Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken uses pantry spices, and has all the creamy deep flavors you’d expect from your favorite Indian restaurant.

This is not your average Chicken Dinner recipe! Making Indian Butter Chicken is even easier in the slow cooker, and it will make you want to try Easy Tandoori Chicken or Slow Cooker Tikka Masala Chicken next.

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken on plate with rice

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken is the perfect recipe to make when you’re in a hurry but also in the mood for something different. When cooking Asian or Indian cuisines, you’ll often find that the spices you need are unique, expensive and not readily available. This recipe uses common pantry spices like cumin, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne along with easy to find ingredients like canned tomato sauce, fresh cream, jalapeño and cilantro, to provide layers of rich authentic flavor without searching for obscure ingredients.

This delicious Indian Recipe can be served over steamed rice as a main dish. Pair with Easy Vegetable Biryani, Saag Paneer, and Indian Raita for an easy and delicious Indian feast! And if you’re looking for an amazing Naan to go with it, check out this Homemade Naan from Domestic Superhero.

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken Collage of prep steps

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, also called Murgh Makhani, is an Indian dish made of chicken marinated and tenderized in yogurt and spices. It is then cooked and served with a creamy, slightly spicy tomato based curry sauce. Butter Chicken is similar to Chicken Tikka Masala, which also uses a creamy sauce with tomatoes and spices. Butter Chicken does not include onions and tomatoes that are usually in Tikka Masala sauce, and this slow cooker recipe makes it easy to cook the chicken and sauce together instead of in two steps. 

How to Make Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

  • The night before cooking, add the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, salt and whole chicken breasts to a large ziplock bag. Zip the bag closed and work the mixture into the chicken until all incorporated, then refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, scrape off a majority of the marinade that is on the chicken and discard it. You’ll have plenty of the second sauce to keep the food moist and provide enough sauce. Cut the chicken into two inch chunks.
  • When you’re ready to cook the chicken, add the butter, garlic and jalapeño into the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl add the 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, tomato sauce and heavy cream and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
  • Stir the cornstarch into the one tablespoon of water and add to the slow cooker and stir (stir and pour quickly since you’re using more cornstarch than water it will settle quickly). Then cook for an additional 20 minutes on high.
  • Top with cilantro before serving over basmati rice.
Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken Collage of cooking steps

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to brown chicken before putting it in the slow cooker?

This recipe does not include this extra step, however it will always add more flavor if you take the time to do so. Brown the chicken quickly on a high heat before cutting into chunks (don’t worry about it cooking through, that is the slow cooker’s job).

How can I add more flavor to this Indian Butter Chicken recipe?

Sauté the jalapeño and garlic in the butter in a saucepan before adding the sauce ingredients into it. Yes, a second pan – but it will make an even more awesome flavor if you’d like to take the extra step.

Can I thicken sauce without using cornstarch?

If you want to skip the cornstarch, scoop out the sauce and reduce it in a saucepan while you’re setting the table before dinner. Again, second pan but another trick for an additional layer of flavor. 

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken on plate with rice and fork

Key Ingredients in Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

  • Chicken: Use a good quality boneless skinless chicken breast for Slow Cooker Butter Chicken. Usually we don’t recommend chicken breasts for slow cooker recipes because it can become overcooked. However, the combination of the yogurt marinade and creamy butter sauce will keep your chicken tender and moist.
  • Yogurt Marinade: You’ll let the chicken tenderize overnight in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and salt. This infuses tons of moisture and flavor into the chicken.
  • Butter Sauce: After discarding the marinade, the chicken will cook slowly in a creamy sauce made with butter, garlic, jalapeño, cumin, paprika, salt, tomato sauce, and heavy cream. Towards the end of cooking, you’ll add a cornstarch slurry to thicken and finish the sauce, and garnish with bright fresh cilantro for serving.
Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken made with spices you already have in your cabinet with all the creamy deep flavors you'd expect from your favorite restaurant.

Stovetop Indian Butter Chicken

  • The night before cooking, add the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, salt and whole chicken breasts to a large ziplock bag. Zip the bag closed and work the mixture into the chicken until all incorporated, then refrigerate overnight.
  • When you are ready to make Stovetop Indian Butter Chicken, add the butter, garlic and jalapeño to a large skillet on medium heat until you can smell the garlic, about 1 minute. Add the 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until the spices darken in color. Then add in the tomato sauce and heavy cream, stir and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove the sauce from your pan and keep to the side then wipe skillet clean.
  • Add in 2 tablespoons of butter and vegetable oil to your large skillet on medium high heat. Remove most of the marinade (and discard this marinade) from your chicken and add it to the skillet (you can keep the chicken whole or cut into large chunks).
  • Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Top with sauce and bring to a simmer, then top with cilantro.
Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken made with spices you already have in your cabinet with all the creamy deep flavors you'd expect from your favorite restaurant.

