Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Update with a correction: In the recipe, I accidentally forgot to include the whole jalapeno pepper that I simmered with the sauce. It will be good without it, but it’s great with it. I have modified the recipe to reflect the correction.

This plate of Chicken Tikka Masala (because that’s what it is) represents a giant victory sixteen years in the making. We are talking about a serious case of I-told-you-so mixed with a pretty solid  I-was-right-and-you-were-wrong combined with a decade long desire for Indian food thwarted by… my husband.

I love that man of mine -love him dearly, bigger than the bay and to the ends of the earth- but he has sworn up one wall and down the other for the duration of the time I have known him that he despises Indian food.  He has blamed heartburn from the curry (okay, I can buy that), muddy flavours (that I blame on just plain bad take-out food) and unattractive presentation (because my husband is -and I’ll bet you didn’t know this- Frank Bruni, New York Times Food Critic. I’m kidding. He’s Darth Vader. But anyway.)  Like I said, though, I loves ‘im… and you don’t deliberately serve food to your loved ones that will make them unhappy, right?

Then I got a good deal on some chicken thighs and I had a thought. I busted out two slow-cookers. In one, I decided, I would make chicken taco meat: easy, delicious, well-loved by the husband. In the other? I was going to be a wild woman, throw caution to the wind and not only make *GASP* Indian food, but I was going to make my own version of the classic Chicken Tikka Masala. When I live dangerously, whew, I do it up right*.

*Look. I have five kids. At the moment? This is living dangerously. Just go with me on it, please, so I don’t feel pathetic. Tell me I’m crazy. Now.

I browned the yogurt and spice marinated chicken thighs in a saute pan with butter then tossed it into the slow cooker. Next up, I browned the onions, garlic and ginger, and spices, deglazed with the sauce ingredients then scraped those (minus the cream, which was added at the end to prevent curdling) and let it go for a few hours while the taco chicken cooked in a separate cooker. Simmer, simmer, simmer; that’s what the dueling crockpots of chicken did.

When, after a few hours, I stirred the heavy cream into the saucy, fragrant chicken, I was thrilled. It was beautiful, it was delicious, it was done. I tasted it and was *this close* to weeping tears of joy.  It wasn’t even close to dinner time yet, but I had wanted to get a jump on the evening. There was no way I was going to wait another minute. I piled a giant amount of rice cooked with peas and butter onto the plate. I ladled an enormous amount of the Chicken Tikka Masala over it, and tossed an industrial-sized fistful of chopped cilantro over the top and snapped a picture.

Then I looked into the camera again to snap another. Something was a bit off…

“Hey guys?” I called as I turned around to find three of my sons and one of their friends standing silently at the ready. With forks. “Um, would you guys like to be my guinea pigs?”

They polished that plate off in short order.  They wanted more. My three boys (including one from the no-green-stuff crowd) and their buddy loved it. The buddy asked me to give the recipe to his mom.

That was one obstacle cleared with daylight between me and the hurdle. The big question, however,  remained. What would my Indian cuisine averse beloved think?

I put together the most exquisitely plated dish of Chicken Tikka Masala that I possibly could and stuffed it into his hands while he sat at his computer working on a program. My husband knows better than to question a plate of lovingly offered food whatever the hour may be and he dutifully laid into it.

“If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. I have taco meat going in another slow-cooker.” I disclaimed…

“Mmmm! Sgood!” he said.

“So, you like it?” I asked.

“Yeah! Sreallygood!” he said, mid-bite.

“So, you really like it??” I asked. And then he looked at me funny. Then he looked at the plate and then again at me and said,

“Yeah! Sreallygood. Thank you?”

And I’m sorry to say this, but I am fairly certain I smirked. I am an adult, but I am human. I got a hold of myself before I continued,

“Oh sure, honey. Eat up! If you’d like more, there’s plenty.” I walked away happy.

