Beloved Tandoori Chicken
A big winner from North India, roast tandoori chicken, is a favorite for a good reason. Succulent from a spice-infused yogurt bath, this tandoori chicken is something to look forward to at the end of the day.
A tandoor oven is a cylindrical clay pot used for cooking in the Indus Valley for thousands of years. Its endurance comes from how well it cooks food at a high temperature, giving meat and bread a lovely smoky flavor. Marinating meat in yogurt and spices keeps the meat from drying out and offers up distinctly tandoor flavors. This recipe uses an oven, but a grill, if you have one, would work well too.
Like many dishes, the origins of tandoori chicken and its unique spice blend is cause for much debate. There is a consensus that it became popular in the mid-20th century in Delhi. There are many tandoori chicken recipes, but the constants are a bath in yogurt and spices: ginger, turmeric, chilies, and black pepper is a standard starting point. You can make your own tandoori masala or buy it. Use this spice mix to add flavor to shellfish, pork, and tofu or paneer.
Uses for Easy Roast Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori chicken makes a fun filling for momos, perfect atop naan for an irresistible pizza, and to enhance quick fried rice, or make into a flavorful pasta sauce.
The recipe below for mint and yogurt chutney is from Meera Sodha's great book "Made in India," with very small tweaks by me to clarify ingredient amounts.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Roast Tandoori Chicken
- 1 whole chicken ~ About 3 pounds. See Notes below.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions, if using cayenne pepper only use 1/4 teaspoon, more if you want it hot
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ Or 1 tablespoon each pureed ginger and garlic; Substitutions
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup plain yogurt ~ Buy or make
- 2 teaspoon garam masala ~ Buy or make
- 2 tablespoons tandoori masala ~ Buy or make, or see Notes below for a sub
- 1 teaspoon amchur ~ Or an extra 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cilantro ~ Optional, chopped. OR mix 1/2 mint and 1/2 cilantro. OR 1 teaspoon mint chutney
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil ~ Or oil of your choice; see Notes
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke ~ Optional
- Gather all your ingredients.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients except the chicken. Add the meat and coat with the marinade; stuff any excess inside the chicken. Cover for an hour or preferably overnight
- Preheat the oven at 375°F (190°C) and bring the chicken to room temperature for 20 minutes before roasting.
- Generously oil a baking dish and place the chicken in it. On a rack in the middle of the oven, roast for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of your chicken. To tell if the chicken is done, a thermometer should read 165°F (75°C) in the thickest part of the thigh, or until the thigh juices run clear when pricked. See the last two Notes below if you are using an ingredient other than chicken.
- If using chicken parts, roast at 425°F (220°C), for about 30 to 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through. If you would like more color, run the chicken under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes; watching closely, so it doesn’t burn. A bit of char is a good thing.
- Let the chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving if using a whole chicken.
- Serve with raita, tomato-cucumber salad, mint chutney (recipe follows), rice, or your favorite flatbread.
Mint and Yogurt Chutney (Fodina anna dahi nu chatni)
- Purée all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The chutney will keep for several days in the fridge. Yield: about 1/2 a cup.
- If you prefer using chicken parts, substitute a whole chicken for 3 pounds of chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole legs. Feel free to increase the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C) oven when cooking smaller pieces of meat.
- If you are in a rush, you can combine both marinades together, and do one marinade period for an hour, before roasting, broiling, or grilling.
- As with most dishes using a combination of spices, overnight marination will give you the most flavor, but a 2-hour rest in the yogurt will still make a satisfying roast tandoori chicken.
- Most of us don’t have a tandoor oven, but if you have an outdoor grill, that comes closest to replicating the smoky flavors. Use this recipe with chicken parts and grill or broil to cook your meat.
- If you are avoiding onion and garlic simply skip the garlic and add a big pinch of hing (asafoetida).
- Tandoori masala can be made, bought or a quick substitute is 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or additional 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, a pinch of cloves, and an optional pinch of ground mace.
- Mustard oil will give your roast tandoori chicken additional smoky notes. Alternatively, you could add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to the marinade ingredients or even some liquid smoke.
- Instead of chicken, use this method for salmon, shrimp, lamb, tofu, paneer, cauliflower steaks, or whatever else strikes your fancy. You will need to adjust the marination and cook times accordingly.
- If you like your meat on skewers, cut skinless, boneless chicken thighs in 2-inch chunks, marinate, and then thread on soak skewers. Then cook by the method that works for you. You can use a 425°F (220°C) oven when cooking smaller pieces of meat.
- Roast tandoori chicken is one of the Top 20 Dishes in India, enjoy!