Variations on Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

  • Meat: While chicken breast is perfect for absorbing all the delicious flavors of the creamy, buttery sauce, you can use another protein of your choice. Try making this recipe with cubed pork loin, steak, boneless skinless chicken thighs, or even tofu for a vegetarian option.
  • Spices: Feel free to play with the spice combinations in this recipe to suit your taste. If you like spicier Indian food, include cayenne pepper in the sauce as well as the marinade. You can also swap serrano peppers for the jalapeños to increase the heat.
  • Diary Free: To make a delicious dairy free Butter Chicken, swap out the butter for your favorite non dairy margarine. Substitute the heavy cream for either non-dairy half and half, or you can use full-fat coconut milk. Coconut milk also adds a delicious layer of flavor that complements the Indian spices perfectly.
  • Vegetables: To bulk up your Indian Butter Chicken and add some nutritious veggies. Include 1-2 cups of diced potatoes, carrots, broccoli, peas, onions, green beans, or bell peppers in the slow cooker mixture to cook and simmer along with the chicken.

Tools used in the Making of this Indian Butter Chicken

Slow Cooker: This is a smaller version perfect for couples or singles, but if you’d like to make it in a larger slow cooker make a double recipe. Don’t skimp on the sauce, it thickens if you have leftovers too and it is SO good you won’t want to have to ration!
AllSpice Spice Rack: You can use this spice rack and fill up the bottles with freshly purchased spices. It’s a beautiful item to display in the kitchen and when you’re working with a large quantity of spices, not having to hunt and peck through your cupboards makes everything go at warp speed.

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How to Store Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

  • Serve: Do not leave Butter Chicken at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Store: Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Sealed tightly, Indian Butter Chicken can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken on plate with rice and fork

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Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken uses pantry spices, and has all the creamy deep flavors you'd expect from your favorite Indian restaurant.
Yield 4 Servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

SAUCE

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper , finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt , or to taste
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro , chopped

Instructions

  • In a large ziploc bag the night before cooking add the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, salt and chicken (leave the chicken breasts whole here).
  • Zip the bag closed and work the mixture into the chicken until all incorporated. Refrigerate overnight.
  • Scrape off a majority of the marinade that is on the chicken and discard it. You’ll have plenty of the second sauce to keep the food moist and provide enough sauce.
  • Cut the chicken into two inch chunks.
  • When you're ready to cook the chicken, add the butter, garlic and jalapeno into the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the chicken pieces on top.
  • In a small bowl add the 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, tomato sauce and heavy cream and stir to combine.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
  • Stir the cornstarch into the one tablespoon of water and add to the slow cooker and stir (stir and pour quickly since you’re using more cornstarch than water it will settle quickly).
  • Cook an additional 20 minutes on high.
  • Top with cilantro before serving.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 1676mg | Potassium: 732mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2090IU | Vitamin C: 12.4mg | Calcium: 149mg | Iron: 2.6mg
Keyword: Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken
Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken Collage

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken Recipe
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Jalepeño stood out to me as kind of weird for this recipe…I recommend substituting regular Indian green chilis if you like spice!

  2. This is so easy and just as good as anything from our favorite takeout!

    I accidentally cut my chicken before marinating and it turned out fine.

    The cornstarch gets thick really fast so once the cornstarch and water are mixed in a bowl, we mixed in a little of the sauce from the crock pot before dumping the mixture in.

  3. Sabrina- I have gone to make this recipe many times, but the morning comes and I have forgotten to marinate the chicken. This morning, having forgotten again, I bit the bullet and decided to marinate until cooking- only two hours. Have I ruined dinner?

    1. Hi Brooke! Sorry for the late response but I’m sure you found out it was still good. More marination is fantastic and definitely lends itself to the flavor so hopefully next time you’ll enjoy even more.

      Thanks!

  4. Sabrina- I have gone to make this recipe so many times, but the morning comes and I’ve forgotten to marinate the chicken. I bit the bullet and decided to go through with it with only two hours marinating time. Have I ruined dinner??
    Also, if I wanted to marinate it longer and get every hour I can…would it cook faster in a Dutch Oven? Suggestions please!

  5. Tried this recipe and it turned out to be AMAZING. Perfect blend of spices and just perfect served over Basmati rice. It is hard to NOT include the marinade with all its spices and yogurt in the crock pot but (as the recipe describes), the sauce in the second step will amaze. Highly recommended.

  6. I want to try and make this a little bit healthier, could I substitute anything else for the cream, maybe add in more yogurt at the end?

  7. When the recipe says tomato sauce, is that referring to ketchup? Or a tomato puree? Or canned diced tomatoes? Love the look of this recipe and want to give it a try!

