Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

4 Servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes

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
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 cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, 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. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe but could you clarify when you say a can of tomatoe sauce do you mean tomatoe soup ? Tomatoe sauce (ketchup) only comes in bottles here and soup comes in cans ! Just want to make sure I use the right one. Thanks

  2. I love this recipe! Would love to make a vegetarian version. Would this work with dried chickpeas in place of the chicken?

    1. I haven’t tested it but I think using a can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained) would be a great substitute. I might even add it some tofu for additional protein. Good luck!

  3. Looking forward to trying this tonight! I currently have the chicken marinating and have doubled the recipe. I only have one slow cooker and have read a few comments recommending to separate into two units to cook. Will it be ok to still cook it together?

    1. You just want to make sure that you have a large enough slow cooker as to not overcrowd it. Good luck!

  4. So delicious! We skipped the jalapeño and halved the cayenne pepper to make it more appealing for my kids and we all LOVED it!

  5. This was delicious! Family finished their plate! I didn’t use jalapeños and only 1/8 tspn of red cayenne because the family doesn’t like it too spicy but it was awesome.

  6. This is a really good recipe! I made it and it was very good, much better than the Easy Indian Butter Chicken. I didn’t have any yogurt on hand and so used some leftover sour cream instead and it still turned out good to me.

    Thank you!

  7. Made this for dinner tonight. I didn’t find it had a ton of flavour, but I don’t feel like I wasted three chicken breasts either. It tastes good but it seems to be missing that warmth and depth of taste I am used to. We will eat this without complaint but I don’t think I would serve it to friends who are big fans of Indian food.

  8. I have been making this recipe for YEARS and it is one of my kids favorite!! It’s easy to make ahead of time and freeze as well. Thank you so much for sharing :)!!!!

  9. Very good good result, absolutely delicious. The recipe is clear and well written. The spices used are simple to obtain and give an authentic result.

    1. I’ve not frozen mine before. It has yogurt in it which can change the texture once frozen so I’m not sure it would work.

    2. A reader commented that she freezes this often. I’ve not frozen this particular recipe, but in my experience, I think it would be just fine.

  10. Delicious! My children and I loved this recipe. Even my selective eater said this was amazing! Have made twice as written.

  11. Love your site glad I found you happy you have nutritional values with sugar even in desserts most sites do not one thing I wish you have is a servings calculator then I would say a perfect site thank you

  12. This was my first time making an Indian dish other than super easy Chana masala and it was DELICIOUS! I omitted ginger and cilantro because I didn’t have any but it was perfect.

  13. We loved this recipe, almost as much as the Chicken Korma (a BIG favorite of ours)! The plus for this recipe is using the crockpot of course. Also, I recently made the Meatloaf Muffins and they were great and fun too! They were easy to pack in our lunches the next day. My co-workers were asking me about them so I gave them your website and raved about your Korma and Sweet and Sour Pork which is one of the best recipes I have come across. Thanks!!

    1. Some brands pump their chicken with a sodium based liquid so that might be adding the saltiness to the dish. Look for organic chicken next time and see if that helps.

  14. This came out extremely delicious, a very good first experience with Indian food.

    I swapped breasts for thighs and swapped the cumin in the marinade for curry powder (though kept the cumin in the actual sauce) because I’ve overdone it on cumin before and didn’t want a repeat. I followed your tips to saute the jalapeño and garlic in butter and browned the chicken before placing in the slow cooker, can’t say how much of a difference it made I just know the end product was delicious. My marination time was about 18 hours and the thighs were incredibly tender and juicy (cooked to 160°F with a bluetooth thermometer after about 4 hours). Perfect level of spice as well and great over rice.

    Also, instead of the cornstarch I blended the tomato sauce with half a teaspoon of xanthan gum which made the sauce the perfect consistency once ready to serve.

    Left out the cilantro because I unfortunately have the bad cilantro genetics that make it taste like stink bugs.

  15. I have tried it yet but I’m a bit confused…You just waste the yogurt after the chicken marinades in it?

  16. If I have garam masala, how could I incorporate into this recipe? How much would I use and What would I omit?

    1. I’m not sure why you would incorporate it. I haven’t tested it before so I’m not comfortable giving a recommendation. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how it turns out. Thanks!

  17. Hello!

    Just trying to work out what the equivalent of can tomato sauce is in Australia? Is it a can of tinned tomatoes? Or tomato passata? Help!

    (Tried googling, but everyone has a different t opinion!)

