Tandoori chicken at its best! This easy recipe helps you make incredibly tender, juicy, moist and outrageously delicious Tandoori chicken. This mind-blowing way of grilling chicken is immensely popular in the Indian restaurants & is known as Tandoori Murgh. It is eaten with Cilantro Chutney or Mint Chutney. Indian food lovers keep going back to the restaurants time and again, not knowing it is the simplest that can be made at home.
In this post I share how to make the best Tandoori chicken in numerous ways – using an oven, on stovetop Griddle, air fryer and on direct fire. If you are new to the dish you may be wondering
What is Tandoori Chicken?
Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish where marinated chicken is grilled to perfection in a Tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven. As a first step chicken is marinated overnight with various spices, herbs and yogurt.
This marinade helps to tenderize, spice and flavor up the chicken. It is later grilled in a Tandoor. Traditionally the heat for a tandoor is generated by wood fire or charcoal. As the food cooks in this clay oven, the juices drip on to the hot charcoal and release a smoky flavor.
The resulting char grilled chicken is the best – tender and juicy with bursting flavors.
Sources say Tandoori chicken dates back to the Mughal period. While others say it was invented at Moti Mahal, Peshawar by Kundan Lal Gujral, before the partition of India. However it is beyond the scope of this post so let us enjoy making this amazing dish at home.
Wondering how to make Tandoori chicken without having a tandoor?
Any kind of heat source is good enough to grill/roast the chicken – an oven, stovetop, air fryer or direct fire. We are going to roast the chicken to perfection in one of these ways.
How do we infuse the smoky aroma into the chicken?
It is simpler than you think, you can infuse the smoky flavor either by smoking the grilled chicken with a red hot wood coal or cook it over direct fire for a few minutes towards the end.
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How To Make Tandoori Chicken (Stepwise Photos)
1. Greek yogurt also known as hung curd is the key ingredient used in the marinade. It is nothing but curd that has been strained of all the whey/liquid. If you do not have Greek yogurt, please check this link for making hung curd.
2. Firstly transfer yogurt to a large mixing bowl. Add all the spice powders. Garam masala, coriander powder, pepper powder, turmeric, chili powder and salt. Also add in ginger garlic paste and kasuri methi.
3. Add lemon juice. Be careful not to add a lot. Use as required depending on how sour your yogurt is.
4. Pour oil as well.
5. Mix well and taste the marinade. Add any ingredient needed to suit your taste like salt and chili powder. The marinade has to be thick and not runny otherwise it will stick up to the pan. Chicken will let out lot of moisture and juices while grilling if the marinade is runny.
6. Make sure the chicken has no dripping water. If needed wipe dry with a kitchen tissue. Next make deep gashes to the chicken.
7. Marinate it well so that the masala reaches deep inside. The marinade will tenderize the chicken. So make sure you do it properly.
8. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to over night. Do not reduce the time as the chicken will not get cooked and turn tender. You can keep this as long as 48 hours in the refrigerator.
Grill Tandoori Chicken
Grilling in Oven – Preheat the oven to the highest for at least 15 to 20 mins. In my oven it is 470 F (240 C). Place a wired rack over a baking tray and then place the prepared chicken over the wired rack. Grill it for 15 mins.
For a spicy version, mix together red chilli powder with oil and baste the chicken on both the sides. You can also baste the left over marinade over the chicken.
Grill the chicken again for another 6 to 10 mins until fully cooked through. Adjust the timing as needed depending on the size of your chicken pieces. The last 5 mins set the oven to broil mode or move the rack to the top most level and grill until charred.
Stovetop method – Grilling in pan
9. Heat a pan. Spread 1 to 2 tbsp oil.
10. When the oil turns hot, place the chicken on the tawa. Regulate the heat to medium.
11. After 3 to 4 minutes flip the pieces. Smear the marinade.
12. Flip them again after 3 to 4 mins.
13. Meanwhile add red chili powder to a small bowl. Mix it with the oil. This is optional. Skip if you do not want spiced ones.
14. Smear that to the tandoori chicken.
15. Turn them to the other side. Cook on both the sides until soft and cooked. If it looks too dry, smear little soft butter.
