Sweet. Spicy. Rich with caramelized onion flavor. Really, y'all, this recipe has it all.
Don't want to scroll through the page to get to the recipe? Use the table of contents to click on the section you want to go to.
Table of Contents
❤️ Why you'll love it
- Only takes 5-10 minutes of prep at the most
- Great for busy weeknights and as an easy date night dinner, too
- The best chicken dish to make in big batches for family and friends—and it doesn't break the bank!
This caramelly sweet and slightly spicy garlic brown sugar chicken has a perfect balance of flavor and goes great with any of your favorite sides.
It's a mouth-watering, delicious new recipe that will make your entire family excited to hear the words "easy chicken dinner!"
This is an overview of the ingredients. You'll find the full measurements and instructions in the green recipe card (printable) at the bottom of the page.
- Chicken breast, thighs, or bone in chicken parts
- Jalapeno (optional)
- Garlic (or garlic powder or both)
- Brown sugar
This is an overview of the instructions. Full instructions are in the green recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Adding the extra step of caramelizing the onions and searing the chicken in the butter that was used is what sets this recipe apart. It will take you an extra 10 to 15 minutes, and you can omit the step, but it really perks up this version of brown sugar garlic chicken.
- Butterfly the chicken breasts, if using.
- Slice the onions and jalapeno.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil in a skillet. This will give it flavor but the butter won't burn as easily as it would if it was just butter.
- Add the onions, and slowly saute, stirring often, until they are a rich, golden brown. You can chop them or leave them in slices - I always opt for slices because they are easier for my onion haters to remove from their serving.
- Add the jalapeno and cook another minute or two. You can skip this if you don't like spicy but I love the combination! If you're using freshly chopped garlic you'll want 3 cloves and you'll add it with the jalapeno.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over the chicken. Remove the onion mixture from the pan and add the chicken breasts, a few at a time. If you add too many at once they'll steam. You want a good caramelization on the outside without them being cooked on the inside. This helps keep them moist and delicious! Sear just to put some color on each side.
- Add the brown sugar and stir well.
- Top with the caramelized onions.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. OR bake for 20 minutes (or until internal temperature of the chicken is 160F)
Click on the image to watch me make this recipe from start to finish with extra tips! (Video opens in a new tab).
This brown sugar chicken recipe makes great leftovers. For that reason, it's also one of my favorite dishes to share with friends in need as an easy-to-prep freezer meal!
Once the leftovers have cooled to room temperature, store 'em in an airtight container or freezer bag. I like to vacuum seal individual portions so the family can grab some as they need it.
In the fridge, leftover chicken lasts for about three days. Frozen, the savory, saucy meal will last for up to three months.
Thaw the frozen brown sugar garlic chicken in the fridge for about a day, before transferring it to a microwave-safe dish. Slice the baked chicken into a few large pieces (this'll help it reheat more evenly.) Then, microwave for a few minutes, stirring every so often, until it's hot and steamy.
- Feel free to use pork instead of chicken. The brown sugar sauce tastes great with pork chops and tenderloin!
- Omit the salt and use two tablespoons of soy sauce for an Asian twist.
- Don't like to chop garlic yourself? Buy pre-minced, or use 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder instead.
- Add some veggies. We like it with red and green bell peppers, or sliced carrots and celery.
- If you want an extra spicy sauce, add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. (You can also garnish with hot sauce at the end to taste.)
- Making it in the oven? Wrap the chicken in bacon before baking. One caution: this doesn't work in the crockpot!
- Still want bacon, but cooking in the crock pot? Saute some bacon with the onion, then add it to the recipe as written.
- Brighten things up by squeezing a lemon, orange, or lime over the top of the chicken before serving.
- Or, garnish with fresh herbs. Green onion, parsley, or thyme complement the flavors of the sweet brown sugar really well.
💭 Things to know
Expert Tip: Sear the chicken in a large, oven-safe, cast iron skillet. That way, you can pop everything thing straight into the oven—and save yourself from cleaning extra dishes!
- Pound boneless chicken pieces with a meat mallet (or rolling pin) until they're an even thickness. This will help them all cook at the same rate.
- You can skip the caramelizing and searing process, but it adds so much flavor with just a few minutes of effort. I pinky-promise, it's worth it!
- Dab the chicken with a paper towel before searing it. You'll get a better, crisper crust if there isn't any excess moisture.
- Remember, you don't need to fully cook the chicken over the stove. Just sear it until it's a nice, golden brown.
- If the sauce is too liquidy at the end, remove the crockpot lid and cook for an extra 30 minutes to reduce (thicken) it. You can also pour the sauce into a pan and simmer it until thick. Scrape the bottom often as the brown sugar mixture can burn quickly.
