Spice up your mid-week meal plan with this healthy, flavorful, and easy Slow Cooker Chicken Curry. Made with tender, juicy chicken thighs, coconut milk, veggies, and a zippy blend of Indian spices, it’s guaranteed to get you out of your dinnertime recipe rut.
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.
Richly flavored, high in protein and fiber, lusciously creamy, and super delicious, not only is this satisfying Indian chicken recipe healthy, but it is easy too!
Made almost entirely in a slow cooker (like this Slow Cooker Butter Chicken), it’s a fuss-free, hands-off recipe perfect for the busy work week.
What is Curry?
Though Americans often use the term curry to refer to a specific spice blend called curry powder, “curry” is a general term for a range of saucy dishes served over rice (try Turmeric Rice). They’re especially popular in India and Southeast Asia.
5 Star Review
“This is great! Uncomplicated preparation, complex and deep flavors. The chicken thighs are delicious!”— Eileen —
How to Make the BEST Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
I won’t pretend this is an authentic Indian chicken curry.
While I love and appreciate the large number of spices and the intense preparation that goes into creating authentic Indian dishes, I like to slim down the ingredient list at home (as seen in this Instant Pot Lentil Curry).
This simple slow cooker chicken curry recipe takes the classic flavor profile of Indian curry and streamlines it to be accessible to home cooks with ingredients you can find in most average U.S. grocery stores.
If you’d like to learn more about Indian food and find great recipes, check out my friend Richa’s blog.
- Coconut Milk. Making this Indian chicken curry with coconut milk makes it rich and creamy and balances the spices (as in this Chickpea Curry). I use light coconut milk to make the recipe healthy, but for the full effect, you can use whole (regular) coconut milk.
- Chicken. I opt to make this a slow cooker curry chicken thighs recipe since thighs usually perform better with crockpot cooking. (See this Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken for another crockpot chicken thigh recipe.)
- Red Bell Peppers + Sweet 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 (but if you insist, Roasted Cauliflower would be a nice option).
- Lime Juice. For balance, brightness, and pop. Do yourself a favor and use fresh lime juice rather than the bottled stuff; it makes a HUGE difference.
- Curry Powder. This blend of spices can be found in the spice aisle of about any standard grocery store. Every spoonful gives you mega bang for your buck (especially in these Curried Deviled Eggs).
- 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 dedication of toasting and grinding whole spices the way many authentic Indian recipes do.
Is Curry Spicy?
New to the wonderful world of Indian cuisine? Like my favorite Paneer Tikka Masala, this healthy slow cooker chicken curry is aromatic and deeply spiced, but in the warm, rich, flavorful way, not the hot-spicy way (although some curry recipes can be).
This curry tastes exotic enough to feel exciting, but not so exotic that it will scare away the less adventurous eaters in your family. Toddler (and picky husband) approval has been widely reported (ditto for this Chicken Tikka Masala too).
- Rice or Quinoa. I like to serve this easy slow cooker chicken curry over a bed of fluffy brown or jasmine rice. For an extra boost of protein, quinoa is also a lovely choice.
- Cilantro. A perfect finish of color and freshness to this slow-cooked, soul-satisfying dish.
- Place the sweet potatoes, bell peppers, water, and lime juice into a slow cooker.
- Combine the spices and salt in a small bowl, then season the chicken liberally with 2/3 of the spice mix. Reserve the remaining spice mixture.
- Sear the chicken in a skillet over medium-high on both sides briefly until brown.
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 flavor 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 the time to do it.
- 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.
- 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.
- Transfer the seared chicken to the slow cooker and top with the remaining spices. Cover and slow cook the curry on low for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is cooked through.
An instant-read thermometer like this one is the best way to tell if the chicken is 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.
- Remove the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, add the coconut milk and cornstarch slurry to the slow cooker.
- Stir, then cover and cook on HIGH until the sauce thickens slightly (about 15 minutes).
- Return the chicken to the slow cooker and cook until the vegetables and chicken are hot and tender. Serve over rice or quinoa or with naan, topped with fresh cilantro. ENJOY!
- To Store. 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.
- To Freeze. I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the coconut milk tends to separate and become grainy.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I like this kind because it can be automatically set to switch to warm.
- Instant-Read Thermometer. The BEST and most accurate way to know if your chicken is done.
- Cutting Board. An extra large cutting board like this one is ideal for seasoning the large quantity of chicken for this recipe.
The Best Programmable Slow Cooker
This 7-quart crock pot is big enough even for a large family, and perfect for roasts and holiday gatherings too. Plus, its secure locking lid can travel without spills to parties and potlucks.
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!
Frequently Asked Questions
Of course! Slow cookers are designed to cook raw meats. The searing of the chicken in this recipe does not really cook the chicken. It simply gives it some added color and flavor. The bulk of the cooking happens right in the slow cooker, where the direct heat from the pot and steam fully cook the chicken to a safe temperature for consumption.
For the bulk of this recipe, you can cook this slow cooker chicken curry recipe on either LOW or HIGH. Since chicken thighs are much more forgiving than chicken breasts in a crockpot, you can adjust the temperature to suit your personal timeline. However, I recommend cooking on HIGH for the final 30 minutes of cooking to achieve the right sauce consistency.
Unlike stovetop cooking which allows moisture to escape and evaporate during cooking, the moisture in a slow cooker doesn’t evaporate since a lid is kept on for the duration of the cooking process. A cornstarch slurry is added to help the curry thicken and gives the curry body.
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 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see note below)
- 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 remaining spices 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 them 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 cook for 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 for 15 additional minutes on HIGH, until the vegetables and chicken are hot and tender. Serve warm over rice or quinoa or with naan, topped with fresh cilantro.
- INGREDIENT NOTE: I do not recommend chicken breasts for this recipe, as they tend 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.
- TO STORE: Store leftovers in the refrigerator 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 until heated through.
- TO FREEZE: DO NOT FREEZE. Coconut milk will separate and become “grainy” in the freezer.
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