The Indian classic Tandoori Chicken is actually very easy to make at home in the oven! This is made with accessible ingredients from scratch – no store bought curry paste, and no need to hunt down an Indian grocery store!
I’ve been making Tandoori Chicken since I was about 14. It might sound like I was some kind of Junior Masterchef – let me assure you I was not. Tandoori Chicken is pretty much the ONLY thing I used to make. Not very well either. It was swimming in a yoghurt based curry sauce which was basically made from curry powder. Not very authentic! (But still quite yum!)
As I grew up and started developing more of an interest in cooking, my original base recipe started to evolve. Thankfully! And now my Tandoori Chicken recipe of today barely resembles what I used to make back in high school. 🙂
My recipe is a mish-mash of various recipes I’ve come across over the years, though perhaps most notably the Tandoori Chicken recipe from Qmin Indian Restaurant which used to be in St Leonards in Sydney, Australia. I used to work in the building above it, so it was a regular business lunch haunt. So when the owner, Anil, published a cookbook, Qmin, I ordered it straight away. I was thrilled to learn real Indian cooking from a restaurant I was so fond of!
I was sad to learn that the restaurant has since closed. Every time I pull out the cookbook it reminds me of the many meals I had there. 🙂 I love that all the dishes are so familiar!
Like the Tandoori Chicken. 🙂 The way I make mine was very much influenced by the Qmin recipe, except I jacked up the flavour a bit to compensate for not cooking it over charcoal (which adds extra flavour!).
I was inspired to make it when I was scrolling through my albums the other day and I came across photos from my trip to Nepal back in 2009. I spent some time in a lessor known area called Chitwan which is right near the border of India so the food is pretty much all Indian food. No fancy hotels there! It was a rustic, very tiny Nepalese village with elephants wandering throughout the streets on the border of a jungle. And crocodile infested rivers!
My fondest memory of my time there are the meals I shared with Nepalese nationals who were also staying at the “resort” (comprised of wooden shacks with straw roofs – seriously!). I couldn’t understand a word they were saying but they sure knew how much I was loving the food by the grin plastered across my face as I tucked into the Tandoori chicken cooked over charcoals. SO GOOD.
Something I was quite surprised to learn from chatting to an Indian grocery store owner here in Sydney is that even in India, Tandoori Chicken is typically made with a good amount of Tandoori Spice Mix. I tried it once and it was delicious, really delicious. But Indian grocery stores are not very common in Sydney, so over the years I muddled up my own recipe made from scratch.
The flavour of the Tandoori coating on the drumsticks really is fantastic! In classic “me” form, it’s big on flavour, very easy to make and you can get everything you need from the grocery store. The flavour of the marinade is stronger than “real” Tandoori recipes you will typically find because they are traditionally cooked in a tandoor (cylindrical clay oven) or over charcoal, which adds that wonderful smoky flavour. So I have increased the flavour in my marinade to compensate for the absence of that charcoal flavour because mine is made in the oven.
Hope you consider giving it a go!! – Nagi x
- 1 1/2 cups plain yoghurt (full fat is best)
- 2 tbsp oil (any)
- 1/2 onion (brown, yellow, white)
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp ginger , grated
- 5 garlic cloves , minced
- 3 tsp garam masala spice mix (Note 1)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp paprika (preferably smoked)
- 3/4 - 1 1/4 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- Few drops red food colouring (optional) (Note 2)
- 8 (about 1.2 kg / 2.4 lb) chicken drumsticks
- Oil spray
- 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
- 2 tsp fresh mint , finely chopped
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
Place all the Marinade ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth. (Note 3) Pour into a ziplock bag with the chicken and marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a tray with foil and place a rack on the tray.
Remove chicken from the Marinade, shaking off excess (reserve Marinade), and place on the rack. Bake for 20 minutes, then slather on Marinade (very generously), turn the chicken and slather Marinade on the other side.
Bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove chicken from the oven, slather on Marinade, turn the chicken and slather on more Marinade and SPRAY WITH OIL. Bake for a final 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving with Mint Yoghurt. Optional: Garnish with cilantro/coriander leaves and serve with lemon wedges.
Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix.
1. Garam Masala is an Indian spice mix that you can purchase in dried herbs and spices section of supermarkets. It costs the same as other spices. The spices in it include: cardamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
2. The red colour in the marinade comes from the cayenne pepper and paprika. It's is quite red, but not quite the same red as what you typically get in restaurants. If you want to make it redder, just add a few drops of red food colouring.
3. The alternative to using a food processor is to grate the onion as finely as possible and mix with the other ingredients. The crust won't look as smooth as there will be little lumps of onion but the flavour is the same, I've made it this way plenty of times.
4. You can make this with any chicken cut you want. Drumsticks take a total of 40 to 45 minutes, boneless thighs will take around 20 to 30 minutes (depending on size), bone in thighs around 45 minutes, and chicken breast 20 to 30 minutes (depends on size).
5. You can also make this on the grill. You will get much more charcoal on it, it's so good! Cook it on the grill side, not flat iron side.
6. You can freeze the chicken with the marinade (raw). Then when you want to cook it, allow it to defrost then simply follow the recipe.
7. If you don' have time to marinade overnight, I recommend cutting 2 or 3 shallow slashes on each drumstick to help the marinade infuse into the flesh faster.
8. Tandoori Chicken Nutrition per serving assuming this serves 4 (2 drumsticks each).
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