Beloved Tandoori Chicken
Another winner from North India, roast tandoori chicken is a favorite for good reason. Succulent from a spice-infused yogurt bath, this tandoori chicken is something to look forward to at the end of any 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 is designed to cook 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 is written to use an oven but a grill, if you have one, would be as close to a tandoor oven as most of us can get.
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 quite popular in the mid-twentieth century in Delhi. And there are many recipes for tandoori chicken, but the constants are a bath in yogurt and spices: ginger, turmeric, chilies, and black pepper is a standard starting point.
Uses for Easy Roast Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori chicken can be used to fill momos, atop naan for an irresistible pizza, enhance quick fried rice, and as 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
- 2 1/4 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions
- 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
- 1 tablespoon garam masala ~ Buy or make
- 2 tablespoons tandoori masala ~ See 3rd Note below
- 1 teaspoon amchur ~ Or an extra 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cilantro ~ Chopped; mix 1/2 mint and 1/2 cilantro if you wish
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil ~ Or oil of your choice; see 6th Note below
- Gather all your ingredients.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix all the ingredients together except the chicken. Spread this mixture all over the meat. If there is any excess marinade, stuff it inside the chicken. Cover the chicken for an hour or 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, 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, 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
- Serve with raita, tomato-cucumber salad, mint chutney (recipe follows), rice, or your favorite flatbread.
Mint and Yogurt Chutney (Fodina anna dahi nu chatni)
- Put all the ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. The chutney will keep for a day in the fridge if you want to make it in advance. 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.
- If you can’t find tandoori masala, add the following: 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or additional Kashmiri chili powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, a pinch of cloves, and a pinch of ground mace (optional).
- 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.
- Mustard oil will give your roast tandoori chicken additional smoky notes.
- 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.