extra lime up the chicken’s butt. I marinated them overnight and baked them with some veggies. I think I overdid it on the lime juice but overall the dish is really good!!! Thanks for the recipe, I think I’ll try the whole chicken next time.
Nice! Let me know how the whole chicken turns out for you…
This a fabulous way to cook a chicken. And the stock from the scraps and bones makes a wonderful base for soup.
Do you cook the chicken in the crockpot out of the bag?
Yes. I only used the bag for the overnight marinating.
I’m not paleo but was looking for some decent crock pot recipes that didn’t rely on bottled ingredients and “cream of” soups. I am making this recipe this week, just got a pastured chicken from my local co-op. Can’t wait!!
HELP!!! I am new to Paleo and this is my first attempt at a recipe and I forgot to add the oil to the marinade 🙁 Is this going to be a total flop?
Don’t worry, I’m pretty certain it will still come out great. The oil was only a small touch, don’t stress it.
How do you think this would do in a smoker? I don’t want to take away from the flavor so I am a little hesitant but it seems like it would be a great compliment if I maybe wrapped it so that it wasn’t being directly exposed?
Sounds good smoked if mostly foil wrapped. I might even add some more salt to the marinade if smoking to get more of a brining effect to the marinade?
Holy crap, this is GOOD! I used chicken breasts, cut the cumin and chili powder in half (husband is sensitive to those spices), and didn’t have time to marinate… It is still fabulous!!!!
I made this yesterday for my family. I decreased thevcyanne to 1tsp and increased the cumin to 1 Tbsp since my kiddos don’t like spicy food. I did the rub and marinated over night. I found a whole free range organic chicken at my local Co op and made it in my crockpot. This was only the second time I used the crockpot. My picky eaters liked it even though it was a little spicy. I loved it! I feel like a rock star nourishing my family. I plan to used the leftover meat for chicken tacos is romaine shells and for chicken tortilla soup made inthe vitamix. Thank you for a great recipe. This one is going in the permanent collection!
How do you plan on making chicken tortilla soup? I’m making a stock out of the bones as we speak, but wasn’t sure what to do next.
Hey, I made this chicken yesterday. The flavor was there, for sure. However, I stuck it in the slow cooker for 6 hours, then it sat on the warm setting for another 3 or so (long work day). Unfortunately, it came out kind of dry. I didn’t even know this was possible!
I’m at work for 9 hours. Is there a better way to do this so it doesn’t happen again?
Also, I made mashed cauliflower and a spicy yellow squash with diced tomatoes, sliced almonds and red pepper flakes for the sides. Super easy and went well with the chicken!
Joe, get yourself a cheap electrical timer to plug your slow cooker into. This way you can program when it shuts on/off and you’ll avoid overcooking!
Or you can dump it in your crock pot and take it to work with you and plug it in the kitchen or break room. Plus it will drive your co-workers crazy for the smell!!!
Fantastic recipe loved by the whole family. A bit spicy for my 5 and 7-year old kids, but they dipped in mustard & a little honey and then loved it. The BEST part was when I pulled out the lime with tongs and said, “Oh you guys have to come look! There was an egg in this chicken! It must have been a laying hen, not a broiler!” Had them totally fooled, as the lime turned dark brownish and resembled an egg. My daughter said she was sure we shouldn’t eat the chicken because the egg might have released toxins. Overall easy and versatile dinner. Served with sauteed zucchini & purple cabbage and roasted sweet potatoes. This didn’t really “go” with the cilantro lime theme, but it still paired well and added a lot of color to the plate.
Awesome recipe! If you have a juicer, try juicing two limes instead of using a random concentrate.
Thank you for this recipe! I had to tweak it a bit for my family, but it has made it onto my husbands “you must make this again” list, so, thanks! I also wrote about my attempt at making it on my blog (with lots of links back to you, of course!) if you’d like to see what I did differently. Mine wasn’t nearly as pretty as yours, but it sure tasted good! I’m looking for more inspiration from you, now! You’re a genius! http://cradlerockingmama.com/cilantro-lime-crock-pot-chicken/
I prepared the marinade and did the prep work as per the recipe, but instead of cooking it in a slowcooker I stood it up on a “beer but chicken” roasting rack and BBQ’ed it.
