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Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Chicken Bowls

If you’re a fan of Korean BBQ flavors, I know you’ll love these slow cooker Korean chicken bowls. Chicken thighs are cooked low and slow in a sweet and umami sauce before they’re shredded and served over a low calorie rice blend with creamy kimchi sauce and pickled veggies. The chicken is an awesome high protein meal prep option, with 18 grams of protein and 180 calories per serving, and only requires 10 minutes of prep!

rice bowls with slow cooked Korean chicken, kimchi sauce, and pickled vegetables

Ingredients and Substitutes

The chicken is slow cooked in a sauce resembling a Korean bulgogi or kalbi marinade. It’s sweet (not too sweet), savory, umami, and punchy with plenty of garlic.

Most Korean chefs and cooks will tell you recipes don’t matter much, so feel free to experiment with ratios and substitutes. I’ve included a few ideas below.

Soy Sauce, Mirin, and Toasted Sesame Oil

Pretty standard ingredients here. If you don’t have mirin on hand, try using a tablespoon or two of rice vinegar and adding a bit more maple syrup or sweetener of some kind.

Apple Sauce

My wife and I recently took a Korean cooking class, and our instructor recommended using apple sauce in place of the traditional kiwi fruit or Asian pear in marinades and sauces. It does its job tenderizing and adding a bit of sweetness. Relax, there’s no apple flavor!

Maple Syrup

This takes the place of traditional brown sugar. Feel free to use another sticky sweetener like honey or a zero-calorie brown sugar substitute.


Garlic, ginger, scallions, and gochugaru (Korean chile flakes) round out the sauce ingredients. I like using frozen cubes of crushed garlic and ginger, but you can also just throw whole gloves and a knob of ginger in the slow cooker if you’re in a time crunch. They’ll cook down perfectly and easily shred/mash along with the chicken.

If you want to avoid any knife work whatsoever, just toss the scallions in the slow cooker and remove them once the chicken is cooked.

sauce ingredients for Korean BBQ chicken

Final Sauce Note

If you’re a kitchen minimalist and aren’t sure you’ll use all the ingredients mentioned here again, you can take a shortcut with a pre-made Korean BBQ sauce. My Korean BBQ rotisserie chicken, for example, uses a sauce from Kevin’s Natural Foods that has favorable macros and a clean ingredient list.

Slow Cooking, Pressure Cooking, and Other Methods

I’m writing this from Austin, Texas in June. Temperatures will reach at least 100ºF today, and it’s safe to say oven season is over. Time to dust off the slow cooker!

The recipe calls for chicken thighs, which are about as forgiving as it gets. I find the chicken is fall apart tender around the four-hour mark, but chicken thighs mean you can probably get away with going longer (or shorter).

Just be careful not to over do it, since the sauce has some acidic components and tenderizers working their magic. You don’t want to turn the chicken into mush.

And if you’re using chicken breast, you will want to keep an eye on the internal temperature and not go beyond 165ºF.

boneless skinless chicken thighs in a slow cooker pot with a Korean BBQ sauce

Tips for Pressure Cooking

There are two options for making this chicken in a pressure cooker.

You can either use the pressure cooker’s sauté function to sear the chicken in batches before adding the sauce, sealing, and cooking with high pressure for 5 minutes with natural release. See my chicken birria or BBQ chicken for an example of this method.

Or you can just toss the chicken in the sauce, seal, and cook with high pressure for 10-12 minutes with natural release.

Stovetop Pulled Chicken

Similar to the pressure cooking instructions, you can sear the chicken on both sides until golden brown before adding to the pan with the sauce, covering, and simmering for about 30 minutes until the chicken shreds easily.

Check out my chicken carnitas to see this method in action.

Making Korean BBQ Chicken in a Dutch Oven

If you don’t have a slow cooker or pressure cooker and are reading this post for some reason, it’s also very easy to make pulled chicken in a Dutch oven. My barbecue pulled chicken calls for cooking three pounds of chicken for 40-50 minutes in a covered Dutch oven at 350ºF. This method would work perfectly for this recipe.

shredded chicken in a slow cooker with sauce

Who knew there were so many ways to make pulled chicken? Let me know if you have any questions about alternative methods, using chicken breast instead of thighs, or anything else in the comments at the bottom of this post.

