There’s a Quick Way to Get Restaurant Quality at Home
One of my favorite main-course Indian eats is Tandoori Chicken, a bright red dish with succulent, rich flavor. Traditionally it’s cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven that reaches temperatures approaching 900 degrees F. This high heat sears the surface of meat to seal in tasty juices, then quickly cooks everything to tender perfection.
But who has a tandoor at home? And how can you possibly make this dish without a specialized oven?
Well, it’s actually quite easy. You can use an outdoor grill, if you have one. Otherwise, just cook the chicken under your oven’s broiler. True, these methods don’t generate the heat of a tandoor, so it will take a bit longer to cook the chicken. But the flavor of home-cooked is still remarkably good. Maybe not quite tandoor quality, but awfully close.
Best yet, if you use commercial tandoori marinade — a product used in many Indian restaurants — preparation time for this recipe is under 5 minutes. Yet the Tandoori Chicken will be so flavorful, your guests will think you slaved all day over the recipe. I won’t tell if you won’t.
Recipe: Easy Tandoori Chicken
I discovered commercial tandoori marinades by accident years ago, while walking by an Indian restaurant in New York City. This particular establishment, which was noted for the excellence of its tandoori dishes, had a delivery truck parked on the street outside. And just as I passed by, a worker wheeled in a hand truck loaded with boxes of . . . commercial tandoori marinade.
This was a face-palm moment. I had made tandoori marinade at home, with good (but not great) results. It wasn’t hard, but it was a bit of work. And I could never quite achieve the great red color that tandoori dishes always have in restaurants. (The color comes from food dye.) But if a well-known restaurant was staking its reputation on a commercially prepared product, maybe I should consider using it too.
So I went looking for commercial tandoori marinade — it's also often called tandoori paste — and found several different brands on offer at Indian groceries. Every one I’ve tried has been decent, but my favorite is made by Patak’s, a British manufacturer of Indian condiments, spice mixtures, and prepared meals. They sell varieties of tandoori marinade both with and without food dye. So if you object to the coloring, you have a non-dyed option that’s just as flavorful (the dye doesn’t affect taste). BTW, I’m not associated in any way with Patak’s, nor do I profit from mentioning them — I just like their tandoori paste.
If you prefer to avoid commercial marinade altogether, I provide a recipe for a homemade version in the Notes.
For this recipe, you need pieces of skinless chicken (if you’re using chicken breasts, get the boneless). I think thighs are actually tastier in this recipe, but I really like the look of chicken breasts, and the pieces are bigger. So that’s what I generally use.
This recipe serves 4, but it’s very easy to scale up or down. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix the marinade (you add yogurt to the commercial product) and then coat the chicken with it. You should let the chicken marinate for a few hours (I usually mix it the night before). Cooking the chicken takes 15 or 20 minutes.
- ~ ½ cup plain yogurt (you may want to add more; see Notes)
- ~ ¾ cup tandoori marinade (again, you may want to add more; see Notes)
- 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts (or skinless thighs or drumsticks)
- You want to let the chicken get acquainted with the yogurt and tandoori paste, so do this step several hours before you want to cook the chicken (the night before is better). Anyway, combine yogurt and tandoori marinade in a plastic food bag (or a bowl) large enough to hold the chicken. Mix together.
- Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture, and mix to cover completely. Seal bag and refrigerate until ready to cook. (If using bowl, cover bowl with shrink wrap.)
- About an hour (or a bit less) before you want to eat, light outside grill (or oven broiler; see Notes for broiler cooking instructions) and allow to preheat.
- Remove chicken from bag, and place on grill; turn heat to medium. Cover grill (if your grill has a cover) and cook for 8 minutes.
- At the 8-minute mark, turn the chicken. If it’s getting a bit burned, turn the heat down. Continue grilling, covered, until the chicken reaches 160 degrees F — usually another 7 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from grill and serve.
