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 has no thickening agent like flour.

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 might be time-consuming but slow. 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.

How to make chicken curry

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

Make the Bhuna or aromatic base

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

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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.

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

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: 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.

You can make a cornstarch slurry and use it to thicken the curry. Mix one part cornstarch 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?

Coconut 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 keep 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.

Slow cooker chicken coconut curry.
Flavours of Kitchen Logo

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 tablespoons 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 teaspoons 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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54 Comments

  1. Yvonne Nunez says:

    5 stars
    Really easy instructions to
    Follow and great tips. Added potatoes and red peppers. Sauce Came out thick and delicious. Used the boneless skinless chicken thighs and the meat just fell apart on its own after three hours in crockpot on high.

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe, have made it over 10 times and is a real crowd pleaser.

  3. 5 stars
    Added sweet potatoes, chick peas and shredded the chicken!! So good!

    Added sweet potato and chick peas at the beginning. Once sweet potatoes were cooked I mashed them and threw them back in – this THICKENED it up perfect.

    Also put my chicken in whole, once cooked, shredded it with two forks and put it back in.

  4. 5 stars
    The very Best !!! I did fresh everything and doubled up on the curry ummmmm!

  5. Coby Watkins says:

    5 stars
    Just made this for the first time. It was sensational!
    I made a couple of changes in mine though. I added half a tablespoon of Garam Masala, and an extra teaspoon of curry powder to the onion mix in the frypan.

    The step of cooking the onions, garlic, ginger etc is essential. It creates a new level of rich flavour. Don’t be lazy and just dump it all in the slow cooker together. I found the Garam Masala kicked it up a notch!

    Served over steamed Basmati rice, and i pan fried some frozen Aloo Paratha i had. It was absolutely delicious. My partner has made it a staple for me to cook hahahaha.

    Much love from Victoria, Australia.

    1. Subhasmita says:

      Glad to hear you loved it. Never a fan of dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, specially when its a curry.

  6. Grace Talosig says:

    Can I add carrots, bell pepper and potatoes with this recipe? If yes, when do I put them?

    1. Subhasmita says:

      Yes. Carrot and potatoes you can add at the beginning as it will take longer to cook. Bell pepper to keep it little crunchy add towards the end, may be 20 minutes before finishing it off.

  7. 5 stars
    One of the best curries I’ve make , really tasty

  8. 4 stars
    I made this and would say this is a good base recipe to start with. I added a bit more of the seasonings and some smoked paprika. I maybe need to dice the onion finer or grate it next time. There were too many big chunks in mine so I strained it and then it was good.

  9. I’ve made this twice and it’s not runny at all but I do use a tea towel under the lid of the slow cooker to reduce moisture going back in. Just about to make it again doubling up to see how it freezes then I can have it mid week when it’s just me.

    1. Can I freeze this curry .

      1. Subhasmita says:

        I will not recommend as the coconut milk might curdle while reheating.

  10. Lees D Yunits says:

    5 stars
    Love this! Easy ~ might add a bit more spice next time 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    Made this today, so easy to make. Chicken was lovely and tender and just the right amount of spice for my taste

  12. 5 stars
    This is a go to woth the family and delicious although i have tweak it a bit.
    First I use coconut oil rather then vegetable oil at the start
    Then I also add Baby corn and mangetout I use easy garlic and ginger and make my own curry powder like the instructions coriander leaf, cumin, turmeric and Garamond masala. To add more vegetables the rest is the same,
    It really is delicious

  13. Nicholas White says:

    5 stars
    I followed this recipe and made a couple modifications and the result was really tasty.
    1. I used coconut cream instead of milk.
    2. I added two cinnamon sticks in the slow cooker after everything had been put in there and I thought it really added some nice flavour. I also ate it with naan and quinoa instead of rice.
    I will definitely make this again.

  14. Abbey Vijlee says:

    I like this recipe. Will try it. My other recipe is too time consuming. However, one thing from the other recipe is worth replicating.
    After cooking onion, spices, etc. let chicken pieces marinate for 20 minutes and then cook the entire mixture in a slow cooker.
    I have not tried this version yet but will do so this weekend.

  15. 5 stars
    This is my new favourite slow cooker recipe. It’s perfection!

  16. 4 stars
    I made this last night and the flavor was delicious. The reason I chose your recipe is because I prefer one that cooks the curry powder early on so the flavors can bloom as opposed to adding it later. Your directions were EZ and straight forward. I can’t do spicy so left out the chili powder adding only a few drops of hot sauce. I did add a handful of raisins. I cooked it 5 hours on low in the slow cooker and served it over rice with chutney, shredded coconut and peanuts as a garnish. My only minor disappointment was that it was a lot more soupy than I expected. I think that next time I might cut back the amount of coconut milk a bit. Thanks for sharing such a delicious curried chicken recipe.

  17. Peter Pan says:

    Please explain why yours is thick and creamy and everyone else whos tried this is very very watery ? somethings not right here.

    1. Subhasmita says:

      Hi Peter, many have received the desired consistency in the gravy and rated it well. I have updated the post with reasons why it could be runny and how to avoid it. Please check if it helps.

4.07 from 274 votes (251 ratings without comment)

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