Chinese Five Spice Soy Sauce Chicken Drumsticks

2 chicken drumsticks, plated with brown rice.

Chinese Five Spice Soy Sauce Chicken Drumsticks made in a slow cooker will save you so much time because it just takes a few minutes to prep and then you let the slow cooker do its thing. All you need to round out your meal is rice and a simple side dish of vegetables for a complete meal. This post was updated on October 10, 2023 with more information and a newish image.

Disclaimer: Please check that all ingredients are suitable for your allergies and be sure to ask your medical care team regarding any allergy related questions (I do not share medical advice). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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What is Chinese Five Spice Soy Sauce Chicken?

Soy Sauce Chicken is a well-known Cantonese dish. The chicken is gently braised until it’s tender and the five spice soy sauce braising sauce adds a lot of flavor. Traditionally, an entire chicken is braised in soy sauce with Chinese Five Spice. Chinese Five Spice is actually a blend of 5 to 13 different spices and which may include whole spices such as cinnamon, star anise, licorice, dill seeds, fennel seeds, black or white peppercorns, black cardamon, ginger, and more.

My dad taught me how to make a whole soy sauce chicken in a pot on a stove. I started making Five Spice Soy Sauce Chicken in a slow cooker for potlucks or dinner parties. Cooking in a slow cooker frees up my stove top space. And braising drumsticks is easier to cook evenly. And drumsticks are much easier to serve than chopping a whole cooked chicken (see my post about “Bok Cheet Gai” Slow Cooker Chinese White Cut Chicken).

I took this very simple photo back in 2014, when I started blogging. Check out the chicken drumstick on the right. See how the meat shrinks a little bit from the end (top) and you can see a little bit of the chicken bone? That’s how I can visually know that chicken drumsticks are done and ready to eat. Maybe using a meat thermometer would be more precise but that’s one more thing to wash…

Kid Approved

My children eat 5 Spice Soy Sauce Chicken Drumsticks with relish! They like that the chicken is very tender and falls off the bone. When I asked if I should cook it for a shorter amount of time, they protested and said that the tenderness is the best part. Be sure to serve this dish over rice with some favorite vegetables, such as sauteed baby bok choy or spinach.

Save the Braising Sauce

When you are packing up the leftovers, save the braising sauce also. The braising sauce is sometimes refered to as a master sauce. It’s often reused to make more soy sauce chicken or other braised dishes. Or the braising sauce is repurposed to make other dishes. Instead of seasoning a stir fry or a bowl of noodles with soy sauce, you can use the braising sauce that is soy sauce with protein, spices, and seasoning. It’s so delicious and resourceful.

If you are packing up your leftovers right after cooking and the braising sauce is still hot you can transfer the liquid to a clean glass jar. Add a half teaspoon of salt to help preserve the braising sauce and refrigerate when it’s cool enough. If in doubt, you can reheat the braising sauce so that it’s boiling hot first. Check on your braising sauce at least once a week. It can stay fresh for months but check on your braising sauce every 1 to 2 weeks.

To reuse the braising sauce (master sauce) for this recipe, transfer all of the braising sauce to your pot and you will need to refresh it with fresh ingredients (same amounts of green onions, ginger, and garlic), add about 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and start with 1/4 cup soy sauce and a little bit more if needed.

My Favorite Slow Cooker

I have purchased many slow cookers before and the one I love the most is an All-Clad slow cooker that I won in a contest. This All-Clad Deluxe 7-QT. Slow Cooker (affiliate) is a newer model of what I have. I love that it’s just the right size for a family, has a removable insert that you can brown on the stove top and then slow cook in the same pot.

It’s also notable that the metal insert is non-reactive and doesn’t absorb any cooking odors or flavors. When my husband and I were first married, I made a 40 clove garlic chicken in a slow cooker with a ceramic insert and every meal after that reeked of garlic. I even tried just slow cooking water and it tasted like garlic water.

Allergy Aware 5 Spice Chicken

Chinese 5 Spice: My dad taught me to use cinnamon (1 stick), nutmeg (1-2 pieces), licorice (1-2 pieces of dried licorice stems), star anise (3-4 pieces), cloves (a pinch of whole cloves), and dill seeds (a pinch of whole dill seeds) and a slice of fresh ginger. But I couldn’t be certain that the whole spices that I bought from the Asian market were free from nuts. The same brands that sell dried spices also sell packages of dried peanuts used for soups. I avoided or modified dishes calling for 5 spice until I learned about Spicely Chinese 5 Spice blend (affiliate). Spicely is a top allergen-free spice brand.

Brown sugar slabs: Chinese brown slab sugar are sold in a package that looks like a brick of brown sugar. I can’t find any allergen information but since it’s made from unrefined cane sugar, I just use it. I learned that brown sugar slabs are considered medicinal in Chinese Traditional Medicine! If you feel uncertain about the allergen safety, it is perfectly fine to use brown sugar instead.

Soy sauce: I use Kikkoman brand and like San-J as well. My current favorite brand of soy sauce is Koon Chun. See What’s in Nut Free Wok’s Cupboard? Allergy Aware Ingredients for more ideas.

This recipe is free from peanuts, tree-nuts, eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish, fish, and sesame as written.

The only top allergen in this recipe is soy. You can make soy-free soy sauce. Alternatively, try Instant Pot Beef Tongue and Soy-Free Soy Sauce 2.0 Recipe and using the braising liquid from that recipe.

Chinese 5 Spice Soy Sauce Chicken Drumsticks in a Slow Cooker Recipe

Chinese five spice soy sauce chicken drumsticks made in a slow cooker will save you so much time because it just takes a few minutes to prep and then you let the slow cooker do its thing. All you need to round out your meal is rice and a simple side dish of vegetables for a complete meal.

Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword 5 spice soy sauce chicken
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 275 kcal
Author Sharon Wong @ Nut Free Wok


  • 3-4 stalks scallions
  • 1 1-inch ginger approximately thumb sized
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 piece Chinese brown slab sugar pian tang or peen tong or substitute 1 packed tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice blend Spicely
  • 12 chicken drumsticks 2-3 trays (maximum 2 layers of chicken)
  • 1 cup soy sauce Kikkoman or San-J
  • 1 cup water


  1. Wash and trim scallions, tear in half, add to slow cooker.

  2. Wash, scrape off the ginger’s outer layer and slice, add to slow cooker.
  3. Add garlic, brown sugar, and Chinese 5 Spice powder.

  4. Arrange chicken drumsticks in 1-2 layers and add soy sauce and water.
  5. Cook on High for 4 hours for tender, fall off the bone chicken. If you are in a hurry, the chicken is cooked and safe to eat after 2.5 hours but it won't be as soft and tender.

  6. Depending on the size and shape of your slow cooker, the top layer of chicken might not braise in the sauce, so you can either serve the bottom pieces first OR rearrange the drumsticks about halfway through the cooking time.

Recipe Notes

Alternatively, you can cook this dish in a pot. Assemble in the same order, bring chicken to a boil and simmer for in a large covered pot for 30 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Calorie amount is an estimate and based on not eating the skin. 

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About Sharon Wong 282 Articles
Welcome to Nut Free Wok, a blog about Allergy Aware Asian Fare. I hope that you will find my food allergy mom experiences helpful and enjoyable to read as I write about recipes, cooking techniques, Asian ingredients, and food allergy related awareness and advocacy issues. My professional experiences include education, teaching, and a little bit of science and computers. Thank you for visiting! ~Sharon Wong, M.Ed.

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