Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
This easy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken recipe delivers a delicious dinner with simple prep and minimal dishes! Tender chicken thighs simmer all day in a savory, creamy, rich sauce. Serve with rice, naan, and your favorite veggies for a fun but fuss-free meal.
The Best Crockpot Butter Chicken
Although my son is overall a very choosy eater, Indian takeout has always been one of his favorites, specifically butter paneer from a small restaurant just down the street. Of course, we try not to do takeout too often, and that particular restaurant is not exactly cheap, so for a long time I’ve been trying to make a version of Indian butter sauce at home that will pass muster. This is it!
Of course, it’s a major bonus that this suits to a slow cooker meal, because that same son’s sports commitments keep us all on the go. This meal accomplishes a lot for me. It’s:
- Minimal prep. Mix the sauce and add the chicken directly to the slow cooker. No searing, etc.
- Good for batch cooking. The finished chicken freezes well, so this is great if you want to cook once and eat twice.
- Relatively healthy. One gripe I’ve had with other butter chicken recipes is the large amount of sugar and cream. This still includes both, but a little goes a long way!
- Full of flavor. A necessity, of course! The sauce is fragrant and richly-spiced with ginger, lemon juice, tomato, turmeric, and more.
Plate up generous bowls of this chicken over rice, serve slices of warmed naan or another flatbread on the side, and sprinkle on some fresh cilantro for garnish. For veggies, we often just mix in baby spinach, and I personally also like butter chicken with steamed or roasted cauliflower and steamed peas.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about what you’ll need, as well as possible substitutions. Full amounts are noted in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Chicken broth or stock. Preferably your favorite low-sodium version. You can always add more salt to taste at the end, but can’t take it away.
- Tomato paste. Bonus: you’ll use the whole can. No random vessels lurking in the fridge!
- Fresh garlic, fresh ginger, and fresh lemon juice. Fresh makes a difference here; these are backbones of the rich, flavorful sauce.
- Garam masala, dried cinnamon, cumin, granulated sugar, turmeric, and kosher salt. These are all worth keeping in your spice cabinet! I often buy garam masala at a local Indian grocer or at Penzey’s Spices, but it’s easy to find on Amazon, too.
- Chicken thighs. Boneless skinless chicken thighs give you the best of both worlds here: tender meat, easy shredding. Chicken breasts are a fine substitute but will cook more quickly, so watch carefully to avoid drying out.
- Butter. Of course!
- Cream. A little heavy cream goes a long way to thicken and enrich the sauce. You can use half and half, but the sauce will not thicken up as much. You can also substitute full-fat coconut milk; that’s actually my preferred swap and keeps this recipe dairy-free!
- For serving: rice, naan, cilantro, veggies, etc.
Basmati rice is a traditional choice, but feel free to grab jasmine, brown, cauliflower, or really any other form of base that you like. While warm naan bread is beloved and not optional in my house (we buy it in bulk so we can always make naan pizzas!), roti or even pitas work too.
Craving a little more heat? You can always add a pinch of paprika or cayenne pepper to the spice mix.
Does butter chicken have onion?
No: a traditional butter chicken (“Murgh Makhani”) does not contain onion. Of course you can add half or a whole chopped onion into the slow cooker right with the other ingredients if you like, it’s simply not an authentic ingredient.
How To Make Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
This is a general overview. As always, you will find full instructions with exact ingredients and times in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together. You can do this directly in the bowl of your Crockpot.
- Add chicken, turn to coat, and dot with butter. It wouldn’t be butter chicken without butter, after all!
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-7 hours. This is a cooking time guideline for chicken thighs; if you are substituting chicken breasts, they will cook more quickly.
- Shred or chop chicken and stir in the cream.
- Serve and enjoy!
You might look at the pot and think that you have way too much sauce, but I assure you that after you taste it, especially if you dip some garlic naan in, you’ll be glad for every last drop. 🙂
Recipe FAQs and Expert Tips
Why is my butter chicken not creamy?
According to Urvashi Pitre, thin sauce can be caused by mixing the cream in too early, or while the sauce is still very hot. I find it works to simply turn the slow cooker to its keep warm setting and leave the lid off after mixing in the cream and while shredding or chopping the chicken. If the sauce is still too thin for your liking, the simplest way to let it thicken without compromising the flavor is to take it off the heat completely for a few minutes prior to serving.
