Try making creamy and rich slow cooker butter chicken. This slow cooker curry is inspired by the famous Indian dish, butter chicken (Murgh Makhani). This post was originally shared on January 30, 2014 and updated on October 12, 2020.
One of our favourite things to order for takeout is Indian. We’re pretty lucky here in Toronto because there are fabulous Indian restaurants but out favourite is The Copper Chimney which we have been ordering from for at least ten years.
We have a pretty standard order that always includes butter chicken, chana masala and chicken vindaloo. I find the flavours of Indian cuisine incredibly inspiring so I wanted to try my hand at making butter chicken at home.
Where can I learn more about Indian cuisine?
Madhur Jaffrey is one of my favourite authors for delicious Indian recipes. And I highly recommend her cookbooks if you are looking to cook and learn more about Indian cuisine.
As with all recipes, it starts out with some research. This dish was created in 1947 by the founders of Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India and didn’t become known as “butter chicken” until 1975. (You can learn more about the history of butter chicken here).
Butter chicken is not typically made in a slow cooker, it’s cooked in a tandoor (traditional clay oven).
I love this recipe for butter chicken from Little Spice Jar. My version was inspired by the slow cooker butter chicken from the New York Times.
Should I brown the chicken before adding to the slow cooker?
I’ve made this recipe many times using both methods. I’ve browned the chicken and onions, which is delicious, but I find that it’s not completely necessary for this dish.
Like many of my favourite slow cooker recipes (like my slow cooker meatballs), butter chicken is the kind of dish that adapts well to this cooking preparation–tender pieces of meat that are simmered in a rich sauce.
To create the sauce for this version of slow cooker butter chicken I use coconut milk, yogurt and tomato paste.
The tomato paste gives the dish its signature colour and I love the sweetness that the coconut milk adds to the finished dish.
I was inspired to use coconut milk from the NYT recipe, though through my research I found that using cream is more typical.
This dish takes about six hours to cook and then I finish it off with a little bit of sugar (the same way you would in a tomato sauce).
I also stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter at the end to add to the richness of the sauce, but this is optional.
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp butter, optional
- Add chicken and onion to slow cooker insert.
- In a medium bowl, whisk coconut milk with yogurt, tomato paste , garlic, garam masala, curry powder, ginger, turmeric and salt. Pour mixture over top of chicken and onions and cook for 5-6 hours over low.
- Turn slow cooker off and stir in sugar and butter, if using.