Grilled Tandoori chicken is an easy and delicious meal to spice up your weeknight meals, with juicy, tender chicken that tastes like it is from your favorite Indian food restaurant, right from your grill.
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Tandoori Chicken on the Grill
Tandoori chicken is traditionally marinated in yogurt and spices and cooked on skewers in a large clay oven. The chicken has a brilliant red-orange color that is incredibly eye-catching. This came from the power of a Kasmiri red pepper. In modern times, food coloring is used to mimic that color, but my easy grilled Tandoori Chicken doesn’t use any food coloring or additives.
The spice-and-yogurt marinade and cooking over a hot grill make for delicious and moist chicken that is as delicious hot off the grill as it is cold from a picnic basket.
You don’t need a traditional tandoor clay oven to cook delicious and easy grilled Tandoori chicken. One of the great parts of this recipe is that you can marinate the chicken ahead of time and keep it in your refrigerator. It’s quick and easy when you’re ready to cook.
How to Make Easy Grilled Tandoori Chicken
To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- Chicken – Use chicken thighs and drumsticks for this recipe. They’re traditional to the recipe and have enough fat to remain moist during cooking over high heat.
- Greek-style yogurt – Greek-style yogurt has been strained to remove much of the whey, so it curdles much less when cooked. This style of strained yogurt isn’t exclusively Greek and is used in cooking across the Mediterranean, the middle east, and south Asia. The yogurt helps moisten the chicken and helps adheres the spice rub to the meat.
- Garlic – raw garlic packs a ton of flavor. There is an enzyme in the garlic that is released when it is crushed that helps tenderize the chicken.
- Ginger – Ginger root is a flavorful and aromatic root that is used across Asia. The tender, young root is what is sold in grocery stores and has a slightly spicy flavor.
- Annatto/Achiotte Paste – Annatto powder is a natural flavoring and food coloring that comes from the seeds of the achiote tree. It is commonly used in South American and Latin American food. It’s even used in America to make mass-produced cheddar cheese orange in color.
- Chili powder – Kashmiri Chili powder is traditionally used in Tandoori chicken (Available here) though that can be hard to find in grocery stores. I used a regular chili powder blend from my local grocery store.
- Lemon juice – Lemon juice provides wonderful bright flavor and acid to counterbalance the earthy flavors of the dry spices. The acid in the juice also acts as a tenderizer to the meat.
- Salt and Pepper – Every savory dish, and many sweet dishes too, should be seasoned with salt and pepper. Salt particularly brings out the natural flavors of meats and vegetables. Black pepper provides a mild spicy that enhances the rich fattiness of the meat.
- Corriander – Ground coriander comes from the seed of the corriander/cilantro plant. The ground seeds are highly aromatic and don’t have the controversial flavor profile of the leag. 15-20% of people say the Coriander/cilantro leaf tastes soapy or rotten.
- Garam Masala – Garam masala is a blend of herbs and spices from India. Every blend is slightly different, and reflects the family tradition of the person making it. You can get garam masala is most major grocery stores in America. As with all spices, it is best when used within six months of purchase.
- Cumin – Cumin has an earthy and rich seasoning to the chicken.
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following method:
- Step 1 – Prepare the chicken. Wash your chicken and then trim off the fat and skin. Once the skin is removed, take your knife and score the chicken in a cross-hatch pattern. This helps get the marinade on more surface area and will improve the browning of the chicken when you cook it.
- Step 2 – Prepare your marinade. In a glass container large enough to accommodate all of the chicken, plus the yogurt at the yogurt, lemon juice, and all the spices. Peel your ginger with a spoon and grind it with your garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle. Add the ginger and garlic paste to your marinade. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly. If you think your marinade is a little thick, add a bit more lemon juice or water.
- Step 3 – Marinade your chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade and make sure it is completely coated on all sides. I keep the chicken in the same container I mixed the marinade in. Marinade the chicken for at least 30-45 minutes, but if you have time marinate it overnight.
- Step 4 – Grill your chicken. Light your grill, and bring it to temperature. I like to cook this easy grilled Tandoori chicken between 400-450o degrees. The high heat in our Kamado-style grill really mimics the traditional Tandoor oven really well. Turn regularly to get dark grill marks on all sides of your chicken. Cook your chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165o.
