Butter chicken is one of our go-to Indian take-out dishes: You've got tender chicken covered in a rich and creamy sauce that’s perfect served next to a giant bowl of saffron rice. Now, we’re taking the recipe and adapting it for a slow cooker, so you literally just have to combine the ingredients and walk away.
First things first, there’s no butter in butter chicken (we know, mind blown). Instead, the dish is typically made up of chicken roasted in a tandoor oven, served in a mild curry sauce of yogurt and coconut milk. "It’s a beautiful chicken dish," Jessi Singh, chef and owner of Babu Ji in NYC and San Francisco, tells us. A dish, which, according to Singh, came from the Indian restaurant scene rather than Indian culinary traditions. "Somebody had tandoori chicken that was too dry, so he asked for sauce on it," Singh explains.
Over time, this has become one of the most celebrated Indian dishes around. You can find it not only in NYC and London but in every five-star hotel in India. Singh attributes its popularity to the growth of India's middle class over the past 10 years, which has brought about a growing restaurant scene and, subsequently, a growing demand for butter chicken.
We love it, because it embodies our favorite qualities of comfort food: hearty pieces of chicken covered in a creamy and tangy makhani sauce, the traditional term used to describe the buttery sauce.
If you want to venture into non-slow cooker territory, Singh has a few tips for amping up your butter chicken. First, sweat out your aromatics and cook down whole, peeled tomatoes in lieu of tomato paste to make a rich, caramelized sauce that serves as the base of the dish. Second, add dried fenugreek to the mix for a richer, more buttery flavor. With a sweet, maplelike aroma, it’s easily one of our favorite spices.
If the slow cooker is your, ahem, jam, this recipe makes itself in two hours. We recommend using that time to make a few sides to go with your dish. First, give your rice some love. Try to get your hands on good basmati and cook it with a little bit of saffron for a hit of flavor and a beautiful golden color. Then, if you’re feeling ambitious, try making Indian nachos or aloo gobi. And don't forget to stock up on your Indian condiments.
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
One 1½-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
½ serrano chile—stemmed, seeded and minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Steamed rice, for serving
Add all of the ingredients, except the cilantro and rice, to the bowl of a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened, 2 hours. Garnish with cilantro leaves, then serve over rice.