Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)
Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani) is a take-out favorite for good reason. It’s absolutely delicious. The dish includes tender pieces of chicken floating in a creamy curry sauce flavored with onions, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, ginger, turmeric and paprika. This non-dairy slow cooker recipe is simple to prepare and allows you to time dinner to your schedule.
In the Denver suburb where my family and I live, we have a limited number of take-out options. Mostly, on the nights when no one wants to cook and we don’t want to go out, we order a pizza because, well… as I just mentioned, there aren’t many other options. So “take-out” at our house usually means getting our act together early in the day and putting some stuff in the slow cooker.
And honestly. I don’t mind telling you that if we had a really good Indian food restaurant near by this recipe wouldn’t exist. Good things are often born from necessity, and this is one of those recipes I’m happy to have in my wheelhouse. But also, I’m a huge fan of good take out and look forward to a day when we might possibly have a few more options.
Slow Cooker to the rescue.
I absolutely LOVE my slow cooker. Not only does it eliminate the need to stand over a hot stove, it allows me to control the timing of our food in whatever way best fits our day.
My goal with this recipe was simple: make really, really good butter chicken. What I didn’t want is a complicated, time consuming recipe. Yes, homemade butter chicken is going to take a bit more effort than picking up the phone and ordering take-out. But, I wanted to keep the effort to a minimum.
If you don’t have a slow cooker with a timer, I strongly urge you to invest. The timer allows you to dump everything in the crockpot in the morning, set it to cook for however long you think it will take, and know it will shut off all by itself at the end of the specified time.
This Indian Butter Chicken recipe only takes about 6 hours in the slow cooker on low (4 hours on high). If I want to serve it on a day when we’ll all be out of the house, setting the timer means not having to worry about dry, overcooked chicken if we don’t all get back home in time to turn it off.
Start the sauce on the stovetop, which allows you to cook the onions and release the flavor or the spices into the sauce. Then simply pour it into the slow cooker, add the chicken, and forget about it until later that night.
You can also prepare the sauce in advance. This allows you to simply pull the sauce from your refrigerator, dump it into the slow cooker along with the chicken and be done with it.
Cashew Cream or Regular Cream – the choice is yours
Most of the recipes I’ve seen for butter chicken call for a decent amount of cream. In general, using cream and butter is not something I have a problem with. But, I’m super choosy about where I get my cream and therefore, don’t always have it on hand. Also, too much of a good thing really can be too much. None of us feel great when we’ve been eating too much dairy, so we try to keep it to a minimum.
As a result, this recipe comes with two different options – heavy cream OR “cashew cream”. I can tell you with complete confidence that both are equally delicious. But, besides being (obviously) dairy free, one of the benefits of using cashews is that they are something I almost always have in my pantry.
And honestly, pureed cashews are remarkable in their ability to stand in perfectly well for all kinds of dairy. In this recipe, you simply throw them into a high-powered blender with some water and blend them until smooth. Added to this butter chicken sauce, they make it creamy, dreamy, and delicious.
Serve with Indian Rice
My favorite recipe for Indian Rice is flavored with Indian spices, onion, garlic, and sweet peas. It’s better than takeout, simple to make, and the perfect accompaniment to any Indian inspired dish. It also includes many of the same spices used to make Butter Chicken. For those without a super-stocked spice cabinet, knowing that you’re likely to use the new spices your purchasing in other recipes is important.
Can you even eat Indian food without Naan?
Probably. But, why would you want to? These days, most supermarkets cary Naan, which also freezes well, making it easy to keep some on hand. But, if you have the time and inclination, homemade Naan is one of the easiest types of homemade bread you can make.
If homemade naan is not on your agenda this week, pick up a package at your local market. Wrap it in foil and warm it in the oven. Then, stir some chopped parsley into melted butter and brush over the naan.
Useful tools and ingredients:
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- Crock Pot Slow Cooker
- Vitamix Blender
- Rani Garam Masala Indian 11 Spice Blend
- NOMU Essentials Ground Turmeric
- McCormick Ground Cayenne Red Pepper
- Frontier Seasoning Blends Indian Curry
- McCormick Gourmet Organic Chili Powder
- The Spice Way Smoked Paprika
More recipes you might like:
- Serve Indian Butter Chicken with: Indian Style Rice
- Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry with Coconut
- Couscous Veggie Bowls with Butternut Squash and Sausage
- Indian Shrimp and Rice
- Tahini Marinated Grilled Chicken
- Shrimp, Rice, and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
Weekly Meal Plans that include Indian Butter Chicken:
What to do with Leftover Indian Butter Chicken:
- Use leftover Butter Chicken to make: Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing
- Use leftover Butter Chicken Sauce to make: Shrimp, Rice, and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.Print
Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani) is a take-out favorite for good reason. It’s absolutely delicious. The dish includes tender pieces of chicken floating in a creamy curry sauce flavored with onions, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, ginger, turmeric and paprika. Serve with Indian Style Rice and, if you like, Homemade Naan.
- 1 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews – OR – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (*See note)
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want your chicken)
- 3 tsp salt (plus more, to taste)
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp butter (Can use non-dairy vegan butter, or vegetable or olive oil)
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 heaping tbsp minced garlic (about 4–5 cloves)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup water (or chicken broth)
- 4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Serve with Indian Style Rice
- If using cashews, put them in a high-powered blender along with 1 cup of very hot water. Puree at high speed until very smooth. Set aside. If using cream, measure 1 1/2 cups and set aside.
- Add the garam masala, curry powder, chili powder, turmeric, paprika, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper to a small bowl and set aside.
- Add butter and chopped onions to a large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes longer.
- Add the spices to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.
- If using cashews, add the pureed cashews to the spices and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. (If using cream, skip this step.)
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water or broth. Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors blend. Remove from the heat. If using cream, stir it in now. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. (*See note about early preparation of the sauce.)
- Add the chicken to a slow cooker and pour the sauce over the top. Stir to coat the chicken in the sauce. Cover with the lid and let cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.
- Serve with Indian Rice.
- This recipe comes with two different options for cream – heavy cream OR “cashew cream”. I can tell you with complete confidence that both are equally delicious. But, besides being (obviously) dairy free, one of the benefits of using cashews is that they are something I almost always have in my pantry.
- The sauce can be prepared ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe.
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: butter chicken, Indian food, Indian recipe, slow cooker, crock pot, Chicken Makhani, non-dairy, crock pot