While studying culinary arts at the CIA, one of the courses concentrated on international cuisines. We would spend a day or two exploring different cuisines for two weeks. On one of the days, we gathered outside and watched the chef make tandoori chicken in a clay oven. I remember biting into the chicken and being amazed at how delicious it was. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clay oven at home but in an effort to recreate the dish, I prepared my own grilled tandoori chicken. Pair it with saffron rice and spicy cauliflower with tomatoes for one outstanding meal!

tandoori chicken
tandoori chicken


Serves 4


Grilled tandoori chicken

3 hr, 45 Total Time

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garam marsala
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 4 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh or 8 drumsticks)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add spices from paprika - cayenne and toast for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Mix together with yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger.
  2. Cut deep slits in chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Pour marinade on chicken, turning to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat grill to high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, shaking off excess. Lay on grill and cover. Cook for 2 minutes or until grill marks form. Flip chicken over and cook another 2 minutes. If chicken is stuck to the grill, leave for another minute before turning over.
  4. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook chicken for another 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes. Serve.
  5. Alternatively, if using a broiler, heat to high. Cook chicken until slightly charred. Finish cooking in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.


**Helpful tips and common mistakes

Tandoori chicken, unlike Indian curries and sauces, comes together quickly. Simply marinate the chicken overnight and cook the following day. Tandoori chicken typically uses skinless dark meat to produce juicy meat. I used drumsticks but you can also use thighs.

Tandoori chicken is typically a fiery red color from the paprika and chili spices used in the marinade. I decided to go easier on the chili and heavier on the turmeric for a milder version. I love spicy food but after trying this version at an Indian restaurant, I changed my ways.

When marinating the chicken, cut slits in the meat to allow the marinade to penetrate all the way. I kept the skin on my chicken but if you want to go the healthier more traditional way, remove before marinating.

Tandoor ovens have high heat, so to replicate the same heat source, a grill or broiler is the best option. Cover and cook the chicken for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear. It is important to leave the chicken be rather than constantly flip it during the 30 minutes. This allows the heat to stay trapped inside the grill and helps produce the juiciest meat.

tandoori chicken

I enjoyed this dish with a side of saffron rice and braised cauliflower with tomatoes and spinach. The grilled tandoori chicken was well seasoned, moist and had just the right amount of spice. If you want to go an extra step, serve with raita or mango chutney. De-licious!

tandoori chicken


Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.


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