- Step 5 – Rest your chicken and enjoy it while it’s hot! Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165o, remove it from the grill and let rest for 5-7 minutes before cutting or serving. Enjoy it while it’s hot, or cold from a picnic basket.
Tips and Tricks to Perfect Grilled Tandoori Chicken:
The sentence about how this recipe is super easy but these tips will help make it even better.
Marinade too thick? Greek-style yogurt can be very thick, add more lemon juice (or water) to make the marinade a bit thinner and easier to apply to the chicken.
Shake off excess marinade. Before you put your chicken on the grill shake the excess yogurt marinade off the chicken. Too much yogurt marinade on the chicken will prevent it from browning and developing beautiful and delicious grill marks on your chicken.
Replace thighs and drumsticks with breasts. If you’re out of chicken thighs or drumsticks you can substitute chicken breasts. I would recommend cutting the chicken breasts into 2-3” inch squares to make sure your chicken has enough surface area to properly marinate.
Tandoori chicken is only as spicy as the chili powders you use. Annato powder is very mild and earthy with a sweet finish. Kashmiri chili powder is a bit warmer on the tongue than annatto powder but is still considered quite mild. If you’re looking to kick up the heat in your Tandoori chicken you can add ½-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the marinade.
Traditionally, the red color comes from Kashmiri chili powder, but that can be harder to find in your local grocery store. Many modern recipes call for regular chili powder and artificial red food coloring to get the famous red hue to the chicken. I used annatto powder which can be found in the aisle with Hispanic foods to ad coloring.
You can safely keep your raw chicken in the marinade in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours before cooking.
You can store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days, or freeze for up to four months.
What to Serve With Easy Grilled Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori Chicken is traditionally served with naan bread and rice garnished with cilantro. Any excellent vegetable side will make a complete dinner of this easy grilled Tandoori chicken. Try this Easy sauteed squash and zucchini recipe.
Coleslaw is a great non-traditional and summery accompaniment to Tandoori chicken. The bright and crunchy salad makes a great pair with the rich and earthy Tandoori chicken.
If you wanted to be really adventurous, you can put your leftover Tandoori chicken in an Indian and Asian-inspired burrito, or protein pack your mac and cheese with diced leftover chicken.
For more delicious side dish recipes, find more of our recent favorites here:
Grilled Tandoori Chicken Recipe
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Delicious spicy red tandoori grilled chicken like your favorite Indian food takeout at home.
- Chicken (thighs and drumsticks)
- 1 ¼ cup of Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons of Ginger, sliced
- 6 cloves of Garlic
- 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice
- 1 tablespoon of Salt
- 2 tablespoon of Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon of Turmeric
- 3 tablespoons of Annatto powder of Kashmiri Chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of Cumin
- 1 teaspoon of Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 tablespoon of Black Pepper
- Wash your chicken and then trim off the fat and skin.
- Once the skin is removed, take your knife and score the chicken in a cross-hatch pattern. This helps get the marinade on more surface area and will improve the browning of the chicken when you cook it.
- In a glass container large enough to accommodate all of the chicken, plus the yogurt, lemon juice, and all the spices.
- Peel your ginger with a spoon and grind it with your garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle. Add the ginger and garlic paste to your marinade.
- Combine all the ingredients thoroughly. If you think your marinade is a little thick, add a bit more lemon juice or water.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and make sure it is completely coated on all sides. I keep the chicken in the same container I mixed the marinade in. Marinade the chicken for at least 30-45 minutes, but if you have time marinate it overnight.
- Light your grill, and bring it to temperature.
- I like to cook chicken between 400-450o degrees. The high heat in our Kamado-style grill really mimics the traditional Tandoor oven really well. Turn regularly to get dark grill marks on all sides of your chicken. Cook your chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165o.
- Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165o, remove it from the grill and let rest for 5-7 minutes before cutting or serving.
- Enjoy it while it’s hot, or cold from a picnic basket.
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Amount Per Serving Calories 129Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 24mgSodium 1812mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 4gSugar 3gProtein 14g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.