Tandoori Chicken

Memorial Day is right around the corner. It’s often considered the first grilling weekend of the season across the United States, although it might feel a bit different this year without friends coming over. Either way, this recipe is tasty enough that it will hopefully compensate for the lack of Memorial Day parties we’ll all be attending in 2020.

While Tandoori Chicken recipes are found in my first two books, this beloved dish is making its blog debut today. It gets its name from the traditional clay oven found in South Asia, known as a tandoor in Hindi/Urdu. This dish as we know it today was likely developed in the 19th century, but evidence of similar grilled poultry dishes can be traced back to the Harappan Civilization, which existed in the Indus River Valley over 5,000 years ago. Given that most of these spices are native to the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, it’s no stretch to believe that these flavors have existed for thousands of years.

For this recipe, we’re going to go as economical as possible – we’ll break down a whole chicken and grill its individual parts. If that doesn’t seem to be up your alley, no worries, you can use any combination of chicken parts on their own (more details below the recipe). Bear in mind that bone-in chicken imparts the most flavor, and you’ll want to remove the skin so that you can get as much flavor into the meat as possible.

Tandoori Chicken (Gluten-free, Primal, Perfect Health Diet, Keto)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderate

1 whole (3-4 lbs) chicken
1 cup full-fat yogurt (coconut yogurt okay)
2 tbsp avocado oil (olive oil okay)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp achiote/annatto powder (for color, optional)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves

to serve:
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 batch basmati rice
1 lemon, cut into wedges
fresh cilantro

1. Break the chicken down: cut out the backbone, the cut away the thighs and legs. Cut and split the breasts down the center. Remove all of the skin from the chicken, except for the wings because that’s basically impossible. Cut each breast into three chunks – one chunk that has the wing and some breast meat, and the other two should be cut from the remaining breast piece. You should have six breast pieces, two legs, and two thighs. Make ½”-deep scores across the meat, every two inches or so (or about two scores per piece) — this will help the marinade penetrate the meat. Save the backbone for a future broth-making adventure.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, and all of the spices and stir until they are well-mixed. Toss the chicken into the bowl and toss until the chicken is evenly coated. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and marinate overnight.

3. Set up your grill for direct, medium-high heat cooking (you should be able to hold your hand about 5″ over the grill grates for about 3 seconds). Place the chicken on the grill, bone-side down, and grill for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and grill until the breast pieces reach 145F and the thigh pieces reach 160F, about 10 more minutes. Rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

** This recipe works well with individual pieces (split breasts, chicken thighs, drumsticks), if you aren’t interested in breaking down a whole chicken. You can also just spatchcock (remove the backbone) the chicken and grill it as-is, although the marinade will not as easily penetrate the meat. I like breaking down a whole chicken because it’s economical, leaves you with the most surface area for the marinade, and lets everyone fight for their favorite piece of chicken.

15 thoughts on “Tandoori Chicken

  1. I made this with some changes due to need… I used wings instead of a whole chicken, I don’t have a BBQ, so I broiled it in a mini convection oven, and also substituted kashmiri chili (unavailable where I live) with smoked paprika and chilli powder, and it turned out great! I think that not grilling the meat over a BBQ does take away from the final look and all-over taste of the dish, but I will be making this dish again, since my family loved it! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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