This is an easy Tandoori Chicken recipe for everyone who happens not to have a tandoor sitting in the middle of your kitchen! Made with accessible ingredients from scratch, chicken is infused with flavour from a yogurt tandoori chicken marinade then baked until golden with little charred bits.
Finger lickin’ good!
Tandoori Chicken recipe
Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala or Tandoori Chicken?? Any outing to an Indian restaurant causes a crisis of indecision as we battle it out between these 3 wildly popular Indian chicken dishes!
There’s no denying that one of the reasons why we love Tandoori chicken is the signature smokey chargrilled flavour that can only be achieved in a clay tandoor built to withhold fierce charcoal heat.
But don’t worry, you won’t miss the chargrill flavour in this Tandoori Chicken recipe. My trick is to jack up the flavour of the marinade to compensate – we’re talking big, big flavours here!
Tandoori Chicken Marinade
Here’s what you need for the Tandoori Chicken Marinade.
Kashmiri Chilli is what gives Tandoori the signature red colour. Tastes like paprika with a bit of spiciness, you’ll need to hunt down an Indian grocery store for this. But don’t worry, paprika is a near perfect flavour sub! The chicken won’t be quite as red but will still have a red hue. You can easily increase the redness with a drop or two of red food colouring.
How to make it
The making part is very straight forward: mix marinate, add the chicken, then leave to marinate. 12 to 24 hours is best, or 48 hours. If you’re in a rush, then 2 to 3 hours will do the trick if you cut slashes into the chicken.
While this is a baked tandoori chicken recipe, it’s a ripper on the barbie too. And off the charts amazing if cooked over charcoal!
What to serve with Tandoori chicken
Here’s what I serve with Tandoori Chicken:
- Saffron Rice– love the colour contrast! Recipe below. Though plain basmati rice will do in a pinch (or other rice of choice).
- Minted Yogurt– the freshness of the mint and cool yogurt pairs so well with all things Indian. Recipe below.
- Side Salad*– try this Indian Tomato Salad or use the same dressing with slices of cucumber. Otherwise, try the Indian variation of this Everyday Cabbage Salad (it’s in the recipe notes).
- Flatbreads – When naan is in hot demand, I reach for my Easy No Yeast Flatbreads. Because it’s not a saucy curry, I like to brush the flatbreads with garlic butter for extra flavour – SO GOOD!
* Fresh side salads are less common in Indian cuisine, vegetables tend to be cooked. So don’t get too caught up about an authentic fresh side salad – go with what you like! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
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Baked Tandoori Chicken
- 1 1/2 cups plain yoghurt (full fat best)
- 2 tbsp oil (any)
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp ginger , grated
- 5 garlic cloves , minced
- 3 tsp garam masala spice mix (Note 1)
- 1.5 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder (Note 2 subs)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder, adjust to taste (pure, not US chili Note 3)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.2kg / 2.4lb drumsticks, bone-in skin on chicken thighs or Marylands (whole chicken legs) (Note 4)
- Oil spray
Mint Yoghurt (optional)
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
Mix Marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken, cover and marinate 12 to 24 hours (Note 5)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a tray with foil and place a rack on the tray.
Remove chicken from the Marinade, shaking off excess (reserve Marinade), and place on the rack. Bake for 20 minutes, then slather Marinade generously on both sides.
Bake for a further 10 minutes, brush/dab top with Marinade.
Bake further 10 minutes, do a final baste with Marinade then spray with oil.
Increase heat to 220C/450F. Bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes until you get some nice charred spots. Serve with Minted Yogurt and Saffron Rice (below)!
Combine ingredients in a food processor and blitz until mint is very finely chopped.
SUB with curry powder (like Keens, Clives of India) + 1 tsp All Spice (or 1/8 tsp extra of all the other spices in recipe plus 1/8 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger)
2. Kashimiri Chilli – found at Indian grocery stores, gives tandoori chicken the red colour and bit of spiciness. Tastes like spicy paprika. Easy sub with: 3 tsp paprika (smoked if possible, otherwise sweet or normal) + few drop of red food colouring (if you want slightly more red colour).
This is the one I use (Amazon USA link, but I got mine from a Sydney Indian store. Here is a better value one on Amazon USA.
Use in place of paprika in Indian recipes such as Biryani and Chicken Tikka Masala for an earthy, authentic flavour. It’s almost a direct sub with paprika – except it’s a bit spicy.
3. Chilli Powder – This is pure ground chilli powder and it’s spicy. This is not US/Canadian Chili Powder which is a spice mix with South Western/Tex Mex flavours. Sub: cayenne pepper, or leave it out if you want mild.
4. Chicken – best made with bone in thighs, drumsticks and wings as they require 50 min or so which gives you a nice tandoori crust. For boneless thighs, bake 25 minutes, for breast, bake 22 min – or better yet, BBQ on grills or cook on stove!
5. Marinating – for emergency marinade, make 2 or 3 slashes in the chicken and marinade 2 to 3 hours. Can also freeze the chicken with the marinade (raw). Then when you want to cook it, allow it to defrost then simply follow the recipe.
5. Saffron Rice (serves 5) – Soak 1/8 tsp saffron threads in 1/4 cup (65ml) boiled water for 5 min. Add saffron water to large saucepan with 2 cups (500ml) cold water and 1.5 cups basmati rice. Cover, bring to simmer over medium high, then reduce heat to medium low so it’s simmering. Cook 12 minutes until water is absorbed (tilt pot to check), remove from stove and stand for 10 minutes covered.
To use imitation saffron powder (much better value) use 1/16th tsp and add to saucepan with 2 1/4 cups (565ml) water, cook per above (I did this for rice in photos, was out of saffron threads)
6. Recipe source – Inspired by Qmin Indian cookbook, a restaurant I used to frequent in my corporate days. Also by referencing the packets of tandoori spice mixes sold at Indian grocery stores (I’m told by Indian store owners that most Indians make Tandoori chicken using tandoori spice mixes!).
7. Tandoori Chicken nutrition per serving.
Originally published September 2015. Completely rewritten April 2019, new photos, new video, tidied up video and most importantly, new Life of Dozer section added!
Life of Dozer
Final photo from Dozer’s birthday cake recipe from Monday – when I was trying to do a “nice” overhead photo of the cake and when he saw I was teetering on a ladder fiddling with my camera, he knew it was an opportune time to lunge in for ANOTHER slice!