Recipe: Spicy Indian Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken recipe and my top tips for improving your Indian cooking and my nine favourite spices for Indian recipes.

Like all my posts, there is a story behind this chicken tandoori recipe but you can just…

skip the story and go straight to the tandoori chicken recipe.

When I was 17 years old I wanted to be an actress. At that time, there was only one university in Ireland offering a degree course in theatre studies. I didn’t get accepted. So, I went to the UK to study. I got accepted to do a B.A. (Hons) Degree in Theatre Studies and Film Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. I had never even heard of Wolverhampton before.

I told my parents a week before I was due to leave. They didn’t know I was going until then.

On 21st September 1998, my 15-year-old brother, my mam, dad and I packed up the car with all my things and took the ferry to Holyhead. From there we drove three hours to the town of Dudley. My home for the next three years. The only thing my mam knew of Dudley was that the comedian Jasper Carrot was born there.

Dudley is in the heart of the ‘Black Country’ in the West Midlands.

There are large Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities there. This meant, that for the three years I lived there, I was surrounded by food from those regions. I was also surrounded by people from those regions who showed me how to cook traditional dishes. This was the best education of my whole time at University.

The one dish I ate the most was tandoori chicken.

It is also the first meal I had on my very first day in Dudley. Up until then, the only curry I had eaten had been a brown curry from the Chinese takeaway. I didn’t know of any Indian restaurants in Dublin. When I saw the vibrant red sauce of the tandoori chicken I was intrigued. I was dying to know what was in it. This was before Google and the obsession with food we have now. If I wanted to know I would have to ask the chef or find a cookbook with a tandoori chicken recipe.

My first-time cooking in the halls of residence I tried to make my own tandoori chicken recipe. It was insipid and grey. Sure, what was I expecting? This was my first time ever really cooking. And I had no mammy to help me.

Luckily my two friends, who lived in my halls of residence, were amazing cooks.

Whilst the rest of us were living off of pasta and Super Noodles day in day out, they were cooking up a storm every night. I watched them make salads, curries, soups, rice dishes and fresh bread. They had spices and ingredients I had never heard of let alone tasted. And the best thing about this? They let me help them. They showed me how to cook traditional dishes taught to them by their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmothers.

Now, for the first time, I have shared the tips that they told me. Click here to read my cooking tips for Indian food.

Ok, finally, here is my well-educated, tried and tested (since 1998) University Tandoori Chicken recipe.

Cooking the tandoori chicken

A tandoori is an Indian cooking vessel that cooks food very quickly because it can reach up to temperatures of about 450°C. That gives the tandoori chicken is lovey smoky flavour. If you don’t have a tandoori, you can cook this dish on the barbecue to replicate the smoky flavours. If you are cooking in a conventional oven, you can add mustard oil to the first marinade for added pungency. You can also try to get a bit of char on the meat by finishing off at a high temperature.

Tandoori Chicken Recipe top tips how to cook Indian foodTandoor Chicken Recipe Ingredients

You can use whatever chicken meat you like for this dish, but I recommend using meat on the bone. Use a whole bird or just the thighs or legs or wings or a mixture. You can cook with the skin on or off. I used four chicken legs and left the skin on.

Ingredients – marinade one

1 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon of salt

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1-inch (thumb-sized) piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped (optional) Leave this out if you want your tandoori chicken a little milder

Ingredients – marinade two

250 millilitre natural-flavour Greek yoghurt – you need a ‘dry’ yoghurt, not a very runny one

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon of red chilli powder or Kashmiri chilli powder

2 teaspoons of garam masala

Ingredients – colouring

You don’t need to add these ingredients, they won’t really do anything to the flavour of the dish. However, if you want the vibrant red colour you can use:

One tablespoon of Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tablespoon of beetroot powder (not suitable for those on a fodmap diet)

1 teaspoon of red food colouring (this is what I used)


If you wish, remove the skin from the chicken.

Score the meat right through to the bone.

Pour the lemon juice into a bowl.

Take the rest of the ingredients for marinade one and bash them in a pestle and mortar or blitz in a blender. (Do not rinse out the blender when you are done blitzing).

Mix the marinade into the bowl containing the lemon juice and salt.

Add the chicken to the bowl.

Rub the marinade into the chicken.

Leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

Make marinade two by combining the yoghurt, onion, chilli powder and garam masala in the same blender that you used for marinade one. If using any of the colouring ingredients add them to the mix.

Pour the marinade mixture top of the chicken and massage into the meat.

If you don’t have a blender just add all the ingredients on top of the chicken. Give it a good mix, then massage into the meat.

Cover with Clingfilm and place in the fridge to marinate for as long as possible.

Overnight is best for flavour.

One hour will do if you are pressed for time.

If you are starving and can’t wait, forgo the marinating time. Just add it to the oven straight away.

Tandoori Chicken Recipe top tips how to cook Indian foodCooking times

When you are ready to cook the tandoori chicken, preheat the oven to 230°C / 210°C fan assisted / 450°F / gas mark 8.

Smear some oil around a baking dish or metal tray before adding the chicken. Pour over all the remaining marinade.

Cook uncovered in the oven. For chicken legs and drumsticks cook for 25 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear.

If you’ve used a full chicken, preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan assisted / 350°F / gas mark 4 and cook uncovered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until juices run clear.

However, if you have a tried and tested cooking temperature and timings for chicken, feel free to use those.

Serve piping hot with naan bread or chips or my Indian salad and my cooling mint and cucumber raita.

“Bon Nomnom”

So, what do you think of my Tandoori Chicken Recipe? Did you try it out? Did you like it? What improvements would you make? Share a photo of your own attempt at this recipe or leave any feedback and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

If you like this recipe, you may also like my Baked Mango Chicken Curry Recipe.

And my refreshing mint and cucumber raita recipe.

And my spicy Indian tomato salad recipe.

Don’t forget to check out my top cooking tips for Indian food.

If you like this tandoori chicken recipe, please share with others.

Related posts…

1 thought on “Recipe: Spicy Indian Tandoori Chicken”

Leave a comment