Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This is one recipe that’s been on my mind for a while now. I’m so glad I finally had an opportunity to do it! It is absolutely delicious… and convenient–thank you, slow cooker. If you like Indian food, you will like this.

Chicken Tikka Masala | Popular Paleo

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on.
  • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • 2 cups organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger root, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP + 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (less for finer grain)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 TBSP coconut palm sugar
  • 2 TBSP butter or ghee
  • coconut oil
  • Optional: cilantro for garnish

Prep:
Prep and clean the chicken thighs (remove excess fat and skin), place in a bowl and coat in 1 TBSP of garam masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala on www.PopularPaleo.com

Heat a pan to medium-high and melt a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.  Sear the chicken thighs, starting with the skin-side down. We just need a quick sear on both sides, then place in the slow cooker. Thinly slice half an onion and lay on top of the chicken thighs.

Chicken Tikka Masala on www.PopularPaleo.com

In a sauce pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter or ghee with the minced ginger root and garlic on medium heat.  When the garlic and ginger sizzles, add the coconut milk and crushed tomatoes. The spices go next — 2 tsp garam masala, the coriander, cumin, salt, red chili flakes and coconut palm sugar.  Simmer for just a few minutes, until the spices are well mixed and the sauce starts to do that popping, splattering thing that gets sauce all over your stove… floor… walls… I hate that.  Pour the sauce over the onions and chicken thighs already waiting in the slow cooker.

I give the pot a little shake to get the sauce down to the chicken, but this isn’t something to worry about. Everything comes together after a couple hours on low heat.  Cover, set the slow cooker to low and the timer for 3 hours. This should be enough time to finish the thighs, soften the onions and develop that rich, spicy sauce. My Crock Pot is a bit ambitious though, so if yours is on the slow side, you could probably bump it up to 4 hours without drying out the meat.

Serve over Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice (or just regular cauliflower rice), garnished with cilantro.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prep and clean the chicken thighs (remove excess fat and skin), place in a bowl and coat in 1 tablespoon of garam masala.
  2. Heat a pan to medium-high and melt a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.
  3. Sear the chicken thighs, starting with the skin-side down. We just need a quick sear on both sides, then place in the slow cooker.
  4. Thinly slice half an onion and lay on top of the chicken thighs.
  5. In a sauce pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter or ghee with the minced ginger root and garlic on medium heat.
  6. When the garlic and ginger sizzles, add the coconut milk and crushed tomatoes.
  7. The spices go next — 2 teaspoons of garam masala, the coriander, cumin, salt, red chili flakes and coconut palm sugar.
  8. Simmer for just a few minutes, until the spices are well mixed and the sauce starts bubble.
  9. Pour the sauce over the onions and chicken thighs already waiting in the slow cooker.
  10. Cover and set the slow cooker to low.
  11. Cook for 3 to 4 hours.

 

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Comments

  1. Christina says

    I do keep some coconut palm sugar on hand for guests, but I’ve given up all forms of sugar myself. Do you think it would still be good without it, or could I substitute something like sugar free apple sauce or maybe a date or two blended with the coconut milk instead to add some sweetness?

    • says

      Hey Christina, While I’m cautious to dole out nutrition advice, I want to make sure you’ve looked at the glycemic load of coconut palm sugar. It’s lower than carrots or apples, definitely dates. Annnnd considering that there’s only a bit of it in relation to the amount of sauce per serving, you might consider using it (versus the alternatives you mention). If it’s zero sugar you’re looking for, I’d skip anything that would sweeten the dish altogether. If your concern is with another element of the ingredient, such as inulin, totally just leave it out. Otherwise if you’re looking for the ideal low-sugar sugar, coconut’s your best bet.

  2. says

    Hey there, this recipe looks incredible! Quick question: why not use boneless, skinless thighs? Do you leave the skin on for this recipe? Just wanted to double check… can’t wait to make this!

    • says

      Bone-in, skin-on meat is juicier and stands up to slow cooking well. It’s really meant to yield the tastiest chicken for the recipe. However, it still tastes great and cooks fine using other cuts of chicken–even plain chicken breasts. Be sure to let me know what you think if you do get a chance to make it :-)

  3. Emily C says

    (Oh, sorry, I should have said “sold in the US”, I re-read my post and realized the standard containers sold in the US are 28 or 14 oz, we may be different from the rest of the world!) :-)

  4. Emily C says

    Thanks for posting the recipe — we love the flavors of Indian food (north or south!), and I’m trying this for the first time today. One comment as I’m cooking, the quantities of coconut milk and tomatoes means I have now opened 2 cans without using the total contents, leaving me with storage and usage issues — how to use 5oz of coconut milk and 12oz of tomatoes? So I winged it and increased the entire recipe by “about 30%” to use an entire 28-oz can of tomatoes and an entire 14-oz can of coconut milk. Also could then use the entire onion. It may come out a little thinner sauce than intended, but fits the sizes of how these staples are sold.

