You don't have to hit your favorite Indian restaurant to enjoy delicious Tandoori Chicken at home! The vibrant color and flavor makes this dish a favorite.
This popular Indian dish is unforgettably good. Loads of earthy spices and moist, tender chicken legs.
Instead of a hot tandoor oven you can make this flavorful chicken in the air fryer or oven!
- What is Tandoori chicken?
- What makes this skinny?
- Recipe Ingredients + Notes
- Pro Tips
- How to Make Tandoori Chicken - Step-by-Step
- Air Fryer chicken legs
- Tandoori chicken in oven
- What is cooked temperature for chicken drumsticks?
- How to serve tandoori chicken
- Storing leftovers
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What is Tandoori chicken?
This classic Indian dish features chicken marinated in yogurt and ground spices roasted in a tandoor; a cylindrical clay oven. The great news is this delicious marinated chicken can be made in an air fryer or regular oven too.
Any type of chicken pieces can be used to make chicken tandoori. It's delicious with chicken breasts or chicken thighs but today we are making it with drumsticks.
It's an easy tandoori chicken recipe and a family favorite.
What makes this skinny?
- No skin on the chicken (the main source of fatty calories in chicken)
- Non-fat Greek yogurt is used
- Only a spritz of olive oil or avocado oil is needed in the air fryer or oven. The chicken is not basted with butter as in some Tandoori Chicken recipes.
Recipe Ingredients + Notes
Non-fat plain Greek yogurt. This thick yogurt is part of the marinade and adds wonderful flavor and tenderizes the chicken. Regular plain yogurt may be substituted but will need to be strained through multiple paper towels and strainer to become thickened.
Lime juice. Juice a fresh lime to get 2 tablespoons of juice.
Garlic. Two tablespoons minced fresh garlic. The equivalent of 3-4 garlic cloves.
Fresh ginger. Peel and grate fresh ginger for two tablespoons.
Turmeric. You'll recognize this vibrant yellow spice! Be careful when handling it as it can stain clothing.
Salt. We recommend using kosher salt which is a less salty tasting salt.
Garam Masala. This classic spice blend used in South Asian cooking and Indian food. It's a blend of 'warming spices' and can be found in the spice section of the grocery store.
Chili powder. If you have access to an Indian market get and use Kashmiri chili powder. Substituting regular Chili powder works fine too!
Ground cumin. A classic earthy spice.
Ground coriander. Another wonderful spice that comes from the same plant cilantro comes from. Coriander is the seeds of the plant.
Olive oil. One teaspoon is used.
Chicken drumsticks (legs). You'll need 2 pounds. The weight of drumsticks can vary wildly. This may be 6 up to 12 depending on the size of the drumsticks.
Make with any chicken parts. Substitute your favorite chicken pieces like boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Adjust the cooking time accordingly and verify the chicken is cooked with an instant read thermometer.
Toast the spices. To enhance the flavor toast the ground dry spices first. Place them in a small saucepan (dry) and toast over medium heat until fragrant.
Serve with red onion . Sliced on the side or cooked in the air fryer. It's a delicious complement to the spicy chicken.
Serve with lemon wedges. A squeeze of lemon juice before serving pumps up the rich earthy flavors!
Tip for removing the chicken skin. Use a paper towel for a better grip on the skin when pulling it off the chicken.
Different air fryers can have different results. We made the air fryer version in a Cosori 5.8 quart air fryer and the times are based on that. Check the chicken for doneness with an instant read thermometer to ensure it's cooked.
Do not reuse the marinade. Once the chicken has marinated discard the marinade.
How to Make Tandoori Chicken - Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Prepare the chicken
Remove the chicken skin. The easiest way to do this is to start on the top and pull the skin down toward the bone, using a sharp knife to cut any membrane holding the skin to the meat.
Make 2-3 deep cuts into the thickest part of the chicken meat. These help the marinade penetrate the meat (photo 2).
STEP 2. Make the marinade
Combine all the ingredients for the yogurt marinade and add to a gallon size plastic zipper top bag (photo 1 and 3).
STEP 3. Marinate the chicken
Add the chicken legs (photo 3). Seal the bag squeezing out as much air as possible.
Massage the marinade into the chicken from the outside of the bag. Coat the chicken and get the marinade into the cuts of the chicken (photo 4).
Refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours marinating time. Can be marinated overnight.
Allow excess marinade to drip off into the bag when moving the chicken to cook it.
Air Fryer chicken legs
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees.
Place the marinated drumsticks in the air fryer basket; do not over crowd and leave space in between them (photos 5-6).
Lightly spray with olive oil or avocado oil spray on the side facing up.
Cook for 10 minutes (photo 7).
Using tongs gently flip the legs over, spray with olive oil spray and cook 10 additional minutes.
Tandoori chicken in oven
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking tray or baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Place chicken on the prepared tray with space in between. Spray lightly with olive oil or avocado oil spray (photo 8).
Cook chicken in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes turning halfway through and spritzing with olive oil or avocado spray.
NOTE: the size of the drumsticks will affect cooking time. Always use a thermometer to determine cooking time.
Allow to rest the tray on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.
What is cooked temperature for chicken drumsticks?
165 degrees however for legs and thighs 170-175 degrees is recommended. Due to the muscle in the darker cut of meat the higher temperature makes the meat more tender.
The best way to verify the temperature is using a instant-read thermometer. Insert into the thickest part of the chicken leg avoiding the bone.
Do not use meat color as an indicator.
How to serve tandoori chicken
- Basmati rice is a classic choice
- A fresh green salad is delicious
- Sliced cucumbers tossed with sea salt and fresh dill
- Red Cabbage Slaw is a refreshing side
Allow the chicken to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To freeze: after the chicken has cooled store in an airtight freezer-safe container or bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
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Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks
- 1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoon garlic minced (3-4 cloves)
- 2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon garam marsala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder kashmiri or regular chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 pounds chicken legs approximately 12*
- Remove the skin from the chicken, and with a sharp knife cut 2-3 deep slices into a thick part of each raw drumstick. These gashes in the drumsticks will catch the marinade for maximum flavor coverage.
- Combine the ingredients for the marinade (everything except the chicken) and pour into a gallon zipper top plastic bag.
- Add the chicken legs to the bag of marinade. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage the marinade into the chicken from outside the bag ensuring the marinate gets into the sliced chicken flesh.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours up to overnight.
Air Fryer Instructions
- Preheat Air Fryer to 400° for 5 minutes.
- Shake any excess marinade from the chicken legs back into the bag. Place the drumsticks into the air fryer basket, leaving room in between (may need to do two batches).
- Lightly spray the top of the drumsticks with olive oil or avocado oil spray. Place the air fryer basket in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400°.
- Flip each drumstick using tongs, spritz top with oil spray and cook an additional 10 minutes. Verify temperature as noted below.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
- Remove each drumstick from the ziplock bag of marinade and let the excess marinade drip off, or you can use a light shake of each drumstick to remove excess if needed.
- Place drumsticks on the prepared baking sheet leaving space between each drumstick. Lightly spritz with olive oil or avocado oil spray.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes flipping drumsticks over halfway through. Spritz the tops with olive oil or avocado oil spray after flipping.
- Remove from oven after verifying the chicken is done (see below).
- Either cooking method: To check doneness use an instant read food thermometer. The temperature should reach 170-175° internal temperature for each drumstick.
- Rest chicken for 5 minutes before serving.