    1. Hi Hannah! Tomato sauce is a canned sauce. There is no other name for it. It is usually in the section near the tomato paste or asta sauce. Good luck!

    2. This is 4 months later but incase anyone else has the same question. In the U.S. we have canned tomato sauce, tomato purée, tomato paste. (And Ketchup but this is completely different used as a topping like mustard or mayonnaise .) The difference between the 3 is mainly thickness. The closest would be tomato purée but that is slightly thicker and a stronger flavor than tomato sauce. But you could make tomato sauce easily by using tomato paste and diluting it with equal amounts of water so 1 part paste to 1 part water and then blending it together well.

  8. YUMMY!
    I doubled the recipe and although ended up with a lot of sauce it was an absolutely fantastic recipe!
    Everyone enjoyed it – even our 4 and 2 year old granddaughters asked for seconds (and they can be picky).
    The chicken was tender and flavourful and all ingredients readily handy at home, the only change made was I substituted evaporated milk for the cream and only used 1 jalapeño pepper.

  9. A very solid slow cooker recipe! Easy and delicious. I have made it several times and have NEVER used the cream, though, not even once (trying to do more heart-healthy meals). And it is still really good without the cream. I also tend to add more chili peppers, some ground coriander, and turmeric. I don’t think you can go wrong experimenting!

    I tried another butter chicken recipe from a cookbook I have, “The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes.” This recipe from Sabrina is WAY better (the lentil/bean and veggie recipes in that book are really good, though).

  10. This has been a family favorite for a couple years. I am only now reading back on browning the chicken and I’m so excited to see how it’ll change it!

    I do have a question, chicken breasts vary so much in size, do you have the weight of how many chicken breasts that this sauce best works with? Thanks so much in advance!

  11. Ok so first I have to say that this is becoming my favorite recipe site. Normally I’m all about allrecipes, but I was struggling with their slow cooker recipes being bland or the usual. Found this site and this is the second recipe that was amazing, and already have 2 other recipes I am trying out this coming week. This was delicious the only thing I deviated from was that I had jalapeños in a jar and I hate wasting so I use what is available. My youngest thought it too spicy but the rest of my family of 6 loved it. My only suggestion is if you don’t want as much heat you could switch out the jalapeños for mild green chiles or even some roasted red peppers so u still get the yummy pepper taste without the heat. Thanks for the recipe. I will definitely be using this again.

    1. Hi Jena! This truly melts my heart. I am so happy that your family loved the recipe and that you have found a liking to the site. Can’t wait for you to come back and share you cooking successes with us!

      Thank you <3

  12. I make this all the time in the crock pot and it’s amazing. Have you ever made in an InstaPot? Trying to figure out timing.

    1. I made this in my IP and it worked fabulously, plus you can use the sauté function to brown the chicken and garlic/jalapeño so you don’t have to dirty additional pans. I put slow cooker setting on medium and cooked for about 4 and a half hours + the extra 20 minutes with the cornstarch and it came out great.

  13. Hi! Thanks for this recipe, I was wondering, I’m trying it this week and I always usually butterfly my chicken breasts because I don’t trust myself cooking whole breasts. Will it be over spiced if I marinate overnight with butterflied chicken breasts? And will it cook too fast in the crock pot afterwards?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Adriana, I don’t think it will be over seasoned, usually anything under 24 hours is fine, longer than that and the meat may cook differently. And yes, it would cook much faster being butterflied. Hope you enjoy!

  14. This was great but I would love to incorporate a little heat into the dish (whenever I order butter chicken in a restaurant, I ask for a little kick). Would you know a good way to do that? Would it just be adding a bit of hot chili powder?

  15. Beautiful recipe. Followed all instructions, including browning the chicken and sauteeing the garlic and jalapeno. So flavorful and delicious. Thank you!! It was my first time attempting an Indian-inspired dish and I’ll be making it again.

  16. This is basically my favourite butter chicken recipe, in spite of the needing to remember to prep it the night before. (The other THREE recipes I’ve tried have been really lovely smelling, but kind of bland and I think it’s because of that extra marinating time this has that they don’t.) But as I’m the only one in my family that likes it, I don’t make it very often.

    Can this be made with paneer or will the cheese melt for the slow-cooker time? If it can be made with paneer, to heck with my fam-jam, it’ll be a twice a month recipe for me! *grin*

  17. My family and I love this recipe, however I have recently discovered my daughter might be allergic to cinnamon. Do you think the recipe would work well by just leaving the cinnamon out or can you suggest an alternative?

  18. Love this recipe so much! I’ve made it numerous times and my very picky husband loves it 🙂 I recently bought an instant pot.. wondering if this can be done in the instant pot as well? If so, what would be the cook settings and would the process change at all?

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