You could call it “butter chicken”, “balti chicken”, or even “murgh makani”, but made by your own hands, in your own kitchen, it’s really just a “chicken curry”, and there’s everything right about that. Especially when you throw everything in a slow cooker and forget about it for hours. The important details are the flavors of your spices and curry powders, and the quality of your meat and coconut milk – buy the best you can afford. If you haven’t yet discovered Penzey’s, check them out. I highly recommend their Maharaja and Vindaloo curry powders, but you can certainly grind and/or blend your own (or luck out with a friend who does – thanks again, Usha!)
I put this recipe together after salivating over Tieghan’s Butter Chicken on Pinterest and referring to a recipe I learned from Suneeta Vaswani when she was in California back in 2000. Just this morning, while doing research on authentic “murgh makani”, I found the lovely eCurry site by Soma and her family in West Bengal, India – a comprehensive resource for learning more about Indian Cuisine.
So, until you can get to a proper tandoor, satisfy your curry cravings by plugging in your slow cooker. If you want to work harder, you can always make some homemade naan.
- 8 - 12 bone-in chicken thighs (remove and discard skin and excess fat)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed with 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsp. garam masala, ground
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. turmeric, ground
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 1 ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, ground
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 13 - 14 oz. can coconut milk (Chaokoh)
- 7 - 8 oz. container Greek yogurt (2% Fage)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- for serving: naan or rice, fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
- Melt butter in stove-top safe slow cooker insert set on stovetop, medium heat. (Or use sauté pan through next two steps then transfer to slow cooker/crock pot.)
- Add onions and cook for 5 minutes to soften, stiring now and then with a wooden spoon.
- Add garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook for a minute, stiring with wooden spoon. Add tomato paste and cook for a minute, stiring with wooden spoon. Stir in coconut milk and yogurt.
- Add chicken thighs, transfer slow cooker insert to slow cooker, and cook on High 4 hours.
- Add cream and let cook a few minutes to gently heat through. Sprinkle with cilantro or parsley leaves and serve with naan and raita.
Amy’s Kitchen Coach Tips
- I like slow cooking with the bone-in thighs and think it provides more depth to the flavors, but you can certainly use boneless chicken, and even cut into bite-sized pieces – it’s all just a matter of preference. If you do go with the bones, it causes no problem at all at dinner time; the chicken is so tender, it falls off the bone with a touch of your fork.
- Simple raita: stir some small diced cucumber into plain yogurt with a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice.
- I highly recommend Penzeys curry powders. I splurge on the bright yellow Maharajah which has a mild, rich flavor without much heat – turmeric, fennugreek, cinnamon and saffron are major players. I also keep Vindaloo on hand, for when I want more spicy heat. Try some and see what you like.