  18. I have made this more than once,lol!
    Love how easy it comes together.
    The grandparents loved it and so do the parents and grandchildren under five!
    That says a whole lot!
    Thank you for making my life easy&delicious!
    Nureia ??

  19. This is my first time making my husband Indian food. He always tells me he likes it but never can tell me “ what” he likes.
    I can’t say that I have ever really had a lot of Indian food but LOVE to try different things from different places..
    I want to say that this was excellent! I paired it with white rice and some Naan bread. I did throw in some chickpeas halfway through and cut back slightly on the cayenne pepper some.
    I really enjoyed the flavors and my husband was extremely happy with this dish!
    Thank you for sharing this!!

    1. Spice is subjective but I tend to make things on the tamer level to work for most people’s taste level. Feel free to adjust to your preference.

  20. This looked so yummy. I prepped the chicken last night and now it is in my slow cooker as I type this. I do have one question, though. Will the sauce change colors as it cooks? The pictures and the traditional Dish is more of an orange color. Right now my sauce is white, with a small tint of pink. It looks nothing like the pictures. Does that change as its cooked? I used the same ingredients listed on the recipe. Not sure if I did something wrong.

  21. We love this recipe at our house! Is there a way to convert this to an instant pot recipe instead of a slow cooker?

    1. I haven’t tested it yet but you might be able to find a recipe online using similar ingredients and use that as a guideline.

  22. Better than takeout! Making it myself ensures fresh ingredients and quality cuts of meat. This recipe is part of the biweekly rotation at our house, and we’re always competing for leftovers.

  23. Hello,
    I was wondering can I sub the chicken breasts for bone in chicken thighs? If so, how long would I cook it in the slow cooker on low?

    1. Yes, you can substitute with breasts instead. You may need to cut the cook time down by about 30 minutes so they don’t dry out. Enjoy!

  24. OMG!! This is so good! I love it! I made it a little different than the recipe. I added black olives and I (more than) doubled the amount of jalapenos. It came out fantastic!

  25. One of the absolute BEST Indian dishes I have ever tasted. Easy, authentic, creamy and full of flavor. If you like spice definitely use the 1tsp cayenne and full pepper with seeds. If you want a little more mild, do 1/2 tsp cayenne and scoop out pepper seeds, only add in flesh. Aside from that I would not change a thing about this recipe, we make it once a month and all 4 of my kids ages 6 and under love it!

  26. My slow cooker doesn’t have a low 4hr setting. It’s only settings for low are 8 or 10 hours.
    High seating is 4 or 6 hours. Can I cook it on high for 4? Advice? Thanks!!

  27. The recipe says to add the cumin and salt to the yogurt marinade and then again to the heavy cream sauce. Is it both? So a total of 4 tsp of cumin and 2 tsp of salt?

  28. I made this and added some potatoes chopped into 1in chunks (just as filler) from the beginning of cooking it, and it turned out great! This dish reheats super well and I liked to add some frozen peas stirred in when I reheat it. I’m cooking on a budget and this recipe is super inexpensive for how great it is! If anyone else is on a budget and trying to find inexpensive spices, I recently found out that a lot of dollar stores have spices for cheap. I’m trying this recipe again today, and this time I’m going to include some more veggies.

    1. Is it necessary to brown the chicken after you scrape off the marinade and before putting it in the slow cooker?

  29. What do you mean by Tomato Sauce? Tomato Puree, ketchup, tomato pasta sauce etc? Going to try it at weekend.

    Thanks.

    1. Tomato sauce can be found in cans in the pasta aisle. It’s a tomato based sauce containing tomato puree, diced tomatoes and seasonings. Enjoy!

      1. What if you have tomato paste instead, and some tomatoes you can dice? Will that be a decent substitute? Thanks!

  30. I want to try this for a work potluck. I need to feed 12 people. If I triple this recipe, how long will I need to cook it for? Also, does the chicken need to be marinated overnight or can it be for a few hours?

    Thanks!

    1. I would recommend splitting into two batches and using 2 slow cookers to make that much. Doing so might only require you to add on an additional 30 minutes to the cook time. If you lessen the marinade time, the flavors might not be as pronounced. Good luck!

    2. Love this recipe! Would you recommend 2 separate batches if you were to double the recipe? Or would it be fine in one batch, also any additional time needed for that? Thanks!

  31. My first time at making this. I forgot to do the cornstarch and water thing. It was still good but I would of liked a little bit more fire. So I added coriander chutney to it when I made my bowl of it.

    What do you recommend adding to recipe to make it a little more spicy? I did the jalapenos and garlic and butter ahead of time also.