How to Make Slow-Cooker Chicken Legs Like a Pro

Craving drumsticks? Our recipe for slow-cooked chicken legs is easy, saucy and sure to impress.

Are slow cookers the greatest kitchen inventions of all time? They might be.

I use my slow cooker at least once a week and am constantly amazed at the amount of meals I can prep and let simmer for hours while I go about my day. Whether it’s making colorful new soups, classic beef stews or chicken recipes, slow cookers have made it possible for me to multitask without sacrificing the quality of the food.

Traditional chicken legs can take a long time to prep, season, cook, fry and coat in sauce, but slow cookers have completely changed the game. Now, we’re able to throw drumsticks into the crock for a few hours, without worrying about watching the chicken every step of the way.

This is one way to prepare slow-cooker chicken legs—low and slow, with a sweet and savory sauce on top that’s sure to impress even the biggest of drumstick fans.

How to Slow-Cook Chicken Legs

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken drumsticks, skin removed
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Thinly sliced green onions, optional

Directions

Step 1: Add chicken to slow cooker

chicken legs in the slow cooker gifTMB Studio

Place drumsticks in a 5-qt. slow cooker (these are our favorite Test-Kitchen approved slow cookers).

In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and minced garlic. Mix thoroughly.

Once combined, pour over the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until a thermometer reads 170-175°F. This will take roughly 5-6 hours. Alternatively, the recipe can be cooked on high for 2-3 hours to save time.

Step 2: Prep chicken for broiler

drumsticks spread out on a panTMB Studio

Remove the drumsticks and place in a 15x10x1-in. pan. Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer. This will ensure that each piece of chicken gets heated evenly and that they will be thoroughly cooked at the same time.

Preheat the broiler.

Step 3: Make a roux

close up of roux cooking in a saucepanTMB Studio

Skim the fat from the cooking juices, and transfer into a small saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water until smooth. This will be the base for a roux, which will thicken up the cooking liquids into a sauce for the drumsticks. If you don’t have cornstarch on hand, here are some other ways to thicken up liquids.

Gradually stir the roux base into the pan. Once all the cornstarch and water has been added to the cooking juices, bring the pan to a boil. Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.

For a quick and easy test to see if your sauce has thickened, stir a spoon in the sauce and pull it out. The sauce should be able to easily coat the back of a spoon without being too runny.

Step 4: Broil the chicken and coat with sauce

coating the drumsticks with the rouxTMB Studio

Meanwhile, broil the chicken 3-4 inches from heat until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.

Brush the drumsticks with the sauce before serving. For maximum coverage, coat the drumsticks multiple times in the sauce until the whole pan has been used. Wait a minute or two in-between applications to ensure the sauce dries enough for another application. If desired, sprinkle with green onions to finish. Looking for more slow-cooker recipes? Learn how to make slow-cooker chicken and rice.

Tips for Making Slow-Cooker Chicken Legs

Slow Cooker Chicken Legs served with saladTMB Studio

What can you serve with slow-cooker chicken legs?

Great news! Chicken legs are such a versatile dish that basically anything can be served with them to make a well-rounded, delicious meal.

Depending on the sauce and seasoning you use on the drumsticks, different flavors will work better. For example, barbecue chicken legs traditionally work well with a mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw or cornbread.

For the simple drumsticks we cooked up for this recipe, the tomato sauce, soy sauce, sugar and garlic create a nice balance of sweet and savory. You could pair these slow-cooker chicken legs with a white rice and roasted vegetables, or baked beans and french fries.

Can you use other cuts of chicken in this recipe?

Yes you can. This is one of those recipes for every cut of chicken. Breasts and thighs are commonly cooked in slow cookers and would work well in this recipe.

The time it takes to cook might vary depending on the thickness of the cut of chicken, but an easy way to make sure your time remains even is to slice each piece of meat to an even thickness before you put it in the slow cooker.

You can also use frozen chicken, although the flavor may vary depending on how long the meat has been frozen. If you are using frozen chicken, be sure to add extra prep time to defrost the chicken prior to putting it inside the slow cooker. Otherwise, the chicken may heat unevenly and result in tougher chicken legs.

How can you make your slow-cooker chicken legs crispy?

To make your chicken legs crispy, broil them in the oven to finish. The direct heat from the broiler in the oven will cause the chicken skin to cook faster, resulting in a crispy outer skin.

How long will leftovers of slow-cooker chicken legs last?

On the chance that you haven’t devoured your slow-cooker chicken legs in one night, there are many ways to preserve and reheat them. To properly store your leftovers, let the chicken legs rest until they are cool to the touch. Secure them in an airtight container and refrigerate immediately. Be sure to eat within two to three days.

To reheat the chicken legs, you have many options. Whether you prefer the microwave, oven or air fryer, our guide explains each step to make sure your chicken tastes just as good the next day.

Maria Lewczyk
Maria is a writer with more than 10 years of experience in the world of food. She incorporates elements of history, culture and community into her recipe creations and is currently writing her first cookbook. At Taste of Home, her articles have ranged from techniques for making perfect pork chops to the secrets behind macaroni salad. She’s even written about birthday cakes for cats! Maria is also a personal cook for Atlanta locals and has contributed recipes to zines, community gatherings and brand partnerships.