Love Tandoori Chicken? This article shows you how to prepare oven baked tandoori chicken at home in three simple steps. You will be pleasantly surprised that it is easier than you think.
Although Tandoori Chicken is Indian cuisine, it has become the perennial Malaysian favorite that has assimilated into the food culture of all Malaysians with diverse backgrounds. There are so many people hooked onto chicken tandoori once they tried it. The flavor is the magical symphony of spices interplaying with each other that tantalizes all senses. It is a must-order dish whenever I patronize my favorite Indian restaurant.
The tandoori chicken gets its name from the equipment used to cook the chicken, the tandoor. A tandoor is a cylinder-shaped oven made with clay or metal to cook various Indian foods.
How to make tandoori chicken in the oven
I. Cut the chicken
Cut the chicken into large chunks, bone in, and remove the skin. Bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks (chicken legs) are the best, but you can use chicken breasts if you prefer boneless.
Marinating the chicken by removing the skin is much more effective than with the skin on. The marinade can penetrate even the chicken thigh’s deepest part with this method. A delicious tandoori chicken should be flavorful with every bite, not just parts near the surface. Alternatively, lift the skin and cut at the thickest part of the flesh. Then, massage the marinade into the slit to ensure the flavor penetrates the bone.
However, removing the skin means the oven’s heat will hit the meat directly. As a result, the meat will become dryer. While this is not an issue for thigh meat, it significantly impacts breast meat. That is why we do not recommend using breast meat to prepare the best tandoori chicken.
Besides removing the skin, make a few gashes at all the thick parts of the meat. The marinade’s flavor will be able to infuse into the meat better this way.
For the same reason, you need to use your fingers to rub the marinade into the gashes and leave it for a few hours before roasting to achieve the best result. Then, if you have time, keep it in the refrigerator overnight and bake it the next day.
2. Marinate the chicken
There are divided opinions on whether to marinate the chicken once or twice.
- One school of thought is to marinate the chicken with salt, garlic ginger paste, chili powder, and lime juice for a specific time, then add chicken to the combination of the remaining herbs and spices subsequently. I do not fully understand its rationale, but I assume it may give a better taste eventually.
- The other school thinks that this is unnecessary. The assumption is that as long as the marination is long enough, every part of the chicken should be well seasoned.
Out of curiosity, I carried out a simple test to find out if there was any difference between these methods before fixing up the recipe. The result shows that the flavor is identical.
Tandoori chicken is an easy recipe; marinate and bake! Combine all the marinade ingredients into a smooth paste and thoroughly rub the tandoori paste over the chicken in a large bowl.
However, I want to elaborate on some specific components of the tandoori chicken marinades so that you will have better control of the flavor should you want to adjust or look for a substitute in case some ingredients are unavailable.
Always use plain yogurt or Greek yogurt in this recipe. Avoid using flavored yogurt, as it will alter the flavor of the herbs and spices.
You can use the yogurt out of the box, but it may be too watery and dilute the flavor. A better way is to transfer the yogurt to a cloth bag and let the excess liquid drip off from the yogurt. Add thick yogurt to the chicken once no more liquid is dripping off.
Yogurt also acts as a meat tenderizer due to its slight acidity. For the same reason, I add some yogurt when I marinate the Ayam Goreng (Malaysian-style fried chicken).
b. Ginger garlic paste
Ginger garlic paste is one of the essential items in Indian cooking. The most basic preparation is to blend 100g of garlic and 100g of ginger with a tablespoon of cooking oil. The ginger-garlic paste stores well if refrigerated. You may make a batch and keep the remainder for future use. If you are not cooking Indian food often, cut the amount by half. Alternatively, you can purchase the ready-made ginger garlic paste.
You can use finely chopped (better grind with mortar and paste) garlic and ginger instead of the ginger and garlic paste. I think ginger garlic paste is a better choice because it has been blended finely, which means it is better for marination.
c. Chili powder
Try to get the Kashmiri chili powder. This type of red chili powder has a bright red color. If you add enough to the marinade, the mixture will have the familiar tandoori color without adding a coloring agent.