How long to cook chicken in a slow cooker?
Chicken thighs typically need to cook for 3-4 hours on high or 5-7 hours on low in the Crockpot. Chicken breasts cook more quickly, usually requiring just 2-3 hours on high or 4-6 hours on low. For the most tender results, I recommend the longer cooking time on low if possible.
This is one reason why slow cooker recipes are often well-suited to chicken thighs: they are juicier and less prone to drying out by nature, but also, if you leave chicken breasts in the Crockpot all day long, they will most likely be dry and overcooked!
How to shred chicken?
Shredding chicken and other meats used to intimidate me, but now that I realize how easy it is, making things like pulled chicken or pork is very approachable. The simplest way to shred chicken is by using two forks: one to hold the chicken breast in place, while the other, in your dominant hand, literally pulls small pieces off one at a time.
If cooked properly, the meat should be very tender and this will be very easy to do. You might need to try pulling at the chicken in a couple of places to find the direction where it’s easiest to get those long shreds. Once you get it, you can probably shred a full chicken thigh in less than a minute.
You can also simply remove chicken to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces with a chef’s knife. One more option is to shred chicken by placing the whole cooked thighs or breasts in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, then beating on low speed just until the chicken is broken up into pieces of your desired size.
How to peel and grate ginger?
Fresh ginger is ideal for this recipe. It’s easier to grate if you freeze the knob first! Intimidated by peeling the ginger? I used to be, too, until I tried doing it gently with the edge of a regular table spoon. Try it: you’ll be surprised how well it works!
Storage & Freezing
I am always thrilled to have leftovers of this meal!
- Storage: Butter chicken keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-6 days.
- Freezing: You also can freeze it, tightly-sealed in any freezer-safe container, for 3-4 months.
- Defrosting: When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge overnight, then warm in the microwave or on the stove over medium-low heat. It will be just as rich and delicious as when first made. Don’t worry if the sauce separately slightly: add a few drops of chicken broth, whisk or stir well, and it should come back together.
The slow cooker is a tried and true workhorse! Crockpot teriyaki chicken is another family favorite, slow cooker shredded chicken tacos or a Crockpot balsamic pork tenderloin are always big winners, and creamy slow cooker chicken gnocchi soup is perfect for cold evenings.
Craving more Indian-inspired dishes? We also adore this Instant Pot chickpea curry for cozy meals on busy days.
If you try this Crockpot Butter Chicken recipe, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
- 2/3 cup chicken broth or stock
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 Tablespoons grated ginger preferably fresh
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice preferably fresh
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- rice, naan, cilantro for serving
- Combine chicken broth, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, garam masala, cinnamon, cumin, sugar, turmeric, and salt in the bowl of your slow cooker. Stir well to mix into a thin paste.2/3 cup chicken broth or stock, 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste, 4 garlic cloves, 2 Tablespoons grated ginger, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 3 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Add chicken and turn to coat, then cut the butter into pieces and dot on top of the chicken.2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 4 Tablespoons butter
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-7 hours.
- When the chicken is cooked through, turn the slow cooker to the keep warm setting, remove the lid, and stir in the cream. Let the cream warm through while you shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, then return to the pot.1/2 cup heavy cream
- Sample the sauce; if you want it a bit sweeter, add an extra teaspoon of sugar; tangier, an extra teaspoon of lemon juice; more flavorful in general, an extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Serve chicken and sauce over rice with naan, fresh cilantro, and veggies as desired.
- Servings: This makes a pretty generous six servings for my family. We often can stretch it even a little further since the kids eat less and freeze some for quick-fix meals in the future.
- Chicken: Chicken breasts also work for this, but will cook more quickly and may be more prone to drying out, so take care with the cook time. Chicken breasts typically cook for 2-3 hours on high or for 4-6 hours on low.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger is ideal for this recipe. I usually use frozen ginger cubes, but since it’s a pretty major part of the flavor for the sauce in this recipe, it’s worth buying a knob of fresh ginger and grating it yourself if you can. It’s easier to grate if you freeze the knob first! Intimidated by peeling the ginger? I used to be, too, until I tried doing it gently with the edge of a regular table spoon. Try it: you’ll be surprised how well it works!