Slow Cooker Buttered Chicken and Tomato Curry

by Kristin on April 14, 2011

A slow cooker isn’t the most glamorous piece of kitchen equipment, but it’s a busy cook’s best friend. Kelly has sung their praises, and I convinced my friend Emma to buy one last year when the cold weather set in after talking up all their benefits. After a few months though, she admitted that the first two recipes she’d made were flops, one of which was so bad they wound up giving it to the dogs and ordering take-out. That’s the main drawback with slow cookers, and why I’m always hesitant to buy cookbooks dedicated solely to them. When a slow cooker recipe is bad, it tends to be really bad — insipid or even, as in Emma’s case, inedible.

In the meantime though, Emma bought a copy of Antony’s Slow Cooking by Antony Worrall Thompson and tried this recipe, which she liked so much she passed it on to me. I in turn like it so much that I’ve made it twice in the past month and it’s become my new favorite slow cooker recipe. And that’s the flip side to the slow cooker – when you get a good recipe, it can be really good, like this one.

Slow Cooker Buttered Chicken and Tomato Curry
adapted from Antony’s Slow Cooking by Antony Worall-Thompson

Serves 4

Buttered chicken is a classic mild curry — it’s creamy, not spicy, so my kids loved it and practically licked their bowls clean to get every last bit of the sauce. Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients — it’s really just a bunch of spices that are all widely available.

The original recipes calls for heavy cream to be stirred in at the end in addition to more butter, but I found the sauce to be delicious without all those extra calories. But if you’re so inclined, add in 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream at the end of the cooking time, cover and cook on high for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a warm serving dish, then whisk 6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) butter into the sauce, making sure it’s well emulsified. Check the seasoning, then pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish, as below.

2 tablespoons lemon juice (should be the juice of 1 large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 lb (1 kg) skinless chicken thigh fillets or skinless chicken breasts
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon stick
4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
14 fl oz (400 ml) passata (or blend a 14 oz/400g can of whole plum tomatoes until it’s smooth if you can’t get passata)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (puree)
5 fl oz (150 ml) chicken stock
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper

to garnish:
fresh cilantro (coriander)
flaked almonds
spring onions, sliced
feta chees

to serve:
basmati or pilau rice

Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Place the chicken in a non-metallic bowl and pour over the lemon juice mixture. Cover and marinade for at least 30 minutes, but ideally overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, whisk together the yogurt, ginger and garam masala, pour over the marinated chicken and mix well. Spoon the chicken mix into the slow cooker.

Heat the butter with the oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat, then cook the onion and spices for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion has softened but hasn’t colored (adding a pinch of salt to the onions when they’re cooking helps to prevent them from browning too much). Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir the onion mix into the chicken in the slow cooker, then stir in the passata, tomato purée, chicken stock and brown sugar. Mix to combine everything well then cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with cilantro (coriander), almonds and spring onions. Just before serving, crumble the feta over the surface. Serve with basmati or pilau rice.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

takeonefamily April 14, 2011 at 9:20 am

This recipe sounds really delicious. I have a collection of chicken curry recipes that I keep adding to, always looking for the best one. So far a chicken tikka masala recipe by Onken yogurt is winning, but I will give this one a go, especially as I have a slow cooker. My husband bought it for me for Christmas a couple of years ago, and my first response was to grab the yellow pages and start looking for a divorce lawyer. But it has proved to be invaluable, so all is forgiven.
Congrats on your top 100 listing.

Emma April 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

It’s true what you say about slow cooker recipes, Kristin. They remind me of the nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: when they’re good, they’re very, very good; but when they’re bad, they’re horrid! Here’s to ‘third time lucky’ for me ;)

Kristin April 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Naomi, well, at least he didn’t buy you a hoover! His heart must have been in the right place getting you a kitchen gadget. And like you said, it’s invaluable. I’m always on the lookout for good slow cooker recipes, you just can’t beat it for convenience.

Emma, I still don’t know why you just didn’t try some of the slow cooker recipes from this site! No duds here, I promise. :)

Emma April 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I know, Kristin; too experimental for my own good… I’ve learned my lesson never to stray from DDJ again ;)

beezy June 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

just made this today and it is in the cooker, i really hope it tastes as good as it smells because i want to have butter chicken at my wedding :)

Kristin June 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I hope it turned out well for you – this is my new favorite slow cooker recipe!

beezy July 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm

okay, tried it, was good but not great. One thing about what i did was where you said (juice of one lemon) i used a quite large juicy lemon which in hindsight probably ended up more than 2 tbsp. I assume you do not empty out the juice from the marinated chicken when you added the yoghurt etc??? Combined with that (too much lemon) and the type greek yoghurt i used my dish tasted a little too sour :( i will try this again soon and measure out the 2tbsp. lemon :) i am determined haha.

Kristin July 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Beezy, I actually just made this again last week and I used the lemon juice in with the yoghurt etc. and didn’t think it was too sour, but I can see how it could turn out that way if your lemon yielded more than 2 tbsp and if your yoghurt was also quite tangy (the brand I use in Ireland is mild and creamy). Here’s hoping the second time is the charm!

Kate February 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Should you cut up the chicken breasts or leave them whole? Thanks.

Kristin February 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

You should leave them whole. They’ll be so tender by the time they’re doing cooking that they’ll just shred apart.

Andrea February 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm


Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to try it. Just curious, what’s the purpose of letting the chicken sit overnight with the lemon, salt and chili powder? Also, can I use heavy cream instead of yoghurt?


Kristin February 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I’m guessing that the acidic lemon juice might work to tenderize the chicken? Otherwise, you could certainly skip the step of marinating it overnight. I imagine it would be OK to use heavy cream instead of yoghurt, it might just result in the sauce being a little thinner. Add it a bit at a time until it’s a consistency you like.

Andrea February 26, 2012 at 12:16 am

Thanks, Kristin!

donna June 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm

try Americas Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution Cookbook. Every recipe is a keeper. I tried the Baked Beans, Chili, and many others and every one of the recipes turned out wonderful.

Kristin June 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for the tip, Donna! I’m always on the lookout for good cookbook suggestions.

Julie/East Texas July 20, 2012 at 1:27 am

Wonderful!!! Wonderful!! Wonderful!!!
Shades of our favorite Indian restaurant in MI.
(There are no Indian restaurants here)

Kristin July 25, 2012 at 8:35 am

Julie, glad to hear you enjoyed it so much! It reminds me of one of my favorite Indian dishes from our local restaurant too.

Yvette March 13, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I made this the other night (after a number of crock pot failures!) and it was delicious! I loved the tang. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to try other things from your blog :-)

Kristin March 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm

It’s one of my favorite crock pot recipes – and like you, I’ve had a lot of failures. Happy to hear you enjoyed it too!

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