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Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Grilled tandoori chicken is tender and juicy on the inside while maintaining a nice char on the outside, and it has the eye-catching red hue you expect from restaurant-style tandoori chicken. Coated in a homemade tandoori marinade, the chicken grills to juicy perfection. Finish the meal with basmati ricekachumber salad, and warm naan.

Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.

The History of Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori chicken is a popular dish among home cooks and Indian restaurants, but did you know its creation was a happy accident?

While preparing naan in a tandoor oven, Mokha Singh Lamba decided to cook chicken over it, and the rest is history! The recipe grew in popularity and became a signature meal at his restaurant, the Moti Mahall; this is the same restaurant famous for creating butter chicken masala and dal makhani.

This grilled chicken recipe is a crowd-pleaser, just like my BBQ-baked chicken legs, and a perfect dish for cookouts, picnics, and gatherings.

What is Tandoori Chicken?

Tandoori chicken gets its name from the vessel it cooks in, a tandoor oven similar to other Indian meals like chicken karahi. Tandoors are cylinder clay pots heated by an open flame, and the result is tasty, chargrilled chicken with a subtle smoky flavor. Since few people have regular access to a tandoor, you can recreate a similar cooking technique on the grill for juicy, flavorful chicken. 

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Tandoori Marinade: Create a tandoori masala paste with full-fat yogurt, garlic and ginger paste, salt, garlic powder, turmeric powdercayenne pepper, paprika, garam masalaKashmiri chili powder, fresh lemon juice, and sliced onion.
  • Chicken: I prefer bone-in chicken thighs, legs, or quarters to prepare this recipe. If you like boneless chicken, I recommend using chicken thighs. Be sure to reduce the cooking time accordingly since boneless chicken won’t need to grill as long; the safe cooking temperature for chicken is 165°F (73°C).

How to Make Grilled Tandoori Chicken

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Combine ingredients for the tandoori masala (apart from the onions) in a food processor until smooth.

Tandoori masala in a food processor.

Step 2: Transfer it to a mixing bowl with the chicken pieces and sliced onion. Toss to combine. Then, cover and marinate in the fridge for 6 hours (but at least one hour).

Chicken in a mixing bowl with tandoori masala.

Step 3: Preheat a gas grill by setting all the burners to high heat for 10 minutes. Use a wooden grill scraper to clean the grates.

Then, turn off the rightmost burner, but maintain an overall grill temperature of 350°F (176°C).

Grill grates being cleaned with a paddle.

Step 4: Arrange the chicken pieces onto the hottest side of the grill. Cover and grill until they blister for 5 minutes. Flip, and sear the chicken for 4-6 minutes.

Tandoori chicken on the grill.

Step 5: Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill (the rightmost burner), cover, and grill for 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking for 20 minutes.

Tandoori chicken on the grill.

Step 6: Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.
Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.

Expert Tips

  • Score the chicken pieces with deep slits before combining it in the marinade. I recommend marinating for 6-24 hours (but at least one hour) to ensure the flavor penetrates and flavors the chicken.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you are ready to prepare it.
  • Preheat the grill, letting it get hot before adding the chicken. Doing so locks in all the moisture as the chicken sears to develop a nice char.
  • Carefully shake off the excess marinade and onions before setting them onto the grill.  
  • I prefer a low and slow method of cooking the grilled tandoori chicken so the inside and outside cook evenly.

Can I Baked this Recipe in the Oven?

Baked tandoori chicken on a plate.

Tangy, spiced tandoori masala imparts all the best flavor into this easy, baked tandoori chicken recipe. The dish cooks in the oven for less than an hour.

If you enjoy the meal, try one of these Indian recipes!  

Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.

Serving Suggestions

If you’re deciding what to serve with tandoori chicken, here are a few suggestions:

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the chicken cool and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Grilled tandoori chicken freezes for up to 4-6 months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the frozen chicken in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Warm the leftover chicken in the oven at 400°F (204°C) for 15 minutes.
  • Repurpose: Make chicken tikka masala, butter chicken masala, or chicken tikka biryani with the leftovers, or use it to top a pizza, quesadilla, or sandwich.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between tandoori and chicken tikka?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the terms tandoori chicken and chicken tikka, and many use them interchangeably.

Charga: Similar to how I prepare Peruvian chicken or tandoori turkey, chicken charga refers to a marinated whole chicken that’s grilled or cooked.