Smoke Tandoori Chicken
16. This step is also optional, unless you want to smoke the chicken. Burn the charcoal.
17. When it turns hot, drop it in a cup. Immediately pour 1 to 2 tsps ghee.
18. It will begin to smoke immediately.
19. Finally cover it and allow to smoke for 5 to 7 mins.
20. Before smoking the tandoori chicken, do check if it is cooked well. The meat should fall off the bone easily. Serve tandoori chicken with Cilantro Chutney or Mint Chutney alongside sliced onions, carrots and lemon wedges.
Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken
- Preheat the air fryer to 390 F or 200 C. Place the chicken on the basket and air fry for 10 mins on each side or until cooked through and the internal chicken temperature reaches to 165 F.
- Once done, brush the tandoori chicken with the left over marinade or the red chilli paste mixed with oil. Air fry for another 2 mins. For the authentic flavors, brush with mustard oil or butter.
Grill in Outdoor Grill
- Preheat the outdoor grill for medium high heat.
- Grease the grate generously with oil. Wipe off the excess marinade from the chicken and place them over the preheated grill.
- Cook for 5 to 6 mins and turn them the other side. Baste the marinade on the top side and turn it again after 5 to 6 mins. The cook time depends on the size of your chicken pieces.
- It takes about 27 to 30 mins to cook the Tandoori chicken fully. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken and cook until it shows 165F or 75 C. Brush with some butter or mustard oil.
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken (500 to 700 grams)
- ½ cup greek yogurt (hung curd)
- ¾ tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (kashmiri or any low heat chilli)
- ¼ tsp black pepper crushed (powder)
- 1 tsp coriander powder (daniya powder)
- ¼ tsp salt (taste marinade & add more)
- ¼ tsp Turmeric (haldi)
- 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 to 2 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
Marinade for tandoori chicken
- To a mixing bowl, add greek yogurt or hung curd (thick curd). If you do not have it make your own following the notes below.
- Next add in ginger garlic paste, garam masala, red chili powder, salt, turmeric, kasuri methi, pepper powder and coriander powder.
- Pour oil and lemon juice as well.
- Mix everything well. The marinade has to be thick and not of dripping consistency. Taste it and add more salt and chili powder if needed.
- Make deep gashes over the chicken and add it to the bowl.
- Marinate the chicken well into the gashes.
- Cover and set aside for at least 6 hours. If you reduce the marination time, chicken will not turn soft and juicy. It may not get cooked well if making on tawa.
How to make tandoori chicken
- Preheat the oven to the highest for atleast 15 to 20 mins. In my oven it is 470 F or 240 C. For the stovetop and air fryer method, please follow the step by step instructions above the recipe card.
- Place a foil on a oven tray to collect the drippings.
- Then keep a greased wired rack on the tray.
- Place the chicken pieces over the wire rack.
- Grill the chicken for about 15 mins.
- For spicy version mix together 1 tsp red chili powder with 1 tbsp oil.
- After 15 mins of grillling, baste the red chili oil over the chicken. You can also baste the left over marinade over the chicken.
- Turn the chicken to the other side and baste the red chili oil or marinade.
- Grill for another 6 to 10 mins or until the chicken is cooked through. You will need to adjust the timing as it depends on size of the chicken pieces.
- The last 5 mins, set to broil mode. Alternately you can move the entire tray with wire rack to the top most rack for the last 5 mins. This gives the charred effect.
- Brush the drippings all over the chicken. This keeps the chicken moist. You can also burn a char coal piece and place it in a small cup. Bring out the chicken tray from the oven and place the cup of char coal in the tray. Cover with a large bowl or foil. Allow it to smoke for 5 to 7 mins.
- Restaurant style tandoori chicken is ready. Serve with this Cilantro Chutney or Pudina Mint Chutney alongside onion and lemon wedges.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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fantastic recipe. Easy to follow.
Thank you Alec. Glad you like!
This was fabulous. I had made my own chili oil which was nice. I used whole chicken legs and thighs. Roasted in a hot oven for 40 minutes. Served with garlic naan and brinjal pickle. My only suggestion would be to rub the lemon juice over the chicken before you put it in the marinade. It just brightens up the chicken a little more.
