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Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (Paleo & Whole30)

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken – This paleo butter chicken recipe is so easy and delicious, it’s become one of the all-time most popular recipes on this site! You’ll want to slurp the sauce with a spoon. (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo, Whole30)

Overhead view of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with rice. Small bowls of lime wedges off to the side.

Photos + post updated January 2021. Original post published October 2014. 

Since they’re related to (and living with) a food blogger, my family is constantly eating a stream of new recipes. Some are winners that make it to the site, others are misses that send me back to the drawing board. Since we try to cut down on as much waste as possible, we eat almost everything I make for the blog. (Even most of the failures. Some failures just aren’t edible.) So it’s not super often that we repeat meals.

But some recipes are so good, they make it into the regular rotation and never leave. This Slow Cooker Paleo Butter chicken is one of those recipes. I first made this wayyy back in 2014 (when Milo was just 1!), and we’ve been making it on a regular basis ever since.

In the years since I first published this Slow Cooker Butter Chicken recipe, it’s become one of the most popular recipes on my site, has been featured around the internet, and was even been published in a magazine. I GET IT! It’s easy, it’s crazy delicious, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you licked your plate clean (been there!).

The sauce is velvety smooth (even without the traditional butter!), and it’s got a gorgeous flavor you’ll dream about after. Here’s what you need to get started…

Overhead view of a bowl of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken in a white bowl topped with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge

Here’s What goes Into Our Slow Cooker Butter Chicken Recipe:

  • CHICKEN BREAST OR CHICKEN THIGHS. You can make our paleo butter chicken with either boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs. Chicken breast is my go-to, though thighs can be less expensive and can  stay even more moist (even with the longer cooking time).
  • ONION + GARLIC + GINGER. This trio of aromatics adds TONS of flavor to our butter chicken sauce and sets the stage for all the layers of flavor we’ll build in. I love using frozen garlic + frozen ginger. The flavor is identical to fresh and there aren’t any additives! Next up, we have…
  • WARM SPICES + SEASONINGS. The next layer of flavor comes from warm spices like cumin, cardamom, and coriander, along with some salt and a little cayenne (or not! It’s up to you!). The flavor and aroma is mouthwatering, and the cayenne gives *juuust* a little heat without making this super spicy. (Prefer it spicy? Add more!)
  • TOMATO PASTE + CANNED COCONUT MILK. Tomato paste makes this sauce velvety smooth and stirs into the coconut milk like a dream. I beg, plead, and implore you to use full-fat coconut milk for this paleo butter chicken recipe! It gives the sauce such delicious texture (especially since we’re not using butter), and helps carry the flavors. You can even use coconut cream if you like, but I don’t recommend light coconut milk or refrigerated coconut milk for this recipe.
  • A FEW FRESH FINISHES. Lastly, you’ll brighten up the dish by adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some fresh cilantro. It makes it look gorgeous and keeps the chicken cozy without feeling heavy.
Front view of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with rice. Small bowls of lime wedges off to the side.

What To Serve With Paleo Butter Chicken:

  • RICE OR CAULIFLOWER RICE. I looove having something to soak up all that lovely sauce from the paleo butter chicken. Depending on your dietary needs, you can serve this with cauliflower rice or white rice. I love it either way! (Note: for Whole30 be sure you use cauliflower rice.)
  • GREEN VEGGIES. Green veggies are a natural side dish pairing with our Slow Cooker Butter Chicken and we’ve made all kinds over the years. Simply cooked broccoli (steamed or roasted), some green beans, asparagus, zucchini… it’s all good! Pick your favorite and go to town!
  • THAI CUCUMBER SALAD. We’re blurring lines cuisine-wise here, but one of my recent faves is to serve my Slow Cooker Paleo Butter Chicken with my Thai Cucumber Salad. The cool, crisp, refreshing flavors of the salad are a delightful pairing with the warm, creamy, rich sauce of the butter chicken.
  • FRESH PINEAPPLE OR MANGO. Or, you can cool off your mouth with some cold fruit. Pineapple and mango are lovely, though you can certainly use whatever is in season or looks good at the market!

Overhead view of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with rice. Small bowls of lime wedges off to the side.

FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Slow Cooker Paleo Butter Chicken:

CAN I JUST “DUMP-AND-GO”? Yes. If you are short on time, you can absolutely pour all the sauce ingredients into the crock of your slow cooker, give it a whisk to smooth it out, then add the chicken. I prefer starting the sauce on the stovetop as shown because the onions are more meltingly tender and the sauce is less likely to have any lumps, but LOTS (hundreds) of readers have successfully made this paleo butter chicken as dump-and-go recipe. You do you!

NEED A SLOW COOKER? If you’re in the market, we have two that we love. (#foodblogger). First up is this one. It’s programmable, and will automatically switch the heat to the WARM setting when it’s done. You can even use the included programmable thermometer so that the heat switches to warm as soon as it’s reached the right internal temperature (which means NEVER overcooking your meat). It also comes with a lid clip to keep the lid in place (which means no sloshing if you’re carting it to a friend’s house or potluck). Our other fave is this one (our exact color isn’t sold anymore, but it’s a similar model). It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and looks cute, too!

IS BUTTER CHICKEN SPICY? It can be, but isn’t always. You can control the heat here by adding more or less cayenne pepper. The amount I suggest starting with (1/4 tsp.) will add some warmth and mild heat, but I wouldn’t say it’s super spicy.

FYI: SOME SLOW COOKERS RUN HOT! I’ve had a few readers in the last few years (just 2-3) tell me their sauce burned a bit toward the end of the cook time. If you’re nervous, I suggest keeping an eye on it toward the end or try using the LOW setting instead of the HIGH setting.

Front view of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with rice. Small bowls of lime wedges off to the side.

Looking For More Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes? You might also like…

SHOP OUR FAVORITE TOOLS + INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING BUTTER CHICKEN:

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Front view of Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with rice. Small bowls of lime wedges off to the side.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (GF, DF, Paleo, Whole 30)


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 3.5 hours
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Description

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken – This paleo butter chicken is so easy and delicious! It’s become one of the all-time most popular recipes on this site–you’ll want to slurp the sauce with a spoon! (Gluten Free, Paleo, Whole30)


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or chicken thighs)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tsp coconut oil (or ghee)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/41/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (14oz) can coconut milk (full fat, please)
  • 1 (6oz) can tomato paste
  • juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 Tbsp.)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, or to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium saute pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent and fairly tender. Add garlic, ginger, spices, and salt. Cook 1 minute longer, till all the spices are fragrant and amazing. Stir in coconut milk and tomato paste and stir until well combined.
  2. Add chicken to the slow cooker. Pour sauce over everything.
  3. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours or on low heat for 6-8 hours.
  4. Shred or dice chicken into the sauce, squeeze in lime juice, top with cilantro, and serve with your favorite vegetable, rice, or naan.

Notes

“DUMP & GO” DIRECTIONS:  If you are short on time, you can pour all the sauce ingredients into the crock of your slow cooker, give it a whisk, then add the chicken and set it to cook.

  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 3-4 hours
  • Category: Main Dish, Chicken
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Indian, Indian-American

Keywords: butter chicken, slow cooker butter chicken, paleo butter chicken, whole30 butter chicken, crock pot butter chicken

244 Comments

  1. I LOVE this butter chicken and so does my family. There is so much flavor. The cardamom is worth it. We’ve tried it with couscous, rice, noodles, naan – it’s all good. And the house smells amazing when this is cooking. Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachel! I haven’t ever made it with bone-in thighs, but I don’t think the cook time should be drastically different–just maybe on the longer end of the time range rather than the earlier end. I’d love to know how it goes!

  2. Hello Emily, I’m about to make this recipe – went to two different stores and didn’t find the Cardamom powder 🙁 would it make a big difference to go without it or do you have any suggestions to substitute? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Bryner – Thank you for your patience! I’m sorry about my delay. If you have garam masala powder, that might be a good substitute. Otherwise, I’d say skip it this time around and add it next time when you’re able to find it. (I’ve had great luck ordering spices online!)

  3. We really enjoyed this! It was so easy to put together on my lunch break. The husband wants it spicier so I will go with the higher amount of cayenne next time.

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