Restaurant-style Tandoori Chicken

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This quick and easy Tandoori chicken recipe makes the most flavorful and authentic chicken that is crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside – just like it is supposed to be! The recipe includes both Instant Pot and oven versions. 

Tandoori chicken served with naan and side of lemon wedges and sliced onions

What is Tandoori chicken? What makes it red?

Tandoori chicken is prepared by roasting marinated chicken leg pieces in a clay oven (Tandoor). The marinade consists of yogurt, lemon juice, and a host of other spice powders. This delectable dish has a vibrant orange/red color thanks to the generous use of the mild Kashmiri red chili powder and sometimes food coloring. 

It is often served as an appetizer but can double up as a main course item too when served with naan.

Who invented Tandoori chicken?

The credit of inventing this dish goes to Mr. Kundan Gujral who was the man behind the famous Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi. He created this dish in the late 1920s in an attempt to come up with a lighter fare that could be served as an appetizer. 

How spicy is Tandoori chicken?

It depends on the cook :-). You can make it as mild as you want – just adjust the amount of chili powder used. Also, the version of Tandoori chicken served in the restaurants in the US are milder than the ones cooked in Indian homes.

What cut of chicken is best for Tandoori chicken?

The different cuts of chicken can be confusing so here’s a quick explanation – Chicken drumstick is just the lower leg and chicken leg includes the thigh and the leg. While chicken legs are most commonly used for Tandoori chicken, you can also use drumsticks and thigh pieces. These cuts are preferred over chicken breasts because they have higher fat content and tend to be more moist and flavorful.

How to make Tandoori chicken at home

If the only exposure to Tandoori chicken you have had is from the Indian restaurants in the US, you are in for a treat.

My experiences with the ones served in the restaurant have been nothing but disappointing. When you order them, the first thing that you notice is the bright reddish hue – thanks to the blatant use of food coloring. The tandoori chicken in most cases will be okay from the outside – charred and crisp but with one bite, you’ll realize it is dry, bland and completely devoid of flavor possibly because of overcooking and/or reheating it multiple times. 

That’s why I experimented multiple times to make sure the tandoori chicken I make at home is nothing like that. It is moist, and flavorful with charred edges – just how it is meant to be.

Here’s how I make that happen – 

The process of making Tandoori chicken involves 2 main steps – 

  1. Marination – The chicken is marinated in yogurt, lime juice, and spice powders and then refrigerated overnight for up to 12 hours. If you are in a rush, marinate it only for 30 minutes – that will work as well. 
  2. Cooking  – The cooking process can be done over a stove-top, pressure cooker and oven. I prefer a hands free option so I use either an oven or a pressure cooker.
    • To make Tandoori chicken in an oven – bake the chicken legs in the oven for about 25-30 minutes at 400°F and then broil it. 
    • My preferred method is to pressure cook the chicken using either Instant Pot or Mealthy (both are available in India as well). It is then followed by broiling it using Mealthy CrispLid to give the chicken a gorgeous char. 

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Making Tandoori Chicken using Instant Pot or Mealthy

  1. Add all the ingredients listed under the marinade section in a large mixing bowl and combine them using a whisk.
  2. Make 3-4 incisions on the chicken drumstick (or legs, if using) on both sides. These incisions allow the marinade to seep in making the chicken even more flavorful. 
  3. Add the chicken to the marinade and coat evenly. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or for up to 8-12 hours in a refrigerator.
  4. Add 1 cup of water into the steel pot of Mealthy MultiPot or Instant Pot. Place the trivet inside.
  5. Place the chicken drumsticks on the trivet one by one – it is okay to stack them. I like to keep the air frying basket on top of the trivet and then place the chicken on top – it is an optional step.
  6. Add a tablespoon of oil to the remaining marinade – mix well and set it aside. You’ll use this marinade to coat the chicken before crisping it. 
  7. Lock the lid in place, turn steam vent handle to ‘Sealing’ and select Pressure Cook.
  8. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, turn the steam valve to ‘Venting’ to quickly release pressure.
  9. Use tongs to remove the chicken drumsticks and transfer them to a plate.
  10. You can either serve them as is or crisp it using an Oven or Mealthy CrispLid.

