Slow Cooker Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

A lightened up version of an Indian food classic, you’ll love this slow cooker dairy-free butter chicken recipe made with coconut oil and coconut milk. It’s loaded with flavor and absolutely delicious served over cauliflower rice. Paleo, grain-free and dairy-free.

Dairy-free butter chicken in a white bowl served with cauliflower rice.

In case you haven’t noticed, we LOVE Indian food over here! I basically add curry to everything. Prime example = my curried shakshuka.

Anyhow, one of Isaac’s favorite Indian dishes is butter chicken. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a popular dish with chicken in a spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce (or gravy). I decided it would be fun to create an untraditional, lightened up version without butter (or cream) so this recipe is diary-free and vegan.

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

Dairy-free butter chicken in a white bowl served with cauliflower rice.

Don’t let the name fool ya, this butter chicken doesn’t have any butter. We’re using Nature’s Way Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil instead and it works like a charm. In traditional butter chicken recipes the chicken is marinated in a yogurt mixture, but I wanted this recipe to be 100% dairy-free so we’re using coconut milk and skipping the marinating process altogether. Don’t worry, cooking in slow cooker ensures the meat has plenty of time to soak up lots of flavor from the tomato sauce.

Dairy-free butter chicken with cauliflower rice served in two white bowls.

Nature’s Way Coconut Oil replaces the butter, but provides the same robust richness. It also works perfectly for sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger before placing everything in the slow cooker.

Dairy-free butter chicken with cauliflower rice served in two white bowls next to jar of coconut oil.

Although butter chicken isn’t traditionally cooked with veggies I took it upon myself to add green beans to my version. Not only do they add another texture and some volume, you’re also getting a pop of color and additional nutrients.

Lightened up dairy-free butter chicken in the slow cooker.

Isaac and I loved the way this dairy-free butter chicken turned out. Not only did the kitchen smell amazing while the chicken cooked away in the slow cooker, but we enjoyed this dish for dinner three nights in a row and each night was better than the next.

I loved having it over cauliflower rice with a heavy sprinkle of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. It was so delicious I almost didn’t miss the naan…. almost.

Dairy-free butter chicken with cauliflower rice served in two white bowls.

In terms of spice level this butter chicken isn’t super spicy, but there is a bit cayenne pepper. You can leave this out if you want a milder dish or add more for extra spice.

More Indian-Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy

If you make this slow cooker dairy-free butter chicken let me know how it turns out by leaving comment and star rating below. Your feedback is super helpful for the EBF team and other readers. 

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Butter chicken with cauliflower rice in a white dish.

Slow Cooker Dairy-Free Butter Chicken


  • Author: Brittany Mullins
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

A lightened up version of an Indian food classic, you’ll love this slow cooker dairy-free butter chicken recipe made with coconut oil and coconut milk. 


Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Nature’s Way Coconut Oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (chopped into chunks)
  • 15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups thawed frozen green beans (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Add oil to a large skillet or saucepan and cook onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. Serve over cauliflower rice (or regular rice) with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.
  • Category: Lunch/Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Indian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe
  • Calories: 304
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Sodium: 562mg
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 14g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 28g
  • Cholesterol: 83mg

Keywords: slow cooker butter chicken, dairy-free butter chicken

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Recipe rating

    94 comments
    1. Kate
      February 25, 2021 AT 9:27 am

      Seriously delicious! I can’t have dairy anymore and this is so creamy. It’s the perfect comfort food and it’s super yummy with paratha!!!!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 25, 2021 AT 5:55 pm

        Woo!! So glad this recipe was a hit. Thanks for the review, Kate. I so appreciate it!

    2. Jennifer
      February 17, 2021 AT 10:17 pm

      It’s me again with the same question….any idea what the serving size is beyond 1/8 of the recipe? I have this in my slow cooker now and it smells amazing!

      1. Jennifer
        February 18, 2021 AT 12:33 am

        This was delicious and easy to make! It will definitely become part of the dinner rotation!!

