My slow cooker chicken tikka masala has all the big, bold flavor of the traditional dish, but it’s far easier—and lighter, too (263 calories or 3 Weight Watchers points). The chicken is fall-apart tender in a deliciously creamy, fragrant, slightly sweet, and subtlety tangy tomato sauce.
Last summer Daniel and I became regulars at the lunch buffet that our favorite Indian restaurant puts out on weekdays. And when I say regulars, I don’t mean the friendly, first-name-basis familiarity that you might establish at your local coffee place; I’m referring to more of a mortifying reality where the owners kind of looked at us on the tenth visit like, “…seriously?” But mortifying or not, I kept going because I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and grappling with a constant craving for chicken tikka masala, and Daniel went for a simpler, yet still very solid reason: he was afraid of me.
It’s been months since we’ve been back, so in an attempt to recreate our favorite chicken tikka masala, I broke out my trusty slow cooker.
Lighter Chicken Tikka Masala in the Slow Cooker
Chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker has all the big, bold flavor of the traditional dish, but it’s far easier. It doesn’t hurt that it’s lighter and healthier, too. To make it, I combine boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I prefer the white meat to the dark meat of the thighs, which are used in many Indian dishes) and a quick mix of crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and spices like cumin, coriander, and garam masala in your crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours. The result is fall-apart tender chicken in a deliciously fragrant, slightly sweet, and only subtlety tangy sauce. I stir half and half into the finished sauce to balance the tomatoes and add that signature richness.
Slow cooker recipes should be easy, so I like to make things that don’t require too much prep or hands-on time (like marinating or searing the meat beforehand, for instance). However, it is important that you sauté the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices. Why? Because cooking the garlic and ginger in olive oil helps them release their flavors that much more. You also intensify the spices. That said, *IF* you really don’t want to take this step or don’t have the time, you can simply combine all of the sauce ingredients in the base of your slow cooker and stir them well to blend.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅔ cup half and half
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- In the base of your slow cooker, combine the crushed tomatoes and brown sugar. Stir.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, garam masala, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. The mixture will be a thick paste.
- Transfer the onion and spice mixture to the slow cooker and stir well to combine with the crushed tomatoes. Add the chicken breasts, pushing them down enough to cover them with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the slow cooker and cut into smaller chunks. Stir the half and half into the tomato sauce in the slow cooker. Return the cut-up chicken to the slow cooker and stir. Serve with the chopped fresh cilantro.
Adapted from Cooks Country