Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
Published Jan 25, 2022, Updated Dec 26, 2022
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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.
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.
- 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!
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.
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.
More Indian-Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Tempeh Tikka Masala
- Mattar Tofu
- Curried Tempeh Salad
- Coconut Curried Eggplant
- Easy Channa Masala
- Mango Curry Trail Mix
- Chicken Curry With Vegetables
More Slow Cooker Recipes to Try
- Chicken Wild Rice Soup
- Chicken Fajita Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- Teriyaki Chicken
- Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Casserole
- Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve butter chicken over cauliflower rice (or regular rice) with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.
- 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 information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.