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Tandoori Chicken

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Deliciously spiced with super-crispy skin, tandoori chicken is a family favorite.

Tandoori chicken is a traditional Indian dish of chicken marinated in yogurt, citrus, and spices, and then roasted in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven. The chicken gets its signature reddish hue from the combination of spices, the flavor of which is further enhanced by toasting them in a pan prior to incorporating into the marinade. Tandoori chicken is a simple dish to prepare, and you can replicate the tandoor environment at home by roasting in a high-heat oven. In this recipe, adapted from Food & Wine, the chicken is deliciously seasoned with super-crispy skin. The chicken is best marinated for a few hours or overnight, but if you’re in a time crunch, you can simply coat the chicken with the marinade and cook it immediately; it will still be packed with flavor.

Instead of making a traditional green chutney, I serve store-bought mango chutney alongside – it adds a gingery sweetness that complements the spices. Serve tandoori chicken with naan, basmati rice pilaf with dried fruits and almonds (or simple basmati rice), and a refreshing cucumber mint salad. Kids love this one, too!

What you’ll need to make Tandoori Chicken

tandoori chutney ingredients

Drumsticks are an excellent choice for tandoori chicken. They have enough fat to stay moist when cooked at high heat. Bone-in chicken thighs would also work, and the cook time would be about the same.

Classic tandoori chicken is made with ground Kashmiri chili pepper, a spice found in Indian grocery stores and some supermarkets. Paprika makes an excellent substitute, so I use that instead.

The yogurt in the marinade helps to tenderize the meat; it breaks down the proteins making the chicken moist and tender when cooked. (Yogurt is also used to marinate and tenderize the chicken in chicken tikka masala, another classic Indian dish.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the spices in a small skillet.

spices in pan

Toast for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant. This step really enhances the flavor.

toasting spices

Next, zest the lime and chop your fresh ginger and garlic (the ginger and garlic will get blended in a food processor, but they won’t fully pulverize unless you give them a rough chop first).

lime, ginger and garlic on cutting board

Combine the toasted spices, ginger, garlic, yogurt, lime juice, lime zest, oil and salt in a mini food processor or blender.

marinade ingredients in food processor

Pulse until smooth.

blended marinade in food processor

Then, using a sharp knife, make slashes in the drumsticks. This increases the surface area of the chicken, so the marinade can penetrate the meat.

slashing the drumsticks

Toss the drumsticks with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

chicken in marinade

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and place a greased oven-proof rack over top. Arrange the marinated drumsticks on the rack, leaving a bit of space in between them.

marinated chicken on rack

Cook for 45 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked and the skin is quite crisp.

roasted tandoori chicken

Finally, flash the chicken under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the skin is super-crisp and a bit charred.

broiled tandoori chicken Serve with mango chutney and lime wedges on the side.

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Tandoori Chicken

Deliciously spiced with super-crispy skin, tandoori chicken is a family favorite.

Servings: 12 drumsticks, 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes, plus a few hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (substitute curry powder if you can't find it)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use ¼ teaspoon for less heat)
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • Zest and juice from one lime (about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 12 chicken drumsticks (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 (9 ounce) jar mango chutney, for serving (optional)
  • A few sprigs cilantro, for garnishing the platter (optional)
  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a small pan over medium-low heat, combine the paprika, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until spices are fragrant.
  2. Add the spices to a blender or mini food processor, along with the ginger, garlic, Greek yogurt, lime zest and juice, oil and salt; process until smooth.
  3. Using a very sharp knife, make 2 or 3 slashes in each drumstick (be careful; they are slippery). Place the drumsticks in a large bowl and toss with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and set an oven-proof rack over top. Spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.
  5. Arrange the chicken on the rack, leaving a bit of space between the pieces. Spoon any marinade left in the bowl evenly over the drumsticks. Roast for 45 minutes, turning once midway through, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (be sure to turn on your exhaust fan as the oven will get a little smoky). Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken about 6 inches from the heat for 3-5 minutes, until lightly charred and crisp all over. Transfer the chicken to a platter and garnish with cilantro sprigs and lime wedges, and serve with mango chutney on the side.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 3 drumsticks (nutritional data does not include chutney)
  • Calories: 807
  • Fat: 53g
  • Saturated fat: 11g
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 73g
  • Sodium: 1884mg
  • Cholesterol: 369mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • This was delicious!! I have never cooked with these spices, the house was smelling so good! I marinated the chicken overnight. Instead of cooking it on 450, I placed the chicken in a roasting pan and cooked it on 300 because my exhaust fan doesn’t work. When it was done I took the top off and placed it under the broiler for about 5 min. it browned so beautifully! I promise your recipes make me so happy! They are something that I can prepare and I can’t cook, but with your recipes, I feel like an amateur chef! I cooked white rice and poured the juice off the chicken over the rice! I also made the cucumber mint salad that you suggested with it and it was a very wholesome delicious meal! I am so appreciative of you! Can you freeze the marinade in batches? It’s a must-have and would be so easy to thaw and marinate the chicken in!

