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Succulent G-F Butter Chicken (Slow Cooker Method)

By Edited Dec 21, 2015 4 8
Murgh Makhani and Cumin Feta Naan
Credit: Lenore Edman on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

If you've ever had butter chicken (aka murgh makhani) you'll never forget how rich, creamy and aromatic the sauce is.

It's such a popular dish that you'll see it on every Indian buffet in downtown Toronto.

For years I didn't bother trying to make it. I thought it was too much work, had ingredients I'd never find, and too heavy on the cream and butter. 

Apparently, chicken tikka masala (which calls for curry and boneless chicken) is purportedly the UK offshoot of the more traditional Indian butter chicken.[1]

Indian recipes vary, but turmeric is listed in most versions and just happens to be a spice my daughter doesn't like. Another ingredient that I couldn't use was cashew paste because of a tree nut allergy. And I rarely find (or can afford) good quality kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves), chaat masala, or saffron.

I found healthier substitutes for heavy cream and was able to keep the butter amount reasonable, but I had a hard time finding a simple recipe that didn't require a commercial spice mix, sauce, or paste of some kind. So, I came up with my own version.

al haaj bundoo khan's butter chicken
Credit: Krista on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

My Inspiration and Tweaks

I found the easiest slow cooker recipe[2] on a CBC program called Best Recipes Ever. I had all of the spices on hand and I found it easy to make gluten-free. (If you aren't on a gluten-free diet, just use regular chicken stock).

My tweaks included substituting curry for turmeric, WowButter[3] instead of cashew butter, chicken breasts instead of thighs, and yogurt instead of sour cream. I also used evaporated milk instead of heavy cream whenever I needed to thin out the sauce.

If you've never heard of WowButter, it's a peanut-free, gluten-free, healthy alternative to peanut butter. And, it tastes exactly like (or even better than) peanut butter. My daughter loves the stuff. I also make giant WowButter cookies with it.

As you might have guessed, my butter chicken isn't traditional. The curry and mild peanut flavour is reminiscent of Thai sauces. I suppose you could use coconut milk instead of yogurt too. I didn't though - I find it hard to use up coconut milk (and once opened, it should be consumed within a few days).[4]

Slow Cooker G-F Butter Chicken

Serves: 4 - 6 | Prep: 12 mins | Total: 9 hrs

I love that the sauce is cooked without the chicken for the first 5 to 8 hours. Overcooked chicken can ruin these types of dishes. 

What's more, there's no need to have a tandoor (earthen oven) or grill and - get this - there's no need to prepare a rub and no marinade either. The result: no oven, no stove to turn on and no extra fry pans to clean (it's all made in your slow cooker).

butter chicken

1.5 to 2 lbs. (0.68 to 0.90 kg) boneless, skinless chicken (about 3 - 4 chicken breasts)
2 onions (diced)
3 - 4  garlic cloves (minced)
3 tbsp. salted or unsalted butter*
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 - 3 tbsp. brown sugar (packed)
1/2 - 1 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 - 1 tsp. ground curry
1/2 - 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt *use 1/2 tsp. salt if using unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 (28 oz / 796 mL) can diced tomatoes
1 cup sodium-reduced gluten-free chicken broth (I use Vogue brand)
1/4 cup WowButter (Creamy) or almond butter or cashew butter
1 cup plain natural Balkan style yogurt or Greek yogurt or sour cream or coconut milk
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Optional: unsweetened evaporated milk to thin out sauce, if desired


Add butter to your slow cooker to let it reach room temperature. Then dice onions, mince garlic, and grate ginger and add directly to the slow cooker. Give them all a good stir with a wooden spoon (mash up butter with back of spoon to grease the sides of slow cooker liner). It might not matter much but I find the onions, garlic, and ginger are tastier with a little butter coating on them.

Next, add the diced tomatoes, brown sugar, chili powder, ground coriander, curry, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper. Give it all a big stir.

In a small bowl, whisk broth with WowButter and add to slow cooker. Cover and cook sauce on low for 5 to 8 hours.

Using an immersion blender (or in a regular blender, in small batches), puree the butter sauce until smooth. If you wish, save out a cup of sauce for vegetarian dishes - just add a little yogurt to it. Be sure to cover and store it in the fridge.

