If you need a family dinner recipe that will leave everyone scraping their plates clean, introduce your loved ones to Slow Cooker Butter Chicken. A standout recipe that stems from hearty Indian cuisine, this variation will leave you amazed with both the flavors and the simplicity of cooking.
Of all of the slow cooker chicken recipes on my site, I might just love this Slow Cooker Butter Chicken recipe the most. It’s such a simple process to put it together in the morning (or even the day before) and it turns out delicious every time.
There’s a reason this is a staple in our house – everyone loves it! I often make a double batch and the leftovers disappear for lunch the next day.
All About Butter Chicken
Butter chicken is a mix of creamy tomato-based sauce and tender chicken bites simmered together with garlic, onion, and spices common to Indian curries such as turmeric and ginger. And of course, don’t forget the butter! With mild curry flavors, this is a great dish for anyone who has never tried Indian food before.
This dish originated from Northern India – specifically Delhi – and there are many origin stories arguing to whom the first recipe can be attributed. It supposedly came together in a Delhi restaurant in an attempt to repurpose leftovers for a large influx of visitors. Isn’t that how most good recipes come about?
According to Condé Nast Traveller, “Delhi is the undisputed land of butter chicken,” but the popularity has spread throughout the world. On restaurant menus, you might find the traditional Hindi name “murgh makhani” which is globally recognized as butter chicken. However, depending on the region or recipe influences, you might find a slightly different range of spices.
Essential Ingredients For Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
Once you start venturing into recipes inspired by traditional Indian flavors and spices, you’ll have the ingredients on hand to spin off new variations and introduce new family favorites.
This slow cooker combination is my take on a classic recipe with the spices and flavors that my family prefers. Feel free to adjust the seasonings on this easy butter chicken to make it your own!
For a simple, family-friendly variation of this traditional dish, you’ll need:
- Chicken – Use boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces. You can also swap boneless skinless chicken thighs for similar results.
- Seasonings – This dish is not spicy which makes it perfect for a family dinner. Combine curry powder, salt, turmeric, and ground ginger.
- Onion – Dice about ½ of a yellow onion for a bit of sweetness and fragrance.
- Garlic – Use jarred minced garlic for convenience.
- Red curry paste – This is a staple ingredient to bring Indian-inspired flavors to your cooking.
- Coconut milk – A can of coconut milk brings a rich creaminess to the sauce.
- Tomato paste – A can of tomato paste will thicken the sauce and bring a slight acidity.
- Butter – The quintessential ingredient of butter chicken!
And near the end, you’ll need:
- Heavy cream – Bringing the luxury to the recipe!
- Basmati Rice – Basmati is the traditional side for butter chicken, but you could also use another long-grain rice.
If you’d like some extra spice, add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. To make a vegetarian version, you can swap out the chicken for chickpeas. To make this dairy-free, you can leave out the heavy cream and butter (It will still be delicious!).
How To Make Butter Chicken In The Slow Cooker
Start by dicing the yellow onion and slicing the chicken breasts into bite-size pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Next, add all ingredients – except the heavy cream and the rice – into the slow cooker. Stir to combine thoroughly – coating all the chicken pieces in the sauce.
Place the cover on the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
After the chicken is cooked, stir in the heavy cream and place the lid back on to let it heat through while you make the rice.
Cook the basmati rice according to package directions (or check out an easy Instant Pot method here). Serve a plate of rice topped with creamy butter chicken and a side of naan if desired.
What To Serve With Butter Chicken
Many foodies and restaurants have tried to serve butter chicken in new and inventive ways, but the classic plating seems to be the most popular. Practically anywhere you go, you’ll find butter chicken dished next to airy basmati rice. Naan is also frequently served on the side to dip in the butter chicken sauce.
With most Indian dishes, a tangy or acidic flavor is often a great compliment to the spices of curries and sauces. Try serving a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing or a fresh vegetable side like Cucumber Tomato Salad with Mozzarella.
A side vegetable like Slow Cooker Carrots with Herbed Honey Butter Sauce could add a little sweetness to contrast the tomato-y butter sauce. Roasted cauliflower is another healthy option!
Store and Reheating
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken stores very well for amazing leftovers. I love a good dish that can be packaged and served the next day just as delicious as when it was first served. If you like to pack your lunches, you could easily portion out the rice and chicken to prep several servings.
Store your leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also divide the chicken into individual servings and freeze for up to 3 months.
Did you know that you can also freeze cooked rice for up to 3 months? This is a lesser-known kitchen trick that can help you prepare in advance even more. Just seal individual servings in freezer-safe bags or containers and remove as much air as possible.
When reheating, allow frozen foods time to defrost in the fridge first. Then, warm up in the microwave or in a skillet or saucepan on the stove.
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken FAQs
- Can I use chicken thighs instead of breasts? Yes, boneless skinless chicken thighs can be a great substitute to use instead of chicken breasts.
- Why is my butter chicken not thick? If the sauce for the chicken is not thick enough, it may be due to too much water content coming from the chicken. You can thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water).
- What is a substitute for cream in butter chicken? If you’d like to swap the heavy cream for something else, you can use half and half. Or, to keep this dairy-free altogether, simply omit the cream (and the butter).
- Can I prepare this dish ahead of time? This recipe is so versatile since it can be prepped ahead as a freezer meal OR it can be cooked and frozen in individual portions to reheat later. You can also combine the ingredients (except the cream and rice) and store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours prior to cooking. A perfect dish for meal prepping!
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
- Slow Cooker
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 sweet yellow onion diced
- 3 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 14.5 oz can coconut milk
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream for later
- 2 cups Basmati Rice
- Dice onion and slice chicken into bite-sized pieces
- Add all ingredients except cream and rice into slow cooker and stir to combine
- Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8
- Stir in heavy cream and replace cover to let it heat through while you make the rice
- Cook rice according to package directions
- Serve rice topped with chicken and with a side of naan if desired
- Store your leftovers in either the fridge or freezer. Fridge leftovers can store for up to 3 days and freezer portions are good for up to 3 months.
- Reheat single portions in either the microwave or over the stove. Allow time to defrost if reheating from frozen.
- This is a mild recipe. If you’d like some spice, add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.