        1. Brittany Mullins
          February 18, 2021 AT 2:02 pm

          Woo!! So glad you loved this recipe, Jennifer. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it!

    3. Katie
      January 31, 2021 AT 10:02 am

      We make this recipe ALL the time for lunch meal prep so this review has been long overdue for us. This recipe is so easy. VERY tasty. We make a bulk batch of the spices to have on hand that way it’s super duper easy to throw together whenever the time is right to make it up for lunches again. I personally always pair it with a side of brown rice, broccoli, and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the broccoli and rice – freshens it right up so even on day 5 of lunches it’s still great. 10/10!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 1, 2021 AT 12:51 am

        Ahh yay, that makes me so happy to hear!! I’m glad this recipe has been a hit. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review, Katie. I so appreciate it. 🙂

    4. Jen
      January 22, 2021 AT 8:00 am

      So good and really easy to make! It makes a solid amount and the flavor gets even better on day 2 and 3.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 24, 2021 AT 8:38 pm

        So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Jen! Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it!

    5. Liam
      December 23, 2020 AT 4:29 pm

      This recipe is absolutely wonderful. It is so simple and makes my kitchen smell heavenly. I’ve made it twice now and find it satisfies my craving for authentic butter chicken. I love Indian food so much, but I just cannot tolerate the dairy anymore. Will definitely be looking into some of your other recipes.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        December 29, 2020 AT 2:45 am

        Ahh yay!! So glad this recipe was a hit. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it. 🙂

    6. Carmen
      December 16, 2020 AT 9:30 am

      I have a little one that has a ton of food allergies, so I originally made it so she could eat the same as the rest of the family. And it has become a regular in our menu rotation. My oldest actually exclaimed, “finally you are making this again!” Thanks so much for an easy dairy free recipie loved by my entire family!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        December 17, 2020 AT 7:26 pm

        Ahh yay, that makes me so happy to hear! I’m so glad this recipe was a hit! Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it!

    7. Judi
      December 3, 2020 AT 12:31 pm

      What does “really clean Indian cuisine.” mean?

    8. Anmol Barbecue Restaurant Near Chicago
      November 2, 2020 AT 11:06 am

      I’m going to have to try this, it looks so delicious.

    9. Katherine
      October 26, 2020 AT 9:29 pm

      So delicious!

    10. SG
      October 13, 2020 AT 10:37 pm

      Where do I even begin with how offensive this recipe is? Speaking as an Indian – this is beyond unacceptable. Not the fact that the substitutions are vegan, but that you’ve labeled Indian food as “heavy” and “not clean” because it uses some butter and yogurt. Please update your description, it’s outdated, offensive, and a classic example of how a Caucasian person brands ethnic cuisines as unhealthy and subsequently ~makes it better~. Very much reminds me of Lucky Lee’s in NYC and the controversy behind that.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 14, 2020 AT 7:30 pm

        Hi SG. Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it. I am in no way trying to be offensive with this recipe, so I am truly sorry if it offended you. I did remove the mention of Indian food being heavy from this post, but I never said that Indian food wasn’t clean. This recipe was inspired by my love for Indian food and trying to create a version that is accessible to people with dietary restrictions or who cannot have dairy. I always do search engine research and base the descriptions on SEO terms and specific keywords so my recipe can easily be found when people are searching on Google. I hope that helps explain a bit more into why I’m calling it a lightened up version.

    11. Celia De Boer
      October 9, 2020 AT 9:02 am

      Love, love, love this recipe. So simple and delicious, the whole family loved it. I made it quite some time ago now, and I no-longer have a slow cooker. Has anyone tried this on a stove top at all? I’m not sure how to go about it.