• Tikka: Most people in the West consider small pieces of chicken (usually chicken breast) to be tikka when chicken tikka can also be leg quarters or legs, similar to the ones I use to make BBQ chicken legs. However, the term also covers the bite-size pieces of chicken since the word ‘tikka’ just means pieces in English. 

• Tandoori: Tandoori chicken is chicken (whole or parts) that cooks in a tandoor oven. Since most kitchens aren’t tandoor-equipped, you will find grilled and baked tandoori chicken recipes that attempt to recreate the cooking technique.

How long do you grill the chicken?

Like grilled chicken drumsticks, I prefer searing the chicken over high heat to create a flavorful seal before lowering the heat and cooking the chicken for 40-45 minutes to ensure the inside cooks without completely burning the outside.

The cooking time is just an estimate. The best way to ensure that your chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat is to use a meat thermometer.

Why is tandoori chicken red?

The red-colored tandoori chicken in Indian restaurants is usually a result of additional food coloring. You can achieve a similar color using Kashmiri chili powder, but it won’t be as pronounced without food coloring.

Is tandoori chicken healthy?

This grilled tandoori chicken recipe is high in protein and nutrients, making this meal a healthy part of a well-balanced diet.

You can also use this recipe to meal prep throughout the week to meet your health and fitness goals.

More Pakistani Recipes:

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Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Tressa Jamil
Easy grilled tandoori chicken delivers all the traditional smoky flavor, and it is the perfect addition to cookouts, picnics, and gatherings.
5 from 13 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Marinating Time 6 hours
Total Time 7 hours 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 68 kcal
Ingredients
  
Instructions
 
  • Combine ingredients for the tandoori masala (apart from the onions) in a food processor until smooth. Transfer it to a mixing bowl with the chicken pieces and sliced onion. Toss to combine. Then, cover and marinate in the fridge for 6 hours (but at least one hour).
  • Preheat a gas grill by setting all the burners to high heat for 10 minutes. Use a wooden grill scraper to clean the grates. Then, turn off the rightmost burner, but maintain an overall grill temperature of 350°F (176°C).
  • Arrange the chicken pieces onto the hottest side of the grill. Cover and grill until they blister for 5 minutes. Flip, and sear the chicken for 4-6 minutes.
  • Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill (the rightmost burner), cover, and grill for 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
Serving Size: 2 Chicken Pieces
Expert Tips:
  • Score the chicken pieces with deep slits before combining it in the marinade. I recommend marinating for 6-24 hours (but at least one hour) to ensure the flavor penetrates and flavors the chicken.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you are ready to prepare it.
  • Preheat the grill, letting it get hot before adding the chicken. Doing so locks in all the moisture as the chicken sears to develop a nice char.
  • Carefully shake off the excess marinade and onions before setting them onto the grill.  
  • I prefer a low and slow method of cooking the grilled tandoori chicken so the inside and outside cook evenly.
 Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 68 kcal | Carbohydrates: 6 g | Protein: 2 g | Fat: 4 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 421 mg | Potassium: 136 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 544 IU | Vitamin C: 4 mg | Calcium: 61 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
4.93 from 13 votes (5 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating




Michael

Friday 26th of May 2023

The flavors were spot-on, and the chicken turned out great.

Emily Thompson

Friday 26th of May 2023

Wow, I just made this Grilled Tandoori Chicken recipe for dinner and it was absolutely incredible! The homemade tandoori marinade gave the chicken such amazing flavor, and grilling it added that perfect smoky touch. The chicken was so tender and juicy on the inside, while the char on the outside added a delicious crunch. I served it with some fluffy Basmati Rice and the combination was divine. This recipe definitely rivals any restaurant-style Tandoori Chicken I've had. Thank you for sharing this gem!

Priya Patel

Thursday 16th of February 2023

I made this grilled tandoori chicken last weekend, and it was a hit with my family! The marinade was easy to make and added so much flavor to the chicken. We served it with naan and the avocado cucumber tomato salad - the perfect summer meal.

Lynne

Wednesday 8th of June 2022

This is the moistest chicken I have ever had! Yum!!!

Tressa Jamil

Wednesday 8th of June 2022

Wow, what high praise! I am happy to hear you enjoyed it!

Bianca

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

This tandoori chicken was absolutely amazing! Packed with flavor and so juicy.

Tressa Jamil

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

The flavor is so amazing! My kids fight over the chicken every time.