Glad you like it Ellen. Thank you so much for sharing back how you made it. Yes chicken can be marinated first with lemon juice, chilli and salt for 15 mins, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
I made this and it was perfection! I didn’t have mustard oil (never heard of it) but it worked with the oil I had olive or avocado I don’t remember now. I marinated it overnight.
This recipe made the most tender chicken I have had in a very long time. I let it marinate over night. Perfectly cooked. And super-delicious! Thank you.
One thing that some people need to be aware of (maybe note more loudly) is that chili powder is not american chili powder as in texas chili. Much different flavor and use. American chili powder is actually a mix of paprika, cumin, oregano…) and that is not what the recipe is after.
Hi swathi, I made this recipe today in the oven but the chicken was dry. May I know how make it juicy?
what kind of a oven did you use and at what temperature did you bake it?
Built in oven, temperature was set at 240C.
The recipe is great by the way, just that the dryness was the issue if that’s rectified the fish will be superb.
Chicken not fish *
After baking for first 30mins, just bashed it with butter or oil and then wrapped the chicken with a foil, then baked for 30min more.
This was the best recipe. I followed the instructions for Air Fryer. The chicken was moist and the spices were just right. My family loved it. I will definitely make it again.
Thank you so much!
Glad your family loved it
It came out very good. The hung curd is the concept which I was missing so long. Because of this the chicken remained moist after grilling.
Thanks for trying Tarun. Glad you like it.
I have this marination right now and can’t wait to eat!
Do you have a suggestion about the ratio of ground fenugreek that could substitute for fenugreek leaves? Thank you!
Do you mean ground fenugreek seeds? It can’t be substituted for fenugreek leaves. You may leave out that.
Love this recipe – full of flavour!
Thank you Sandeep
Super delicious, very easy recipe. Thank you Swasthi.
Thank you Leah
Can you slow coook this at all? Like a pulled chicken type style?
Hi Swasthi, such a great recipe! For boneless, can we use chicken breast or do you recommend thighs? Does the cooking time change based on the chicken we choose? Also my oven can go upto 270 c. Do you recommend a higher temperature or should we stick to 240? Does the cooking time change?
Thank you! Thighs are best but breasts are okay too if left in the marinade overnight or longer. Yes higher is better, go with 270 C. Yes the cook time changes. You have to keep an eye towards the end. If you make it a few times you will know how to fine tune the timings. Hope this helps
Hi Swasthi, thank you for the great recipe! I used thick Greek yogurt instead of hung curd, what can I do to get rid of the extra water in the marinade without hanging the curd?
You can add more spice powders or little roasted besan. Roast the besan until aromatic. Cool it and add along with little more oil.
hi, i like to get the recipe of the tandoori “spice” mix you had uploaded a while back, i tried searching for it and couldnt find on your website, i had been using it since past one year and its the best i ever had, please upload it back soon
Hello. I want to make this but I have dairy intolerance. What other yogurt would you recommend?
Thank you! It really looks delicious!
I haven’t tried. Almond yogurt should work but with a meat tenderizer. Dairy yogurt acts as a meat tenderizer here so any other yogurt may not work the same way. Meat tenderizer should work on that part.
Hi Swasthi hope all is well at your end. Today’s the third day I have prepared Tandoori chicken….with bone, without bone, flat breast piece, with oven without oven…each and every end product turned out too delicious.
Thank you for your detailed recipe. You’re wonderful.
Yes all is well. So good to see your comment. Hope you all are doing good. Glad to know it turned out good. Thank you!
Yes, Swasthi. I’m irregular in the comment section these days. But trust me regularly preparing food following your recipe. Now my son and daughter both have started following you as well. Hence my better half is very elated.
Always appreciating your endeavour.
So happy to know the kids are looking into the recipes. In the current situation it’s so important to keep up their spirts. That’s really awesome Tanu!
Stay safe all of you!
Am a 68 year old male with zero experience of kitchen. Made chicken tandoori in oven as per your recipe. Came out excellent the first time. Thank you.
Hi Alok Sir
Glad to know it came out good. Thank you
Hello Swasthi, what is a good kind of onion to use with this recipe? The onions have always been my favorite part.
Use white or red onions.