Tandoori chicken

Summer is here and so are the outdoor grilling parties and picnics! Tandoori chicken is one of my go-to grilling dishes (not that I am any good with grilling, I rather prefer indoor roasting). It cooks up super fast with minimal preparation (except the ahead of time marinating) and the best part is, pretty much everyone (yes, even people who generally dislike spicy Indian food) end up loving this simple moist roasted chicken when served with some yogurt mint raita. And not to mention this dish is also very economical to feed a large party because this is one chicken dish where drumsticks and legs actually work better than costlier chicken breats portions. I always buy all-natural organic chicken and anyone who has seen the prices recently will attest when I say that buying organic chicken cutlets enough to feed 10-12 people will cause anyone to go broke ;)

Tandoori chicken is prepared by marinating chicken with yogurt and Indian spices and then roasting it in clay ovens for a moist and tender meat. Traditionally tandoori chicken is cooked in these large clay ovens called tandoors. Now-a-days having a tandoor is very very rare so an oven with a broiler or an outdoor grill are good alternatives. Yogurt is a natural meat tenderizer so marinating the meat with yogurt and spices is essential for a good tandoori chicken. More the marinating time, the tender and moist the chicken will be. I usually marinade for around 4-6 hrs. It is also said that cutting slits into the chicken pieces before marinating helps the inner parts to get tender and spicy.

After the chicken has marinated you can either grill it, bake it (like the recipe below) or do a broil-bake combination. All three work very well. I do not own a grill and ever since I moved into my new house which incidently is missing the broiler pan, baking has been my only option but feel free to experiment with other cooking techniques.
Recipe: Serves 2
5 chicken drumsticks or leg pieces (skin ons are okay)
1C yogurt
1/4tsp turmeric powder
1/2tsp red chili powder
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp garam masala
2tsp paprika (for color)
2tsp coriander powder
juice of half lemon
1onion - sliced thinly lengthwise
2 small boiling potatoes - quartered
olive oil

*** The trick to getting the tandoori color is the addition of paprika. Traditionally you would add more chili pepper to get the color but unless you have a very mild variety of chili pepper, this will make the dish very spicy. I find that paprika is best in cases when you want the color without the heat.
*** Many people prefer to cook tandoori chicken on grill which I have heard gives excellent results. You can always cook this on grill if you wish.
*** If on 480F you still don't get browning as you wish, then broil the chicken for a few minutes.
  1. Combine yogurt with rest of the spices and lemon juice. Do not add extra water. Mix well.
  2. Clean wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. Using a knife make a few cuts on the pieces. Add the chicken pieces to the yogurt. Make sure yogurt fully covers the chicken pieces. 
  3. Cover the pot and marinate in fridge for ~4hrs.
  4. After 4hrs, preheat the oven to 425F.
  5. Cover a cookie sheet with an aluminium foil. Add onions and potatoes. Add some olive oil, salt & pepper and mix well.
  6. Remove chicken pieces from fridge and add on the bed of onions and potatoes. Make sure the yogurt marinade still covers them well (shake off any extra marinade).
  7. Drizzle more olive oil and salt & pepper on the chicken pieces.
  8. Bake for ~30mins. Then increase the heat to 480F and bake for another ~20-25mins or so on upper third of the oven (one nearest the heat source) until the chicken pieces are well browned and the chicken is cooked through (use a meat thermometer or when pierced with a knife juices should run clear).
  9. Remove from heat. Cover with another tin foil and let stand for 10mins before serving.
  10. Serve with some pulav and cool yogurt mint raita.


PranisKitchen said…
PJ thats so deliicous chicken .. no use of oil for frying ,thats the best part abt this tandoori chicken..a healthy dish Lovely pic too
Reshmi said…
i loved this...especially using olive oil..which z too good for health...
Shama Nagarajan said…
lovely chicken ...looks yummy
Anushree said…
Visiting your blog after quite some time...and I see so many new dishes!!
Frankly I had no clue you ate non-vegetarian dishes...good for me, i get to see NV recipes here :D
Kanchan said…
I'm @ work .. and sinfully i'm drooling over your tandoori chicken...

This is my "jaan".. so post anything about it I love it !!
Priya Suresh said…
Ur tandoori chicken make me hungry...very tempting..
Haddock said…
Anything with no oil / minimum oil is good for me.
Sushma Mallya said…
That looks mouthwatering pj..
Hamaree Rasoi said…
I prepare tandoori chicken on grill. With minimum oil this is not only healthy but looks absolutely delicious also...