The color of chili powder will change over time. If you notice the color of your chili powder no longer has a vibrant red color and looks slightly dull and brownish, discard it and get a new one.
If you are not using Kashmiri chili powder or reducing the amount to make it less spicy, you can add a small amount of artificial red food coloring. I normally do not take very spicy food, so I use a bit less chili powder and enhance the color with red dye. (Note: if you are averse to using artificial coloring agents, please ignore it.)
d. Lime juice
Use the small lime (Kasturi lime). An alternative is to substitute it with lemon juice.
e. Garam Masala
Garam Masala is a spice mix widely used in Indian cuisine. It is equivalent to the five-spice powder for Chinese cooking, but the combination differs. It should be available at the Indian grocery store near you. Here is a simple recipe if you want to make it at home. (I purchase from the store for simplicity).
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cardamom
I tbsp black pepper
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
Blend all the spices into a fine powder
Besides garam masala, other common spices for tandoori chicken are cumin and coriander.
f. Mustard oil
Mustard oil has a slightly spicy taste. Since the amount of mustard oil required is small, you can substitute any cooking oil with a neutral flavor.
3. Bake the tandoori chicken in the oven
As I mentioned, tandoori chicken made with an electric oven is ideal because it is available in every kitchen. The result is nearly identical to those with the traditional tandoor or charcoal grill, albeit lacking the smoky charcoal flavor.
Since the design of every oven is different, the suggested oven setting in this tandoori chicken recipe is only a guideline. The best way is to start with the recommended temperature and duration and closely monitor the appearance when you bake it the first time.
Here are the steps:
- Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge at least thirty minutes before baking. The flesh near the bone will not cook through if you bake the chicken directly from the refrigerator.
- Place a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray and brush a thin layer of oil. Alternatively, you can also line the tray with baking paper, which is more environmentally friendly.
- Arrange the marinated chicken pieces on the baking sheet.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F. (The exact tandoori chicken oven setting depends on the model of the oven.) Bake the tandoori chicken in the oven with high heat for fifteen minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven. Brush some melted butter on the chicken, turn over the chicken, and continue baking for another thirty minutes or until the edges turn slightly charred. (The cooking time can be varied from oven to oven. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken if you are unsure).
- Remove and serve the tandoori chicken in oven with red onion slices, cucumber, naan bread, and mint chutney.
Note: After baking, you can place the chicken on a wire rack for fifteen minutes. This is especially useful if the oven is not hot enough and cannot create some light charred marks on the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack close to the top heating element. Broil the chicken until you get the desired color.
This oven baked tandoori chicken can be served as a side dish or with biryani rice, roti, or naan. The leftover is ideal for turning into butter chicken. You can refer to our butter chicken recipe on this blog.
The oven-baked tandoori chicken recipe
- 1kg Chicken thigh
- 2 tbsp (30ml) lime juice
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) mustard oil
- 1 tbsp Ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 200g (3/4 cup) yogurt
- 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- Sufficient red color dye (optional)
- Butter for busting
- 1/2 cup onion rings
- Coriander leaves
- Chaat masala powder
- Cut the chicken into large chunks, bone-in, remove the skin.
- Make a few gashes at the thick part of the meat.
- Put the yogurt into a cloth bag, and let the liquid drip off until it stops.
- Mix all the ingredients for the marinade, combine with the chicken chunks.
- Marinate for at least three hours.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F.
- Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Arrange the chicken on the tray.
- Bake the chicken for fifteen minutes.
- Brush some melted butter on the chicken.
- Tun over the chicken and continue baking for another twenty minutes or until the edges turn slightly charred.
- Remove and serve.
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Serving Size:per drumstick
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 164mgSodium: 931mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 30g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 11/6/2019