Gluten-Free Indian Cuisine, Part 2 of 4: Tandoori Chicken

A great-tasting recipe that adds a kick of spice to a classic family dinner favorite, Tandoori chicken combines all the right flavorings and textures for a delicious Indian meal.


We first discussed this dish yesterday, in our post about dining out gluten-free at an Indian restaurant. Over the next few days, we will post about some of our favorite Indian dishes and how to make them at home, gluten-free.

I’ve long enjoyed Tandoori chicken, the subject of today’s post, at Indian restaurants. But first – a quick caveat. As we discussed in our last post, Indian restaurants often cook Tandoori chicken in ovens known as Tandoors, which leads to cross-contamination issues as these ovens also cook the gluten-containing Indian bread naan. Therefore, always talk to your waiter before ordering this dish at an Indian restaurant. Read our last post for more details. Or, for an equally enjoyable culinary experience, just cook the chicken for yourself at home, like Kay did last week.


Kay’s recipe used a different mix of spices, so her Tandoori chicken didn’t quite achieve its trademark bright-red hue. But nonetheless, it was thoroughly flavorful, maintaining the chicken’s greasy texture while a reddish-yellow matte of spices soaked into the outside of its skin. The heat was far from overwhelming and complemented the chicken’s flavor and texture. This, along with basmati rice and some palak makhani (see below), made for an excellent weekday lunch, and would surely suffice as a tasty and delicious family dinner.

This creamy spinach dish, known as palak makhani, blended perfectly with our tender Tandoori chicken and white rice. Want to know how to make it? Next week we'll show you how.

Here’s the Tandoori chicken recipe Kay used, reprinted below, courtesy of David Lebovitz.

1/4 t saffron threads

1 T boiling water

Soak the saffron in the boiling water for five minutes.

4 skinless chicken thighs

4 skinless chicken legs

Cut score marks into chicken, to facilitate marinating process. Place in large freezer bag and set aside.

3/4 t salt

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t paprika (I used pimente d’Espelette)

1/2 t turmeric

1 to 1 1/2 t chili powder

10 turns fresh ground black pepper

1 c whole milk plain yogurt

juice of one fresh lime

1 T finely-minced fresh ginger

2 minced cloves of garlic

Mix the all the above ingredients in a bowl, then pour into the freezer bag with the chicken.  Squeeze out as much air from the bag as possible, then seal.  Massage chicken through the bag to make sure the marinade penetrates as deeply as possible.  (The nice thing about this step is that you don’t have to get your hands dirty!)  Refrigerate overnight, if possible.  Though I’ve let it marinate as little as a couple hours. The taste won’t be as strong, but if you’re in a hurry, it’ll do.

Tandoori chicken, freshly marinated and ready for the grill.
Tandoori chicken, freshly marinated and ready for the grill.

When done marinating, shake marinade off chicken, and cook on a hot grill pan (cast iron works great).  Cook both sides until the pieces touching the grill are slightly charred.  If the chicken is cooked on the outside, but not inside, put into an oven safe dish and cook at 350F until it’s cooked throughout, usually 10 minutes.

We’d love to hear what you think of this recipe. If any of you have tried making Tandoori chicken in the past or have any other dining out tips to share, let us know!

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