tandoori chicken

The history of tanduri chicken dates back to the time of the Mughals. It is a delicately flavoured dish, but you must not over-cook the chicken. Plan ahead; this one takes time.

This recipe is suited to cooking on a a barbecue with a lid. Get it really hot, and the results are similar to using a tandoor.

The recipe is the classic North Indian dish with its heritage in Persia. It is not hot but has a gentle and subtle spice background. Part of the flavour comes from the slightly charred outside of the chicken. It is a simple, yet beautiful tasting dish.

You can use breasts, thighs, or chicken pieces. Just adjust cooking times, and use a probe thermometer to measure internal temperatures discussed in the recipe. Under-cooked chicken will more than likely kill or incapacitate your guests or family. Equally, you must not overcook the chicken. Tandoori chicken biscuits, as I have occasionally served, taste terrible. The only thing to be said for them is that they are cooked.

Ensure you remove the skin to prepare the dish, whatever chicken you use.

Note that the chicken needs two separate marination periods, preferably overnight, but longer, up to several days, is good. The cook time is under 30 minutes, but it is worth the preparation time to achieve the most flavour. To do this recipe justice you really need to start it the day before, or sooner.

Tandoori food colour is available from Indian grocers, or you can mix two parts of red to one part yellow colour to get a similar effect. I recommend that if you do use food colour then you should wear gloves when working the marinade into the chicken. If you don’t, then expect orange hands for the next week or so. It just doesn’t wash off.

Tanduri chicken also makes a great starter or snack. As a starter this would serve 6-8 people.

My grandmother’s notes always referred to this as “tanduri chicken”, a habit I have not been able to lose.

tanduri chicken recipe

preparation: 15 minutes
cook: 25 minutes
marinate: 1 day
total: 1 day 40 minutes
yield: 4 servings
calories: 511 kcal
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  • 800 g chicken thigh fillet

first marinade

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon - juiced
  • 2 tsp tandoori food colour - (optional)

second marinade

to serve


first marination

  • Lightly score the surface of the chicken thigh fillets on both sides and rub with salt and lemon juice.
  • If using, dissolve the food colour in two tablespoons of water, and paint chicken. Cover and set aside for four hours.

second marination

  • Combine onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, garam masala and yoghurt and blend to a smooth paste.
  • Place the chicken and any accumulated juices with the yoghurt paste into a bowl. Make sure chicken is completely coated with the marinade, and you have worked the marinade into the score marks. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate overnight at a minimum, or better, several days.
  • The chicken can be baked, grilled or barbecued. Make sure the oven, griller or barbecue is preheated to maximum temperature. Shake excess marinade off the chicken and cook until just done. (Oven is around 20 -25 minutes at 230C, griller or barbecue about 10 minutes a side). Use a food thermometer to ensure an internal temperature of 64C, or 82C if using chicken with bones. It is acceptable and desirable to have a little charring of the marinade.

to serve

  • Remove from heat and place chicken onto a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve with slices of tomato and cucumber on the side.


  • You must start this recipe at least the day before you intend to cook it.
  • The chicken needs two separate marination periods and is best left overnight or longer for each period.
  • Ensure you remove any skin from the chicken to prepare the dish.


Serving: 200g | Calories: 511kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 201mg | Sodium: 797mg | Potassium: 766mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 670IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 2mg

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