- The cooking time will ultimately depend on the size of the chicken pieces. I always recommend starting to check with an instant-read thermometer a few minutes before the cook time has elapsed.
- You can make this easy recipe in advance by caramelizing and searing the ingredients and combining them all into a baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to two days, or freeze for three months. (If frozen, let thaw in the fridge overnight before baking.)
The name describes it pretty well! If you've ever tried popular bourbon chicken, it's similar. Sweet, a little spicy, savory from the caramelized onions, and so, so, so satisfying.
Sure thing! This recipe is great with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, but it's also delicious with bone-in meat. Just be sure to check the internal temperature for doneness before enjoying—it should reach 160 degrees F.
Nope, feel free to use skin-on chicken pieces. However, I do recommend oven preparation in this case. And, don't skip the searing step! There's nothing better than crispy chicken skins that cut open to reveal moist and juicy oven-baked meat.
📚 Related recipes
- With juicy flavor and loads of Cajun seasoning, Popeye's Blackened Chicken is one of those easy recipes you'll quickly memorize!
- Cooking chicken doesn't have to be boring. Sweet Hawaiian Crockpot Chicken is tangy (from pineapple juice!) and tastes like a vacation.
- Looking for more delicious slow cooker recipes? Crock Pot Honey Garlic Pork Chops make a delicious weeknight meal everyone will crave.
🍽️ Serve with...
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes perfectly match the savory, sweet, spicy flavors of crockpot brown sugar chicken.
- Homemade Baguettes are perfect for scooping up every last drop of sweet flavor from your dinner plate.
- Old Fashioned Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is the perfect ending to a satisfying chicken dinner.
📞 The last word
This brown sugar chicken is memory making food. It's one of those recipes that family members look back on with a smile because it feeds the soul as well as the tummy.
Because it's so versatile I like to take it to potlucks - you can grab a giant bag of chicken thighs at Costco very inexpensively and just make a big batch. It's great for taking to families who are sick, sad, or celebrating - and they'll want the recipe, for sure.
Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and a salad - so simple but SO delicious!
Try this fiesta chicken next! Full of southwestern flavor!
If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card you can adjust the measurements up or down for the exact number of servings you need. Don't forget that you can click on "add to collection" to save it to your own, private recipe box!
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brown Sugar ChickenPrint Pin Recipe Save Recipe
- ¼ cup butter, divided use
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 pounds chicken breast, or thighs or chicken parts
- 2 cups onion, sliced
- 1 jalapeno, cleaned and sliced
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons garlic, or 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
I earn a commission from Instacart from qualifying purchases.
Optional Step - Caramelize Onions and Sear Chicken
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil in a skillet.
- Add the onions, and slowly saute, stirring often, until they are a rich, golden brown.
- Add the jalapeno and cook another minute or two.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over the chicken.
- Remove the onion mixture from the pan and add the chicken breasts, a few at a time.
- Sear just to put some color on each side.
In the Slow Cooker
- Add the remaining butter to the slow cooker and let it melt.
- Add the chicken and brown sugar.
- Stir to coat in the brown sugar.
- Add the onions, jalapeno, and chopped garlic (if using) on top.
- Cover and cook 8 hours on low.
In the Oven
- Add the brown sugar to to skillet with the chicken breast and stir to coat.
- Top with the onion mixture and fresh garlic if using.
- Add the skillet to the oven and bake 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken in 160°.
- Remove and let stand for 5 minutes. The internal temperature will continue to rise to a perfect 165°.
- Saute bacon with the onion
- Use pork instead of chicken
- Omit salt and use 2 tablespoons soy sauce for a more Asian flavor
- Add a red and green Bell pepper strips
- Add sliced carrots and/or celery
- Wrap the chicken in bacon before baking in the oven (this does not work with slow cooking!)
- A squeeze of lemon, orange, or lime over the top before serving really brightens it up!
- If you like it extra spicy add 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers.
- If the sauce is too liquidy you can uncover and cook for an extra 30 minutes to reduce the liquid OR, what I tend to do because I am impatient, pour off the sauce into a pan and simmer it until it's thickened then add it back to the chicken.
- If you are cooking in the oven put the whole skillet in a 375F oven. If your skillet is not oven safe then transfer the chicken to a greased baking dish. This is why I like to use a cast iron skillet - you can cook and bake in the same one!
- You'll want something to sop up the sauce. I love this easy baguette for doing just that!
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
First published April 3, 2020. Last updated April 29, 2023 for readability and better user experience.