Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I think my all-time, stranded on a desert island and can't have anything else, favorite recipe has got to be my Slow Cooker Butter Chicken. It is rich and warm and I could eat it until my insides burst. Whenever I make Indian food, THIS is what I make. Hands down.

When I went to make my favorite recipe about a month ago, I realized I was missing a can of coconut milk. It's a pretty essential ingredient in the recipe, but I had already starting browning the chicken. What started out as a mistake, turned to an experiment when I decided to switch up my beloved recipe a bit and try tikka masala in the slow cooker. It took many trials to get it just right (we ate A LOT of Indian food the past couple weeks) but my happy accident turned to a tempting concoction. The slow cooker lends itself so well to curries since the flavors simmer and meld and develop over time. There is so much richness here with bright lemony notes from the tikka paste and the marinated chicken.

Please don't be overwhelmed when you see the list of ingredients. It's really just a ton of spices which is what makes this such a richly flavored curry. Despite the long list of ingredients, it's really easy to make.


Serves 4

Chicken Tikka:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

6-8 chicken thighs (skin on, bone-in)

Stir all ingredients except chicken into the bottom of a large plastic container. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
2 inches fresh ginger, grated (store your ginger in the freezer and it will be super easy to grate)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tikka paste (could use mild curry paste instead, but then also add about a tbsp of lemon juice)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried coriander

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Turn your oven to broil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Take the chicken out of the marinade (discard the marinade) and place on the baking rack. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes. You could also do this on the BBQ.  You don't have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, you are just looking for a nice browned color.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the slow cooker and stir into the masala (sauce). I have cooked and experimented with this dish quite a few times, and it by far tastes the best when the chicken is first broiled and then slow cooks in the masala sauce. It gives the sauce a real richness of flavor. Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours.

Before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt if it needs it. I find this just brightens up the spice flavors a bit. Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve a chicken thigh with lots of sauce over basmati rice or Yellow Basmati Rice: 2 cups basmati, 4 cups water, salt, and 1/2 tbsp of turmeric. Stir together and prepare as you normally would. When the rice is done, stir in 1/2 cup frozen peas.

Click here for printable version of Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala


I whole-heartedly recommend this recipe to you. It is one that I have been making over and over again in the last month to get absolutely perfect because my husband and I really love our Indian food. I love the creaminess as well as the bright lemony notes throughout the masala. It looks absolutely gorgeous served over the Yellow Basmati Rice with Peas.

The picture at the very top of the post was made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs and was then cut into chunks after it came out of the broiler. The second picture is made the way this recipe states with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and Yellow Basmati Rice with Peas. I loved the richness that the bone-in chicken added, but feel free to use whichever chicken you prefer.