- If cooking chicken in the oven, preheat broiler, put chicken on broiler pan, and place under broiler for about 8 minutes (check on it every couple of minutes). Turn chicken, lower oven heat to 350 degrees F, and continue cooking until chicken reaches 160 degrees F (usually another 10 minutes or so).
- You can also just cook the chicken in a 350-degree F oven for 20 minutes or so, although it won’t get the nice char on it that grilling or broiling provide.
- Exact measurements on the yogurt and the tandoori paste aren’t critical. I always “eyeball” when I make this dish — and I usually mix more than I specify in the recipe, just because I like to have my chicken swimming in yogurt mixture. But that’s a bit wasteful, and the quantity I suggest works.
- If you prefer to make your own tandoori marinade, here’s how: Take a cup of plain yogurt, and add to it 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons freshly minced or grated ginger, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional), and 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste). Mix, and proceed with Step 2. This homemade tandoori marinade isn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as good as mixing Patak’s paste with yogurt. And it lacks that gorgeous red color (it’s not worth messing with food coloring for this, IMO; besides, I can never get the color right).
- You often see tandoori chicken served with a garnish of blackened onion rings (raw onions cut into thick rings that are then run under a broiler until they char a bit; they’re only partially cooked). This has never done much for me, but you may like it.
- BTW, the color of tandoori chicken can vary from bright red to red-orange. If you add turmeric to your spice paste, it tilts the color towards orange. The more turmeric you add, the more the red shifts to orange.
The Star of an Indian Dinner
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I were silent as we slurped up our Tandoori Chicken, Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce, Pink Dal with Swiss Chard, and Aromatic Yellow Rice.
Finally, Mrs K R came up for air. “All of these dishes are so great! I don’t know which I like best. At the moment probably the chicken. It’s delectable.”
I nodded in agreement, mouth full.
Then Mrs K R scrutinized her plate. “Hey, where’s that great potato dish you promised? The one with all the heavenly ginger and garlic?”
“Coming up later this week,” I said, wiping my mouth. “There’s only so much we can fit into one dinner!”
“Good,” she replied. “And of course we’ll serve it with more Tandoori Chicken.”
Indeed we will. Mrs. K R’s wish is my command!
You may also be interested in reading about:
Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce
Pink Dal with Swiss Chard
Aromatic Yellow Rice
Sweet Potatoes in Curry Sauce
Cheddar Cheese Chicken Curry
Red-Braised Beans and Sweet Potatoes
White Bean and Potato Soup
Split Pea Soup with Greens
Vegan Mapo Tofu
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans Barbecued Pork Steaks
No restaurant I have been to has ever served such exceptional looking tandoori chicken!
Choc Chip Uru
Thanks so much for this post. I am going to be on the lookout for the Patak's brand! So much great information here, I love it!
John, this is such a beautiful dish! You created another delicate meal out of simple everyday ingredients. I would love to taste some of that "delectable" chicken. When I go to an Indian restaurants, I always order tandoori chicken, and it's always chicken legs (love it!). You inspired me to try next time a chicken breast. As of cooking it at home, well... Here is a thing: when I make something Indian at home, my husband compliments me that it was cooked with my European charm... What he means is that it tastes Mediterranean with the addition of Indian spices... I guess I have to practice... :)
Did I hear a word "potatoes"? With ginger and garlic? I'd like to see that heavenly great potato dish too! :)
Hi CCU, tandoori chicken looks so pretty! Such an attractive dish, whether you make it at home or order it at a restaurant. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Kristy, I really like Patak's. You can get it at Amazon, but it's rather expensive there. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Marina, Indian food is so flavorful I love cooking it. Although many of the techniques for cooking it are similar to Mediterranean cooking, the way you handle spices is usually a bit different. In a lot of dishes you make a spice mixture (masala) and "fry" it in oil right at the beginning (often after you've browned onions). Other dishes may have part of most of the spices added right at the end - and again one also sizzles them in oil to release their flavors (and to flavor the oil, which then gets mixed into the dish). I'll be doing the first technique in the potato dish, coming up later this week! Thanks for the comment.
LOVE that you did this without food coloring!!!
