Dairy Free Butter Chicken (with Slow Cooker Option!)

This delicious dairy free butter chicken is healthy, gluten free, and full of flavour made easily on the stovetop or in the slow cooker/crockpot. A perfect comforting meal! 

Dairy free butter chickening a bowl with rice, naan, and fresh herbs

Healthy Comfort Food: Dairy Free Butter Chicken 


This dairy-free butter chicken has been a blog favourite, a client favourite, and a personal favourite over the years. I usually shy away from Indian-inspired food as I find it can be challenging to create, and there are a lot of Indian dishes that contain dairy, like butter chicken (traditionally called Murgh Makhani) for example.

Despite the name, traditional butter chicken does not typically contain butter, but contains cream or yogurt which gives that unmissable rich, hearty consistency.

Bowl of dairy free butter chicken with naan bread, rice, and parsley herbs

When I created this recipe a few years ago, I was inspired by this great recipe I saw on the beautiful Half Baked Harvest blog! Tieghans butter chicken looked absolutely delish, and I loved the idea of making butter chicken on the stovetop or in the crockpot, but as per usual, I wanted to healthify the recipe a little more, and make it dairy free to suit my dairy allergy. 

Dairy Free Substitutions for Butter Chicken


For this delicious dairy free butter chicken recipe, instead of  using the typical dairy products – milk, yogurt, or cream, I used two simple ingredients that can recreate a creamy, rich texture in many recipes:

  1. Raw Cashews
  2. Coconut Milk (canned)

Large skillet with dairy free butter chicken alongside naan and fresh herbs

Raw cashews, when blended up with the rest of the sauce ingredients create a lovely cream-like consistency that can be compared to a traditional Indian butter chicken sauce. After enjoying a few bites, you would likely never guess this recipe was actually dairy free.

The coconut milk is also a great substitute for the cream to blend with the cashews to create a wonderful flavour and richness. 

Vitamix blender with dairy free butter chicken sauce ingredients

Ingredients in Dairy Free Butter Chicken Sauce


To make the creamy and delicious sauce you’ll need a combination of ingredients and an aromatic blend of spices. Many of the ingredients you may already have in your pantry.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Canned coconut milk (full fat or light)
  • Tomato paste
  • Red curry paste
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Raw cashews
  • Garam masala
  • Yellow curry powder 
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne
  • Coconut palm sugar (or regular sugar)

The spices blend wonderfully with the tomato and red curry paste, coconut milk, cashews, sugar, and vinegar to create a delicious, robust, and savoury flavour that couldn’t be mistaken for anything but slow cooker Indian-inspired butter chicken!

Vitamix blender with dairy free butter chicken sauce

Slow Cooker or Crockpot Butter Chicken Option:


I made this version of my dairy free butter chicken on the stovetop in less than 30 minutes, but if you have the extra time to “set it and forget it” you can definitely make this recipe in the slow cooker or crockpot. Here’s what you’ll need to do to make the slow cooked version of this dish:

  • Blend up the dairy free butter chicken sauce (including the garlic and olive oil you would otherwise use in the pan for the stovetop version)
  • Add the raw diced chicken, diced zucchini, carrot, and onion to the slow cooker/crockpot. 
  • Pour the butter chicken sauce over the chicken and vegetables and stir to coat.
  • Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 6 hours (if using an Instant Pot use the “Poultry” setting)
  • Stir everything in the slow cooker once or twice during the cooking process (do not do this if using an Instant Pot)
  • Serve with rice/pita when finished. 

Bowl of dairy free butter chicken with naan, rice, and parsley

If you are feeling like some warm, comfort food these days like I am, whip up this delicious dairy free butter chicken on the stovetop or in your slow cooker or crockpot. If you are avoiding grains you can also try the butter chicken alongside some cauliflower rice or over roasted potatoes. If you want a lighter fall/winter meal try this Fall Harvest Salad!

Be sure to pin the photo below the recipe to save this one for later and check out the other dairy free slow cooker recipes I have on the blog! 


