Simple and Spicy Tandoori Chicken

by Alisha Mehta

Tandoori chicken is a spicy and tasty Indian dish that is traditionally prepared in a tandoor oven. Tandoors are cylindrical clay ovens that date as far back as 2600 B.C. Food prepared in a tandoor is cooked for a short period of time at extreme heats, reaching up to 900°F. Tandoors were originally used for cooking naan (Indian flatbread), but are now used for meat dishes as well.

Tandoori chicken gets it flavor and distinctive red color by marinating in yogurt and spices. The dish was first created around 1920 by Kundan Lal Gujral, an Indian chef who decided to experiment with cooking chicken in the tandoor. The result was a flavorful roasted chicken that was crisp on the outside, yet juicy and tender on the inside.

Though tandoori chicken is meant to cook in a tandoor, my husband created this recipe which is adapted for the barbecue, electric grill, or oven. It requires only a few different spices, all of which can be found in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.


Part 1:

1 lb. chicken breast

1 T chili powder

1 T lemon juice

1 T vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Part 2:

6 T Greek yogurt

1 T fresh ginger, minced

1 ½ T fresh garlic, minced

½ T chili powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Pinch of turmeric

½ tsp garam masala*

1 tsp ground cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 T lemon juice

4 drops red food coloring, or more according to preference

Lemon wedges and onion slices for serving, optional

*Add one T chili powder to first set of ingredients for a spicier version

  1. Cut chicken breasts into two-inch cubes.
  2. Combine ingredients from Part 1—chili powder, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and salt in a large mixing
  3. bowl and stir until well-mixed. Add chicken and toss. Make sure to rub in the spice to thoroughly coat the chicken.
  4. Place chicken pieces into a Ziploc bag and shake to ensure the chicken is well-coated. Store in the refrigerator for one hour.
  5. Combine Part 2 ingredients­—yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, corian
    der, lime juice, and red food coloring—in  a large mixing bowl. You may add more red color, depending on the color you desire. Add the chicken and mix well to cover all pieces with marinade. Cover the bowl and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
  6. Grill the chicken on a lightly oiled electric grill or barbeque for about ten minutes. If chicken appears charred and the juice is clear after piercing chicken with a fork, test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. When the chicken reaches 165°F, remove from grill.
  7. Alternately, you can bake chicken in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 500°F and place chicken on a lightly greased baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until your meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 165°F.

Serves four

*Garam masala is a common Indian spice that blends the flavors of several spices, usually including cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, fennel and saffron.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on your chicken and enjoy atop a fresh garden salad!

Alisha is in her second year at the Friedman School as a dual Nutrition Communications/DPD student and is excited to soon become a Double Jumbo. She is a true California girl, enjoys traveling, trying different types of fitness classes, and attempting to create healthier versions of recipes. Alisha records her recipes she finds blog-worthy at SavortheFlavour.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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