Tandoori roast chicken legs, one of the popular Indian baked chicken recipes, can be easily made at home (without tandoor) in the oven. This is a healthy alternative to tandoori fried chicken that most of us resort to when we crave restaurant-style tandoori chicken.
What is tandoori chicken?
Tandoori roast chicken needs no introduction. With its flavors of Indian spices and appetizing bright red color, you could never have missed it if you’ve visited Indian restaurants.
In restaurants, this Indian baked chicken is made by marinating a whole chicken in a spice mix (Tandoori masala), yogurt, lemon juice, ginger and garlic, and cooked in a Tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven at high temperatures.
In this easy recipe, we marinate whole chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs) in the tandoori marinade overnight and roast in the conventional oven. A whole chicken, or cuts of chicken with bones like chicken drumsticks, chicken wings or bone-in chicken thighs, can also be used. The cooking time and quantities need to be adjusted accordingly.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- This recipe will show you how to cook tender, juicy tandoori chicken drumsticks that looks and tastes amazing, though it is not cooked in a tandoor. You are about to find out the little secrets of achieving uniquely spiced chicken and that appetizing bright red color without food coloring!
- Apart from marinating overnight, this recipe doesn’t need much time or effort to cook but looks as though you spent hours in the kitchen! Who doesn’t love easy chicken recipes that you can make for a quick dinner?
Planning to feed a crowd? Serve this easy tandoori chicken with flavored rice or biriyani (classic Indian cuisine) or rice and curry, like chana masala or spinach dal. A keto-friendly and gluten-free recipe and an easy menu for entertaining, you can also serve this as an appetizer with a fresh salad or raitha.
The only catch here is the marinating time which is a minimum of 2 hours. Once you prep well ahead of time (refrigerate or freeze even a week earlier), cooking takes less than an hour. These tandoori chicken legs can be done in huge batches in the oven, thus saving a lot of time. (Like the sheet pan lemon garlic chicken legs.)
Love tandoori flavors? Try these roasted tandoori cauliflower wings.
What cut of chicken to use
Chicken quarters (drumsticks with thighs attached) are the most commonly used, but you can also use cut-up drumsticks and thighs. Bone-in pieces work well since they don’t dry out easily in the oven.
The skin is usually removed for tandoori chicken. Generally, you leave the skin on when roasting chicken so the moisture gets locked in. Here, the yogurt marinade does the same job, so you can save yourself from all that saturated fat in the skin.
Can chicken breasts be used for this recipe?
Unfortunately, chicken breasts are not suitable for this recipe. The chicken breast tends to dry out when cooked in the oven. If you want to bake chicken breasts in the oven, use this recipe for juicy baked chicken breasts.
Ingredients for the marinade
Make your own Tandoori Masala because it is so easy to make and you can control what goes into it. It literally takes 5 minutes to put together. The store-bought ones may contain food coloring and the spice levels may not suit your preferences.
This tandoori masala recipe uses chili powder, Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, cumin powder, garlic powder and salt. Add yogurt, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste and oil to the masala and you get the flavorful marinade.
Step by step instructions
(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the recipe card at the end of this page.)
How to marinate the chicken
Trim off the skin and fat and clean the chicken legs. For the last rinse, mix the chicken legs with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and wash. This helps disinfect the chicken and also gives a yellow tint, to start with.
Make a few deep cuts on each chicken leg, perpendicular to the bones. This helps the marinade penetrate the flesh, or else you’ll be left with tandoori chicken that’s flavorful on the outside but bland on the inside.
Once you mix all the ingredients for the marinade, use your fingers to thoroughly rub the chicken legs with the marinade.
Leave the marinated chicken in the refrigerator overnight for the best results. The spices get completely absorbed by the chicken which is also tenderized by the yogurt-lemon marinade, resulting in flavorful, juicy chicken. If time is a constraint, marinate for at least 2 hours. The longer you marinate, the better.
How to roast the chicken
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you start cooking. Preheat the oven to 230°C / 446°F. Place the chicken legs in a roasting pan lined with parchment paper and brush with the remaining marinade.
Set the oven to “roast” mode and cook for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken legs and baste with the juices in the pan. Cook for another 15 minutes.
Baste the chicken legs with a little butter and change the setting to “broil“. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping once more in between. Broiling will help you get the characteristic charred look on the Tandoori chicken.
Remove from the oven. Let it stand for 5 minutes and drain on paper towels.
- A healthy way to add bright red color to the tandoori chicken is to add Kashmiri chili powder to the tandoori masala, which gives the characteristic red color without being too spicy. Missing in your pantry? The closest alternative would be smoked paprika.
- Another tip for restaurant-quality tandoori chicken: Heat 2 teaspoons of mustard oil and sauté 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder on low heat. Cool it completely before adding to other ingredients in the marinade. This gives the characteristic ‘smoky’ flavor and also a brighter color.
- Another ingredient that gives a “wow” factor to this recipe is garlic powder. The traditional recipe does not use garlic powder, but adding a teaspoon of garlic powder to the tandoori masala makes a world of difference.
- Want your tandoori chicken nicely and evenly browned? Baste with a little butter before you start broiling.
Common questions about Tandoori Roast Chicken
What flavor is tandoori chicken?
Tandoori chicken is a combination of spicy and zesty flavors, predominantly yogurt, lemon, ginger and garlic with typical Indian spices chili powder, coriander, turmeric, cumin and garam masala.
Is tandoori chicken healthy?
The nutritional value of tandoori chicken depends on how you cook it and how much fat is used. This oven-roasted recipe results in tandoori chicken that is not only high in protein but also less in fat and calories than the fried version. It also has less saturated fat than those roasted versions with skin.
Why is my tandoori chicken dry?
The temperature and time of roasting are important. Chicken that is overcooked or cooked at a low temperature tends to dry out. Ensure that you roast for the first 30 minutes then broil for 15 minutes to lock in the moisture and brown the chicken at the same time. Also, do not forget to baste with the pan juices every 10 to 15 minutes.
What to serve with tandoori chicken?
Typically, tandoori chicken is served with mint chutney or cucumber raitha. It also tastes great with green mango chutney.
When there is a huge crowd to entertain, you can serve Tandoori chicken with:
- biriyani or saffron rice
- lemon-flavored brown rice
- rice and curry, like chana masala
- cauliflower rice stir fry for a keto low-carb option
Restaurants serve tandoori chicken with onion and lemon slices. Why not try it with these salads for a change? Healthier and yummier!
Meal prep option
DO NOT FREEZE the cooked chicken. You will lose the texture of the meat and it becomes tough when reheated.
We have an option, though. The marinated chicken legs may be refrigerated for upto 3 days or frozen for upto a week and then thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Ensure that you keep the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
Like this recipe for tandoori chicken? Please let me know in the comments how it turned out for you. I would love to hear from you!
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