Tandoori Chicken

If you don't have a grill, you can broil the chicken for a few minutes on each side to get some browning, then finish in a 325°F oven until done.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Marinating time: 6 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp sweet (not hot) paprika
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (can sub buttermilk)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs), or its equivalent, skinless, bone-in


1 Heat the spices in oil: Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, then cook the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and paprika, stirring often, until fragrant (approximately 2-3 minutes). Let cool completely.

2 Whisk into yogurt, add lemon juice, garlic, salt, ginger: Whisk in the cooled spice-oil mixture into the yogurt, then mix in the lemon juice, garlic, salt and ginger.

3 Cut deep slashes into chicken, coat with marinade, chill: Cut deep slashes (to the bone) in 3-4 places on the leg/thigh pieces. Just make 2-3 cuts if you are using separate drumsticks and thighs. Coat the chicken in the marinade, cover and chill for at least an hour (preferably 6 hours), no more than 8 hours.

4 Prepare grill: Prepare your grill so that one side is quite hot over direct heat, the other side cooler, not over direct heat. If using charcoal, leave one side of the grill without coals, so you have a hot side and a cooler side. If you are using a gas grill, just turn on one-half of the burners.

Use tongs to wipe the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil.

5 Shake off excess marinade, place chicken on hot side of grill: Take the chicken out of the marinade and shake off the excess. You want the chicken coated, but not gloppy.

Put the chicken pieces on the hot side of the grill and cover. Cook 2-3 minutes before checking.

Turn the chicken so it is brown (even a little bit charred) on all sides

6 Move to cool side of grill, cover and cook: Move chicken to the cool side of the grill. Cover and cook for at least 20 minutes, up to 40 minutes (or longer) depending on the size of the chicken and the temperature of the grill. The chicken is done when its juices run clear.

Let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. It’s also great at room temperature or even cold the next day.

Serve with naan, and Indian flatbread, or with Indian style rice, with yogurt-based raita on the side.

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  • Cee Grant

    It was great! But … Bones add fat? I don’t get it. What is the science of that statement?

  • Arthur Davalos-Matthews

    I haven’t cooked it yet but the flavor of the marinade was exceptional, but the color looks green. Could it be because I used hungarian paprika? I don’t want to use food coloring.

  • Aimee

    Can I marinate and freeze?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Aimee, I don’t see why not! If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you!

  • Maaike

    just made this and it was truly delicious thanks for the recipe! It just turned out the way the picture looked like and that doesnt happen often with me :)

  • Kathy Kreiter

    My brother and sister-in-law lived in Pakistan for several years and traveled in India, and they said this was the best Tandoori chicken they ever had. This one will be a house favorite; Elise, I don’t know how you do it, but your recipes are just consistently the best on the internet. Thanks for all the wonderful meals we have had using your site!

  • Deepak

    To make it more flavorful and thickly coated, use a little roasted gram flour in the marinade. I tried it on this recipe and it just went super tasty.

  • Amanda

    Soooo yummy! I made this for my friends last night. There were lots of parts that the little 8 year old girl that I babysit was able to help with. She was so proud of “her” product. : ) Seeding the cucumber for the raita (which is a must for this recipe!) using a melon baller works great and is a great job for little hands. Thank you for this recipe- I will be making this again!

  • Rebecca

    For those of you who are lactose sensitive, I made this last night with lactose free yogurt, and baked it in the oven on 500 for 30 minutes instead of putting it on the grill. Was so good, I am making it for the in-laws next week.

  • Maureen

    The Tandoori Chicken and the rice were a huge hit for my dinner tonight. It was a little fussy but the results were amazing. Definitely a keeper.

  • Dan

    Red beet root powder is also used as “dye” for tandoori chicken. so, dye away without worries!

  • pratfall

    The red color traditionally comes from annatto seed, which you can find at some spice stores. A teaspoon or so ground into the spice mixture in the recipe should be enough for a nice color. Red food dye is a vicious lie.

  • Samantha

    Is garam masala the same as curry powder? I read somewhere that it was, but in another Indian recipe I saw that both spices were needed.

    Very different. You want to use garam masala in this recipe. Standard yellow curry powder has quite a different taste. ~Elise

  • Trish Mulvey

    We would love to try this in our clay pot, and you only need to soak the pot and its lid for ten minutes. My favorite baked chicken recipe that looks kinda similar starts with a mixed layer of a chopped onion and and a chopped green pepper wiht 1.5 cups of luke warm chicken broth. After the pot is in the cold oven, heat to 480F and bake for about 80 minutes.

    I would love other suggestions.

  • Gina

    Best ever recipe for naan (modified from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking):
    3 3/4 c. AP flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    About 1 3/4 c. plain yogurt
    Optional: softened butter, chopped garlic

    Sift dry ingredients together in bowl, then add enough yogurt to make soft resilient dough. Knead about 10 minutes, form into ball, place in bowl covered with damp towel, and set aside in warm area for 1-2 hours. Knead again, then divide into 9 equal balls. Preheat the broiler and a pizza stone (in middle of oven).
    Take the balls of dough and flatten and roll on floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness. When pizza stone is very hot, slap the dough onto the surface and let puff up completely. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until naan is puffy and has some reddish spots. Remove with spatula and brush with butter (and garlic). Serve hot.
    You can also start the naans on a cast iron skillet and finish under the broiler. To make ahead: follow above, allow to cool completely, wrap in plastic bag. To reheat: remove from plastic, wrap in aluminium foil and heat in 400 deg oven for 15 minutes.

  • Susan

    I’m one of those breast meat lovers and find this recipe makes even the breast meat moist and flavorful. We kabob’d the meat to get even more flavor per bite and it was wonderful. Thanks for this, Elise.

  • Swati

    I wanted to check why it cannot be marinated overnight?

    The marinade is quite acidic. You can marinate the chicken overnight, but you do risk breaking down the meat too much. ~Elise

  • Sara

    I have just gotten out the clay romertopf my Mom never used. The cookbook with it says it makes a decent substitute tandoor oven. What would be your advice?

    Hey, it’s worth a try! I have one of those clay roasters too. I do think you are supposed to soak them overnight in water before using them, otherwise they may crack. You might want to look for info online on how to use it. ~Elise

  • freda

    The tandoori chicken looks great but we can’t handle the yogurt. Can you make it with soy yogurt? will it still be o.k.?

    The yogurt is mainly there as a tenderizer. It’s acidic. You could also use buttermilk. Or if you are avoiding dairy, and soy yogurt is acidic, you could try it. Or just use more lemon juice. ~Elise

  • Anna

    If I am going to make this in the oven, when you say “finish” how long do you think that would take? I don’t have a meat thermometer so I don’t really have a way of checking if it is cooked through.

    Assume total cooking time of 15 minutes per pound as a place to start. The meat is done when you cut into it with a knife and the juices run clear, not pink. Check here for a good basic recipe for oven-baked chicken. You’ll probably want to reduce the time a bit because if you’ve made cuts to the bone the chicken will cook faster. ~Elise