Tandoori Chicken

Here in Geneva, summer is finally in full swing. Since it has taken an unusually long time to get here this year, my husband and I are even more excited that its here and that its finally grilling season! I swear, we’re grilling almost every night. The other day, we were both craving some Indian food so we whipped up a batch of tandoori chicken.

The recipe gets its name from a traditional Indian clay oven, called a tandoor, that the chicken is cooked in. Now obviously, I don’t have a tandoor oven, so the next best thing is to cook the chicken on a hot grill. If you don’t have a grill, or the weather isn’t right for grilling, you can also make this chicken in the oven or using a cast iron skillet.

I also wanted to take a few minutes to discuss one of the ingredients: tandoori food coloring (see photo below). This is basically powdered red food coloring and its what gives tandoori dishes their bright red color. Many Indian restaurants will deny using it, but if you peek into the kitchen, you will see a jar of red food coloring. So, while you can certainly skip this ingredient, the tandoori food coloring is what gives this dish its signature bright red color. I bought my food coloring at an Indian grocer for about $1.50. If you don’t know where your nearest Indian grocer is, try the baking aisle at your grocery store and you may find the powdered variety of food coloring. Be very careful with tandoori food coloring as it will stain your hands and fingernails no matter how hard you try to avoid it! I always end up with red dye under my nails for a few days after making this dish, even if I scrub my hands with a nail brush.

Tandoori Chicken

For a budget-friendly meal, you can use chicken thighs and drumsticks rather than the breast meat.

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken


  • 3 lbs 5 oz skinless chicken (about 2 lbs if boneless)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or 2 tsp powdered coriander)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1 tsp powdered cumin)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 cup thick plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon tandoori food coloring


  1. If you are using whole seeds, toast the coriander and cumin in a skillet until aromatic. Then, remove them from the heat and crush them using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. (A coffee grinder also works.)
  2. If you are using a food processor, put all ingredients except for the chicken in the food processor and blend until smooth. If you don't have a food processor, mince the onion, garlic, and ginger very finely and simply stir ingredients together. Tip: combine the ingredients in a plastic bag to make clean up easier.
  3. Cut the chicken into approximately 1 inch cubes. A little larger is ok, just be consistent in sizing.
  4. Put the chicken in the bag with the marinade and refrigerate. Let the chicken marinade for at least 20 minutes, but best results will be achieved if the chicken is allowed to marinade for 5 hours. Do not marinade for longer than 5 hours or the acid will start to cook the chicken and you will end up with ceviche!
  5. After marinading the chicken, remove from the refrigerator and put onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water. (This is really messy and the food coloring will stain your hands, so wear gloves!)
  6. Grill the chicken over high heat for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. To cook in the oven, put the chicken on a wire baking rack on top of a baking sheet (without skewers) and roast on the top rack of the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 - 50 minutes, or until cooked.

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23 Replies to “Tandoori Chicken”

    • Thanks Lydia! I’ve found that Indian recipes taste much more authentic if I use whole spices rather than powdered and I hope the explanation about the food coloring helps.

    • Hi Kathryn, tandoori chicken can definitely still taste yummy without the food coloring, but it definitely makes it more authentic! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you like the recipe.

  1. This is one Indian dish that my husband actually likes. I should try making it at home, though I will leave out the food coloring and add more paprika. Thanks for the inspiring recipe!

    • Hi Julia, it still turns out yummy without the food coloring, just be careful about adding more paprika because things can easily end up extra spicy! I’d recommend you give the marinade a taste before adding the chicken and before adding the extra paprika to see what you think about the flavor. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I think this looks delicious! Thanks so much for linking up with me at NanaHood.com Please come back and bring more great recipes…you rock!


  3. Your recipe looks delicious. My family is from India, and we don’t even make tandoori chicken at home! It’s considered a special occasion dish reserved for weddings or celebrations. I’m going to try your recipe. It looks fantastic!

    • Aida, my husband’s family is also from India and tandoori chicken is a favorite of his, especially because we can cook it on the grill. I hope you like the recipe!

    • The color is definitely RED like this when you get it in a restaurant, but its all because of the food coloring. I hope you give the recipe a try, it is a very popular dish at Indian restaurants and typically one of the more mild dishes, so its great for people who don’t like spicy food.

  4. Hi Caroline,
    I have never made Tandoori chicken before but your recipe sounds delicious and really easy. I look forward to giving it a try. I hope that I can find the red food coloring. We have a large Indian section at our local grocery store so I bet they will have it there. I’m Deanna from Gloriously Made and I’m one of the co-hosts of Tasty Tuesdays this month. Thanks for linking up your recipe. I’m your newest bloglovin, twitter, and google plus follower and would love some follow backs if you are interested.
    Hope you have a great day!

    • Hi Deanna, this recipe is pretty easy, especially if you have a food processor to mix up the marinade! If you can’t find the food coloring, don’t worry because it will still taste great, it just won’t be so red. Thank you for the follows and I’ll definitely head on over to check out your blog!

  5. Tandoori is something that can be always delicious. One of the favourite food of mine. Staying in Geneva, Switzerland, I always prefer eating the yummy tandoori food items at an Indian cuisine restaurant “Chandigarh Tandoori”. Best restaurant I would anytime prefer.

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