General Tso’s Chicken made in a slow cooker is the perfect easy weeknight meal. Best of all, this healthier recipe for a popular takeout dish has the same amazing flavors as your local Chinese restaurant. Made in your crock-pot or Instant Pot pressure cooker! Plus keto and paleo options and step-by-step video!
Healthier General Tso’s Chicken
General Tso’s or General Tsao’s Chicken is one of the most popular Chinese takeout dishes. It also happens to be my husband’s all-time favorite Asian dish. He loves anything with a sweet, savory and spicy combo.
For this particular Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken recipe, I’ve included options to lighten it up with gluten free, paleo and keto friendly substitutes. Plus, if you’re an Instant Pot fan, I’ve even included pressure cooker instructions as well!
How To Make General Tso’s Chicken in a Slow Cooker
- First, you’re going to whisk together the sauce and toss over the chicken in the slow cooker insert. Cover with lid and cook on low for a few hours
- Stir in the slurry to thicken the sauce and you’ve got dinner on the table the whole family will LOVE!
How to Make Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken Allergy Friendly, Paleo and Ketogenic
General Tso’s Chicken usually gets dunked in a breaded coating to get that crispy coating we all love. For this homemade version, there’s no deep frying but to achieve that restaurant quality texture, the chicken gets coated in some cornstarch before lightly browning in some oil.
- Substitute with arrowroot powder or almond flour for a paleo or keto friendly version
- Use coconut, ghee or avocado oil for paleo and low carb
- The sauce usually calls for low-sodium soy sauce, hoisin sauce and ketchup:
- Gluten-free Tamari and Coconut Aminos (paleo) are great substitutes.
- Hoisin sauce comes in a gluten free version or you can make your own at home HERE – or simply leave out for keto
- Ketchup gives this that deep red color but if you can either make your own gluten free paleo version HERE or just sub with concentrated tomato paste + more honey instead.
CAN I SKIP BROWNING CHICKEN ON THE STOVE TOP?
You can certainly skip the browning step and add chicken directly into the crock-pot if you prefer. Browning is an additional step but makes a HUGE difference in taste and texture.
Enjoy the General Tso’s chicken alone or serve it with some quinoa, rice or even zoodles or cauliflower rice for a lower carb option.
Either way you choose, it’s so much easier and healthier than takeout! Plus you can pack them for lunch in these handy lunch containers. These are the ones I use —-> lunch containers
Weekly Meal Prep Tips for School Lunches or Work Lunch Bowls
- Delicious for leftovers or make a batch on Sunday meal prep and pack for your weekly school or work lunch bowls
- Add your favorite roasted or stir-fried vegetables to the your lunch bowls – I used broccoli, zucchini and red bell peppers
- For easier weekly meal prep – chop all the vegetables ahead of time and store in an airtight container the night before.
- Pack with your favorite side – Jasmine rice, brown rice, cauliflower rice or spiralized vegetables – zoodles – I use this lunch container
More lunch bowls:
Video Tutorial for Making General Tso’s Chicken
Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken (+ Instant Pot) MEAL PREP + VIDEO
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch use arrowroot powder for paleo-friendly
- 1/8 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
- 1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (about 2-3 pieces), cut into bite-sized chunks
- Oil for browning about 3-4 tablespoons + more as needed
- **4 - 5 dried red chili peppers to taste or leave out if desired found in Asian supermarkets or the International section of a large chain grocery store - see NOTE)
- Toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions for garnish (optional)
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce can substitute with gluten free tamari or coconut aminos for paleo
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons honey or coconut sugar or low carb sweetener for keto
- 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce use gluten free hoisin sauce or leave out for paleo / keto
- 1.5 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper chili flakes more or less, to taste
- 1.5 teaspoons red chili garlic paste for gluten free or paleo use 1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried red pepper chili flakes instead - use more if you prefer it spicier
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder (leave out for keto as needed)
- 3 tablespoons water
FOR MEAL PREP:
- Rice cauliflower rice, zoodles or noodles
- Roasted or Stir-fried zucchini broccoli and red bell peppers
- Lunch containers
- In a large bowl or large zip-top bag, combine chicken, corn starch, salt and black pepper until well-coated. Set aside.
- Make the sauce In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce, set aside.
SLOW COOKER VERSION:
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.(You can skip this stove-top step if you prefer or are in a pinch. Just add chicken directly to slow cooker. Chicken will not have that crispy coating) Cook chicken (in batches) about 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer chicken into the slow cooker. Pour sauce over top.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 2.5 - 4 hours or HIGH for 1.5 - 3 hours. (SEE NOTES)
- About 30 minutes before serving, whisk together the corn starch and water in a small bowl and very gently stir into the slow cooker (This is to avoid breaking up the breading on the chicken). Toss in the dried red chili peppers or red pepper chili flakes. Cover and cook on HIGH for another 20-30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened up. (if your slow cooker is not hot enough to thicken the sauce - pour sauce into a pot and heat on stovetop on high to thicken sauce or you can just skip the cornstarch slurry instead)
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and serve over rice, quinoa or zoodles, if desired.
INSTANT POT VERSION:
- Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE (skip this step and just cook on MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK (high) for 5 minutes if you are in a pinch or prefer. The chicken won't have that crispy coating.) Allow pan to heat up for a few minutes then add oil. Cook chicken in batches (placing the browned chicken on a paper-towel lined plate) about 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Once all the chicken is browned, add back to the Instant Pot and pour sauce over top.
- Close and seal Instant Pot and set the valve to sealing.
- Press MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK (high) and set for 3 minutes. Once the 3 minutes is up and the Instant Pot beeps, allow to naturally release for 15-20 minutes. Open lid and press the SAUTE button. Toss in the dried red chili peppers or red pepper chili flakes. Combine the corn starch with water and stir into the Instant Pot. Cook and allow the sauce to bubble and thicken up.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and serve over rice, quinoa or zoodles, if desired
- For meal prep: Prepare your favorite carb (rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, roasted potatoes, rice noodles) and add to containers. Divide chicken among containers and add your favorite roasted or stir-fried vegetables.
If you want this dish saucier, feel free to double the amount of sauce and save the rest for another recipe.
More takeout favorites: