Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

DF GF LC

This slow cooker dairy-free butter chicken is a lightened-up take on a classic Indian dish. Chicken breasts are cooked to juicy perfection in a creamy coconut milk and tomato sauce that’s packed with flavor.

In case you haven’t noticed, we LOVE Indian food over here! I basically add curry to everything. Prime example = my curried shakshuka. One of Isaac’s favorite Indian dishes is butter chicken so I took a stab at an EBF version and it’s so delicious! This is now on regular rotation in our house.

A birds eye view of a bowl containing half rice and half butter chicken.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken is a traditional Indian dish made with chicken in a spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce. The butter and cream cut a lot of the spice so it’s a wonderfully balanced dish! I decided it would be fun to create an untraditional, lightened up version so my recipe doesn’t include butter or cream.

In traditional butter chicken recipes, the chicken is marinated in a yogurt mixture. I wanted this recipe to be 100% dairy-free so we’re using the coconut milk and skipping the marinating process altogether. Don’t worry, slow cooking ensures the meat has plenty of time to soak up lots of flavor from the spiced tomato sauce!

Side note: we have an awesome Indian restaurant in Richmond called Lehja that makes really delicious Indian cuisine. They’ll even make things dairy-free if you request it.  

Ingredients measured out to make butter chicken: coconut milk, frozen green beans, cinnamon, garam masala, tomato sauce, cilantro, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic, onion, ginger, lemon juice, coconut oil, chicken breast.

Ingredients Needed

  • coconut oil – in place of the butter, we’re using coconut oil and it works like a charm! It provides the same robust richness as butter and works perfectly for sautéing.
  • yellow onion, garlic and fresh ginger – create a wonderful savory base for the recipe. You’ll start by sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger in the coconut oil before adding to the slow cooker!
  • spices – turmeric, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper. Even though there are a ton of spices in this dish, it isn’t necessarily spicy. If you don’t want it to be spicy at all, simply omit the cayenne powder.
  • chicken breasts – boneless, skinless, chopped into chunks.
  • full fat coconut milk – instead of using heavy cream we’re using coconut milk in the sauce. I recommend using canned, full fat coconut milk as opposed to coconut milk you find in a carton. Full fat canned coconut milk is thick and creamy and perfect for the base of this recipe.
  • tomato sauce – canned tomato sauce is the other main liquid base of this recipe. It’ll transform with all of the spices you add to the dish.
  • lemon juice – this might sound like a funny addition but lemon juice cuts through the rich flavors and brightens the dish.
  • green beans – not in traditional butter chicken and completely optional but I love the added veggies! I used frozen green beans and thawed them before adding to the dish. They add another texture and volume to the final product but you also get a pop of color and additional nutrients!
  • cilantro – I love serving this dish with fresh cilantro. Fresh herbs pack so much flavor!
Collage of four photos showing the steps to make slow cooker butter chicken: sautéing onions in a slow cooker, adding spices to the onions, mixing the spices with the onions, and then adding the cinnamon stick, coconut milk, tomato sauce, chicken and green beans.

How to Make Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

Before adding everything to the slow cooker, you’ll sauté a few ingredients! Add oil to a large skillet and cook the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the fresh ginger, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne and toss to combine. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. This roasts the spices a little bit and builds a deep, rich flavor which is perfect for the base of this recipe!

Transfer the onion mixture into your slow cooker and add the chicken, coconut milk, tomato sauce, lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add the thawed green beans when there’s about 1 hour left in the cooking process. Serve butter chicken over cauliflower rice (or regular rice) with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.

pro tip!
If you prefer a thicker sauce, whisk together 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot power with 2 Tablespoons water and add it to the slow cooker right before adding the green beans.
A birds eye view of a bowl of butter chicken. Half the bowl has rice.

How to Serve Butter Chicken

I recommend serving this butter chicken over cauliflower rice with a heavy sprinkle of chopped cilantro, but it would be delicious with more traditional sides like basmati rice and naan. Here’s a homemade naan bread recipe if you’re looking for one. If you skip the green beans and are looking for a vegetable side dish to serve, this roasted broccoli or spinach salad would be delicious additions.

How to Store Leftovers

Want to know the best thing about this recipe? It gets better with time. We enjoyed this dish for dinner three nights in a row and each night was better than the previous. It stores so well! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you’re looking for longer storage, let the chicken cool completely and store in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, take the chicken out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw the night before you’re wanting to eat it.

A birds eye view of two bowls of butter chicken. Each bowl has half rice, half butter chicken.

More Indian-Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy

More Slow Cooker Recipes to Try

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

4 from 118 votes
This slow cooker dairy-free butter chicken is a lightened-up take on a classic Indian dish. Chicken breasts are cooked to juicy perfection in a creamy coconut milk and tomato sauce that's packed with flavor.
A birds eye view of a bowl containing half rice and half butter chicken.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne, optional
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into chunks
  • 1 15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups thawed frozen or fresh green beans, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions
 

  • Add oil to a large skillet or saucepan and cook onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
    Garlic and onion sautéing in oil in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  • Add fresh ginger, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne and toss to combine. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. This step can be done in the base of your slow cooker if it allows.
    Spices mixed together with onions and garlic in a slow cooker.
  • Transfer onion and garlic mixture into your slow cooker. Add chicken, coconut milk, tomato sauce, lemon juice and cinnamon stick to the slow cooker as well.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add green beans when there's about 1 hour left in the cooking process.
    Fresh green beans have just been added to a slow cooker containing butter chicken.
  • Serve butter chicken over cauliflower rice (or regular rice) with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.

Notes

  • Thicker sauce: If you prefer your sauce thicker, whisk together 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder with 2 Tablespoons water and add it to the slow cooker right before adding the green beans.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 360kcal Carbohydrates: 16g Protein: 35g Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 19g Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Sodium: 761mg Potassium: 197mg Fiber: 3g Sugar: 5g
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dairy-free butter chicken

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    133 comments
    1. Joanne P
      May 18, 2022 AT 11:02 am

      5 stars
      Cooked this yesterday and it was delicious. I was worried about the consistency when it was in the slow cooker, but once it cooled down a bit, the sauce thickened and there was no need to add cornstarch.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 18, 2022 AT 6:11 pm

        Woo! So glad to hear that, Joanne. Glad this recipe was a hit. Thank you for sharing your review.

    2. Katianne B
      March 14, 2022 AT 6:11 pm

      5 stars
      This was absolutely delicious. It was super easy.I use broccoli instead of green beans because it was what I had. I also used jasmine rice. It was so good, but everything I have ever had from this site has been incredible and repeated several times.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 15, 2022 AT 8:56 am

        Yay! I’m so happy to hear that, Katianne, and I appreciate you sharing your swaps, it helps to inspire other readers. Thank you for coming back to leave a review and star rating, I really appreciate it!

    3. Amber
      March 12, 2022 AT 12:49 pm

      5 stars
      This is amazing! I recently found out I had allergies to a bunch of stuff and I have been struggling to find things that I can eat, that also taste good. This is a winner. I’ve been making it once a week and the kids and hubby love it as much as I do. Thank you!!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 14, 2022 AT 9:18 am

        Woo! I’m thrilled to hear this recipe is a hit for you, Amber! I appreciate you coming back to leave a review, it means the world to me.

    4. Jenny
      March 7, 2022 AT 7:42 pm

      I loves this and thought the flavor was delicious. But, I couldn’t get it to thicken, even with extra arrowroot—any suggestions?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 9, 2022 AT 8:24 am

        Hi, Jenny. The sauce isn’t supposed to get super thick for our version of this recipe. Though, I think traditionally it is thicker.

    5. Ali Gregro
      February 15, 2022 AT 6:35 pm

      Absolutely amazing! I served to my family (hubby, kids ages 9,12,14) and everyone devoured it! I followed the recipe except skipped cayenne pepper. Served with instapot long brown rice, warmed naan bread, and steamed green beans. Will be a regular for us! Flavorful but not too spicy and perfect for my son who cannot have dairy.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 16, 2022 AT 9:42 am

        Woo! I’m so glad to hear this recipe was a hit with your family, Ali! Thanks for making it and coming back to leave a review.

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