March 30, 2013

Tandoori Chicken: On the Grill or in the Oven (Paleo, Dairy free)

Who's been waiting for this?

I teased you with this chicken long, long ago. But trust me, it's worth the wait. That is...if you don't run off after you look at the ingredient list. Yes, it's a long list. But it's mostly spices (I get some of these in bulk here.). Truthfully, this is not a throw-together dinner. This chicken will take planning and some time (mostly marinade time). You might want to try it out on your day off or the weekend. And make enough for leftovers. It's good cold too.  

Tandoori Chicken - Grill method (optional dairy free)

Let me reminisce for a minute.

Years ago, in a land far, far away, I had my first taste of real Indian food. We visited a particular establishment and the friendly owners spoke of moving from India to bring their food to the military community in Japan. We quickly became regulars. I was partial to the butter chicken curry and it was by far the best I've ever had (I realized this after attempting to eat it elsewhere). But besides their amazing curries and mouthwatering naan, there was also tandoori chicken. For some reason we never ordered it. During one of our normal pick-ups (we resorted to getting it to-go once a week when we didn't want to go out), we picked up a butter chicken and a lamb curry with garlic naan. Much to our surprise when we pulled out the food to eat, they had thrown in some tandoori chicken. And it was heavenly.

Tandoori Chicken: On the Grill or in the Oven (dairy free)

Ever since leaving the island, I've been on a mission to recreate something at least somewhat similar to that tandoori chicken (and the butter chicken which I'm still working on). The recipe (roughly based on a few from a video I watched of an Indian chef making this) has been adjusted again and again and although it doesn't compare to my first taste of tandoori chicken, it will do. I say that not because it's not good, but just because I can't compete with real tandoori chicken cooked in a tandoor oven. Or by a masterful Indian chef. This chicken, however, is delicious for a home-cooked tandoori chicken. I could eat this every day. Truly.

Tandoori Chicken: On the Grill or in the Oven (dairy free)

Now, to the recipe. Just a quick note: Don't use chicken breasts for this recipe. This is best (cheaper too!) with bone-in, skinless thighs, legs, or drumsticks, but boneless thighs are delicious too. (And it's definitely best cooked on the grill...though it's not necessary.) As for the spice factor, I use 1/4 tsp cayenne. It's not spicy at all. For a little spice, add 1/2 tsp. If you like it really spicy, add some more.

Tandoori Chicken (Tandoori Murghi)

What you need:

8-12 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks, skin removed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 - 1 lemon)
sea salt (about 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 tbsp sweet paprika (for color)
1 cup full-fat coconut milk (or yogurt)
1 tbsp lime juice (leave out if using yogurt)
1/2 tbsp zested or crushed ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1 tbsp fresh grated onion)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder (to preference)
1/2 tsp fenugreek powder (optional)
Cilantro (optional for garnish)
Lemon wedges (optional for garnish)

Marinade 1:

Remove chicken skin if needed and cut off any remaining fat. Cut two deep slits in each piece of chicken, cutting to the bone if using bone-in chicken (or alternatively you can poke holes in chicken with a fork or do both). Mix together lemon juice, salt, and paprika. Rub mixture into chicken. Place in a large dish or in a ziplock bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

(If you're in a hurry and can't wait for the 30 minutes: Go ahead and prep the chicken with the lemon juice and salt. Then let it sit just during the time it takes to mix the second marinade together)

Marinade 2:

Mix remaining ingredients together. You can do this by hand if you crush/zest ginger and garlic first (I use THIS to do mine) or just put it all it in your food processor. Pour marinade over chicken, turn a few times to coat evenly, rubbing marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours (up to 8 or overnight is fine). Flip once during marinade time.

Set chicken out to bring to room temp before cooking.

Oven method:

 Preheat oven to 475 degrees. You will need a broiler rack with a roasting (or other) pan underneath. Or a broiler pan. (I used a baking sheet with the rack set on top of it.) Line the bottom pan with foil for easy clean up and place rack on top. Remove chicken from marinade and place on broiler rack. Cook for 20-35 minutes or until juices run clear. (If desired, broil the top of the chicken to get the look of tandoori chicken for the last few minutes or so of cooking time. But take care not to overcook.) Test with thermometer (internal temp of 165 degrees F) or poke chicken with knife or fork to ensure juices are clear. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges and cilantro.

Grill method:

Grill directly over medium heat (you might want to oil the grill so chicken doesn't stick). Flip the chicken after 5 minutes and baste with leftover marinade if desired. Grill with top closed (vent open) for 15-20 minutes or until chicken in cooked through. Can flip every 3-5 minutes, continuing to baste if desired. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges and cilantro.

