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Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (Paleo & Whole30)

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Let’s make 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)


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.9 from 57 reviews

  • 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

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253 Comments

  1. the recipe is no longer on your page 🙁 this it what it says instead of the recipe “[tasty-recipe id=”21999″]
    oh noooooooo

    1. Owen – I’m sorry! We’re working on it! It’s just been down for a few hours, but we’re furiously trying to get everything up and running!

  2. Made this today and oh man!!! So so so good!! Exceeded my expectations by a mile! I didn’t have corriander or cardamom so I put in some chili powder in their place because it just seemed like that would taste good. Yum yum yum!! Thanks for this devine recipe!






  3. I am just staring squeaky eating but want to try this recipe. 11.7 grams carb for one serving is half my daily allotment. Is there anything I can take out to lower the carbs?
    Thanks

    1. Patricia – I don’t think so… In this case, the carbs are coming from onion and tomato paste, which are both pretty key for flavor and texture. I’m not sure you could get away with reducing either and still getting the flavor and texture that are so key to this recipe. I’m sorry!

  4. This was great! We used the instant pot, manual on high for 10 minutes, 5 minute natural release. I used skinless bone-in thighs and the chicken temp was 167 when finished. Great flavor!






  5. I made this last night and it was absolutely fantastic. However, I had two issues. One, the sauce did burn even I used the low setting on my slow cooker and didn’t go past 6 hours. Two, there wasn’t much liquid left. The chicken was still tender and shredded easily, but there was no sauce left to poor into the chicken. Do you recommend adding more tomato paste, coconut milk, or water? Or should I assume this is an issue with my slow cooker? I didn’t cook on the high setting precisely to avoid burning the sauce. Lastly, what’s the best way to make this spicier? More chili powder or maybe cayenne?






    1. AK – I’m so sorry you had trouble with the sauce burning. Slow cookers vary in temperature somewhat by brand and model, so there’s a chance your slow cooker cooks hotter than mine. I’m sorry you ran into trouble!

      If you want more sauce, I’d probably add a little more coconut milk so the sauce doesn’t turn watery. And for heat, I’ve added cayenne with good results!

  6. Delicious! Had to sub curry powder for coriander because I was out. I ate it over cooked spinach, the rest of the family ate it over rice. Super easy and so good!






  7. If I make this in a Dutch oven on the stovetop by adding chicken thighs to the sauce and simmering, how long would you estimate it would need to cook?

  8. Absolutely hands down one of my favorite recipes EVER! I have been using this recipe for years, it is so delicious, flavorful and easy!






    1. Amanda – THANK YOU so much for taking the time to leave a review! It’s so enormously helpful. I’m so glad you love this recipe as much as we do! 🙂

  9. Hi
    I made this recipe several times bc I love it! My grandkids love it as well as the parents. I would like to make enough for 20 people we’ll be with on vacation. Do you think if I made it at home, froze it, and brought with us it would freeze ok?
    PS: I made this in my Instant Pot last time, but I cooked it on the slow cooker medium setting. Delicious!






    1. Dianne – I’m so glad you love it! I’ve found it does freeze and thaw very well for me, so I think that’s a great solution for bringing on vacation!

  10. Yummy! I’ve made this a half dozen times now, and we love the flavours! We like to have a crisp, cool salad on the side, and while not in the Paleo diet, some warm naan 😋






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