Banchan for Korean Chicken Bowls

Banchan, or small side dishes, might be my favorite thing about Korean food. They add so many complex flavors and textures to dishes, and they make eating extra veggies seriously enjoyable.

For my Korean chicken bowls, I’ve included recipes for pickled cucumbers and carrots, high volume rice, and a low calorie creamy blended kimchi sauce. You can find the details in the recipe card below.

But let that just be a starting point! There are so many options, and I always like to point people towards more banchan ideas here or here.

blended kimchi sauce over a rice bowl with slow cooked chicken thighs and pickled veggies

That should cover it. There is a full recipe card below you can print or save for later, including the instructions for making all the sides. I hope you enjoy this slow cooker chicken, and I’d appreciate your recipe review if you do!

slow cooked Korean chicken bowls with pickled carrots and cucumbers, jasmine rice, and creamy blended kimchi sauce

Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Chicken

Yield: 14 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Slow cooked chicken thighs in a homemade Korean BBQ sauce served with low calorie rice, creamy blended kimchi sauce, and pickled vegetables.


  • 3 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1/3 cup (80g) Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup (80g) Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup (60g) Mirin
  • 3/4 cup (180g) Apple Sauce (or pureed kiwi fruit or Asian pear)
  • 1 Tablespoon (16g) Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 2-3 Scallions, thinly sliced, green and white separated (white for slow cooking - reserve green for serving)
  • 8 cloves Garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Korean Chile Flakes (gochugaru)

For the Banchan (see notes for instructions)

  • Pickled Cucumbers
  • Pickled Carrots
  • Creamy Kimchi Sauce
  • Low Calorie Rice Blend
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds


  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a slow cooker before adding the chicken thighs and tossing everything together.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 4-5 hours until the chicken shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a separate bowl to pull apart, being careful to avoid over-shredding the chicken.
  4. Place the shredded chicken back in the slow cooker with the remaining sauce and let everything hang out together for 20-30 minutes using your slow cooker's keep warm function before serving.
  5. Serve over rice with pickled veggies, toasted sesame seeds or sesame garlic crunch, and creamy kimchi sauce.


See the post above for ingredient substitution ideas and tips on alternative cooking methods like pressure cooking, simmering on the stovetop, or baking in a Dutch oven.

Pickled Cucumbers

Slice 8 mini seedless cucumbers into coins (or 3-4 Persian cucumbers into half moons) and toss together with 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, 1-2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of gochugaru (or gochujang). You can also add thinly green onion if you like.

You can make this while the chicken is cooking and refrigerate or make right before serving. I like the extra crunchiness when it's fresh.

Thinly sliced radishes add extra crunch and color, in case you're interested.

Picked Carrots

Place 12-16 oz of peeled carrot sticks in a jar or resealable container. Bring one cup each of rice vinegar and water to a simmer before stirring in 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1-2 teaspoons of Korean chile flakes. Once the sugar dissolves, carefully pour the mixture over the carrot sticks. Let the jar cool to room temperature before sealing and placing in the refrigerator.

You will want to make this one ahead of time or at least when you're starting the chicken. (You can also find pickled carrots on many grocery store shelves if you're a fan of shortcut ingredients.)

Creamy Kimchi Sauce

Place 4 oz of kimchi, 1/4 cup of light mayo, 1 tablespoon of gochujang, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 2 tablespoons of water in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add water to reach your desired consistency. This stores well in the refrigerator, so you may want to double or triple the batch.

Source: Bulgogi Bowls with Ground Beef

Lower Calorie Rice

Add 4 cups of rinsed jasmine rice to a pressure cooker with 4 cups of chicken bone broth. Seal and cook with high pressure for 5 minutes and 10 minutes of natural release pressure. Microwave a 24 oz bag of frozen riced cauliflower while the pressure releases before folding the two together. Season with salt, furikake, or your choice of seasoning.

Source: High Volume Rice

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 14 Serving Size: about 4 oz of chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 8gCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 18g

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