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Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Grilled Tandoori ChickenGrilled tandoori chicken is tender and juicy on the inside while maintaining a nice char on the outside, and it has all the eye-catching colors you expect from restaurant-style tandoori chicken. Ours is coated in a homemade tandoori marinade and cooked on the grill to smoky perfection. We serve it with Basmati Rice, Avocado Cucumber Tomato Salad, or fresh naan. 

Grilled tandoori chicken with onion, cilantro, and raita.

TANDOORI CHICKEN ORIGINS

Tandoori chicken is a popular dish in Indian restaurants, but did you know its creation was a happy accident? Mokha Singh Lamba invented the chicken recipe at his restaurant in Peshawar, Pakistan. While making bread in a clay tandoor oven, he decided to cook chicken over it, and the rest is history! The recipe grew in popularity and became one of the signature dishes in his restaurant, Moti Mahal in Delhi; the same restaurant is known for Butter Chicken and dal makhani. Like our BBQ Baked Chicken Legs, this recipe is a crowd-pleaser and a perfect addition to cookouts, picnics, and gatherings.

WHAT IS TANDOORI CHICKEN?

Like our Chicken Karahi and Karahi Gosht, this dish gets its name from the vessel it cooks in, a tandoor. Tandoors are cylinder clay pots heated by an open flame; the result is robust chargrilled chicken packed with smoky flavor and richly-spiced masala. Since a tandoor is something few people have in their backyard (I certainly don’t), recreate the same Indian style of cooking on the grill for juicy chicken with a similar flavor; you won’t even know it was made on the grill and not in a tandoor.

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Tandoori Marinade: Our tandoori marinade is a tenderizing combination of full-fat yogurt, garlic and ginger paste, salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, Garam Masala, Kashmiri chili powder, lemon juice, and chopped red onion. Don’t skip the marinating process; it helps to moisten the chicken while the spices penetrate and flavor the dish. If heat is a concern for you, consider eliminating the cayenne pepper. 
  • Chicken: I use bone-in chicken thighs, legs, and quarters. If you prefer boneless chicken, I suggest using chicken thighs. If all you have is chicken breast, consider trying our Tandoori Chicken Tikka. Whatever you decide to make this recipe with, adjust the cooking time accordingly; the safe internal temperature for chicken is 165° F (73° C).

HOW TO MAKE GRILLED TANDOORI CHICKEN

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

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

Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and toss them into the bowl with the tandoori masala and chopped onion; stir to combine.

Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces.

Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Coat the chicken with the marinade.

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 scraper to clean the grates.

Clean the grill grates before adding the chicken.

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

Blister the chicken on one side.

Flip the chicken and cook for another 4-6 minutes.

Flip and blister the other side.

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.

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

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro, red onion, lemon wedges, and Raita.

Serve grilled tandoori chicken with blistered chilis.

COOKING TIPS

  • For best results, I recommend scoring the chicken and marinating it for 24 hours (but at least 6 hours) to ensure the flavor penetrates; use the marinade suggested in this recipe- it’s delicious!
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before preparing it on the grill.
  • Before adding the chicken to the grill, carefully shake off the excess marinade- so it doesn’t fall into the grill.
  • I prefer a low and slow method, so the inside and outside cook evenly. The cooking time is an hour and twenty minutes, but it’s worth the wait!

SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS? 

If you love this recipe, try one of our other Indian-inspired favorites!  

Serve grilled tandoori chicken with blistered chilis.

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, we use a gas grill to achieve a similar result. And if you don’t have access to a grill, try our recipe for Baked Tandoori Chicken instead!

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

If you’re deciding what to serve with tandoori chicken, check out a few of our suggestions.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS

  • FRIDGE – Store the leftovers in an airtight container; it will keep for 3-4 days, though it may lose some grilled smokiness.
  • FREEZER – Allow the chicken to cool, and add it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Tandoori chicken freezes for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to eat it, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
  • REHEAT – Warm 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 using the leftovers. Add the chicken to a pizza, quesadilla, or sandwich.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How should I marinate the chicken?

I recommend marinating the chicken for 24 hours (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 the low and slow method for making chicken. 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 Indian restaurants is cultural and the result of added food coloring. You can achieve a similar color using Kashmiri chili powder, though it won’t be as pronounced without food coloring.

Is tandoori chicken healthy?

Our grilled tandoori chicken recipe is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar. Pair it with a salad or vegetable side dish to make it a perfectly balanced meal. You can also use this recipe to meal prep throughout the week to meet your health and fitness goals.

What is the difference between tandoori and chicken tikka?

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

• Charga – Similar to our Peruvian Chicken or Tandoori Turkey recipe, charga refers to a whole chicken that’s grilled or cooked.

• Tikka – Most people in the West consider small pieces of chicken, usually breast, to be tikka when in reality, chicken tikka also means leg quarters, legs, and bite-size cuts of chicken.

• Tandoori – Tandoori chicken is whole or parts that cook in a clay tandoor; since most kitchens do not have access to tandoors, you will find Grilled or Baked Tandoori Chicken recipes that attempt to recreate the cooking technique.

YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY:

Grilled tandoori chicken with onion, cilantro, and raita.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Tressa Jamil
Grilled tandoori chicken delivers all the traditional smoky flavor, and it is the perfect addition to cookouts, picnics, and gatherings.
5 from 6 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 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; incorporate until smooth. Then, add it to a mixing bowl and set it aside.
  • Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and toss them into the bowl with the tandoori masala and chopped onion; stir 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 scraper 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. Garnish with cilantro, red onion, lemon wedges, and Raita.

Notes

Cooking Tips: 
  • For best results, I recommend scoring the chicken and marinating it for 24 hours (but at least 6 hours) to ensure the flavor penetrates; use the marinade suggested in this recipe- it’s delicious!
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before preparing it on the grill.
  • Before adding the chicken to the grill, carefully shake off the excess marinade- so it doesn’t fall into the grill.
  • I prefer a low and slow method, so the inside and outside cook evenly. 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 2 Chicken PiecesCalories: 455kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 31gFat: 33gSodium: 621mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4g
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!