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, which isn’t the healthiest of options when it comes to Indian food. Honestly, most Indian food can feel kind of heavy, with rich sauces, lots of rice and naan. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this and enjoy it very much when we go out for Indian, but I also like being able to make and enjoy a lighter version at home on the regular.

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

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

With that in mind I set out to make an at-home version of butter chicken with really clean ingredients.

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.

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

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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    75 comments
  1. 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!

    • 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. 🙂

  2. 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!!

    • 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

    • 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. 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!

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

    • 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

  8. 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! 🙂

    • 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.

      • 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!!

        • 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!

  9. 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!

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

  11. Delicious and flavorful! I followed Mandy’s instant pot directions and it turned out perfectly! Added the green beans at the end and put on sauté for a few minutes.

  12. Brittany,
    This was absolutely delicious! The only thing i can say is that i am making it again tbis week but I’m quadrupling it. I served it over Basami Rice. This recipe results in a very small amount. Truly not enough for sharing! LOL!
    ❤❤❤

    • Haha quadrupling it is a good idea!! I’m so glad you love this recipe, Lisa. Thank you for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. The ratings are super helpful to other readers, so I appreciate it. <3

  13. Truly wonderful!
    My kids even love it and they do not know it’s dairy free compared to how are used to make it .
    The coconut oil gives it a little bit of a tie flare in taste. I use avocado oil to sauté everything in the beginning, just for a different plant based fat ( Plus it tastes more neutral than the coconut ).
    THANK YOU!

    • I’m so glad you and your kids enjoyed this recipe, Jennifer! And thank you for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. The ratings are super helpful to other readers, so I appreciate it. <3

  14. Hello,

    I can’t get hold of a tomato sauce like that one here. Would it be possible to substitute for tomato paste? and if so, should i use less seeing as its more concentrated? thank you!

  15. How much of this should you eat to keep with the diet? Like one cup of it or a different measurement? I don’t want to eat too much

  16. This recipe is amazing! I was lazy and used garlic, onion and ginger powder instead of the real thing. Just threw everything in the slowcooker and done! So yum.

  17. I made this over the weekend and it was delicious! I didn’t do it in the slow cooker as was short on time so I’m sure it could have been even nicer!

  18. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe! I made it in the slow cooker for 3.5 hours on high, and substituted the chicken breasts with chicken thighs.

  19. Made this today for a comforting Sunday dinner. Turned out incredible!! Thank you so much for this recipe. Tweaked the recipe ever so slightly. I added cayenne powder and about a tsp. of ground cardamom. I also added a decent size handful of fresh cilantro with everything in the crockpot, not at the end. Delicious!!

  20. Hi, This looks delicious. However, I cannot use coconut milk. It makes me nauseous. I drink Cashew milk and use that in recipes. Would that work in this? I love Butter Chicken but almost every recipe calls for coconut milk (I guess because it is an Indian dish). Any suggestions?

  21. I made this in the instant pot and thought I’d share my adaptation-

    Step one- I did everything the same except I sauteed in the instant pot on high
    Step 2- I added the tomato sauce and let that reduce/thicken for about 5-7 minutes, then stirred in the coconut milk and added the chicken
    – I then put the lid on the pot and set to high pressure for 10 minutes
    – When the timer went off I manually released the pressure
    – I then finished the dish with the lemon juice
    I forgot the cinnamon stick, but it was still delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  22. This was phenomenal!!! Literally tasted exactly like the real thing if not better and so much healthier. Can’t wait for your E-Book!

  23. Thanks for the recipe. My daughter has a dairy allergy so this is wonderful. It’s always nice when she can try different ethnic foods.

  24. This was simply delicious and had the whole family wanting more! My toddler can’t do dairy, nut or gluten therefore this dish was perfect for him. My 8 year old had seconds and thirds, we’ll my husband and I did too 🙂 Instead of adding green beans into the butter chicken, I sauteed them with olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper and served it as a side dish. Thank you for this recipe! Can’t wait to have people over, to make this intoxicating dish again and again.

  25. We love Lehja….we usually eat there 2-3 time a month. I would love to figure out how to make their Crab-Scallop “MelJol”. We also love their House Kabab Medley.

  26. Just curious what a can of tomato sauce is ? Just like a can of crushed tomatoes or something thicker like paste ?

      • Please let us know when you get a chance to try it in an instapot or other pressure cooker, as I am during to try this!

    • Hi Ylva! I have a programmable slow cooker from Hamilton Beach that I love. It awesome because you can set the cook time and then have it automatically switch to the “keep warm” setting. You can also sear/sauté in the removable base of the pot, which is so convenient for soups. Here’s the one I have: http://bit.ly/2dWfmqd

  27. This recipe is fantastic! I followed it as written but also added a head of chopped kale along with the green beans. My batch did not need 6 hours on low–more like 4.5 to 5–I believe because the chicken was cut up into pieces and with the ease of using frozen green beans. Along with the cauliflower rice, it is satisfying but light. Will definitely make it again.

    • Hi Angela! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this recipe and I so appreciate you taking the time to come back and leave this comment as well. I love your addition of chopped kale. I’m all about adding extra leafy greens to everything!

  28. I followed this recipe exactly and it was perfect! It tastes very similar to butter chicken, and the coconut milk and cauliflower rice substitutes prevent the dish from feeling heavy; no bloating feeling here! The creator of this recipe is a genius! Sorry, my computer glitched! That was meant to be a 5 star!!

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