Slow Cooker Butter Chicken | Makhani

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This healthy slow cooker butter chicken recipe is an excellent make at home meal that will be sure to remind you of your favorite takeout without all the fat and calories!


Ever heard of Chicken Makhani? If you’ve tasted this dish you know exactly how flavorful and buttery this meal can be. It is a traditional butter chicken recipe just lightened up! It's one of our favorite Indian meals along with this Slow Cooker Saag Paneer and Slow Cooker Chana Masala.

I recently went to Chicago and ate the most amazing Chicken Makhani, from a local takeout restaurant. I generally try to resist this Indian dish since it is super high in calories but this version was so good, I couldn't resist. It came with a rich and creamy butter chicken sauce.

After eating this meal I was determined to come up with a way to make a lighter version at home! After much research, I was able to recreate this dish and make a healthier Slow Cooker Butter Chicken. It has all the flavor of a traditional butter chicken recipe, although I used about a fourth of the butter typically called for in this type of recipe, so the sauce is a bit less rich.

Healthy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken made in the crockpot comes out incredibly tender, is packed with flavor, and just as good as your favorite takeout version. It's a meal you can have again and again!

How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani

Now that I have your mouth watering for a delicious butter chicken recipe without the guilt, let me explain how you can make this recipe at home. Begin by heating the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Once the oil is warmed add the shallot and onion and saute until they are soft. Get ready for a robust aroma when you add the butter, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and bay leaf. Allow that combination to cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Now add the tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes making sure that you stir often to avoid sticking and burning. Mix in the half and half, milk, and yogurt and reduce the heat to low, this is where your reduced calorie butter chicken sauce is formed. Allow this to simmer for 10 minutes and stir frequently. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Once everything is to your liking add it all to a blender and blend until well combined.

You’ve made it to the slow cooker portion! Get that handy piece of kitchen equipment out and add cubed chicken breast to the slow cooker with the sauce and cook for 4 hours on low. Enjoy served over rice or cauliflower rice or go a more traditional route and make some white basmati rice. 

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken in a bowl with cilantro.

Healthy Side Dish Ideas for Crockpot Butter Chicken

There are all kinds of options for serving this. Keep things light and healthy by using some of these ideas

  • Serving it alongside some cauliflower rice.
  • Consider using brown rice in place of white basmati rice.
  • For a vegetarian version, use chickpeas instead of the chicken. You can also add chickpeas to the version with chicken for a heartier dish.
  • There is a frozen Naan at Trader Joe's that is really good and sometimes I can find a whole wheat version at my local grocery store. Naan is always a good choice, but it’s important to watch the serving size.
  • You can replace all the diary with a can of full fat or light coconut milk if you like. This makes is Paleo friendly.

Change it up

  • Play with the spice level to get it just where you like. Butter chicken traditionally isn't very spicy, but you can definitely kick things up with extra chili powder or some cayenne pepper.
  • Garam masala varies greatly in terms of flavor and strength. You may need to add more to get that curry flavor to come through.

Plan Ahead

There are many items in this butter chicken recipe that can be prepped ahead. Check out this list for ways to save a little time the day of cooking.

  • Cut up your chicken into cubes ahead of time. Make the makhani sauce in advance.
  • Rice is an easy side to make ahead and reheat without bad texture changes.
  • Going to make cauliflower rice? Why go on and wash and grate it so it is ready to go. You could also buy a frozen bag.
  • If you have time, you can also make this entire recipe a few days in advance. It will only get better after a few nights in the fridge.
The Recipe
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken on a plate with white rice and cilantro.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken | Makhani

COOK TIME: 4 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 4 Hours, 20 Min
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  • 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 1/2 cup tomato paste)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper

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In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and onion and saute until soft.


Add the butter, lemon juice, giner, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.


Add the tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes stirring often.


Add the half and half, milk, and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir frequently.


Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Add everything to a blender and blend until well combined.


Add cubed chicken breast to the slow cooker with the sauce and cook for 4 hours on low. Enjoy with rice or cauliflower rice.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 3/4 cup (312g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 281
Calories from Fat 82
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 89mg
Sodium 329mg
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 5g
Protein 35g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Slow Cooker Butter Chicken | Makhani
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Micah Hale
August 7, 2018 - 23:41
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Hi Kristen! I just want to let you know that I have been using this recipe consistently for the last 3+ years ever since you originally posted it and it’s always been one of my family’s favorites! However, we just moved to East Africa and I wasn’t able to bring my slow cooker with me. Any ideas on how to adapt it? I was thinking I could pan seer the chicken and then do it in a big pot on the stove top. Any thoughts or suggestions appreciated. Thank you!
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Mimi Lewis
July 6, 2018 - 11:50
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4 hours in the crock pot was way too long!!!! Came out super dry. Flavor was great though, next time I’ll cook it way less.
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August 1, 2018 - 15:15
Sorry to hear it came out dry. Normally that doesn't happen if it is cooked on low. Since every slow cooker is different, some may cook faster than others, which is probably what happened. Thanks for the feedback. It will definitely help others cooking the recipe.
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Mark Weisner
March 25, 2018 - 09:27
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pretty good spices. i think it worked out wel.
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