Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry

Coconut chicken curry is slow-cooked in sauteed onion, ginger, garlic, spices, and coconut milk until juicy and tender. Perfect to pair with rice or roti/naan.

Chopped cilantro and green chilli garnished on top of creamy Coconut Chicken Curry and served in a black bowl.

Chicken Coconut Curry is made with Boneless chicken breast sauteed in onion, ginger garlic paste, tomato, spices, and slow-cooked. Adding coconut milk makes the gravy silky smooth, and rich.  Slow cooking the chicken ensures the chicken pieces remain Juicy and tender. This recipe is also gluten-free as it does not have diary.

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Chicken Curry appears very often on our menu. This Chicken Curry dish is one of my go-to recipes.  It is not very spicy. The gravy is creamy and rich, with a subtle flavor from coconut milk.

If you ask me to pick rice or naan, I will be slightly biased toward rice. But this curry goes very well with roti/Indian Flatbreads.

Slow cooker chicken curry is may time-taking but flavour yielding Indian coconut chicken Curry recipe made in a slow cooker. You can certainly make this on the stovetop. But I will share a few tips to make the best Indian curry in the slow cooker.

Slow cooker recipes are supposed to be the ‘Dump & Forget’ cooking method. While this method might work for most recipes but for a delicious Indian curry, you should follow an important step.  This involves preparing the aromatic base for the curry – cooking the onion, garlic and ginger with oil to make the ‘Bhuna‘.

Bhuna gets the most flavor from the aromatics and the rest of the cooking builds on this base. Making the bhuna might seem like extra work, but believe me, it is worth the effort.

Close up view of coconut chicken curry with a creamy gravy and tender chicken pieces, served with chopped cilantro as garnish

Ingredients

Boneless Chicken – make it with boneless chicken breast or thighs. I have gone with skinless boneless chicken breast as i wanted to make this out of my pantry. This can very well be made with chicken thighs which I had many times. Chicken thighs have more flavor. Cut the chicken into cubes.

Oil – use any neutral oil like regular vegetable oil to saute the aromatics and spices. You can use coconut oil too.

Onion & Garlic – usual aromatics used in indian recipes. Use finely chopped onion and minced garlic.

Grated Ginger – ginger being a root is often sauteed with the aromatics to balance the flavor by giving a slightly hot yet earthy flavor.

Curry Powder (ref note 1) – It is a mix of various spice powders with strong flavors and excellent for making curries.

Tomato paste  – helps in forming the base of the gravy and is usually added to sauteed aromatics in Indian curries.

Kashmiri Red chilli powder (ref note 2) – it gives a bright red color to the curry. it is not hot in spite of the looks.

Coconut milk – Use full-fat and canned coconut milk, brought to room temperature. Avoid using cold coconut milk. Shake the can so that the contents mix well. If you use homemade coconut milk, reduce the quantity to half.

Salt to taste

Coriander/cilantro leaves – use chopped cilantro leaves for garnish.

steps to make coconut curry chicken in a slow cooker.
steps to make Chicken curry in Coconut milk

How to make chicken curry

Preparing the coconut chicken curry remains the same if you make it in a crockpot or skillet on stovetop. You make the bhuna (or aromatic base) in a pan before adding it with rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker.

On stovetop you do everything in it. There is not shifting of cooked portions from the pan to anything else. It is adding ingredient one after another when the former is cooked.

Make the Bhuna or aromatic base

These steps remain the same whether you choose slow cooker or stovetop.

Heat oil in a pan on medium flame. Add finely chopped onion and allow it to cook until it becomes soft and transparent. Follow it with minced garlic and ginger. Saute them and cook for a minute until they lose their raw smell.

Add curry powder and saute everything to prevent it from burning. You have prepared the aromatic curry base.

To cook in slow cooker, transfer this to the slow cooker and move on to the next section.

Cook in slow cooker

Add the curry base and the rest of the ingredients – chicken pieces, tomato paste, Kashmiri chilli powder, coconut milk and salt to the slow cooker. Stir it well and set it cook at high for 3 hours or for 5 hours at low.

Or Make in skillet on stovetop

Making Chicken Curry With Coconut on the stovetop is similar to any other chicken curry.

Splash some water on the curry base and then add tomato paste. Saute it for another minute. Once the Onion tomato curry base is cooked, add chicken pieces to the pan. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Then add coconut milk, chilli powder and salt and cook on low covered for 12-15 minutes more.

Tips For Making Curry

  • Chicken breast or chicken thighs can be used in this curry. I also use bone-in chicken sometimes for more flavor.
  • Use fresh curry powder for maximum flavor. The quality of the curry powder you use makes a lot of difference. Every curry powder has different ingredients in varied proportions. The one I used had coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and turmeric powder. It is had a nice strong flavor. You can substitute curry powder with one tablespoon of coriander powder, one teaspoon of cumin, one teaspoon of garam masala, and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder.                                                                                                                                                 
  • Instead of dumping everything directly into the slow cooker, first, we will cook onion, ginger, and garlic in a pan. Once it has cooked, add curry powder to the mixture. By cooking the aromatics in oil, we develop some flavor.
  • Coconut cream can be a substitute for coconut milk. Note that coconut cream is very concentrated and has high fat. Therefore, it is not a like for like substitute of coconut milk. It has to be diluted with water before added to the curry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my curry so watery?