Victory. It tastes sweeter when defeat tastes great, too.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
This classic Indian dish is sure to win over even the pickiest eaters with its creamy, rich, complex comfort food bona fides. This dinner is the perfect fall or winter warm-me-up and it reheats like a dream.
Ingredients
For the chicken:
  • 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 large piece of ginger (2-3 inches in size), peeled and grated
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 4 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar (or granulated white sugar)
  • 1 whole jalapeno, washed, stem removed and pierced several times with a sharp knife
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch or cleargel
To Serve:
  • Hot, buttered, cooked rice with peas (see recipe below)
Optional:
  • Cilantro
Instructions
  1. Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- 1½ inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown about ¼ of the chicken. Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished, using 1 tablespoon of butter per batch, and repeat until the chicken is all in the slow-cooker.
  3. Return the pan to the heat and melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and the 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
  4. Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and raw sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow-cooker and add the jalapeno pepper.
  5. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
  6. Use a fork or whisk to stir the cornstarch or cleargel into the heavy cream until smooth. Pour into the slow-cooker and stir gently until the colour is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.
  7. Serve over hot rice topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.
  8. Try not to gloat.
Buttery Rice and Peas
 
Buttery rice and peas is comfort food at it's easiest. If you want to serve this with Chicken Tikka Masala and make it most authentic, use white basmati rice. If basmati is not easily available, you can substitute another long-grain white rice so long as it is not quick cooking or instant.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
Instructions
To Cook in a Rice Cooker:
  1. Add rice, butter and water to the rice cooker and program for the regular cycle. When it is complete, open the lid, stir in the peas, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
To Cook on the Stove top:
  1. In a mid-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, water, and rice and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to the boil, cover the pot tightly, and drop the heat to low. Simmer for about 12-15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice looks fluffy. Fluff the rice with a spoon, stir in the frozen peas, and let sit, partially covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Comments

  1. TiffH says

    Okay confession…. wait for it…. I’ve never had Indian food, sorry. It’s not for the lack of wanting to try it. Its called I live in the boondocks in small-town-Oklahoma. Now that I have confessed my sin, I would like to say I’m making this as soon as I can go to the store and see if I can find garam masala.

  2. Lillie says

    This looks really delicious! But I have to confess that (even though I haven’t tried them) I think chicken thighs are icky. So… could you either convince me to try them or tell me you think chicken breast would work? Thanks!

    • says

      I really, really think you should try the boneless, skinless chicken thighs here. Chicken breast, while it would be alright in here, would be a drier texture when all is said and done. Chicken thighs are the perfect happy medium between the ultra dark meat of the drumstick and the super white (and prone to drying) meat of the breast. If you can’t get past the idea of the thighs, make it with the breasts, but I do think you’ll miss out a bit!

  3. Maria says

    I had everything on hand except the thigh meat. I did have boneless chicken breast.I turned on the crockpot to high and lowered the time to 3 hours instead. The meat wasn’t as tender as thigh meat but still had all the flavor and sauce to help it out. Oh the aroma while it was cooking….brought the neighbors over to see what the wonderful smell was. This was just what my son was asking for….something not bland. Thank you for sharing.

  4. says

    We tried this yesterday and it was lovely. I doubled the recipe and used coconut milk instead of the heavy cream, but both boys ate it (2 and 7) and Daddy took the rest for lunch today.

  5. says

    I made this tonight for dinner. It was amazingly delicious! The only thing is the 15 minute prep time on the recipe…that’s misleading. 15 minutes *after* everything is chopped, grated, minced, but easily 45 from the beginning and I’m a fairly good chopper. STILL…I’m not complaining! It was yummy and I will make it again. THANK YOU! It’s a dish I’ve always wanted to try!

  6. Sharon says

    So good! Thank you for this great recipe. It was the most labor intensive crock pot meal I have ever done but worth the effort in the end. I hope you have more crock pot recipes in the future. I am looking forward to trying the pizza sauce.

  7. Janel says

    Argh. Just got back from the store with the chicken thighs and noticed I don’t have heavy cream :(, any substitute for this? Whole milk?

