Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori Chicken
5 from 19 votes
Indulge in the culinary adventure that is tandoori chicken! Originating from the heart of India, this dish offers a perfect fusion of mouth-watering spices and tender chicken. An excellent choice for any day, let's dive into the epicurean journey of creating this sumptuous delicacy. 
Tandoori Chicken

Here I am, embarking on a gastronomic voyage to the heart of Indian cuisine with my Tandoori Chicken. With its roots nestled deep in the Indian subcontinent, the Tandoori Chicken has made its way around the world, spreading its irresistible allure far and wide. 

Historically, this recipe hails from the time of the Mughal Empire, bringing the burst of flavours and vibrancy that Indian cuisine is renowned for.

The name ‘Tandoori’ comes from the traditional cooking method used – a Tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking. The tandoor imparts a smoky flavour that’s absolutely distinctive.  

But don’t worry, even without the traditional Tandoor, I’ll show you how to create this wonder at home, using your regular oven. 

Tandoori Chicken isn’t just delicious, it’s also pretty straightforward to prepare. Depending on your culinary skills, you might categorize it from medium to slightly hard, but trust me, it’s worth every effort.  

One of the secrets lies in the marinade, a tantalizing blend of spices and yoghurt, which helps tenderize the chicken while infusing it with intense flavours. 

Now, let’s talk about the star of the dish – Chicken! I opt for chicken legs for my Tandoori recipe.  

The succulent meat of the chicken legs becomes incredibly tender and flavoursome, making every bite a taste explosion.  

But that’s not all, a medley of spices like coriander, cumin, chilli, and turmeric, swirled into the yoghurt base, marries perfectly with the chicken, creating a symphony of flavours that will dance on your taste buds. 

You’d think such a mouth-watering dish requires a long list of hard-to-find ingredients, but nope, I’m here to bust that myth.  

It’s quite simple really – all the ingredients are easily available, and you probably already have most of them in your kitchen. That’s right, no need to go on a wild goose chase to find any exotic, unheard-of ingredients. 

What’s more, this recipe is incredibly versatile. You can easily modify it to suit your palate or dietary preferences. Want to go easy on the heat? Tone down the chilli. Need to avoid dairy? Substitute yoghurt with a dairy-free alternative. See, it’s as easy as pie…or in this case, as easy as Tandoori Chicken! 

So, what are you waiting for? Roll up those sleeves and let’s bring the rich, smoky, and spicy flavours of Tandoori Chicken right into your kitchen. It’s not just a dish, it’s an experience, a taste of India’s culinary heritage. Let’s get started! 

What Ingredients to Use & Why 

As we embark on this culinary journey, the ingredients we choose will steer our course. Each one contributes something unique to the Tandoori Chicken, blending together to create an irresistible mosaic of flavours. Let’s break them down one by one to understand their role. 

Chicken Legs: It all starts with quality chicken legs, the canvas for our Tandoori masterpiece. The chicken legs absorb the marinade deep into their fibres, resulting in an explosion of flavour with each bite.  

While legs are my first choice, you could opt for chicken thighs, which also hold up well to the marinade and high-heat cooking. 

Yoghurt: This is the creamy base for our marinade. It tenderizes the chicken and allows the spices to permeate deep into the meat. It’s essential for authentic Tandoori Chicken. If you’re lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet, a dairy-free yoghurt alternative, such as coconut yoghurt, can be used. 

Coriander Powder: Coriander adds a wonderful, slightly citrusy flavour to the dish. It also helps to balance out the heat from the chilli. You can use ground cilantro seeds if you’re out of coriander powder. 

Kashmiri Chilli: Known for its vibrant colour and mild heat, Kashmiri chilli is key to getting that iconic Tandoori red hue. If it’s hard to find, feel free to substitute with a combination of paprika (for colour) and cayenne pepper (for heat). 

Tandoori Masala: This blend of spices gives Tandoori Chicken its signature taste. It’s typically made with coriander, cumin, turmeric, and other spices. If you can’t find it, a mixture of garam masala and paprika can be a close substitute. 

Cumin Powder: Cumin lends an earthy, warm flavour that complements the other spices beautifully. If you’re out of cumin, try ground caraway seeds, which have a similar flavour profile. 

Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Methi): This ingredient gives a slightly sweet, nutty flavour to the dish. If it’s not available, try using a pinch of celery seed or fennel seed as a substitute. 