Crisping it using an oven

  1. Baste the chicken drumsticks with the remaining marinade.
  2. Broil on low for 5 minutes to crisp them from outside.

Crisping it using Mealthy CrispLid

Note – You can discard the water the Tandoori chicken is cooked in before using the CrispLid. I just leave it in. 

  1. Place the air frying basket on top of the trivet.
  2. Baste the chicken drumsticks with the remaining marinade. 
  3. Place the chicken drumsticks on the air frying basket in a single layer. To avoid overcrowding, cook them in two batches.
  4. Unplug the pressure cooker. Place the CrispLid on top of the inner pot and plug it in.
  5. Lower the handle and set the temperature to 400°F (200°C). Cook the chicken for 5 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, lift the lid and set it on the silicone trivet.
  6. Flip the chicken drumsticks over. Place the CrispLid back on and cook for 5 more minutes. If you like your tandoori chicken crispy and charred, you can cook it for a few more minutes.
  7. Transfer the tandoori chicken to a plate and repeat the process with the next batch of drumsticks.

To get an exclusive $10 off on your purchase of Mealthy CrispLid use code SIMMERTOSLIMMER

Serving suggestions

  1. Sprinkle the tandoori chicken with chaat masala and finely chopped cilantro for enhanced taste
  2. Serve immediately with a side of lemon wedges.

How to make Tandoori Chicken in oven

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Grease a tray with aluminum foil and place the marinated chicken evenly across the tray.
  • Generously spray it with a nonstick cooking spray and cook it in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn it once halfway through the cooking, baste it with the remaining marinade and continue to cook.
  • Broil on low for 5 minutes to give it a nice char.

Variations

  1. Double marination process – In the first step, the chicken legs are marinated in lemon juice, salt, chili powder and allowed to rest for 30 minutes. During the second step, add thick yogurt along with the spice powders and coat the chicken evenly. The marinated chicken is then refrigerated overnight for up to 12 hours.
  2. Use turmeric powder – most recipes call for it but I skip it because it makes the Tandoori chicken more orangish than red. It is just my personal preference. 

Tips 

  1. When you are making Tandoori chicken for a crowd, pressure cook the entire batch in advance and use the CrispLid for charring just before the guests arrive. 
  2. Use a meat thermometer Once the pressure cooking cycle is complete, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken leg. If the temperature is over 165°F, that means the chicken has cooked through. This step is especially important if you are using previously frozen chicken legs.
  3. For best results, use thick yogurt. To make thick yogurt, drain the whey by adding the yogurt to a strainer or a muslin cloth. This process should take about 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, use greek yogurt. 
  4. If you don’t have Kashmiri chili powder, substitute it with 1.5 teaspoons of chili powder (medium-hot).
  5. Use smoked paprika to give it that fresh out of tandoor taste. You can skip it if you don’t have it. 
Tandoori chicken is served with a side of lemon wedges, sliced onions and naan
Instant Pot Tandoori Chicken

Can you freeze Tandoori Chicken?

Yes, you can but it is preferable to freeze marinated chicken than the cooked Tandoori chicken. Leave it in the refrigerator to thaw it overnight. Follow the recipe below to cook it the next day.

How long can you marinate Tandoori chicken?

For best results, you can marinate the Tandoori chicken for up to 12-24 hours. I usually marinate it for 30 minutes and that works great. To know more about the marination process and why you shouldn’t marinate over 24 hours, read this article.

What to serve with Tandoori chicken?

Accompany with a side of lemon wedges and sliced onions to serve as an appetizer. To make it a meal, pair it with naan and yogurt/raita. 