    12. Judy
      September 23, 2020 AT 7:01 am

      Thanks for this recipe. I am newly dairy free and I needed a new recipe without yogurt. I have a hard time eating garlic so I used some garlic infused oilive oil to the coconut oil and it worked. Due to kids who don’t like things spicy, I reduced the chili to a half tsp and left out cayenne. This was just right for us. My only complaint was it was quite liquidy. Any suggestions to thicken it? Thanks!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        September 23, 2020 AT 3:41 pm

        I’m glad this recipe was a hit with your family, Judy! You could try adding some arrowroot powder or cornstarch to the liquid to thicken it up a bit if you’d didn’t like how liquidy it was. 🙂

    13. Stefanie
      August 29, 2020 AT 9:30 pm

      So I finally made this today and it was amazing and so delicious. Wow!! As per recipe made it with no butter or crème, I bet no one would even know (unless I informed). I skipped the Cayenne and the flavor was on point. My son is not able to tolerate dairy and so this recipe was perfect. He absolutely loved the dish and flavor. Will definitely make again and pass on recipe. Thanks!!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 30, 2020 AT 7:23 pm

        Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Stefanie. I’m so glad this recipe was a hit with your family. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. The reviews are super helpful for other readers, so I appreciate it. <3

    14. Kate
      August 29, 2020 AT 8:05 pm

      Hello! Can this be made ahead for freezer meals? If so, would you omit anything before you freeze?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 30, 2020 AT 7:25 pm

        Hey Kate – I actually haven’t tried freezing this recipe, but it should freeze just fine if stored in an airtight bag or container. You shouldn’t have to remove anything from the recipe to freeze it. 🙂

    15. Lawrie
      August 16, 2020 AT 3:35 pm

      My wife made this meal for dinner tonight as she is going dairy free, it was delicious and you would not know that it had no butter or cream in it, we are going to be looking for more of your dairy free recipes. Thank You Brittany.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 17, 2020 AT 3:20 pm

        Yay! So glad this recipe was a hit, Lawrie. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it. 🙂

    16. Leah
      July 31, 2020 AT 8:33 pm

      I made this tonight and it turned out so good! Everything melts in your mouth and tastes like heaven.

      I was missing a few items, so I made a couple substitutions, but it still turned out fantastic! I subbed the coconut oil with vegan margarine, the ground cinnamon with ground nutmeg, and the coconut milk with coconut cream (liquid in can included). I can’t eat tomatoes so I subbed the tomato sauce with a can of carrots, blended in a food processor, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of basil, and a pinch of salt. I also left out the cayenne pepper.

      I can’t wait to make this again! It tasted so dang good.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 3, 2020 AT 12:47 am

        So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Leah! Thanks so much for sharing the subs you made. It’s super helpful for other readers, so I appreciate it. 🙂

    17. Emily McKeown
      July 3, 2020 AT 12:15 pm

      Could I make this in the oven as well? What temp is the slow cooker on?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        July 3, 2020 AT 12:34 pm

        I think it would work better on the stove top than the oven. The slow cooker should be set to high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.

    18. Aisha
      May 28, 2020 AT 5:28 am

      This was really yummy however didn’t taste like tradition butter chicken to me as it wasn’t sweet enough.i only had coconut cream so added a bit of water to the cream to make up the milk. It also wasn’t as vibrant in colour as your pictures more brown not sure if it was because of the garam masala I used.

    19. Jan loan
      May 11, 2020 AT 3:51 am

      this looks so delicious I’m going to cook it tonight. Thankyou.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 12, 2020 AT 9:05 pm

        Let me know what you think of it, Jan!! 🙂

    20. Lynn
      April 25, 2020 AT 8:55 pm

      My Lovie LOVES butter chicken. I loved the simplicity of this recipe. It freed me up to make some homemade hummus and naan (for the first time). Blew him away! Thanks!!

