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Roasted or Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Scott Phillips

Servings: six.

Tandoori chicken is the first step to making Chicken Tikka Masala, but it’s also a classic Indian dish on its own: oven-roasted (or grill-roasted) chicken made tender from a simple marinade of yogurt, lemon juice, and spices. If you plan on making the tikka masala, use the oven-roasting method below; the meat will stay moister. But if you’re serving the tandoori chicken on it’s own, use the grilling method instead; the meat will have better flavor.


  • 12 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
  • 1 Tbs. peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 lemon, cut in half

For serving the tandoori chicken on its own:

  • 4 Tbs.  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 lemon, cut into small wedges
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced into into rings

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on six servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 230
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 100
  • Fat (g): 11
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5
  • Cholesterol (mg): 100
  • Sodium (mg): 170
  • Carbohydrates (g): 2
  • Fiber (g): 0
  • Protein (g): 28


Marinate the chicken:

  • Remove the skin and trim excess fat from the chicken. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut three or four long, diagonal slits on each thigh against the grain, almost to the bone.

  • In a large, shallow bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, garam masala, kosher salt, and cayenne. Add the chicken, turning to coat and making sure that the marinade gets into all of the slits in the chicken. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

To oven-roast the thighs for Chicken Tikka Masala:

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the baking sheet, spacing the thighs evenly. Discard any remaining marinade. Roast until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced and an instant-read thermometer in a meaty part of a thigh registers 170°F, about 45 minutes.
  • Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken. Let it cool before using in the Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. Refrigerate if making ahead.

To grill the chicken and serve on its own:

  • Heat a gas grill to medium high. Oil the grill liberally. Remove the chicken from the marinade and lay the chicken on the grill. Discard the marinade. Cover and cook until grill marks appear, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken and continue to cook until the second side has grill marks, about 5 minutes more. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, flipping occasionally, until it is no longer pink near the bone (cut into a thigh to check), 10 to 15 minutes for small thighs, 15 to 20 minutes for large. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  • Brush the chicken with the melted butter and squeeze lemon halves on top. Garnish with the lemon wedges and the sliced onion.


Restaurants use food coloring to give this chicken its traditional red color; if you like, add a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to the marinade.


Rate or Review

Reviews (6 reviews)

  • user-473325 | 07/22/2013

    Instead of food coloring for the color, just add some tumeric which is traditional.

  • user-473325 | 07/22/2013

    Instead of food coloring for the color, just add some tumeric which is traditional.

  • jdmorris | 06/06/2012

    I hadn't intended to rate this recipe because I was using the tandoori chicken for the chicken tikka masala dish, but my boyfriend kept eating it when he was helping me cut it off the bone to use in the chicken tikka masala dish. He liked it so much that I'm pretty sure we were down a chicken thigh or two by the time I got to the chicken tikka masala recipe. I used low fat yogurt instead of non-fat and marinated it for about 6 hours. I definitely recommend checking on the temperature of the chicken during cooking (I oven roasted it). After waiting 45 minutes, the chicken was 185 degrees.

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