Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
Whenever I’m hitting a healthy dinner rut, Indian food is the genre that (quite literally) spices my life up once more. Recipes like this Slow Cooker Chicken Curry make me feel genuinely excited about what we are eating and proud of the flavors I can create.
Add the fact that this crockpot Indian chicken recipe is healthy, so I know we are nourishing ourselves well and it’s great leftover. AND, the crockpot makes the situation hands-free, and my little culinary heart is full.
And, since Indian slow cooker chicken curry is richly flavored, high in protein and fiber, lusciously creamy, and super delicious, rest assured that my tummy is full too!
Indian chicken curry and I have a long and happy history. I spent a month after college traveling through India, though ironically my first taste of Indian curry wasn’t in India at all.
It was in northern Indiana at an Indian lunch buffet.
I stepped inside the tiny restaurant and was immediately intoxicated with the exotic perfume of rich spices that permeated the air. From my first bite of coconut chicken curry, Indian food became one of my favorite cuisines. Whether or not you’ve tried Indian food, this crockpot chicken curry is sure to captivate you too!
Like my favorite Slow Cooker Butter Chicken and Red Lentil Curry, this healthy slow cooker chicken curry is aromatic, and deeply spiced (in the warm, rich, flavorful way, not the hot-spicy way). It tastes exotic enough to feel exciting, but not so exotic that it will scare away the less adventurous eaters in your family.
How to Make Delicious (EASY) Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
Though Americans often use the term curry to refer to a specific spice blend called curry powder (which we will get to momentarily), “curry” is a general term for a range of saucy dishes that are served over rice or with naan bread. They’re especially popular in India and Southeast Asia.
I won’t pretend this is an authentic Indian chicken curry.
You’ll find various iterations of coconut milk chicken curry dishes like this one on many Indian menus. While in India, I took a cooking class. One of the most eye-opening aspects of it was the large number of spices and intense preparation that goes into authentic Indian dishes. They are fabulous. But at home for us, it’s this slimmed down, real simple Slow Cooker Chicken Curry recipe.
To make this recipe a healthy slow cooker chicken dinner, I took the classic flavor profile and lightened it up with plenty of fresh veggies, lean chicken, and light versus full-fat coconut milk.
To make the recipe accessible to home cooks, I also significantly streamlined the ingredient list, keeping only what you can find in average U.S. grocery stores.
Authentic or not, it is absolutely scrumptious and includes many of the Indian flavors and ingredients that stole my heart.
Slow Cooker Chicken Curry Ingredients
Today’s Slow Cooker Chicken Curry Recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients to give it big-time flavor in a fraction of the time.
The base ingredients for this recipe are:
- Coconut Milk. Making Indian chicken curry with coconut milk makes it rich and creamy and balances the spices. I use light coconut milk to make the recipe healthy, but for the full, creamy effect, you can use whole (regular) coconut milk.
I am often asked if you can put coconut milk in a crockpot—the answer is yes, but not until the end of the recipe. Do not add coconut milk to a slow cooker right at the beginning; it will curdle as the recipe cooks. If you wait until the end, however, you are good to go and will be rewarded with rich, creamy coconut milk goodness.
- Chicken. I opt to make this a slow cooker curry chicken thighs recipe, as thighs usually perform better with crockpot cooking; they can stand up to longer stints in the crockpot without drying out. If you prefer to use chicken breasts, you can certainly make this Indian chicken crockpot recipe with those instead; check your chicken early to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
- Red Bell Peppers + Sweet Potatoes (or Regular Potatoes). Anytime I can “one pan” a meal, I will. Adding fresh veggies to the recipe makes it a well-rounded dish, no separate vegetable side required. You can swap in other vegetables. Slow Cooker Curry Chicken with Potatoes is another one of our favorites and a classic Indian combination.
This chicken curry also uses a blend of spices to give it rich, authentic flavor. As promised, all of them are widely available, no specialty shopping required.
- Curry Powder. This is a blend of a large number of spices and can be found in the spice aisle of about any standard grocery store or online here. Every spoonful gives you mega bang for your buck, because you are adding so many spices to your recipes at once.
- Cumin and Chili Powder. The mild heat works well with the sweeter profile of curry powder. (If you’re looking for a curry recipe with more heat, check out my Jamaican Curry Chicken.)
- Smoked Paprika. Admittedly, not super traditional in Indian cooking but SO GOOD and a game-changing shortcut. It gives you instant, intense flavor without the fuss of toasting and grinding whole spices the way many authentic Indian recipes do.