I've never had tandoori chicken but its sounds very tasty and your photo is so pretty and bright. Thank you for sharing All these details. I will have to put this on my list to make.
See John, the fun part of my cooking is that I would follow the Indian recipe (to a point) and then I would add dill, thyme, lovage, and other familiar herbs ... I guess I just have to hide my favorite herbs when cooking Indian meals... :)
This looks so amazing. I cannot believe how gorgeous this is.
That's one of my favourite dishes whenever I go to an Indian restaurant. Simple and tasty! Can't get it wrong. ;)
Ah, I get it! No, dill just doesn't work in most Indian recipes! You need to get into a different mindset. ;-)
Hi everydaymaven, actually the one I did was using the Palak's tandoori paste that had the food coloring. They have one without (and my recipe doesn't use it) - but the color is much different. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Vicki, it's good stuff - and appeals to most people who love meat and potato dishes. I'll bet your husband would love it! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Kim, isn't it pretty? One of my favorite things about it! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Alex, isn't it a good dish? So, so good. I often order it when I'm out, too, even though I know how ridiculously easy it is to make! Thanks for your comment.
My goodness, this is a very impressive tandoori chicken, John! You really nailed it not only the flavor but the look. I'm sure Mrs. KR was really happy with you serving her this dish. :) Thank you and have a wonderful mid-week!
Hi Ray, this is such a tasty dish! And it looks great, too. We had a lot of fun eating it, I assure you! ;-) Thanks for your comment.
It would depend if I was cooking this on a work night or a weekend whether I made my own paste or not. There are many commercially made products that are quite excellent.
I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know Tandoori Chicken's Tandoori comes from the oven name Tandoor! Thank you for educating me. I have used Patak's brand before, but I've been using Shan because my Indian neighbor was using it when she take shortcuts. I love your perfect grilled mark and I can imagine this was delish!
Easy indeed! I love the color of your chicken! Looks absolutely delicious, J!
Hi Suzanne, the value of making your own is you can get exactly the flavor you want. But the commercial guys have access to food colorings that we just can't buy (assuming you're OK with using food coloring in your food; this is about the only thing I eat that has it), so they can get much better color than I've ever been able to do on my own. So you take your choice! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Nami, my blog is a font of basically useless information like that! I don't think I've ever used the Shan brand - I'll have to look for that. Who knows, it may be better than Patak's! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Baker Street, this recipe is ridiculously easy! And truly great eating. Thanks for your comment.
Don't you love those face-palm moments? This looks like a delicious result. There's no shame in going with a commercial product when it works so well. Thanks for passing along the information!
Mighty scrumptious and easy! That is something I love. The flavors are so enjoyable.
Hi Beth, I seem to have an inordinate number of face-palm moments! ;-) I agree re the commercial products - sometimes they're just better. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, easy is always high on my list! And isn't Tandoori Chicken wonderful tasting? Thanks for commenting.
Tandoori chicken is one of my favourite indian dishes. I had it when I was in India many years ago, and I could not believe how spicy the real stuff is. Yummy though.
Hi Tania, isn't it a great dish? Such flavor! This version isn't all that spicy - the Patak's spice blend was labeled "mild," although it certainly had a bit of a kick. I've not been to India but would love to go - and to taste this dish. I'll bet it's out-of-the-world good. Thanks for your comment.
I've got to find some of that tandoori paste! Like you I tried making it from scratch a few years ago and it just didn't turn out very good. I decided buying it was SO much better. After seeing your perfect tandoori, I can see that it's time to try again, but this time with the right ingredients! Thanks for turning me onto the paste and for the detailed instructions and notes. Look like a delicious meal!
I am so going to make this, John. I live a few blocks from "Little India" and can easily get the marinade or any spices required. I love tandoori chicken but thought it out of my realm of possibilities. So, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I cannot wait to give it a try.