Salt: An essential ingredient in any recipe, it enhances all the other flavours. Regular table salt works fine, but feel free to experiment with sea salt or Himalayan pink salt for a different flavour. 

Chilli Powder: For that extra kick, chilli powder is key. Adjust according to your heat preference. If you want less heat, opt for paprika or a milder chilli powder. 

Turmeric Powder (Haldi): Turmeric lends a beautiful yellow colour and a warm, subtle flavour. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits. If you’re out of turmeric, try a pinch of mild curry powder. 

Oil: It keeps the chicken moist and helps it cook evenly. Any neutral-flavoured oil, like vegetable or canola oil, would work well. Olive oil can be used for a different taste. 

Garlic Paste: Last but not least, garlic paste. It adds depth and a punch of flavour that can’t be beaten. In a pinch, minced garlic or garlic powder can be used. 

There you have it, each ingredient broken down with its unique contribution and possible alternatives. It’s this blend of ingredients that makes Tandoori Chicken a well-loved dish worldwide. Now, let’s move on to creating our culinary masterpiece! 

Selecting the Perfect Chicken for Tandoori 

In my quest to master the art of making tandoori chicken, I discovered that the type of chicken used could significantly influence the outcome. After many trials and a fair share of errors, I’ve come to the conclusion that chicken legs strike the perfect balance for this recipe. 

Why chicken legs, you ask? Well, chicken legs comprise two parts – the drumstick and the thigh. This dark meat is more flavourful and juicier than the white meat found in chicken breasts.

The rich taste of the dark meat harmonises wonderfully with the complex spice blend of the tandoori marinade, and the inherent fattiness ensures that the meat stays moist during the high-heat roasting. 

The leg pieces are also more forgiving when exposed to the high heat of the oven (or a traditional tandoor, if you’re lucky enough to have access to one!).  

While chicken breasts can quickly dry out if slightly overcooked, legs are less prone to this culinary mishap. The result is tender, juicy meat that’s imbued with the flavours of the marinade. 

That being said, it’s crucial to note that good cooking is all about personal preference. Chicken thighs on their own could also be an excellent choice if you prefer a boneless option. They still provide a richer flavour profile akin to the legs and maintain moisture well. 

Ultimately, the best kind of chicken for your tandoori recipe is the one that you and your family prefer the most. After all, the best ingredient you can add to any recipe is a dose of love and a pinch of joy! 

Dairy Substitutes in Tandoori Chicken 

Diving into the world of tandoori chicken, you’ll find that yoghurt plays a pivotal role in the recipe. The creamy tanginess of yoghurt marries beautifully with aromatic spices, and its acidity helps tenderise the chicken, resulting in a deliciously soft and succulent dish. 

But what if dairy isn’t your thing? Fear not, for I have tried and tested alternatives that work just as beautifully. One of my top picks is coconut yoghurt.  

Its thickness closely mirrors that of regular yoghurt, and the slight sweetness it brings pairs wonderfully with the spices in the tandoori marinade. It also maintains its structure well under heat, much like regular yoghurt, ensuring that you get a beautiful char on your chicken. 

Another dairy-free alternative I have found success with is almond yoghurt. It shares similar properties with coconut yoghurt, including the thickness and the ability to withstand heat. It doesn’t bring any noticeable almond flavour to the dish, allowing the spices to remain the stars of your Tandoori Chicken. 

While traditional tandoori chicken uses dairy yoghurt, these alternatives provide the chance for everyone to enjoy this dish, regardless of dietary restrictions.  

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, following a vegan diet, or just seeking a new twist on the traditional recipe, you can enjoy a delicious tandoori chicken with these dairy substitutes! 

Achieving the Iconic Red Hue in Homemade Tandoori Chicken 

When it comes to tandoori chicken, one characteristic that instantly catches your eye is its radiant red hue. I must confess, achieving this at home was a daunting task for me initially.  

However, I discovered the secret ingredient to be Kashmiri chilli. Its vibrant colour and mild heat made it the perfect candidate for adding that iconic redness without setting my mouth ablaze! The beautiful thing about Kashmiri chilli is that it offers a unique blend of colour and flavour.  

It has a very mild heat level, which makes it perfect for dishes like tandoori chicken where we want the colour but not a lot of spiciness. Its distinct flavour, a combination of sweetness and pungency, perfectly complements the other spices in the marinade. 

