This Easy Tandoori Chicken Recipe is my personal version of a classic that everyone loves! Truly simple to prep and cook, you're definitely going to add it to your weekly menu!
Tandoori Chicken is the accidental creation of a man named Kundan Lal Gujral. A restaurant worker in the Punjab region of what is present day Pakistan, Kundan Lal fled to New Delhi After the Pakistan/India war of 1947.
Here he decided to open a restaurant called Moti Mahal in partnership with Thakur Dass and Kundan Lal Jaggi. Today the reastaurant is operated as a huge chain called Moti Mahal Delux and is solely owned by Kundan Laal's son.
Per timesofindia.indiatimes.com his recipe for chicken marinated in a blend of yogurt and spices gained worldwide fame around the 1960's. Many famous people, amongst them Nixon, John F. Kennedy and even Gandhi have been reported as diners at the original Moti Mahal.
Some other popular recipes created by Kundan Laal include Butter Chicken, and Daal Makhani and two other highly popular recipes, Chicken Tikka and Chicken Tikka Masala are a variation of these original recipes.
In Pakistan, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka and Seekh Kebab are typically things you go out to eat. Sold at street corners and in fine dining institutions alike these are by far the most popular choice when it comes to eating out.
This food was probably the equivalent of a Happy Meal for me and most people of my generation growing up in Pakistan. Served with fresh hot naan and chutneys on the side there is no better food in my honest opinion.
This is one of the first and last things I eat on my trips back! Cooked in clay ovens and special charcoal grills it's very difficult to replicate the exact taste at home. But, since I can't wait a year or longer to eat all my favorites I've developed recipes that allow me to get a small taste of my favorites!
The picture gallery below should help guide you through the recipe but a few points worth discussing first!
We all know that the Tandoori Chicken we eat at restaurants is a vibrant red color! Unless you want to literally burn a hole in your stomach you can't possibly add enough chillies to get it to that color.
Most restaurants use a little food coloring to make it look look that way but I prefer all natural ingredients so have left it out of my recipe. Feel free to add a few drops to the marinade if you want to!
The spices below are the essence to a good tandoori chicken! Traditional tandoori chicken gets it's smoky flavor from the clay oven its cooked in. Since I don't have a clay oven (and I'm sure you don't either) I've created this blend to get that smoky flavor via spices such as paprika, cayenne, cumin and cardamom.
Why Add Lemon ?
Adding something acidic to a marinade, like this lemon juice below helps the spices and marinade to seep in by breaking down the raw meat.
Yogurt...The Ultimate Tenderizer
Yogurt is one of the best tenderizers you can use in a marinade. This is especially effective when cooking Tandoori Chicken. Since the chicken is cooked at very high heat the yogurt prevents the meat from drying out. In fact most Pakistani marinades have yogurt in them as it lends the perfect amount of moisture.
Ginger and Garlic? Oh Yes!!!
There is no Pakistani marinade without Ginger and Garlic! It adds an immense amount of flavor! In a pinch, if I was out of certain spices I would add the lemon, yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt and some red chilies and would end up with a great tasting grilled or roasted meat!
Mix all of the above together and just enjoy the vibrant color and delicious aroma and dream of dinner!
I use chicken free range tenderloins as they're the perfect size and cook really quickly.
I opt for a grill pan if I'm cooking my tandoori chicken indoors as I love the grill marks. The grooves allow the juices to drip in and you get very nicely browned meat.
Now whenever the weather permits I like to throw these on the grill as it adds a little more of that delicious smoky flavor.
Hot fresh Naan is a must and luckily for us these are now easily available in most stores !
- 1 lb boneless chicken
- ½ cup plain fat free yogurt
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- 1 inch piece of ginger crushed
- 10 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Mix all of the above ingredients and apply to chicken pieces.
- Marinate for 4 hours minimum in the refrigerator.
- Heat grill pan and baste with 1 tablespoon avocado oil.
- Place the chicken pieces evenly on the pan and cook on 1 side for 10 minutes and then flip over for another 10 minutes.