Your curry can become watery and runny because of a few reasons: Some ingredients could have released water when heated. Especially, Secondly, if you are using products like diary or coconut milk, the proteins in the milk separate from the water. All that extra water makes the curry runny.
Third, check if the diary or coconut milk you have used are as that mentioned in the recipe. If heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk is to be used, do not substitute with low-fat versions. It will make the curry runny and you will have to fix them later.
Fourth, canned coconut milk have thickening agents in it and make it creamy. Homemade coconut milk does not have any thickeners. Therefore, reduce the quantity if using homemade coconut milk.

How to fix runny curry?

There are ways in which you can remedy your watery curry or gravy.
 
One, strain the contents of the curry especially the chicken and heat the strained liquid to reduce it. Add it back to the slow cooker along with the chicken and simmer for more time until you get the desired consistency.
Second, you can make a corn starch slurry and use it to thicken the curry. Mix one part corn starch with two parts water, mix it well and add to the curry. Cook the curry now for another 30 minutes to get the desired thick gravy.

Why does coconut milk separate?

Coconumut milk is made of proteins, coconut oil and water. The proteins act as an emulsifier, binding the oil and water. When exposed to an environment, especially high heat, the proteins release oil and water. this makes the curry watery and the proteins appear as clumps.
it is not just heat which denatures the protein, even cold coconut milk if not mixed well, could separate.

How to fix separated coconut milk?

Cooking curries or gravies with coconut milk on low-heat, as suggested in this recipe, in a slow cooker, helps in keeping it together. We do not boil the curry, providing high heat to the proteins to break and release water.
Also, ensure that you rest the canned coconut milk, taken out from the refrigerator, to allow it to come to room temperature. And mix it well so that the proteins bind with the oil and water. Stirring is important to mix the coconut milk.
You can also stir the curry or gravy if you feel the milk has separated. You may remove the chicken, stir the curry until it appears thick, add the chicken back again and let it simmer for some time.

Creamy coconut chicken curry served on a bowl of white rice with chopped cucumber, sliced onion and chopped cilantro as garnish.

Serve with

This curry can be had with roti (Indian flatbread), plain white or brown rice, Jeera rice, basmati rice, Vegetable pulao, or Paneer pulao.

Here are a few more Indian curries you might like

Creamy Cauliflower Curry With Coconut

Slow Cooker Indian Lamb Curry

Zero Oil Chicken Curry

Easy Chana Dal

One-Pot Chickpea Curry With Potato

Slow cooker chicken coconut curry.
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Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry with amazing flavours is rich and creamy. This Easy Indian Chicken Curry is made with freshly ground spices for the best flavours.
Servings 4 Serving

Equipment

Slow Cooker

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams Boneless Chicken Breast Or chicken thighs
  • 2 tbspn Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Medium Onion Finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Finely minced
  • ½ tablespoon Grated Ginger
  • 2 tablespoon Curry Powder (Ref note 1)
  • ¼ cup Tomato paste
  • 2 tspn Kashmiri Red chilli powder (Ref note 2)
  • 400 ml Coconut milk Use full-fat coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves Also known as Cilantro. Use finely chopped.

Instructions

Prepare the curry base in a pan

  • Start with the curry base. To make the curry base heat oil in a pan.
  • Add finely chopped Onion to the pan. Cook on medium flame until the onion starts to soften and brown.
  • Then add minced garlic and ginger. Saute for a minute so that the raw smell of garlic and ginger is gone.
  • Add curry powder to the pan and saute for 30 seconds until aromatic. Keep stirring to avoid burning.

Add base with rest of ingredients to slow cooker

  • Add chicken pieces to the crockpot along with the onion-ginger-garlic base (made above), tomato paste, Kashmiri chili powder, salt, and coconut milk.
  • Mix well and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5 hours.
  • While serving sprinkle fresh coriander.

Video

Notes

  1. The curry powder that I used was a mixture of coriander powder, cumin powder, fennel powder, cardamom powder, cloves, cinnamon, and turmeric powder.  I have seen a few brands of curry powder, that contain only coriander, cumin, fennel, and turmeric powder. In that case, use 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder and 1 teaspoon of garam masala. 
  2. Kashmiri red chili powder is a less spicy chilli powder used in Indian Cuisine for giving deep red color to curries. You can use paprika instead. I also add 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder to the curry because we love it spicy. 