  8. Wendy says

    Capital O, Capital M, Capital G!!! OMG…..this is incredible. I love Indian food and this completely hits the mark. Delicious! I’m writing this as I’ve finished making the meal so I can’t say if my southern redneck, casserole eating, deer skinning husband will agree but I’ll let you know.

  9. Judy says

    I’m definitely going to try this recipe. Sounds delish! When I tried to print the recipe for the rice, I got another copy of the chicken recipe.

  10. Amanda says

    This was phenomenal. Phenom. Enal. I have tried making chicken tikka masala for years with about five bajillion different recipes, and it never came out tasting this good! I only had plain greek yogurt on hand, but it turned out so well I think I will make the same substitution again. I will definitely be making this again.

    • says

      Strictly speaking, you could skip that step, however… If you do skip that step, you’re going to miss one lovely layer of flavour. Browning the chicken helps develop a taste that you can’t get from only slow cooking it. And you’re going to need to fire up that skillet anyway to butter saute the onions and toast the spices. But if you’re in a serious hurry and it’s skip that step or skip the dish? I’d skip that step… :-)

  11. Jessalyn says

    I found your recipe on the Tasty Kitchen site and I’m SO glad I did. Made this yesterday and it was fabulous! Really delicious and the flavor was incredible. Thank you!

  12. says

    So, so , so good. Loved it. I was sorely tempted to lick off my plate. My husband said it was the best Indian food he’d ever had. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! It’s seriously one of the best dishes I’ve ever made.

  13. james duckstad says

    WOW!! I saw and printed this recipe over a week ago and waited until tonight to make it and let me tell you…..***** ( 5 star ). The flavors will rock your neighbor/dinner guest. The prep time was a bit longer than 15 minutes. I went to Whole (paycheck) Food for my 9 boneless and skinless chicken thighs. They cost me $17.00 and I had to trim tons of fat off these babies but I would not substitute them. I found the garam masala at Pensky’s spices in Santa Monica. They have a website. You will feel amazing that you cooked this. GO for it!!!

  14. Amy says

    I just found your site last week and made this on Sunday. It was AWESOME. My fiance LOVED it, and we’ve been eating it for lunch every day since. We’ll finally finish it today. This made a lot, luckily it was so delicious we didn’t mind eating for four days straight. :) Thanks for the great site and wonderful recipe! Tonight I’m making your Jangsanjeok. Can’t wait!

  15. Kristie says

    I posted this on tasty kitchen as well— do you think chopping up a whole chicken would work? that’s usually all I buy because of the cost and I love to make my own bone stock… I’m assuming 1 whole chicken might be equivalent to all the thighs… any thoughts?

  16. says

    I made this in the slow cooker yesterday and my fiance said it was the best Indian dish we have ever made at home! Such a compliment since I have been trying to re-create my favorite Indian dish’s at home for a few years now. Thanks for sharing! I will definitely be making this one again.

  17. says

    I’m so happy you shared this recipe (and the pork one!!)…I have to try some new ideas with the good ole slow cooker. It’s time to embrace the whole meal planning and not winging it every day thing too, lol.

    I think my whole fam will love this one! I have to try it with chick peas too.

  18. Leah says

    When I told my husband I saw this recipe, he only wanted to know when I was making it. The recipe took quite a bit more effort than most slow-cooker recipes, but I thought it was sooooooo worth it. My husband thought it was as good as our local Indian restaurant’s version (which is his favorite)and he loved this. I doubled the recipe (which I normally don’t do on my first attempt at a new dish) and I’m glad I did, he said he’d gladly take it to work for lunch every day this week. I can’t say the kids shared his opinion, they thought it was a bit too spicy, even though they are pretty adventurous eaters. I have to say I am very pleased to have found this and tried it, and will definitely make it again. Thanks Rebecca, I enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to trying some of your other creations.

  19. says

    Mmmm! I’ve always wanted to make Indian food, but have been intimidated by finding unfamiliar ingredients and fear it won’t taste right (or maybe I’m just lazy!). I love my crockpot, so this seems like a perfect foray into Indian. I can’t wait to try it!

  20. Argie says

    They really enjoyed their meal and wanted for more. I pictured it out my children enjoying their meal too and asking for more. I hope that I could find the ingredients in our country.

