Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (Dairy-free!)

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This Slow Cooker Butter Chicken is an easy one-pot meal that it bursting with flavor. I love how it cooks on its own so you can get something else done during the day!

slow cooker butter chicken

How to Cook Butter Chicken in a Slow Cooker

Inspired by my favorite Instant Pot Butter Chicken, this recipe is as easy and flavorful as possible. All you have to do to get started is sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Then you add it to the bowl of your slow cooker, along with the rest of the ingredients.

sauteed onions in pan and added to slow cooker

Chicken cooks surprisingly fast in a slow cooker, so it can be ready in less than 2 hours if you want to prepare this right after work, while you’re getting something else done around the house.

You can also let it simmer longer on low heat, if you want to prepare this over a lunch break and have dinner waiting for you when you get home from work. Either way, it’s easy and delicious!

raw and cooked chicken in slow cooker

What Makes this Recipe Healthy?

Traditional butter chicken recipes call for heavy cream and butter, so this version is made healthier by using canned coconut milk for dairy-free creaminess.

No butter or dairy is needed, but feel free to make substitutions based on what you have on hand. Cashew cream would work here, too!

cashew cream in a can and added to the tomato sauce

If you’d rather make a vegetarian version of this meal, you can use cooked chickpeas or canned jackfruit that has been rinsed really well. Since both of these options are already cooked, they can simmer in the sauce as long as you’d like them to, but I’d recommend at least 1 1/2 hours so that the flavors can develop.

How Long Does it Take Raw Chicken to Cook in a Slow Cooker?

Slow cooker timing can vary based on the size of your machine and how full it is. If the individual chicken breasts are under 2-inches thick and are not piled on top of each other, they will usually reach a safe internal temperature of 165ºF in about 3 hours on a low setting, or in 1 1/2 hours on a high setting.

meat thermometer in chicken and shredded on cutting board

Thicker chicken breasts will take longer to cook and thinner ones will cook faster, but one thing I’ve noticed about cooking chicken in a slow cooker is that it still remains tender, even if you over-cook it past the 165ºF temperature.

When I checked on my chicken after 3 hours in this photo, the chicken reached nearly 200ºF and was still very tender when I shredded it and added it back into the sauce.

shredded chicken in slow cooker and stirred into the sauce

If you’re not able to check on the Butter Chicken in your slow cooker right away, this recipe is pretty forgiving. Which is the whole point of using a slow cooker, right?

Serve the finished dish with cooked white rice, or cauliflower rice for a Paleo and grain-free dish, along with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

finished slow cooker butter chicken with white rice in a black bowl

slow cooker butter chicken
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5 from 6 votes

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

This Butter chicken cooks easily in your slow cooker, for a hands-off meal. I love that it's dairy-free and easy to prepare!
Course Main Course
Cuisine paleo
Keyword slow cooker butter chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 231kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger , minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less for a mild version)
  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt , plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (the solid part in a can of coconut milk)
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (no salt added)
  • fresh cilantro , for garnish

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then saute the onion until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and ginger, and stir briefly, just until fragrant. (About 1 minute.)
  • Transfer the sauteed onion, garlic, and ginger to the bottom of the slow cooker. Add in the tomato sauce, garam masala, cumin, and cayenne (if using), and stir well to combine the seasonigs. Place the chicken breasts on top of the sauce, and sprinkle the salt generously over the top of each chicken breast.
  • Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 3 to 6 hours, or on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF. Be sure to test each chicken breast with a thermometer to ensure it's thoroughly cooked.
  • Use tongs to transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board, and use two forks to shred it.
  • To the slow cooker, add in the coconut cream and tomato paste, and stir well until the sauce has thickened and no clumps remain. Add the chicken back into the sauce, and stir well. Adjust the seasoning to taste, adding more salt or some freshly ground black pepper to your liking.
  • Serve warm over rice, with fresh cilantro on top. Leftover cooked chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes

Chicken thighs will work equally as well in this recipe, if that's what you have on hand. They tend to stay more moist than chicken breasts, so they can withstand over-cooking if you need to leave this in your slow cooker longer.

Nutrition

Calories: 231kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 524mg | Potassium: 525mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 103IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition information is for 1/6 of this recipe, without any sides. This information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is just an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, use the labels on your ingredients at home.

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too! We can all benefit from your experience.

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite thing to cook in a slow cooker? Let me know if you have any requests!

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Comments

Gayle Nobel

This is more of a question. I haven’t made this but if I want to use double the amount of chicken do I double everything? Often, I’m not sure about this with some recipes.

    Megan Gilmore

    If you want the chicken to be as saucy as they are in my photos, then yes, I would double everything. If you don’t mind a less-saucy chicken, you could probably add extra chicken to this without the extra sauce ingredients. Let me know if you give it a try!

      Gayle Nobel

      thanks, actually, I didn’t get it together soon enough today so going to try making it in the instant pot… any tips appreciated though I’m getting ready to do it soon so might just have to wing it.

      Gayle nobel

      and now that I realize how much 1.5 pounds is, it will be plenty for leftovers. I’m vegetarian just making for my son and husband.

Trisha

Made this last night for dinner, and I’m so happy that I have leftovers to eat today! The sauce makes me want to lick my bowl clean. Definitely adding this into our regular rotation because it was so easy! I might try the Instant Pot version next.

Trish

Sooooo good! Husband approved and my daughter ate three bowls! I made it twice in one week. I did chicken and chickpeas. Another winner!!

Cari

What size slow cooker did you use to make this recipe?

Janet McMullin

Sooo delicious!! A definite keeper😋. Thank you Megan!

Laurie

So so so so good!!🤩
Made this on a whim last night. There was no garam masala at the local groovy store so I made my own using cumin and all spice. Came out delicioso!! And so easy
I am a fan, thank you!

Ashley

I made this last night and it is so delicious! Easy to make too. Best part is no one else in my house likes masala and spicy foods so it’s all for me! Served it over brown rice.

Katherine

So easy and delicious – I made this on the stove because my slow cooker gave up on me and it tasted amazeballs. Thanks Megan, I can always count on your recipes to be winners 🌟

ALC

Great recipe. Quick and easy, and such great flavor. My husband and kids aren’t usually big fans of my ‘healthy slow cooker’ dinners, but this was a huge hit with everyone! Will absolutely be making this again. Thank you!

Els

Lovely recipe, but I miss a suggestion of vegetables, I try to eat less meat, being in eating vegan once and awhile but also by reducing theamount of meat and increasing the amount of vegetables in one simple meal.

Pj

Could I use an insta pot instead?

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