Nutrition

Serving: 100g | Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 329mg | Potassium: 975mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 317IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 5mg
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53 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious, and easy!! Will definitely make it again!

  2. 4 stars
    Thank for the recipe.
    Very easy and very likely to always have all the ingredients on hand- making it even more ideal.

    It was however very runny like water and thus the chicken taste was quite bland and plain, as the soupy juices just ran straight off. I did 5 hrs on low.
    Flavour wasn’t much to rave about, but my children toddler and 5 yr old didn’t complain- and they can often be fussy.

    It certainly has potential- i will use this recipe as a base and tweak it to thicken and enhance flavours.

  3. Karen Smorowski says:

    If the curry powder you use is available on Amazon can you please tell the brand. I’ve searched for hours for the same list of ingredients and I can’t find it.

  4. Mary Jacobs says:

    Do you use coconut milk or coconut cream in your curry? This will be my first time making a curry of any kind. I bought both. Please advise. Thanks

    1. Subhasmita says:

      I have used coconut milk. You can use coconut cream by diluting it with water since you need a curry-like gravy.

  5. Suzanne Ness says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazing. I will be making it again today for my son’s 20th birthday dinner and will try it using boneless thighs for a bit more fat and flavour. I have been making extra and freezing it so when we want Indain take out I have it in my freezer!! Yay. I make garlic naan and Indian basmati to go with it. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. Super easy, super delish and cheaper than take out.

    1. Subhasmita says:

      I am so happy that you loved it. Hope it turned out great again.

  6. I don’t understand the comment about 2 Green Cardamom. I don’t see it in the list of ingredients. Should cardamom be part of this recipe and if so, how much?

    1. Subhasmita says:

      Hi Jannine,

      That was an old comment. The recipe has been improvised later. So no cardamom in the recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe multiple times, I love it! So easy to make and so flavorful.

  8. 5 stars
    This coconut chicken curry recipe is absolutely delicious! I will definitely be making this again.

  9. Amanda raki says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe loads of my times, I’m making this in slow cooker tonight I can’t wait to wake up to the beautiful aroma

  10. If I have curry paste, not powder, could you substitute and how much? And would I still use tomato paste? Thanks,

    1. Subhasmita says:

      You can use curry paste instead but I am sorry I can’t tell you how much. If can add tomato paste with curry paste as well.

      1. I read that when using powder instead of paste it’s a teaspoon of powder per tablespoon of paste so go backwards

  11. Whitespyre says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe. And I’m a novice cook.

  12. Best home made curry! Super easy to make and delicious . Brought some
    Over to my mom and she loved it too! Plus it makes your house smell amazinggg

  13. Great recipe… thank you so much for sharing it with all of us! I’ve just made this for the 2nd time so thought it only right to take the time to show my appreciation. I’m sure this curry will be an ongoing family favourite of ours.

    1. Subhasmita says:

      So glad that you liked it. This one is one of our favourites. If you don’t mind, can you please give a rating?

  14. Trying this now with a twist! Added cubed sweet potatoes and galangal root to the slow cooker. Will serve with cauliflower rice and cilantro topping. So excited! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  15. Stephanie Soulos says:

    5 stars
    Made sure to read the authors notes and I took the advice of combining garam masala to the curry powder and I also combined chilli powder and paprika. Unused full fat coconut milk and made sure to pre-cook my onions and spices as noted Absolutely divine! Anyone who hasn’t given this recipe 5 stars is not cooking it to the instructions & notes. Thank you for sharing. I loved this dish and will make again.

  16. 3 stars
    I added blended mango to add depth of flavour and some mango pieces and my toddler and hubby loved it

  17. I did this recipe today, but my coconut milk had separated due to low temperatures. I poured it all and after a while it blended fine, but at the end the food was not creamy like yours, it was rather watery and the chicken not as tender…

    1. subhasmita says:

      I am sorry you had trouble while making the recipe. I use coconut milk quite frequently and never faced such a problem. Was the coconut milk low on fat? And ideally, the chicken comes out nice and tender in the slow cooker, but looks like yours got definitely overcooked.

    2. I had this issue too! With mine I thought that it seemed like the sauce hadn’t cooked quite long enough..

  18. Hiya is it tinned coconut milk or fresh coconut milk that u use or would it matter I’m gonna make this tomorrow using a tin but was wondering if u could use fresh would it matter ?

    1. subhasmita says:

      Hi Mary,

      I had used Tinned Coconut milk. You can also use fresh coconut milk.

      Thanks

  19. Hi,
    Where can I purchase the curry powder that you used in this recipe?

    1. subhasmita says:

      Any Indian/Asian stored should have curry powder. It is also available on amazon.

  20. chris Decke says:

    While looking at this recipe I noticed in the ingredients there is 2 Green Card I think this might be green chili leave. a possible typing error.

    1. subhasmita says:

      Yes, it is 2 Green Cardamom. Corrected the typo. Thanks a lot for pointing it out, Chris

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