Korean cuisine is exploding in popularity around the country. Where I live, Korean restaurants are popping up everywhere! I’ve been experimenting with Korean recipes for years, partly because our youngest son was born in South Korea. This recipe for slow cooker Korean BBQ chicken has all the elements that make Korean cuisine so popular. It’s a little spicy and a little sweet, with plenty of bold flavor from garlic, soy, and sesame. Korean spicy chicken is slow cooked to tender perfection, then slathered with homemade Korean BBQ sauce.
I like to make this Korean BBQ chicken recipe using chicken drumsticks, because they’re tasty, inexpensive, and easy to work with. I love chicken drumsticks, but only if they’re cooked long enough to tenderize them and cook out excess fat.
Undercooked drumsticks can be tough and fatty. That’s why cooking them in the Crock-Pot is perfect. After a few hours in the slow cooker, drumsticks are well done and tender. Then they go under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp the skin and develop a nice char.
If you prefer chicken thighs, you can use those in this recipe. Either bone-in or boneless thighs will work.
Gochujang, Korean chile paste
A distinctively Korean ingredient used in this recipe is gochujang, a Korean spicy fermented chile paste. Gochujang is spicy, but its flavor is complex. It has a distinctive umami flavor from fermented rice and soybeans. It’s a little like miso meets Chinese chile paste.
The brand of gochujang I use is Mother-In-Law’s gochujang. It’s available for a good price at my local grocery store. I usually stick with Mother-In-Law’s because I like the flavor profile and the heat level. You should use whatever brand you can get for a good price.
With the popularity of Korean cuisine, Korean ingredients are getting easier to find. If you can’t find gochujang at a grocery store or Asian market, you can order it from Amazon, Thrive Market, and other online sources.
Make sure you get original gochujang chile paste, not gochujang hot sauce or some other product.
Gochujang chile paste is thick, like tomato paste. You use just a little bit in most recipes. Gochujang chile paste is very hot on its own, but it becomes only moderately hot mixed with the other ingredients in the recipe. If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, start with half the amount in the recipe. If you like a bit of spice, use the full amount. It’s a moderately spicy recipe.
After it’s opened, store gochujang in the refrigerator. Gochujang will keep in the refrigerator for as long as two years.
Marinating the chicken
Start your slow cooker Korean BBQ chicken by patting dry 8 chicken drumsticks with paper towels. If you want more drumsticks, you could use as many as 12. There will be plenty of marinade and sauce.
Mix up the marinade ingredients in a bowl or jar. Place the drumsticks and the marinade in a large zipper-type plastic bag. Massage the bag so all the chicken pieces are coated with marinade. Place the bag inside a bowl or other container to prevent leaks, and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
If you want to avoid using plastic bags for environmental reasons, marinate the chicken in a glass bowl with a tight fitting lid.
Slow Cook 3-6 hours
When it’s time to cook your Korean spicy chicken, remove the drumsticks from the marinade with tongs.
Usually by this time the skin on some of the drumsticks will be falling down or bunched up. Pull up the skin and stretch it over the meat. It’s like a sock that has fallen down and needs to be pulled back up.
Place the drumsticks, skin side up, in your Crock-Pot or slow cooker. Optionally, you can use a slow cooker liner to make cleanup easier.
Cook the drumsticks in the slow cooker on high for 3 hours, or on low for 6 hours.
Make the Korean BBQ sauce
The homemade Korean BBQ sauce is my favorite part of this recipe. It’s sweet, spicy, salty, and addictive! It’s also super easy to make. I love this sauce so much, I’m planning to experiment with ways to use it on other meats, especially pork.
Place all the ingredients for the Korean BBQ sauce in a small saucepan. I have a Cuisinart 1-quart stainless steel saucepan I use for sauce making. It’s one of my favorite pans. It cleans up beautifully in the dishwasher. I’ve had it for more than 10 years, and it looks brand new.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. That’s it – you’ve made your own Korean BBQ sauce!
Brown chicken under the broiler
After slow cooking for 3-6 hours, your Korean BBQ chicken drumsticks will be tender, with the excess fat cooked away. The next step is to put the drumsticks under a broiler for a few minutes to crisp and brown the skin.
Preheat your broiler and position a rack near the top of the oven. Broil the drumsticks for 2-4 minutes, until they are just beginning to char.
Brush chicken with sauce and add garnish
Using a pastry brush, coat the chicken pieces with the sauce. This is when they really start to look appetizing!
Sprinkle the finished chicken pieces with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onion. Now, you’ve created a masterpiece!
Serve Korean BBQ chicken with Korean BBQ sauce on the side. I usually accompany this dish with cooked rice and a salad. Last time, I used an “Asian slaw” salad kit from the grocery store, and it was surprisingly good.
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this recipe. If you make it, be sure to leave a review!
If you like this recipe, be sure to check out some of FoodLove’s easy chicken drumstick recipes:
Or check out more slow cooker chicken recipes:
Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Chicken
- 2 pounds chicken drumsticks 8 drumsticks, patted dry with paper towels
For the marinade:
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons mirin rice wine or substitute cooking sherry
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 tablespoon ginger finely grated or minced
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons gochujang Korean fermented chili paste
- ½ teaspoon onion powder optional
For the Korean BBQ sauce:
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons gochujang Korean fermented chili paste
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 tablespoon Asian-style roasted sesame oil
- Pat the drumsticks dry with paper towels.
- Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.
- Place the marinade and chicken drumsticks together in a large resealable plastic bag. Massage the bag so the drumsticks are well coated with marinade.
- Place the bag in a bowl or other container to protect against leaks. Let the drumsticks marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Place a slow cooker liner in a large slow cooker (optional).
- Using tongs, remove the chicken from the marinade. Pull the chicken skin up over each drumstick. Stack drumsticks in the slow cooker skin side up. Discard the remaining marinade.
- Cook the drumsticks in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
- While the chicken is cooking, make the Korean BBQ sauce. Place all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Once the chicken is done to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, use tongs to carefully remove the chicken drumsticks from the crockpot.
- Place the drumsticks skin side up on a broiler pan. Broil for 2-4 minutes, until the
chicken is just beginning to char.
- Brush the drumsticks with Korean BBQ sauce. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.
- Optionally, you can make green onion curls using this method:
How To Make Green Onion Curls for Garnish
- Serve your Korean BBQ chicken drumsticks with Korean BBQ sauce on the side.
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