If you are looking for more ways to cook chicken, here are some of my tried and tested recipes – 



Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  
Tandoori chicken is served with a side of lemon wedges, sliced onions and naan

Tandoori Chicken Recipe

4.75 from 4 votes
This authentic Tandoori chicken recipe will make the most flavorful and authentic chicken that is crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside – just like it is supposed to be! The recipe includes both Instant Pot and oven version. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5
Diet : Gluten-free
Course : Appetizer
Method: Oven, Pressure cooker
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs chicken legs/drumsticks, skinless

For the Marinade

For basting

  • 1 tablespoon oil, olive/mustard

For serving

Instructions
 

Making Tandoori Chicken using Instant Pot or Mealthy

  • Make 3-4 incisions on the chicken drumstick (or legs, if using) on both sides. These incisions allow the marinade to seep in making the chicken even more flavorful.
  • Add all the ingredients under the marinade section in a large mixing bowl and combine them using a whisk.
  • Add the chicken to the marinade and coat evenly. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or for up to 8-12 hours in a refrigerator.
  • Add 1 cup of water into the steel pot of Mealthy MultiPot or Instant Pot. Place the trivet inside.
  • Place the chicken drumsticks on the trivet one by one – it is okay to stack them.
  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the remaining marinade – mix well and set it aside.
  • Lock the lid in place, turn steam vent handle to ‘Sealing’ and select Pressure Cook.
  • Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, turn steam valve to ‘Venting’ to quick-release pressure.
  • Use tongs to remove the chicken drumsticks and transfer them to a plate.
  • You can either serve them as is or crisp it using an Oven or Mealthy CrispLid.

Crisping it using an oven

  • Baste the chicken drumsticks with the remaining marinade.
  • Broil on low for 5 minutes to crisp them from outside.

Crisping it using Mealthy CrispLid

  • Baste the chicken drumsticks with the remaining marinade.
  • Place the air frying basket over the trivet.
  • Place the chicken drumsticks on the air frying basket in a single layer. To avoid overcrowding, cook them in two batches.
  • Unplug the pressure cooker. Place the CrispLid on top of the inner pot and plug it in.
  • Lower the handle and set the temperature to 400°F (200°C ). Cook the chicken for 5 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, lift the lid and set it on the silicone trivet.
  • Flip the chicken drumsticks over. Place the CrispLid back on and cook for 5 more minutes. If you like your tandoori chicken crispy and charred, you can cook it for a few more minutes.
  • Transfer the tandoori chicken to a plate and repeat the process with the next batch of drumsticks.

Serving suggestions

  • Sprinkle the tandoori chicken with chaat masala and finely chopped cilantro for enhanced taste
  • Serve immediately with a side of lemon wedges.

Baking Tandoori chicken in the oven

  • Preheat oven to 400° degrees.
  • Grease a tray with aluminum foil and place the marinated chicken evenly across the tray.
  • Generously spray it with a nonstick cooking spray and cook it in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn it once halfway through the cooking, baste it with the remaining marinade and continue to cook.
  • Broil on Low for another 5 minutes.

Notes

Variations
  1. Double marination process – In the first step, the chicken legs are marinated in lemon juice, salt, chili powder and allowed to rest for 30 minutes. During the second step, add thick yogurt along with the spice powders and coat the chicken evenly. The marinated chicken is then refrigerated overnight for up to 12 hours.
  2. Use turmeric powder – most recipes call for it but I skip it because it makes the Tandoori chicken more orangish than red. It is just my personal preference.
Note – You can discard the water the Tandoori chicken is cooked in before using the CrispLid. I just leave it in. 
Tips
  1. When you are making Tandoori chicken for a crowd, pressure cook the entire batch ahead of time and use the CrispLid for charring just before the guests arrive.
  2. Use a meat thermometer – Once the pressure cooking cycle is complete, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken leg. If the temperature is over 165°F, that means the chicken has cooked through. This step is especially important if you are using previously frozen chicken legs.
  3. For best results, use thick yogurt. To make thick yogurt, drain the whey by adding the yogurt to a strainer or a muslin cloth. This process should take about 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, use greek yogurt. 
  4. If you don’t have Kashmiri chili powder, substitute it with 1.5 teaspoons of chili powder (medium-hot).
  5. Use smoked paprika to give it that fresh out of tandoor taste. You can skip it if you don’t have it. 
  6.  

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 323kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 42gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 128mgSodium: 1033mgPotassium: 528mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1003IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : Authentic, Juicy, restaurant style

This post was originally published on Feb 2014 and has been completely updated with new information (notes, recipe, pictures, etc) on August 30th, 2019.

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