Hamaree Rasoi
we had 2 weeks of brilliant weather and now we are back to the typical english weather wet and gloomy..and usually that happens whenever we decide to do an outdoor party..sigh!
The drumsticks look perfectly cooked...have a great weekend:)
Joanne said…
I love the flavors in tandoori chicken and you're right - total crowd pleaser. I love the way you plated it! So pretty.
indosungod said…
Grilling and summer and Tandoori chicken, makes everyone happy.

PJ, if you find a small store run by, in our case the Amish where the store is open only 3 days a week, the product is fresh with very little price variations. I have found that organic chicken in super markets are not worth the extra high price compared to these Amish organic free range chicken which are maybe 1/2 the price.

Start searching you might find one close by.
Suji said…
PJ..Chicken legs looks very inviting, Love BBQed dishes..We relly have to do some grilling soon!!

Kairali sisters
Absolutely healthy and delicious chicken, perfectly done...sometimes food coloring is added to obtain more attractive color....
Deepti said…
Nothing can beat tandoori chicken...just luv it.
arthi said…
nice pic...lovely recipe.Thanks for sharing!!
PJ said…
PranisKitchen, yes! i like that there is little oil in it too.

Reshmi, olive oil sure makes a difference. Thats why i so much prefer roasting over frying.

Shama, thanks, so glad you liked it.

Anushree, yes :) i do eat poultry and seafood. dont cook it that often, but recently decided to start making it a bit more regularly than before.

Kanchan, oho, if i had known earlier, this was waiting in my draft for a while too ;) no, but really, i love tandoori chicken too. much more than chicken curry.

Priya, thanks! I am so glad you liked it.
PJ said…
Haddock, same here too.. less oil is always good :)

Sushma, thanks, so glad you liked it.

Deepa, i should get some grilling tips from you then.. never mastered the art of grill!

An Open Book, see, thats the irony of weather, isn't it :) Hope you see many outdoor summer parties still though.

Joanne, thanks, yes, i have seen that there are very few people who like chicken and dont like tandoori. always works ;)
PJ said…
Indo, it indeed does :) thanks for the tip about the free range chicken from amish markets. i am not sure if i have seen any around here in CA but will surely look around. yes, i agree free range local grown chicken will be better... i have just been so scared from buying supermarket chicken after seeing Food Inc. Farmer's market carries some free range, but it generally is costlier than what Trader Joe's carries.

Kairali sisters, absolutely, grilling is in the air for sure :)

Treat and trick, yeah, i have heard that. Paprika is my natural food coloring though :)

Deepti, me too. its one of my favs.

Arthi, thanks, so glad you liked it.
Beautiful PJ.. looks like we get in restuarant but unfortunately I can only enjoy ur clicks
I often make tandoori chicken but my oven is very small so use chicken pieces rather than drumsticks. hubby just saw the picture and asked me why dont I do that. you have tempted him PJ. lovely recipe. bookmarking.
wow that looks awesome... mouth watering dear... loved ur tip of using paparika for the color
Anonymous said…
Looks great. I also made Tandoori chicken recently.
Did you take a bite out of that piece? :) Looks delicious!
Preeti Kashyap said…
Kudos for using organic chicken!
PJ said…
Pavithra, thanks, so glad you liked it.

Sayantani, heh heh, see, now you have got to make it ;) taste-wise i like chicken pieces, but the drumsticks are just so much more cheaper.

AdukulaVishesham, paprika for color always works, get a beautiful color without the heat!

EatingMatters, yes, see, i was "checking" for done-ness ;) ie: couldn't help.

Preeti, yes, i always prefer organic chicken over the regular.
Unknown said…
who can resist these,the tandoori masala sounds spicy good :D
Miri said…
That browning is awesome - haven't ever got that effect at home - but I have also never baked beyond 180C, so maybe I should try increasing the temperature. Thanks - looks very very good!
Anushree said…
Hi Prajakta,
I was thinking of making Tandoori Chicken at home and then remembered this blog post of yours :)
Since this will be the first time I will be buying chicken , wanted to ask you where you bought the leg pieces from. Please let me know! :)

PJ said…
Hi Anushree, I bought leg pieces at Trader Joe's. They sell 6 pieces at something really cheap as $3-5. Since the first time making it, I have seen started broiling the chicken for a few minutes towards the end if I don't get a good crust. Happy cooking!
Anushree said…
Great! Thanks so much for the quick reply :)