Dairy free butter chickening a bowl with rice, naan, and fresh herbs

Dairy Free Butter Chicken

Yield: Makes 6-8 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This dairy free butter chicken is healthy, gluten free, and full of flavour and can be made easily on the stovetop or in the slow cooker!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced

Butter Chicken Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon red thai curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala spice
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coconut palm sugar (or cane sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 15 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews


    1. In a blender add all of the butter chicken sauce ingredients and blend until completely smooth (this may take a couple minutes if you don't have a high speed blender like a Vitamix).
    2. Heat a large deeper pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add in the oil, garlic, and onion.
    3. Saute for 2 minutes until onions begin to soften.
    4. Add in the chicken, zucchini, and carrot and cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes until chicken begins to slightly brown.
    5. Pour the sauce into the pan and reduce heat to low-medium.
    6. Bring everything to simmer, stirring often, and then partly the pan cover with a lid (on an angle), and let butter chicken simmer for another 5 minutes or so until chicken is fully cooked through.
    7. Serve butter chicken over cooked basmati rice, cauliflower rice, naan/pita, potatoes or any other accompaniment of your choice.


Recipe Adapted from Half Baked Harvest


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Dairy Free Butter Chicken (with Slow Cooker Option!)




Looking for more delicious dairy free recipes you can make in the slow cooker, Crockpot, or even Instant Pot? Check out some of my faves!


Author: Christal Sczebel

Christal is the creator of Nutrition in the Kitch. She's a Certified Nutritional Consultant, twice published author, gluten and dairy free recipe developer, food photographer, speaker, wife, and mama. Christal loves good food, all things wellness, and loves to travel. Her wellness philosophy is centred around balance and sustainable health, life's way too short for boring diets and restriction!

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  • So good! The sauce was wonderful. Made in the crockpot and it was perfect. I subbed a can of tomato sauce for the paste since I had none in the pantry. Also used coconut cream and added a little water to lighten it up. We will be making this frequently!

  • I used leftover thanksgiving turkey- mostly dark meat- and it was a great substitute for the chicken. My dish came out dark brown and had a heavy caramel masala taste. I triple checked my measurements and they were correct. Any idea why mine would be more potent? I added more coconut milk but the curry flavors were very muted.

    • Hi Lauren, great idea to use leftover turkey! If you followed the recipe I’m not sure why yours would have turned out darker and more intense in flavour. Perhaps it’s the brand of garam masala you are using?

  • I can’t wait to try this! My family loves butter chicken. Do you think the sauce could be made ahead and frozen? Then just reheated with precooked shredded chicken for a super fast dinner?

  • Do you have the previous version of this? I’ve made it dozens of times, but I don’t think there was sugar or vinegar before.

    • Hi Ruby! It’s the exact same with the addition of the sugar and vinegar – I added them to my revamped version because I feel they add a bit more depth to the flavour of the butter chicken sauce 🙂

  • This looks great. What can I serve it with to make a complete meal? I try to stay away from carbs. But for company, maybe keep some rice handy. Any other ideas for how to serve? Thank you.

    • Hey Erin – rice, naan bread, pita, or I think it would taste great with roasted baby potatoes or even just a bed of steamed vegetables if you want to go with the low carb option!

    • Hi Heather, no I would cook for the same time, and maybe slightly longer, about an hour or so but you can assess once you have cooked for the full amount of time, and if it needs more time, then just cook a little longer until done!

  • What what can I substitute for coconut milk? I’m allergic to latex and coconut is a latex food, so are bananas.

    • I’ve substituted equal amounts of Greek yogurt for coconut milk in many recipes, it’s delicious! Just be sure to mix it with a little hot liquid before adding slowly to the dish so it doesn’t curdle.

  • Omg! I am the happiest little vegimite in the world (yes I’m Aussie) I’ve been dairy free for 6 months and haven’t been able to make a good butter chicken. We celebrated our 10 year olds communion tonight with our family and I went rogue and thought I’d give your recipe a go. Everyone loved it and wanted the recipe. it was a bit spicy for my kids. Apart from adding more coconut to spice it down what other ingredients could I use less of.