    • — Kim M on September 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad to hear you enjoyed it and that you’ve had success with the recipes! Typically, I’d discourage you from freezing a marinade that has yogurt in it, but some readers have successfully frozen marinades in other recipes that contain yogurt, so I think it’s worth a try (but I’d probably start with one batch of it to make sure you like the way it thaws).

      • — Jenn on September 27, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks!!

        • — Kim Motley on September 29, 2022
        • Reply
  • Made this whole meal with Tandori chicken, basmati & dried fruit- apricots- & almonds, cucumber mint salad and naan.
    Excellent directions, advice and photos. A huge thumbs up from me and all my guests.
    We’ll done💫👍

    • — Home cook in Oregon on September 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • I thought 40 mins w/o broiling was plenty; more and the meat would get dried out. But the flavors were delicious and the skin was crispy. Served with a spicy homemade chutney, rice, steamed veg, sliced golden kiwi & raspberries. Delicious, thank you!

    • — Diana on September 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday with a combination of boneless thighs and breasts. We grilled them, and they came out beautifully! I have been a fan of your blog for years, and I am STILL finding new treasures to add to my favorites. Thank you!

    • — Cheryl on May 22, 2022
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  • Fantabulous!

    • — Rhona on May 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another amazing recipe! I made this along with the mint & onion cucumber salad. I went ahead and marinated it for 24 hours. The only change that I made was that I cooked it in the air fryer instead of the oven because it crisps up the skin so nicely. In case anyone wants to try it – Air fryer: 400 degrees until it reaches 165 degrees, about 15-20 minutes, flipping once or twice while it’s cooking. I also basted it after about five minutes into cooking with a little avocado oil. It came out picture perfect and everyone loved the flavors and thought the cucumber salad was really refreshing. I served it with mango chutney but my wife didn’t think it needed it because it was so good on its own. I’ll definitely be making this again. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Turtle on April 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Thank you! I was just checking to see if anyone had done this with an air fryer

      • — Eve on September 18, 2022
      • Reply
  • Amazing!!! You just nail it every time Jenn. Everyone loved this dish. So flavoursome, juicy and delicious. 5 stars.

    • — Melissa on April 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • Amazing!!! These drumsticks have so much flavor and are tender. I made it per the recipe without modifications (although I did only marinate for 7 hours, not overnight).

    • — Rachel on February 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jenn,
      Is it possible to freeze some of the uncooked drumsticks in the marinade and then defrost them before cooking? I wasn’t sure because of the yogurt and I only need about 5-6 drumsticks.

      • — Turtle on April 23, 2022
      • Reply
      • Yes, I think that should be fine. 🙂

        • — Jenn on April 24, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Jenn,

          What are your thoughts for making this recipe into chicken skewers/Kabobs and grilling them? Thanks!

          • — Brooke on August 13, 2022
          • Reply
          • Hi Brooke, I think that would work. I’d love to hear how it turns out this way!

            • — Jenn on August 16, 2022
  • Hey Jenn! Just wanted to add that this technique (slashing/marinating/cooking on 450) works beautifully for any marinade! I had some leftover General Tso sauce I made so I used your technique, slathered it on and cooked according to your directions. It turned out perfectly!

    • — Angie A on February 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe turned out perfect. For Garam Masala, I used my homemade Garam Masala. It consists of one part freshly ground cardamom, one part freshly ground cloves and one part cinnamon powder. I used fresh ginger garlic paste. Thanks Jenn. This recipe is now going to become a regular with naan.

    • — Sucheta Sikdar on January 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this recipe this weekend with a few tweaks – 1/4 tsp. cayenne (my dad can’t take much heat), more cumin in place of the turmeric, and no broiling at the end. It came out great! Crisp skin, juicy interior, and just the right amount of spice. Most of the family enjoyed these plain, but a couple of the crew liked the drumsticks with duck sauce. Thanks, Jenn! This recipe’s one for the regular rotation. 🙂

    • — Mary on January 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi! I’d like to make this recipe with chicken breasts. I saw someone asked about skinless and you said it wouldn’t work. I’m wondering if I can use bone-in, skin on, chicken breasts. Also, can I use fat free yogurt? Thank you! This looks delicious.

    • — Krista on January 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Krista, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts should work (although cook time will be different). And the whole milk yogurt adds more richness to this, but you can get away with fat-free. Please report back with how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on January 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • OMG, this recipe is fabulous! I was a little intimidated by all the spices, since some were new to me, but in the end it was easy and the chicken was so delicious! The flavor and texture of the chicken was so good–who knew drumsticks could taste so good. I served it with Basmati rice pilaf with dried fruit & almonds, and homemade naan, both from this website. What a great meal! Thanks so much for the delicious recipes.

