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Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Grilled tandoori chicken is one of those meals you keep coming back to; the inside is moist while maintaining a nice char on the outside, and it has all the eye-catching color you’d expect from the dish. Ours is coated in a tandoori marinade and cooked on the grill to smoky perfection.

We serve ours with basmati rice, avocado cucumber tomato salad, or naan.

Tandoori chicken is one of the most widely popular Indian dishes, but did you know its creation was a happy accident? Mokha Singh Lamba invented the chicken recipe at his restaurant in Peshawar, Pakistan. The story goes like this, while he was making bread in the tandoor, he decided to cook chicken over it, and the rest is history. The meal grew in popularity and became one of the signature dishes at a restaurant he later founded called Moti Mahal in Delhi following the partition- the same restaurant known for butter chicken and dal makhani.

WHAT IS TANDOORI CHICKEN?

Like our chicken karahi recipe, this dish gets its name from the equipment used to cook the chicken, a tandoor. A tandoor is a cylinder clay pot heated by an open flame, resulting in robust chargrilled chicken packed full of flavor from the masala and marinating process. Since a tandoor is something few people have in their kitchens, this chicken tandoori recipe delivers the same flavor right to your dinner table. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Tandoori Marinade: Our tandoori marinade combines full-fat yogurt, garlic and ginger paste, salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, homemade garam masala, Kashmiri chili powder, lemon juice, and chopped red onion. Don’t be tempted to skip the marinating process; it helps to tenderize and moisten the chicken. It also allows for all the spices to penetrate and flavor the chicken. I would consider eliminating the cayenne pepper if spice is a concern for you.
  • Chicken: I use bone-in chicken thighs, legs, and quarters. For a boneless option, I suggest using chicken thighs, but you can use breasts also. Be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly; the safe internal temperature for chicken is 165° F | 73° C.

HOW TO MAKE GRILLED TANDOORI CHICKEN

Combine the ingredients for the tandoori masala in a food processor.

COMBINE THE MARINADE – Combine ingredients for tandoori masala in a food processor, and incorporate until smooth. Then, add it to a mixing bowl and set it aside.

Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces.

MARINATE – Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, then toss them into the bowl with the tandoori masala and chopped onion; mix to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Coat the chicken with the marinade.

Clean the grill grates before adding the chicken.

PREPARE THE GRILL – Preheat the grill by setting all the burners to high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn off the rightmost burner, but maintain an overall grill temperature of 350° F | 176 ° C. Then, use a wooden grill paddle to clean the grates.

Blister the chicken on one side.

GRILL– Line the chicken onto the hottest side of the grill; cook until they blister for about 5 minutes.

Flip and blister the other side.

FLIP AND COOK– Flip the chicken and cook for another 4-6 minutes.

Move the chicken to the side of the grill set to low heat. Cook for 25 minutes.

GRILL ON LOW HEAT- Move the chicken to the cool side of the grill (the rightmost burner) and cook for 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking until the chicken has reached over 165° F | 73 ° C, for about 20 minutes.

Serve grilled tandoori chicken with blistered chilis.

COOL AND SERVE- Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving, then garnish with cilantro, red onion, lemon wedges, and raita.

CAN I USE A REGULAR GRILL TO MAKE TANDOORI CHICKEN?

I don’t have access to a tandoor, and it’s likely you don’t either. Instead, use a gas grill to achieve a similar result.


You don’t have access to a grill? No worries, we’ve got you covered! Try our recipe for baked tandoori chicken instead!

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Serve grilled tandoori chicken with blistered chilis.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS 

  • FRIDGE – Grilled tandoori chicken keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days, though it may lose some grilled smokiness.
  • FREEZE – Allow the chicken to cool completely, and add it to a freezer-safe container or bag. The chicken will keep for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to eat it, defrost it in the fridge over night.
  • REHEAT – Reheat defrosted or leftover chicken in the oven at 400° F | 204 ° C for 15 minutes.
  • REPURPOSE – This may be a given, but you can make chicken tikka masala or butter chicken with the leftovers. Use the chicken to finish a pizza, quesadilla, or sandwich.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How should I marinate tandoori chicken?

I recommend marinating the chicken for 24 hours cooking time (but at least 6 hours) to ensure the flavor penetrates; use the marinade in this recipe- it’s tasty!

How long do you grill the chicken?

I prefer a low and slow method; I do this to ensure the inside cooks without completely burning the outside. The cooking time is an hour and twenty minutes, but it’s worth the wait!

Why is tandoori chicken red?

The red-colored tandoori chicken served in restaurants is often the result of added food coloring; achieve a similar color using Kashmiri chili powder, though it won’t be as pronounced without food coloring.

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Serve grilled tandoori chicken with onion, cilantro, and raita.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Tressa Jamil
Grilled tandoori chicken cooks on the grill and delivers all the traditional smoky flavor; this meal is the perfect addition to any cookout, picnic, or backyard gathering.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Marinating Time 6 hrs
Total Time 7 hrs 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 455 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, full fat
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon homemade garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon Kashmiri Chili Powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to garnish
  • ½ medium red onion, roughly chopped, plus sliced onion to garnish
  • 8 chicken thighs, drumsticks and chicken quarters

Instructions
 

  • Combine ingredients for tandoori masala in a food processor, and incorporate until smooth. Then, add it to a mixing bowl and set it aside.
  • Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, then toss them into the bowl with the tandoori masala and chopped onion; mix to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
  • Preheat the grill by setting all the burners to high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn off the rightmost burner, but maintain an overall grill temperature of 350° F | 176 ° C. Then, use a wooden grill paddle to clean the grates.
  • Line the chicken onto the hottest side of the grill; cook until they blister for about 5 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken and cook for another 4-6 minutes.
  • Move the chicken to the cool side of the grill (the rightmost burner) and cook for 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking until the chicken has reached over 165° F | 73 ° C, for about 20 minutes.
  • Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving, then garnish with cilantro, red onion, lemon wedges, and raita.

Notes

  • Marinating Time: I recommend marinating the chicken for 24 hours (but at least 6 hours) to ensure the flavor penetrates; use the marinade suggested in this recipe- it’s delicious!
 
  • Discard Excess Marinade: Before adding the chicken to the grill, carefully shake off the excess marinade. 
 
  • Cooking Time: I prefer a low and slow method; I do this to ensure the inside cooks without completely burning the outside. The cooking time is an hour and twenty minutes, but it’s worth the wait!
 
  • 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.
 
  • Web Story: Check out our web story for grilled tandoori chicken!

Nutrition

Serving: 2 Chicken PiecesCalories: 455kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 31gFat: 33gSodium: 621mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4g
Keyword grilled tandoori chicken
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!
Recipe Rating




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.

RJ

Monday 6th of June 2022

These were so easy to grill and the result was delicious!

Tressa Jamil

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

Yay, I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe!

fede

Monday 6th of June 2022

A delicious explosion of flavor! This Tandoori chicken was perfect, we had it with rice and naan as you suggested. So good!

Tressa Jamil

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

Sounds like you made a well-rounded meal. I am glad you enjoyed it.

TW

Friday 3rd of June 2022

The flavor on this chicken is unreal.

Tressa Jamil

Friday 3rd of June 2022

I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe!