Tandoori chicken is often recognized by its bright red colour. But I don’t like to order it because most restaurants actually achieve this colour using red food colouring. (If you’d like to do this at home, mix it into your yogurt before adding the yogurt to the chicken.) If you’re like me and you don’t have access to a tandoor (clay oven), you can make this using your oven and/or grill (see instructions below). Also, I’ve heard of people putting a lump of charcoal in their ovens to infuse a smoky flavour into the chicken. I can’t wait to get my hands on some charcoal to try this!
This is how I make tandoori chicken at home. Note that I prefer my tandoori chicken mildly flavoured, so adjust the spice to your taste.
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
serves 2 people
4 chicken thighs (or drumsticks), bone in, skin removed
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup of plain yogurt, drained of liquid through a cheesecloth (I use Balkan style yogurt)
1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I use a Microplane coarse grater)
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
juice of 1/2 lime or 1/4 lemon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp red chili powder (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
optional: 2 tbsp ghee (recipe here), melted
Use a sharp knife to score the flesh to the bone, 3 or 4 times across the top of the thigh. This allows the chicken to be more flavourful and to cook more quickly without becoming dry. In a ziploc freezer bag, marinate the chicken with the lemon or lime juice for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will tenderize the meat. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, cumin, coriander, garam masala, red chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices to the chicken and make sure that it is coated well. Then add the yogurt, mix well, and marinate for 4 hours.
If you don’t have a grill: Place the oven rack so that your chicken is several inches below the broiler. Then cook your chicken in an oven that has been preheated to broil until cooked all the way through and nicely charred, turning once. Depending on the size of your chicken pieces, this could take up to 20 minutes in total.
If you do have a grill: In a preheated, 450 F oven, cook the chicken on a rack set over a baking sheet until almost cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Brush the chicken lightly with melted ghee and finish the cooking on a hot grill, a few minutes per side, turning once, until you achieve the desired char and grill marks. Alternatively, you could start cooking the chicken on a hot grill, a few minutes per side, turning once, until you’ve achieved the desired char and grill marks. Then finish cooking the chicken through in a preheated, 350 F oven.
Serve hot or warm. Left over tandoori chicken tastes great chilled too.