- Fresh Lime Juice. For balance, brightness, and pop.
Recipe Secrets to Cooking the Most Flavorful Crockpot Chicken Curry
While you can put raw chicken in a slow cooker (you do not need to brown the chicken first), I find that you miss out on a major meal opportunity.
- Browning the chicken on the stove before you put it into the slow cooker makes a big impact on the outcome of your dish, especially if you are cooking whole chicken thighs or chicken breasts. You won’t ever regret taking time for it.
- In the case of this Slow Cooker Chicken Curry, I took the browning a step further by coating the chicken in the spices FIRST, then searing it on the stove. It activates the spices and gives the chicken a bit of a blackened effect that pops with every bite.
TIP: Work quickly! You don’t need to cook the chicken all the way through; the chicken will still be raw in the middle when you place it in the crock pot and will finish cooking with the recipe.
How to Know if Your Crock Pot Chicken is Cooked
- An instant read thermometer like this one is the best way to tell if it’s done. I remove the chicken when it reaches 160 degrees F; the carry over cooking time takes it to the FDA’s recommended 165 degrees F (feel free to check it once more if you’d like to be 100% safe).
Serving Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
The beauty of this recipe is that it is an all-in-one meal! The only thing you’ll need is something for sopping up that tasty coconut milk curry sauce.
- Brown Rice. This is our go-to. It adds a serving of whole grains and sops up the yummy sauce. For extra protein, you can use quinoa. (Bonus: It keeps the recipe naturally gluten free for those with dietary concerns as well.)
- Cauliflower Rice. A perfect option if you’re looking to make this Crockpot Chicken Curry low carb.
- Naan. The fluffy bread of my Indian food dreams! You can make naan from scratch (my friend Ali has a great homemade naan bread recipe) or buy it like I did for this naan pizza.
- As written, this recipe is naturally gluten free, dairy free, and Whole30 chicken curry and Paleo chicken curry if served with cauliflower rice.
- If you’d like a vegetarian curry, check out the Red Lentil Curry linked above or my Coconut Curry with chickpeas.
How to Store Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- To refrigerate: Let cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. You can store the rice either with the curry or separately. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- To reheat: Mix your desired portion of rice and chicken curry (if not already combined). Warm gently in the microwave or stovetop.
- I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the coconut milk tends to separate and become grainy.
Recommended Tools to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- Programmable slow cooker (I like this kind because it can be automatically set to switch to warm).
- Instant Read Thermometer (BEST way to know if your chicken is done).
I hope to return to India one day. Until I do, I’m happy to have this Slow Cooker Chicken Curry to remind me of my trip. With a prep time of fewer than 10 minutes and ingredients you can find in any grocery store, this crock pot meal is a fast, healthy way to satisfy my coconut chicken curry craving, no plane ticket or jet lag required!
If you’re love this recipe, check out my full list of other healthy crock pot chicken recipes.
Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- 1 large sweet potato - scrubbed and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 red bell peppers - cored and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice - about 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can light coconut milk - 14 ounces; (for a thicker, creamier sauce, use regular coconut milk)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch - mixed with 3 tablespoons water to create a slurry
- For serving: prepared brown rice or quinoa; chopped fresh cilantro
- Place the sweet potatoes and bell peppers in the bottom of a 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Pour the water and lime juice over the top.
- In a small bowl, combine the curry, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Place the chicken thighs on a large plate or cutting board, and sprinkle both sides with about 2/3 of the spice mix. Rub to coat, then set the remain spice mixture aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Once the oil is hot and shiny, add the chicken thighs and briefly pan sear on each side, just until brown— about 2 minutes for the first side and 1 minute for the second side. Place the seared chicken in the slow cooker, on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or high for 2 to 3 hours, until the chicken is cooked through. It should register 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove the chicken thighs from the slow cooker and transfer to a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, cut the chicken into bite-size pieces or shred it with two forks. Set aside.
- Pour the coconut milk and cornstarch slurry into the slow cooker, and stir to combine with the vegetables and cooking liquid. Turn the slow cooker heat to high, cover, and let cook 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir to combine and coat the chicken in the sauce. Recover and cook 15 additional minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are hot and tender. Serve warm over rice or quinoa or with naan, topped with fresh cilantro.
- I do not recommend chicken breasts for this recipe, as they have a tendency to dry out in the slow cooker. If you decide to use chicken breasts, watch the cooking time very carefully, as the chicken will cook more quickly and can easily become too dry.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. DO NOT FREEZE. Coconut milk will separate and become "grainy" in the freezer.
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