Tandoori Chicken

Make tandoori chicken on your grill! Chicken legs marinated in lemon juice, yogurt, and aromatic spices.

Tandoori Chicken Recipe with Turmeric Rice on Plate Next to Bowl of Raita

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Tandoori chicken gets its name from the bell-shaped tandoor clay oven which is also used to make naan, or Indian flatbread.

Skinless legs and thighs are marinated in a tenderizing mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, and spices and the meat is slashed to the bone in several places helping the marinade penetrate and the chicken cook more quickly.

The chicken gets its characteristic red hue from either lots of fiery chile or the addition of red food dye.

We're not that big on food dyes here, so we've skipped it, but if you must have your chicken bright red, feel free to add a bit of red food dye to the marinade.

You don't need a tandoor oven to make tandoori chicken! (Thank goodness). You can cook it over a grill (charcoal preferred) or just in an oven with a broiler.

Tandoori Marinade Chicken with Turmeric Rice on Plate Next to Bowl of Raita

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

The key to tandoori chicken is to use bone-in thighs and legs (yay! our favorite cuts) because they have enough fat to stay moist under the heat of the grill. We don't recommend this dish with chicken breasts, they'll dry out too easily.

The pieces should be skinless. Here's a trick though, if you find yourself with extra skins (we bought our pieces skin-on), soak them in the marinade and slowly fry them until crispy. Better than bacon.

Tandoori Chicken

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Marinating 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 55 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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.


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala

  • 1 tablespoon sweet (not hot) paprika

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (can sub buttermilk)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 whole chicken leg quarters (drumsticks and thighs), 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.

    Bloom Spices in Pot for Tandoori Chicken Marinade

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  2. Whisk spices into yogurt, add lemon juice, garlic, salt, ginger:

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

    Mix Spices in Bowl with Yogurt for Grilled Tandoori Chicken

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  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

    Tandoori Chicken on Grill

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  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.

    How to Make Tandoori Chicken

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
182 Calories
12g Fat
7g Carbs
13g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 182
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 57mg 19%
Sodium 427mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 2mg 11%
Calcium 99mg 8%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 299mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.