  21. says

    Love your blog!! My girlfriends in the kitchen group decided to make your yummy dish for dinner this week. It was fabulous! We meet twice a month & we all sign up for an ingredient – then we meet & get dinner ready together. I linked my recipe to your blog! Thanks so much for the inspiration :) We also made fresh naan on the grill. Come check out the recipe. It was super easy & I bet your kids would love to help!

  22. Teresa says

    Super excited to make this, but I have a question that may be a dumb one . . . . How do you crush tomatoes?

    • says

      There’s no such thing as a dumb question in the kitchen. In other places? Maybe. But not in the kitchen! Okay. You can either buy crushed tomatoes OR you can buy whole tomatoes and go medieval on them by squeezing them in your hands and breaking them apart. Either way works! :-)

  23. Lezlee says

    Ran out of time for the 5 hours on low. If I put it on high for half the time will the chicken still come out tender?

  24. Ashlee says

    Made this tonight for my boyfriend, this is his favorite Indian dish. We both LOVED it! Only thing I did differently- cooked it on high for 2.5 hours instead of low for 5 hours.

  25. Melanie says

    This one has become a family FAVORITE! However, as much as I love a great meal, I also believe that crock pot meals should be toss-and-go; as few steps as possible! So I skip the butter under the *for the chicken* and add all of these ingredients in the order listed (adding the cream/corn starch as directed). And it’s still truly wonderful, and with fewer dishes and less work!

  26. just me says

    This is my second time making your tikka masala. I cut back the butter by about half and reduced sugar by half and still found it to be as delicious as the first time. Thanks for another perfect recipe!

  27. Michelle says

    Hi there!! I am a brand new reader! What a great site you have! This recipe sounds amazing but oddly I don’t have a slow cooker. Any suggestions for a normal prep with this dish?

  28. Liz in Austin says

    I’m on a mission to base our menu on freezer-to-slow cooker meals, because the 5:30 dinner crunch turns into the 7:00 hangry meltdown anytime our fickle rush hour traffic gets bad. Besides, I only get to spend between 5:30 and 8:00 with my kiddos on week nights during the school year…. why waste it cooking? Knowing it would sacrifice some flavor to skip the browning step, I decided to try this entirely cooked from raw. I halved the marinade spice/yogurt quantities and added directly to my crockpot, along with all the other ingredients. We found it a little salty for our taste, so I added cooked chickpeas and sliced mushrooms (after thickening with cream/cornstarch) to cut the salt. This has the added benefit of stretching the dish to more portions without changing the flavor much. My twin six year olds declared it “the best ever!” Now to find a slow cooked chicken makhani recipe…..

  29. Yasmin says

    I’m finally getting around to trying this recipe and only have chicken thighs with the bone-in and skin on. Would that work? Would it lengthen the cooking time? Thanks!

    • says

      I haven’t tested it with bone-in and skin-on thighs. I’d be inclined to remove the skin first because of the additional fat it would put into the mix. (Save the skin and fry it up like crackers!) Although I haven’t tested it, my experience makes me think that it will take a bit longer on the bone. Let me know how it goes and what kind of time difference you get, would you? :D

      • Yasmin says

        Rebecca – this recipe is fantastic!! I used thighs with the bone (and removed the skin like you suggested). It was delicious! I don’t think it needed additional time but I let it cook for an extra hour and a half. At that point, most of the chicken had fallen off the bone and it was perfect! This is definitely a keeper!

Trackbacks

  1. […] The best chicken tikka masala you can make at home.  I love Indian food but we have no access to Indian restaurants where we live.   The instructions may seem a little labor intensive for a slow-cooker recipe, but if you love Indian food, I promise you it’s worth it.  One healthy substitute I did was to swap the heavy cream for evaporated skim milk, it turned out very well. […]

  2. […] what I wanted to provide. I asked myself what I’d like to eat most of all and the answer was Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala, a decidedly un-vegan dish. As I reviewed my recipe, I realized that it wouldn’t take a great […]

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