That said, Kashmiri chilli might not always be readily available. In that case, fear not, for there are alternatives! I’ve found that a combination of paprika and cayenne pepper does the trick.  

Paprika, especially the sweet or mild variety, gives a lovely red colour without adding heat, while the cayenne pepper brings a touch of spiciness. Adjust the quantities of each to match your heat tolerance. 

Remember, though, food is not just about the visual appeal. While the red hue of Tandoori Chicken is iconic, what matters most is the flavour. So, don’t get too caught up on achieving the perfect colour. After all, the joy of cooking lies in the process and the satisfaction of creating something delicious! 

Preparing Tandoori Chicken without Tandoori Masala 

As someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, I can tell you that not having a specific ingredient should never stop you from making a dish you crave.  

Even for a recipe like tandoori chicken, which traditionally calls for tandoori masala. This spice blend is a mix of several spices including, but not limited to, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. 

The absence of tandoori masala doesn’t mean you can’t make a delicious tandoori chicken at home. In fact, I’ve come up with an alternative mix that gets pretty close to the real deal.  

When I can’t find tandoori masala, I reach for a combination of garam masala and paprika. Garam masala, a warming spice blend commonly used in Indian cuisine, imparts a similar flavour profile to tandoori masala. The paprika adds a pop of colour and a subtle sweetness. 

While this combination may not replicate the exact flavour of tandoori masala, it comes pretty close and still yields a delicious tandoori chicken. The beauty of cooking, after all, lies in the freedom to adapt and experiment.  

So don’t be afraid to try out this alternative and make that tandoori chicken you’ve been craving. Remember, the most important ingredient in any dish is your enjoyment in making it and savouring the end result! 

The Role of Cumin in Tandoori Chicken and its Alternatives 

In my culinary journey through the land of Indian cuisine, cumin has often appeared as a constant companion. This modest spice doesn’t demand attention with a bright colour or an overbearing flavour but lends a unique warmth and earthiness to a dish, subtly elevating it to new heights.  

When making tandoori chicken, the inclusion of cumin helps balance the heat from the chilli and the tanginess from the yoghurt, grounding the flavour profile. 

But what if you run out of cumin or simply can’t find it? As someone who believes that lack of a specific ingredient should never halt culinary creativity, I’ve explored alternatives.  

One of the best substitutes for cumin, I’ve found, is coriander powder. Coriander and cumin are often used together in Indian cuisine, and while their flavours are distinctly different, they complement each other well.  

Using coriander powder instead of cumin will give your tandoori chicken a slightly different flavour, but it will still be delicious. 

Another great alternative is caraway seeds. They belong to the same plant family as cumin and have a similar flavour, though slightly more bittersweet. Caraway can be a bit harder to find, but if you have whole seeds, you can easily grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. 

Remember, substitutions are not about creating an exact replica but about maintaining balance and harmony in the overall flavour profile. And who knows? You might even stumble upon a new variation of tandoori chicken that you absolutely love! 

Finding Alternatives for Dried Fenugreek Leaves in Tandoori Chicken 

Dried fenugreek leaves, also known as kasoori methi, are a fascinating ingredient in the culinary world. When added to tandoori chicken, they contribute an intriguing sweet-bitter flavour and a captivating aroma.  

Their uniqueness might make them seem irreplaceable, but in my kitchen adventures, I’ve found alternatives that can step in when kasoori methi is not available. 

One of these is celery leaves. Now, I know what you’re thinking – how can celery leaves replace the distinctive flavour of kasoori methi? The magic lies in their surprisingly complex flavour.  

Celery leaves have a certain bitterness, much like fenugreek leaves, and an earthy flavour that can mimic the role of kasoori methi in tandoori chicken. 

Another alternative that I’ve found quite handy is watercress. It does have a slightly peppery flavour, but it works beautifully in chicken tandoori, especially if you like a bit of a kick to your food. 

Remember, cooking is an art that thrives on improvisation. While these substitutes might not perfectly replicate the flavour of kasoori methi, they do bring their own unique touches to the dish. And who knows, in the process of experimentation, you might discover a flavour combination that tickles your taste buds in a new and delightful way! 

Alternatives for Turmeric in Tandoori Chicken 

One ingredient that often sparks curiosity in my tandoori chicken recipe is turmeric. Known for its bright yellow colour and unique earthy taste, turmeric lends a subtle complexity to the dish.  