On a cutting board for poultry, cut boneless, skinless chicken into bite-size pieces. Small (1/2-inch cubes) will need 30 - 40 minutes to cook; larger pieces (1-inch cubes) will need 40 - 5o minutes to cook through.

Add chicken to butter sauce in slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 30 - 50 minutes (or until chicken flakes easily and juices run clear).

Stir in yogurt and serve on a bed of rice. Top with fresh cilantro. A side of naan is great for dipping the sauce in (it's hard to find gluten-free naan, so you may need to make it).

Note: If you prefer your sauce thinner, use carnation evaporated milk to keep it rich tasting yet low fat.

Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Hand Blender

Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender RoseWrites 2014-12-22 5.0 0 5

Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Hand Blender

A must-have for every kitchen

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By now you've probably heard about immersion blenders. The only one with enough power to puree my sauces, soups, and stews is the Cuisinart. It has a 200-watt motor and I recommend holding onto it securely because this bad boy really flies. Available in all kinds of colors and backed by a limited 3-year warranty. Amazon also shows a 3-min video demonstration of it by Mary Rogers.

WowButter Toasted Soy Spread Creamy

WowButter Tastes Just Like Peanut Butter toasted Soy Spread RoseWrites 2014-12-22 5.0 0 5

WowButter Toasted Soy Spread Creamy

Tastes Just Like Peanut Butter

WOWBUTTER Peanut Free Soy Butter Spread - Creamy - 17.6 oz
Amazon Price: $6.19 $5.99 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 21, 2015)
My American friends tell me WowButter is hard to find in the US. I suppose it depends on where you live, though. I only use the creamy (smooth) type but crunchy is also available. Other quantities and sizes are also available on Amazon when you click and scroll down.


Dec 22, 2014 12:08pm
I love Indian food and will print this recipe out and give it a try sometime. Thanks!
Dec 22, 2014 12:17pm
Oh I do too and there are so many excellent Indian restaurants in Toronto. I never thought I'd find a way to make it at home, but finally I did. My version is a bit on the sweet side (compared to what you might have eaten) so you could cut back on the brown sugar. But my daughter loves it made this way. Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting Jonathan. It means more than you know. Take good care, Rose
Jan 6, 2015 2:43am
This looks so good. Normally, I probably would not dare try to make it, but since it is in the crock (I love this kitchen gadget, hands down my favorite ever) now I just might. Thanks!
Jan 6, 2015 4:26am
Oh I love to use a crock pot, esp. in winter. The smell of everything slow cooking for hours fills the house and puts everyone in a good mood.

And I found huge variations in how butter chicken is made, I suppose it depends on what you like (and have on hand).

It's a dish that is tricky to make low fat, gluten-free, and nut-free (but I finally did it). If you don't have those dietary restrictions, I'm sure you could use heavy cream, sour cream, and cashew butter instead and it'd be fabulous.

Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting Leigh.
Jan 7, 2015 2:41am
We don't need to worry about the gluten or nuts so much (but I do have to watch carbs to some extent). And I'm always looking to reduce fats. I printed this out, and will probably try this one and keep the turmeric as I'm looking for more ways to use that spice. Thanks again for sharing!
Jan 7, 2015 6:59am
You are most welcome Leigh, I'm sure the turmeric will be wonderful in it.

Take good care,
Jan 20, 2015 12:35pm
I made this yesterday, and it's for tonight's dinner. I had a taste, good stuff! Thanks again for sharing. I love your recipes, they always look so yummy. I'm still aiming to do that squash one (with the egg in it) someday!
Jan 20, 2015 1:58pm
Oh I'm glad you found this one as easy to put together as I do. I love UK curries, Indian, Moroccan, Thai, and French cuisine - the sauces are heavenly.

My spaghetti squash brunch is a big hit with the boys and perfect if you don't feel like scrubbing cooked egg off dishes, pots. and pans.
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  1. "Butter Chicken." Eat Your World. 22/12/2014 <Web >
  2. "Slow Cooker Butter Chicken." CBC Best Recipes Ever. 22/12/2014 <Web >
  3. "WowButter Peanut and Nut-Free Non-GMO Toasted Soy Spread." WowButter. 22/12/2014 <Web >
  4. Jo Lewin "The health benefits of... coconut milk." BBC Good Food. 22/12/2014 <Web >

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