Alternatively, you can quickly sear both sides of the chicken while coals (or grill) are hot, about 3 minutes per side. Then move chicken to other side of grill (off the heat). Cook slowly for 45 minutes or longer.

Tandoori Chicken: On the Grill or in the Oven (dairy free)
I used paprika for this batch. Can you tell the difference?
Serve this with: Rice (or this cauliflower rice) and naan. Or just some veggies. Real Sustenance just posted a recipe for gluten-free naan that I'm dying to try (have I told you how much I love naan?). Now off to search for psyllium husks...whatever that is.

Shared at: Allergy Free Wednesdays

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  1. This recipe is very similar to the one my husband Tom makes. He uses the large chicken quarters marinated in the spices and plain Yogurt. He serves it with Jasmine Rice and rosemary Naan. Tom traveled many years to India and really grew to love the food. We have a new wonderful authentic Indian restaurant "Bay Leaf" in our little town of New Bern, NC which we eat at frequently..this sparked his taste buds for more Indian dishes..I highly recommended Spicy Chicken easy and so good and you can buy the Bhuna paste in the ethnic food section.

    1. Rosemary naan sounds amazing. I'm always looking for authentic Indian restaurants, so if I'm ever in NC again, I will check that place out! Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you are already enjoying some delicious tandoori chicken!

  2. I have made this twice now, once in the oven and once on the grill. The grill was better, but the oven was pretty damn good too. I LOVE Indian flavors and this was amazing and very authentic tasting. Great as cold leftovers too. My husband likes this recipe and he was always like I will never try Indian food, but has now requested this as a weekly meal, lol.

  3. Livin' the Crunchy LifeApril 23, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Rosemary naan sounds amazing. I'm always looking for authentic Indian
    restaurants, so if I'm ever in NC again, I will check that place out!
    Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you are already enjoying some
    delicious tandoori chicken!

  4. Livin' the Crunchy LifeApril 23, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Sorry I missed your comment, Marie. Oh, I love it better on the grill too! Thanks for commenting and I'm glad you (and your husband!) are enjoying the recipe!

  5. Nohemi TutterrowMay 14, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe, and I think it's much better to cook it in a grill – with all the spices that's been marinated on it, plus the great grilled taste, yum! Anyway, I'm thankful that my dad gave my grill back after I read your blog and decided not to lend it to anybody that long. Enjoy your cooking!

    __Nohemi Tutterrow__

  6. Livin' the Crunchy LifeJune 11, 2013 at 11:07 PM

    Thank you Tessa! I just saw your No-Peanut Thai Peanut Sauce -- definitely going to try it!

  7. Why do you remove the skin from the chicken? Is this a preference or is there a practical reason?

  8. This sounds so good! I am allergic to turmeric and cloves. Do you think the flavor would just be ruined without it these 2 spices? Any thoughts on substitutions? Thank you!

  9. Livin' the Crunchy LifeAugust 24, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Hi! You can leave out both without ruining the flavor of the chicken. The turmeric is nice for color (and I'm just a little obsessed with it), but will not affect the taste much. The cloves could be substituted with cinnamon or nutmeg or you can leave it out. Let me know if you like it! This is probably my favorite way to eat chicken. :)

  10. Oh thank you for the quick reply. I've only recently discovered the problem with turmeric. It's supposed to be really good for inflammation, but it was causing me all kinds of problems. Discovered it in yellow mustard and curry powder. I really look forward to trying this recipe!

  11. Livin' the Crunchy LifeAugust 24, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    You're welcome. The hardest part of all of this (to me anyway) is figuring out which foods (or even spices) are causing issues for YOU...especially when it's real food and something that is supposed to be "good." So, I'm glad you discovered it!

  12. This is one of my favorite recipe. I am also having microwave oven. I will try this using my oven.
    I would like to thanks you for this great recipe.

  13. i am about to buy microwave oven with grill and convection, do you think i can make as good as tandoori chicken as we get in the restaurants in the microwave ? or should i buy electric tandoor ? thanks

  14. Livin' the Crunchy LifeNovember 12, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Sorry I missed your comment! I wouldn't recommend a microwave for this recipe. You can make in oven or on the grill, but if you don't have either of those, the electric tandoor would probably work great! I want one now. :) I hope it works out for you!

  15. Can anybody tell temperature for preheat.
    And after preheat in which setting we should cook tandoori. (Convection or Microwave or Grill).?

  16. Thanks a lot for this recipe. It turned out great.delicious dear...You have made this perfectly..Will surely give it a try..

  17. Livin' the Crunchy LifeMay 23, 2015 at 5:20 PM

    So sorry for the late reply! If you cook it in the oven, the temp is 475 degree F. If you use a grill, you will want medium heat. I would not recommend a microwave. Hope that helps!


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