    21. Claire Rockliffe-Fidler
      March 8, 2020 AT 1:19 pm

      Love, love, love this. My first curry from scratch ever and it is amazing! Thank you! 👏

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 9, 2020 AT 4:39 pm

        Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Claire!! I’m so glad you tried my recipe and enjoyed it. Thanks for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. I really appreciate it. <3

    22. Phil in Seattle
      February 28, 2020 AT 1:30 pm

      So I finally made this yesterday and just WOW!! It was amazing, no hyperbole. I have to avoid dairy because my kid is allergic to dairy (and eggs and nuts) but I love Indian cuisine and she likes the little she’s tried (Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala which she tried and tolerated but hasn’t tried since due to it containing some nut ingredient) so I have constantly been searching for and trying different recipes.

      This recipe is not only very easy to make but turned out terrific even the first time. It has that butter chicken flavor that I’ve gotten accustomed to from my favorite Indian restaurants and actually it is quite similar in taste to Trader Joe’s Butter Chicken (frozen dinner), which I like. I skipped the Cayenne and the flavor and heat was perfect for the family. Kids liked it and adults loved it.

      Not a hint of coconut odor/taste like a Thai curry, which was my greatest worry about it. I did double the recipe after reading some comments but the recipe as written is probably enough for family of four meal, but I like my 5L slow cooker to have enough volume inside and now I have leftovers for another meal.

      Anyway, THANK YOU so much for making and sharing your awesome recipe, IT ROCKS!! Hopefully someday you can try developing a dairy-free chicken tikka masala recipe too, or dairy-free anything actually! 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 28, 2020 AT 2:22 pm

        Ahh this makes me so happy to read, Phil!! 🙂 I’m so glad you found my recipe and that it was a hit. And I actually do have this vegan tikka masala recipe on the blog. You can totally sub in chicken for the tempeh if you want. I hope you enjoy that recipe as well! Thanks for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. The comments are super helpful to other EBF readers, so I appreciate it.

        1. Cookin’ in Seattle
          July 6, 2020 AT 7:19 am

          Thanks for the suggestion! I did try your Tikka Masala recipe (subbing in chicken for tempeh as suggested) and hate to admit that we didn’t love it quite as much as the butter chicken (which is now a staple in our dinner rotation!).

          I think the spices were too mild? I noticed how much less spices are used (1/4 tsp tumeric, tsp of chili powder, tsp of garam masala versus tbsp of garam masala, tbsp of cumin, 2 tsp tumeric, etc.) compared to the butter chicken recipe) which is possibly why? It was good too though but hoping you’ll update the recipe someday as we would love the 1-2 punch of tikka masala and butter chicken!

          Regardless, we are grateful for your recipes and website and please know what a difference your recipes and efforts have made in the lives of people who want to follow a more plant-based diet for health or medical reasons (like my kid with numerous food allergies), we appreciate you!!

          1. Brittany Mullins
            July 6, 2020 AT 7:42 pm

            Thanks for sharing – I might have to test a dairy-free chicken tikka masala then!! 🙂 It probably needs some more spice added. I’m so glad you and your family are loving the recipes, that makes me so happy to hear!

    23. Heather
      February 5, 2020 AT 11:27 am

      I may be missing something but does the chicken go in raw, or cooked? It doesn’t seem to say.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 5, 2020 AT 2:32 pm

        Good question! The chicken goes in raw. Can’t wait to hear what you think of this recipe.

    24. Brennan Patton
      January 24, 2020 AT 2:50 pm

      This is by far my favorite slow cooker recipe! It’s so easy and so much flavor! My boyfriend wants it for dinner once a week!
      Thanks so much for this amazing recipe!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 25, 2020 AT 12:28 am

        Yay!! That makes me so happy to hear, Brennan. 🙂 Thanks for coming back to leave a comment and star rating, it means the world to me!

    25. Tina
      January 21, 2020 AT 9:04 pm

      Good recipe! I followed everything, omitted the cayenne as I don’t like spicy dishes. It was still great! I would make this again 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 22, 2020 AT 3:08 pm

        Yay!! So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Tina! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment + star rating. It means the world to me. 🙂

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