What is Tandoori Chicken?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Tandoori chicken is a chicken dish which originated in the Punjab region of India, where it continues to be quite popular. The distinctive red hue of tandoori chicken has made it a popular offering at Indian restaurants all over the world, and this dish can also be prepared at home. Home cooks may want to be aware, however, that traditional tandoori chicken requires a special brick oven called a tandoor, and this dish may not taste quite the same at home as it does at a restaurant, unless one happens to have a tandoor lying around the house.

This dish is made by marinating chicken in a mixture of yogurt and spices, with a high amount of cayenne or chili powder, which turns the marinade a rich red color. Some cooks accentuate this by adding red food coloring, or they may make a more orange-colored tandoori chicken with the assistance of turmeric. Garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, lemon juice, and salt are also typically included in the marinade.

Typically, whole chickens are prepared, with most cooks slicing the meat strategically to ensure that the marinade penetrates all the way. It is also possible to use chicken parts, in which case parts of roughly equal size should be chosen so that the dish cooks as evenly as possible. Ideally, the chicken should be allowed to marinate overnight, under refrigeration.


Once the marinade has penetrated, the chicken is skewered and lowered into a preheated tandoor. Tandoors are closed brick ovens which can attain very high temperatures very quickly. The high heat cooks the meat rapidly and causes the chicken to develop a distinctive seared flavor. Some cooks prefer to grill, sometimes covering the grill to hint at the condition in a tandoor, and tandoori chicken can also be prepared in a regular oven at high heat.

This signature dish of Punjabi cuisine is classically loosely chopped and then served over rice. Diners typically have to eat with their hands to pull all of the scraps of meat off the bone, so tandoori chicken can be a messy endeavor. It can also be garnished with raita, an Indian seasoned yogurt condiment, along with things like shredded cucumber or chutney. Tandoori chicken also makes a rather interesting chicken salad component, for those who enjoy things like curried chicken salad.


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Post 3

@ Glasshouse- I have found really good tandoori chicken paste at my local Health food store. All of the ingredients in the paste are what you would expect to find in a tandoori chicken recipe, and there are no preservatives. The paste is oil, lemon juice, a plethora of spices, and just the right amount of hotness. I just add yogurt, a little lemon grass, and a little coconut cream. The paste comes in packets rather than jars. It only takes about five minutes to prep the chicken too. Just remember to marinate the bird in the refrigerator overnight.

Post 2

@ Chicada- Where do you find your tandoori paste? I have only used the paste that you find in jars at my local supermarket, and it never tastes as good as what I get at the Indian restaurants. My guess is because it is laden with preservatives.

Post 1

I am actually making tandoori chicken tonight. I use a premade tandoori paste that is authentic for the most part. I then add a little extra coriander, some cayenne to kick it up a notch and a few tablespoons of whole milk yogurt. I've been marinating my chicken since last night, so it will be perfectly seasoned when I put it in the broiler tonight. When I am cooking tandoori chicken, I like to use boneless skinless thighs with the fat still attached. I make three diagonal slices across the grain of the thigh meat before marinating so the flavor will penetrate deep into the meat.

All I have to do to finish the dish is broil the chicken on high until the edges are crisp and the meat shreds easily. To go with the dish, I am making Naan stuffed with ground lamb that I seasoned with coriander, cumin, garlic, and salt. I am also making roasted vegetables.

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