Wow, the color is amazing. Looks just like chicken at my favorite Indian restaurant. I bet it tastes just as good, too -- if not better! ;)
Hi MJ, the tandoori paste is worth seeking out. It has great flavor, and is better than anything I've been able to make. Hope you find some! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Chicago John, you should have no trouble finding this in Chicago. And as you can see, it's really an easy dish to make. Hope you enjoy! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Carolyn, the color is lots of fun. And it tastes pretty darn good, too! Thanks for the comment.
Ha - totally a head smacking moment for me too! Never in a million years considered the commercial marinade, but I am absolutely picking some up next time I see it. Red dye and all! Yours looks like perfection.
Hi Katherine, it's funny, that's one of the few commercial products I use for Indian cooking. But I read a lot of blogs that feature Indian cooking, and many of the cooks use commercial masalas all the time! I really should try them - if the quality is there and they are more convenient, it's the way to go. I'd never consider making my own gram masala, for example - I use way too little of it to make it worthwhile. Easier to buy. So I should open my eyes. Thanks for your comment.
I pretty much only use a commercial product for my tandoori chicken (and broil it). My favorite comes from a yellow box that I pick up at my local import store. The owner says that it's his favorite, and honestly, it's good enough that I haven't even tried to make my own mix.
I love you and the Mrs. commentary, btw. I've never tried tandoori chicken at home, I wish we had an Indian market closer, it's one of the things I miss about living close to to a big city. I wish I could have one of those ovens in my house, wouldn't that be fun. Actually maybe it should be outside, it's hot enough already on the inside. Hope you both have a wonderful weekend.
Hi redcrowgreencrow, the commercial stuff really is the easiest way to go for this dish. And every one I've tried has been pretty tasty - they all seem good. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Gina, glad you enjoy the interchanges between Mrs K R and me - they're fun to write (and fairly representative - with a few stretches - of how we sometimes talk). I cook my chicken on the Weber outdoors - works perfectly! And you can get the tandoori paste from Amazon, but last time I checked they were kinda pricey. Thanks for your comment.
I love tandoori chicken but I don't have a tandoor. Who knew they get so hot! I usually cook mine in the oven under high heat but we've also put it on the BBQ too. xx
That tandoori chicken looks delicious!
Hi Hotly Spiced, either the oven or the BBQ work pretty well - I use both, depending on the season. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Ali, it is! That is, I should say it was. ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Thanks for this easy dish John. Done this way you get a dish with wow factor for both taste and presentation. The red colour really is marvelous. I'd emphasize that this is a dish best not banged together at the last second. For the best flavour it really does benefit from a long marinade which you indicate is your normal practice. Pataks is a locally available brand here although I am not sure I have seen their tandoori on the shelf. I will definitely be having a look.
This chicken sounds totally delicious. The presentation is beautiful.
Hi Food Junkie, isn't this a good dish? One of my favs. You make a great point that this dish is better when the chicken spends a bit of time in the marinade. I do talk about this in the headnote, but it could be more explicit in the Procedure - I'll revise and add a line to emphasize that. Thanks for that suggestion, and for the comment.
Hi Words of Deliciousness, it's a great dish! Thanks for your kind words, and the comment.
Tandoori is one of my favorite Indian eats too. I love the vibrant colors of your pics (as always!) It even looks better than the ones in the restaurant.
Hi Malou, isn't it good stuff? Thanks for the kind words (and the comment!) — I love color, and my pictures tend to reflect that.
Thanks for sharing this easy to make tandoori chicken.
I'm going to see if my market can order in the tandoori paste...as they carry Pataks products. I've enjoyed your series on Indian food...one of my favorite cuisines.
Hi Raymund, you're welcome! ;-) It's really good stuff - thanks for commenting.
Hi Karen, I would imagine if they carry Patak's that getting the tandoori paste would be easy. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.
I love tandoori chicken and am not averse to using bought marinades. We often don't always have time to slave over our ovens and on those occasions these marinades are a wonderful help!
Hi Amanda, honestly the commercial marinade is better than anything I've been able to develop on my own. Part of that is the color - I just can't get such vibrant color - but their flavor is better, too. And it's easier! So what's not to like? Thanks for your comment.
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