How to make a slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry

How to make a slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry

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This recipe is one that my mother makes. When I was a young girl I’d sit, on a high stool,  in the corner of the kitchen mesmerised as she’d chop and slice onions, garlic, ginger, roast and crush whole spices to conjure up her own curry powder. I haven’t been taught how to cook this curry, somehow, perhaps by osmosis, I have absorbed the know how. This slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry recipe takes me back to that time when I was a little girl, sitting in the corner of the kitchen, watching the magic happen.

How to make a  slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry

The slow cooker

I’ve started using a slow cooker to make my Sri Lankan chicken curry. I can simply throw the ingredients into the pot and walk away, returning six hours later for a perfect slow cooker Sri Lankan red curry. The slow cooker yields a succulent curry with the flavour of the spices soaked deep into the meat which melts away from the bone.

The whole spices

I always start off my curries by frying an initial batch of whole spices, usually cumin seeds and mustard seeds along with the curry leaves and chilli before I add the onions, garlic and ginger.

The curry leaves

I like to use curry leaves in my Sri Lankan curry recipes.

Curry leaves are dark green, from a sub-tropical tree that is native to India and Sri Lanka. When fried, it gives off a very distinct, nutty aroma.

You will find fresh curry leaves in most Asian grocers, or you can order online.  If I can’t get fresh curry leaves I use dried curry leaves which are just as good.

If you can get hold of fresh curry leaves, you can make them last a little longer by putting them into a freezer bag, and store in the freezer and use when needed.

The Heat

For the heat, I prefer either fresh chillies or dried chillies to chilli powder (but I do sometimes sneak in a bit of chilli powder with the spice mix). Whole chillies, dried or fresh give a more rounded heat. And the amount of heat? That’s personal and I am going to leave that up to you!

The spice mix

There are so many combinations of curry powder. For this recipe, I use a standard garam masala mix. It’s a fantastic all-purpose blend of spices.


I will be honest, I only ever added turmeric to give my curries a deeper, richer, redder hue. But this rocking rhizome has so much going for it and is best known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and anti-oxidant properties.


For this recipe, I use tinned crushed tomatoes. Buy a good quality brand, otherwise, the curry sauce will be far too watery.

The chicken

Use the best chicken you can afford, the quality makes a difference. Personally, I think the best chicken cuts for curry are the dark chicken meats, the thighs and drumsticks.

I make this slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry with the skin on, and the meat on the bone because that’s where all the flavour is.

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slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry

How to make a slow cooker Sri Lankan chicken curry

  • Author: Tooting Mama
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 Hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 people 1x
  • Category: Main Dish


  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • a generous pinch of curry leaves
  • crushed dried chilli (Add to your taste)
  • 1 chopped onion (large)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1.5 kg chicken thighs and drumsticks (on the bone, skin on is optional)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground chilli
  • seasoning to taste
  • 1 tin good quality crushed tomatoes


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or a deep saucepan. When hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, curry leaves and crushed dried chilli. Stir gently for around 30 seconds until the fragrance is released.
  2. Add the chopped onion, followed by the garlic and ginger. Stir gently on a low heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Cut a couple of deep slashes into each of the chicken thighs and drumsticks before adding to the pan. Stir, coating the chicken with the onion, garlic, ginger and whole spices.
  4. Next add the ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, turmeric, ground chilli and seasoning.
  5. Mix the chicken thoroughly with the onion, garlic, ginger and spice mix. Make sure the chicken is coated with all the spices, and continue to cook until the chicken starts to brown.
  6. Tip all the contents into the slow cooker.
  7. Add the tin of crushed tomatoes and stir to mix the tomatoes into the chicken and spices.
  8. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
  9. Serve with basmati rice.


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