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!

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

    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.

Notes

Recipe Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

 

Pin me!

Dairy Free Butter Chicken (with Slow Cooker Option!)

 

MORE DAIRY FREE SLOW COOKER RECIPE IDEAS:

 

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!

 

Have a great day!

Christal // NITK 

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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  • Absolutely delicious!!!! I normally google recipes for healthier versions of my favorite dishes and usually I never really post a comment on the outcome of the dish. This is hands down the best butter chicken recipe I have ever come across healthy or not! I have tried many regular butter chicken recipes and this one is amazing. So full of flavor and it’s quite surprising and refershing that it is dairy free and has very little oil.

    • Hi JG! Wow! Thanks so much for the great feedback! It definitely is one of my faves and my clients faves. So glad you liked the recipe! 🙂

  • I just made this today and our house smells amazing! Certainly not as buttery or fatty as I’m used to but it is delicious and such an easy recipe to do. Thank you so much 🙂

  • This looks absolutely delicious! Can I substitute almonds for cashews (my son is allergic to nuts except for almonds)? And is this recipe still spicy if I omit the cayenne pepper?
    Thanks!!

    • You could try almonds – I would use blanched almonds without the skins! (the white ones!) and you can definitely omit the cayenne but the recipe is only mildly spicy! 🙂 Enjoy!

  • This was soooo good. I made it using my wide bottom Vitamix and I didn’t actually use a slow cooker. I sautéed the onion and the chopped chicken in some olive oil first and then added the sauce from my blender and simmered for about 30 minutes ish. I also added a bit more salt (Himalayan pink salt) It tasted the same if not better than butter chicken that is made with dairy and way more oil. This will become a staple for us! So so good and doesn’t make me miss the richness of dairy at all.

  • If I still ate chicken, I’d be all over that. It looks good. I’d probably have to turn it into a burrito with some jasmine rice or something lol Did you make the naan too? I got lazy and started assuming with labels. I’ve had some packaged naan a few times and only just now noticed it had buttermilk in the brand I was getting! I don’t do dairy. Do you have a recipe for that? Thanks for the posts and the hard work you do.

  • Mighty heaven that looks amazing! 😀

    I hope you’re well and that you have had an amazing christmas! I have been away from the blogworld for a while, but when I returned today “working from home” (but in Norway so I can spend New Years with some of the family 🙂 ) and sneakpeaking in my blog newsfeed, I was happy to see this recipe! Definitely one for when I return to Glasgow in the new year!

    Speaking of which, enjoy your New Years eve in Alberta, I’m sure that’ll be fantastic 😀 x

    • Taking a break from the blogosphere is essential sometimes! 🙂 I’ve taken a bit of a break over the past week too – I think it might set the tone for the New Year, I may just become a once or twice a week poster! We shall see! 🙂 Hope you have a lovely New Years!