    • — Dorothy on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Cooked the yoghurt marinated chicken drumsticks
    Really tasty and so easy
    Thank you

    • — Suchitra Radia on January 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Amazing recipe! I’ve made it a few times now using drumsticks but I want to switch it up and use skinless, boneless chicken thighs. I read through the comments and you mentioned bone in chicken thighs will cook the same, however how long should I bake them without the bones? Thanks again!

    • — Catherine on November 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, so glad you like this! If you’d like to use boneless chicken thighs, I’d cook them at 425° for about 35 minutes. Please let me know how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on November 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hello! I would love to make this recipe, but we have a dairy allergy in the house. Could I sub in anything else or should I just leave it out? Thank you, Jenn, for your fantastic recipes!

    • — Amanda W on August 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Amanda, A non-dairy yogurt should work here. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi, making this tonight with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, would I need to change up anything?

    • — Kelly on July 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, I think I’m weighing in too late to help, but for thighs (assuming the thighs have bones in them), the timing should be similar. Please LMK how they turn/ed out!

      • — Jenn on July 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is an awesome recipe, I have taken it to friends (when we could do that) and it is the star of the show. Toasting spices is key to this. One time had only 4 hours to marinate and still was excellent but overnight is best. Fabulous!

    • — JS on April 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • We tried this once and it turned out great! We’d like to make again but I’m wondering if we can use something besides drumsticks. Like chicken thighs? If so, how would we modify the cooking time and temperature?

    • — MM on April 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi MM, glad you enjoyed it! For thighs, assuming the thighs have bones in them, the timing should be similar (and keep the temp the same). Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2021
      • Reply
      • We tried it tonight with bone in chicken thighs. It turned out great! I much prefer thighs to drumsticks, so this is how we will be making it from now on. Thank you for the tips!

        • — MM on April 18, 2021
        • Reply
        • Glad to hear it — thanks for reporting back!

          • — Jenn on April 19, 2021
          • Reply
        • Delicious!!! Definitely worth marinating more than 3 hours

          I served with roasted potatoes

          • — Vanessa on May 18, 2021
          • Reply
      • It worked great! Thank you!

        • — MM on August 25, 2021
        • Reply
        • Glad to hear it — thanks for the follow up!

          • — Jenn on August 25, 2021
          • Reply
  • Looking forward to trying this. Btw the spelling is turmeric. 😉

    • — MA on March 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Thanks for pointing that out — just fixed it! Hope you enjoy if you make it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • These are amazing!!

    • — Deborah on March 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Can I use chicken wings?

    • — Lynda on March 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! If I wanted to try this recipe with skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into smaller pieces are there any adjustments you would suggest making? I’m assuming the cook time would be different but not sure by how much. Thank you!

    • — Alyssa on March 2, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Alyssa, I wouldn’t recommend boneless, skinless breasts here; I think they will dry out. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2021
      • Reply
    • Will it hurt to marinate these for 48 hours? I marinated them last night (intending to cook them tonight), but another commitment just got in the way.

      • — Stacy C on July 13, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Stacy, that should be fine. 🙂

        • — Jenn on July 13, 2022
        • Reply
  • Another recipe that hit it out of the park! So delicious and easy!!

    • — Mary Jo Thomas on February 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this last night and my family loved it! I only had 3 hours to marinate. It was enough. Super juicy and so tasty. I paired it with the cucumber onion mint salad, also from once upon a chef. Delicious and I will definitely make it again!

    • — Nadia on February 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely delicious. Best chicken I’ve had in a very long time. Thank you!

    • — Mary on February 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious and so easy!

    • — Bina Indelicato on February 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Another fabulous recipe, Jenn! They will be a regular on our rotation from now on. Really delicious. Thank you so much!

    • — Corinne on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this for a date once. I remember how impressed he was! There was so much flavor in the chicken, it could be just as good without the mango chutney if you don’t have any. I saved any of the leftover sauces that dripped onto the pan after baking and made a type of gravy out of it to put over the rice. Delish!

    • — Lara Cobia on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • What an amazing flavour profile. Loved it

    • — Karen Harrison on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is one of my favorite recipes of all time!!! I make 1 batch but save 1/2 of it for dinner another night. Once I get to the marinating stage I will divide the chicken into two bags. I put one in the freezer fro later and one in the fridge for dinner later. Sometimes I will double the recipe and have 3 bags in the freezer for quick dinners later. I make this with the basmati rice. Delish is dinner every time!!! Thank you Jenn for your amazing recipes. I share them with anyone who will listen.

    • — Natalie on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • what could i say more than the ingredients itself…. i could feel the desi touch being an asian.. the spicy chicken with tangy sauce..the best combo ever i have had..much reminds me of home:) thanks for such a reminiscing receipe 🙂

    loads of love:)

    • — Radhulya on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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