But what happens when there’s no turmeric in your spice rack? Do you give up on your yandoori chicken dreams? Of course not! 

An alternative I’ve often turned to is curry powder. While it might sound unusual, curry powder typically contains turmeric, alongside other spices such as coriander, cumin, and chilli. Using curry powder instead of straight turmeric adds an extra layer of flavour to your tandoori chicken, making it a delicious twist on the classic recipe. 

Another substitute I’ve tried is saffron. Although more expensive than turmeric, saffron can mimic the golden colour associated with turmeric. It does impart a more luxurious and slightly floral flavour to the dish, adding a touch of elegance to your homemade chicken tandoori. 

Remember, in the culinary world, there’s always room for improvisation. While turmeric is traditional in tandoori chicken, don’t be afraid to explore these alternatives. Cooking is about creating flavours that delight you, so feel free to play around and make the recipe your own. 

Check Out These Other Recipes 

Oh, dear readers, if my Tandoori Chicken recipe has gotten you excited about Indian cuisine, allow me to lead you further into this world of spice and flavour. Your taste buds will surely celebrate with every bite of these other enchanting dishes. 

First off, imagine this – succulent pieces of chicken marinated in a spicy and tangy masala, grilled to perfection. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about none other than Chicken Tikka. The vibrant flavours bursting in your mouth are so memorable, you’ll be thinking about them long after your meal. 

Have you ever tried Keema Aloo? It’s a classic, delicious mix of ground meat and potatoes, flavoured with warm, aromatic spices. A spoonful of this curry is like a warm hug from the inside, perfect for a chilly evening when comfort food is on the menu. 

Then, there’s the Chicken Biryani. Ah! Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Chicken and rice cooked together with a blend of spices and a hint of saffron. It’s a complete meal in itself and promises a party of flavours with every bite. 

You might also want to explore the Chicken Masala, where tender chicken is enveloped in a robust, spicy, and thick gravy. Served with warm naan bread, it’s like tasting a slice of India right in the comfort of your home. 

Last but not least, let me tell you about Butter Chicken. This creamy, rich curry is the epitome of comfort food. The tender chicken pieces swimming in a tomato-based gravy with a generous dollop of butter – it’s love at first bite! 

If my Tandoori Chicken recipe has opened up a new culinary world for you, these other dishes will make you fall even deeper in love with Indian cuisine. Trust me, every bite is an adventure, a voyage of discovery through the lanes of India’s culinary landscape. 

So, dive right in and give these recipes a try. Your feedback, comments, and suggestions are always welcome. Let’s embark on this culinary journey together, one delicious dish at a time! 

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

by Nabeela Kauser
Indulge in the culinary adventure that is tandoori chicken! Originating from the heart of India, this dish offers a perfect fusion of mouth-watering spices and tender chicken.
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Marination Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Appetiser, Appetizer
Cuisine Indian
Servings 5 pieces
Calories 322 kcal


  • 1 kg Chicken Legs
  • 100 g Yoghurt
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli
  • 1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves Methi
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder Haldi
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 2 tsp Garlic Paste


  • Cut deep slits in the chicken legs (see note 1)
  • In a large bowl add all the marinade ingredients then whisk until well combined
  • Add the chicken legs then coat each piece with the marinade evenly (see note 2)
  • Set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour (see note 3)
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) gas mark 4 then line the tray with foil and add the chicken legs (see note 4)
  • Roast for 20 minutes then flip the chicken and broil for a further 10 minutes at 250°C (480°F) gas mark 5
  • Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes then serve with naan bread and chutney then enjoy!



Note 1 – For this recipe, there is enough marinade for 5 small chicken legs. If you have bigger chicken legs then you may need to use less.
Note 2 – It is important that you rub the marinade into all the crevices and inside the slits to ensure maximum flavour
Note 3 – The minimum amount of time is 30 minutes, but it is best to allow it to marinate overnight or as long as possible.
Note 4 – Use a tray with a wire rack to ensure constant air circulation, which will allow the chicken to cook evenly.
Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 20gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 858mgPotassium: 333mgFibre: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 367IUVitamin C: 1mgVitamin D: 0.1µgCalcium: 52mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Chicken, Eid, Ramadan, Spicy
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!



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Cook with Nabeela

Hi, I'm Nabeela!

I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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