The result…the most amazing BBQ chicken I have ever made.
As Guy Fieri would say…”Winner winner chicken dinner!”
Thanks for the great recipe.
I have a question. I really only cook this for 6 hours on low? It is a huge bird almost 7 pounds. I have never cooked one that big before. 6 hours just doesn’t seem long enough. 🙁
I cant wait to try it though been marinating all night!!!
To adapt as a freezer meal, just put marinated chicken in freezer and thaw in fridge, I guess?
Yup. You’ve got it!
Sounds great and can’t wait to try this! Do you leave the chicken in the bag for the slowcooker or do you remove it and then place in the slowcooker with the marinade from the bag? Thank you:)
No, no bag in the cooker for cooking…
I made this and it is delicious! Thank you so much.
I have this issue with following recipes. I don’t like to measure and sometimes I just adapt to what I have. In this case, instead of chili powder and cayenne, I put in ground chipotle pepper by mistake. Just glad it was before I put on the cayenne. I also used fresh cilantro from my garden. Oh my, I’m in love. Sooooo good!
Oh, I also added about half a teaspoon of sweet curry powder.
OK Jason, you have helped me out in the past! Making this in the crockpot as we speak, w/ skinless thighs cause that is what I had in the freezer. side? I have patapan squash, swiss chard, bell pepper, carrot, sweet tater, couple different kinds of lettuce and tomato on hand. Any ideas? Your the best!!! 🙂
Do I have to marinate this overnight? I wanted to make this now for dinner tonight.
No, but the longer you can the better!
Hi, I bought a 3 lb chicken. How long do you recommend I slow cook it in my crockpot? Still 6 hours?
4 hours should work
Can you please include a Printer Friendly feature for us computer novices?
I made this for dinner over the weekend. It was absolutely incredible! The chicken was flavorful and hte meet was falling off the bone.
This recipe is maxing! So easy nd yummy! A nice variation for chicken 😉
Made it yesterday. Excellent and so aromatic! I served it with a black bean/corn mixture with chili pepper, onion, cilantro and salsa added. Using the leftovers for tacos sound great! Thanks for the recipe.
This looks fantastic! I have a 3.75 pound chicken marinating right now! I’m trying to figure out how long to cook it for. I’ll be gone all day so it will sit on warm for a few hours. I don’t want to dry it out. 5 hours on low?
For people gone all day, I recommend a lighting time that allows you to program when your crockpot turns off. Warming mode is still 150F which continues cooking.
You can use a timer like this -> http://amzn.to/YkJECx
Thanks, I didn’t see this before I started cooking.
I cooked it for 6 hours on low and sat on warm for 4 hours. It was perfectly cooked and tender fell right off the bone. Great flavor. I only had 2 limes, I think the third lime would have made it even better. I used about a teaspoon of each spice and I didn’t find it at all spicy and I’m very wimpy when it comes to spice:)
This is absolutely wonderful!! Is have a 4-quart crock pot, and I wasn’t sure that a whole chicken would fit. So I just used chicken breasts and thighs. My CP cooks kinda fast, even on low. I had 2 breasts and 5 thighs, and they were perfectly done in 4-1/2 hours. I didn’t want the heat, so I left off the cayenne pepper. Also, I did use a little salt in the dry rub, but I don’t think it needs it. I won’t use any the next time – and there will definitely be a “next time.” Great recipe!
I definitely plan on trying this. However, I’m a little concerned about using the whole lime in the cavity. Won’t that give the chicken a bitter taste? I’ve followed recipes that have said to use whole/sliced lemons while cooking, and the bitterness was very distinct. Will limes not do the same?
I haven’t had any complaints yet, this was my most popular recipe of 2013! It sounds like a personal preference/taste thing, if in doubt just skip that step. Hope this helps!
I always put a lemon in my turkey cavity and it makes the turkey extra juicy. I cannot taste the lemon so adding the lime in the cavity will make it juicier too 🙂
Do you think this would work with a Coleman Griller Pack? (Bone In Breasts & Drums)
I have had other people tell me they use the marinade from this recipe with chicken thighs. Others have told me they marinade breasts and drums in the marinade and then bake in the oven. My short answer is yes, but perhaps cut the time down an hour. Drums will just fall off the bone and may be better suited for baking. Let me know how it comes out for you if you give it a shot!
I made this today…no time to marinate and cooked on high in crockpot for 3 hours. Turned out great….made tacos for dinner and will use the rest for tortilla soup. The house smelled wonderful…drove my dog crazy! When I have more time will make again according to directions! Thanks for this recipe.
We completed changed our diet one week ago and are eating clean and healthy now. 🙂 My bird is in the fridge marinating. We are definitely looking forward to dinner tomorrow night. I’ll be back. :p
Very excited about this recipie. Mine is marinating as I type! I plan to let it marinate for two days to make it more flavorful. As a rookie cook, I am nervous about the 4 hour recommended cook time for a 3 lb chicken…and I’ll tell you why..every time I have used recipes with lets say, “4 chicken breasts for 4 hours” they are always pink inside when I check them after 4 hours. I am using a WHOLE chicken for this recipie so I would expect a longer cook time….am I wrong? Throwing this in the crock pot tues morning…hope I get a response by then! 🙂
There may be something wrong with your crock pot if it does not cook chicken breasts in 4 hours. Is it older?
It’s actually brand new…had it about a year and it’s been that way from the get go.
Hmm, set the chicken for 6 hours. It shouldn’t take longer than that to get up to temp. Use a thermometer to test the meat afterwards if you are uncertain.
This is sooooooo yummy! I remembered your words as I tried to pull the chicken out of the crock pot and it fell off the bones just as you said it would.
I’ve never made a marinade like this before, so forgive me if this is a stupid question. You just throw away the marinade that’s left in the pot at the end, right? Or do you use it as a “gravy” or in some other way?
If you take out all of your chicken meat and shred it into a container, and still desire some moisture, you can add some of the crock liquid back to the meat, but it is often not required.
I found your blog through pinterest and I am glad I did because this has to be one of the best crock pot recipes I have yet tried…and it doesn’t use any canned ingredients! Thank you for sharing your recipe…I hope to get the chance to try other recipes in your blog soon.
This chicken was life changing, I was about to give up on chicken after too many experiences with chewy meat! This was so good and so easy!! I am sending this to everyone I know!
I just made this for dinner and my only regret is not getting a bigger bird! Thank you for sharing. Just one quick q, do you cook the chicken directly on the bottom of the slow cooker or do you place it on a roasting rack? I used the roasting rack this time and it still came out yummy, succulent and super flavoursome but it did seem like I was wasting all those juices….
Yummy to the tummy! Easy breezy recipe but very delicious! This is just what we were looking for. We have had roasted chicken, grilled chicken and got bored so I looked for another recipe and I found this! Thank you so much for sharing!
This is SO good! I made mine with boneless chicken thighs instead in the slow cooker, and it pulled apart like how pulled pork does. So so good, thanks for sharing this recipe!!
This is the best chicken ever!! So easy. Family, kids included, loved it! Used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs. Wasn’t sure about no liquid so I added a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies to the bottom of the crock pot. Amazing and easy! Thanks for the recipe. This will be a staple at our house now.
Made leg quarters with this rub/marinade today.
Cooked 8 leg quarters on low for 8 hours.
Afterwards, I broiled them on high for about 5 mins to make the skin crispy.
Amazing! Fall off the bone, tender, tasty, perfection.
So easy, and so good.
Just made the marinade and its in my fridge soaking it up! Going to throw this in the crock pot tomorrow before I leave for school. So excited !!!!!
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