  5. Chrissie says

    Found this via FB from Stupid Easy Paleo, I usually make my own coconut milk from coconut flakes and water. Does that count for whole fat coconut milk? I will just approximate how much I think I need. And I will make with boneless skinless thighs since that’s what Costco sells organic. But I can’t wait to make it!! Hopefully the hubs will like it since he isn’t usually a fan of curry (the spice). And I think these spices are similar. :)

  6. Alyssa says

    This was delicious, and the chicken was soooo tender! My husband and I gobbled it up for dinner and I’m pretty sad we don’t have any leftovers :p

  7. Jenn says

    I made this tonight. We used chicken breast just shy 2lbs and it was ready in 2.5 hr. I shredded the chicken three it back on warm. We loved it!

  8. Simran Deol says

    This can actually easily be made on the stove and without coconut milk. It is a north indian dish and adding coconut makes it south indian. The key to Indian dishes are making a good masala which is done on the stove top by sautéing the onions, garlic, ginger & masalas then adding in the tomatoes. I’m not sure how a true masala can be achieved in a crock pot.

    • popularpaleo says

      Thanks for the info Simran! My goal with this recipe was to keep it Paleo (e.g. the coconut milk) and to make it a bit more convenient than the traditional preparation method (e.g. the slow cooker). I appreciate your comments about the authenticity issues — really valuable perspective for us all to learn from! But between you and me, I wasn’t going for that. Busy moms who like to avoid dairy need their Tikka Masala too…even if it isn’t “right” ;-)

  9. Hilary T says

    I made this last night and it is fabulous! I make another tikka masala that is more time intensive, but I think this is just as good. I’m so happy that I can make this easy crockpot Indian food regularly now, rather than rarely! Thanks!

  10. CZ says

    Just made this tonight and oh my! So delish and full of flavor! I used light coconut milk (all I had on hand) and it seemed like mine looked a little bit more watery than yours. Do you think it’s because of the light milk? Regardless, I loved this recipe! Thanks so much! I’ve already shared this with friends and family. =)

    • popularpaleo says

      Heeeyyy! Thanks for making the recipe–and for asking about the coconut milk. Yes, it really does make a difference. Coconut milk is fatty by nature and we want to eat foods that are as close to their original form as possible (just in general). Also, the thick, creamy full fat milk gives viscosity to the sauce… that’s what you’re missing. I totally get using the ingredients you have on hand though (I do that ALL the time), but I wanted to give ya an honest answer to your question :-)

      • CZ says

        Thank you for the honesty! I figured the light coconut milk made it watery. Next time I will use full fat milk. Thanks again for the great recipe!

  11. Michelle says

    Thanks for this recipe. I love Indian food and can’t wait to try this. I’m entering this recipe in my food tracking app. How many servings would you say are in this recipe?

    • popularpaleo says

      I think 2 pounds of thighs is like 6 of them? I’m going off memory here… If so, I’d say 6 servings :-)

  12. Colette says

    I LOVE Indian food. I make Kheema and Pubjabi Cabbage once a week. Tonight I made this! OMG! It was delicious! I now have another Indian favorite to add to my weekly menu. The Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice was perfect with it! Thank you!

    • says

      Alison! Thank you!! Those two recipes are a match made in heaven — good choices! :-) I appreciate you sharing my food on your fabulous site! Hope you get the chance to try out a few more… Love what you are doing for the Paleo community!

  13. Kara says

    I’m not a fan of chicken thighs. Would I just cook it less time if I used chicken breast? What about a boneless cut of meat? Does that effect cook time?

    • says

      Since they’re usually larger, I think it would take a touch more time with a chicken breast. Check it at 4 hours and see if the chicken is ready by pressing with the back of a fork. If it’s done, the meat will easily fall away.

      Using a boneless cut of meat runs the risk of it drying out easier. Because all slow cookers vary with temps and cook times, it’s hard for me to gauge exactly what adjustments to make. Wish I could be more help there!

      I’ll just say this – If I were going to use some boneless, skinless breasts on this recipe (using my Crock Pot, which cooks really hot and fast), I’d set it to low and check at 4 hours.

    • says

      Incidentally, I made this with a whole onion, not a half as I wrote out in the recipe. It felt like it was a lot at the time, but I suppose it’s a matter of preference. All that to say is that there will be enough sauce to take on the extra onion you want to add… no additional modifications necessary!

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