Tandoori Chicken

IndianGluten-FreeLow CarbGrilled Chicken

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

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 Chicken

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 Recipe

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

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Tandoori Chicken on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Print

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Links:

Tandoori chicken background in the Wikipedia

Tandoori chicken, the busy (lazy?) American way - from John of Food Wishes

Oven Baked Tandoori Chicken from RecipeTin Eats

28 Comments / Reviews

No ImageTandoori Chicken

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Kayleen

    I made this last night, on a propane grill, and it was so good! I used bone in chicken thighs, and only had time to marinate for one hour. However, the chicken turned out crispy on the outside, and stayed very moist and tender on the inside.
    I didn’t have paprika, so I used a little extra cayenne, and a little extra garam masala to compensate.
    Thanks for the recipe, I’ll definitely be making it again!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Angela Sharp

    I made it last night, it was delicious! My husband loved it. I used chicken legs and thighs with the skin on.
    I I Served it with white rice, Naan bread, raita and mango chutney.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Natalie

    An absolute knockout. I skinned a good quality French chicken and cooked it whole. The result: Moist and fragrant with a beautiful balance of spice. I used extra Kashmiri chilli powder and very little paprika. Therefore getting the flavour and colour of the chilli (Kashmiri chilli is bright red but quite sweet and mild) without the slight bitterness paprika can have. Definitely a keeper. Will make this again without a doubt.

  • Lance

    This is an awesome recipe! I recommend you try this out, because if you came here for awesome Tandoori chicken.You’ve come to the right place!

    ☆☆☆☆☆

  • Cee Grant

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

View More
Tandoori ChickenTandoori Chicken