How to make a traditional tandoori chicken — at home
Traditional tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices and roasted in a superhot tandoor oven to produce tender, flavorful meat and a beautiful char. To make it at home, we built a fragrant paste, blooming ginger and garlic in oil before adding garam masala, cumin and chili powder.
We used this paste twice, applying some directly to the meat, which we slashed so the flavors penetrated, and stirring the rest into yogurt for our marinade. Arranged on a wire rack set in a baking sheet, our chicken roasted gently and evenly in a moderate oven; a few minutes under the broiler delivered char.
A quick raita cooled things down. If you are using large chicken breasts (about 1 pound each), cut each breast into three pieces. We prefer to use our homemade Garam Masala (recipe follows) and Everyday Chili Powder (recipe follows), but you can substitute store-bought spices. Serve with rice.
Tandoori Chicken with Raita
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Garam Masala (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Everyday Chili Powder (recipe follows)
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup lime juice (2 limes), plus lime wedges for serving
2 teaspoons salt
3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, drumsticks, and/or thighs), skin removed, trimmed
For the raita: Combine yogurt, cilantro, and garlic in bowl and season with salt and cayenne to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Raita can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).
For the chicken: Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in garam masala, cumin, and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer half of garlic mixture to bowl and stir in yogurt and 2 tablespoons lime juice; set marinade aside. Combine remaining garlic mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt in large bowl. Using sharp knife, make 2 or 3 short slashes in each piece of chicken. Transfer chicken to large bowl and gently rub with garlic-lime juice mixture until all pieces are evenly coated. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 F. Set wire rack in aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Pour yogurt marinade over chicken and toss until chicken is evenly and thickly coated. Arrange chicken pieces, scored sides down, on prepared rack; discard excess marinade. Roast chicken until breasts register 125 F and drumsticks/thighs register 130 F, 15 to 25 minutes. (Smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces. Remove pieces from oven as they reach correct temperature.)
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Return chicken to wire rack in pan, scored sides up, and broil until chicken is lightly charred in spots and breasts register 160 F and drumsticks/thighs register 175 F, 8 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with raita and lime wedges.
The warm, floral and earthy flavor profile of garam masala (“warm spice blend”) makes it a welcome addition to most curries or a great seasoning for meat.
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
8 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 teaspoons cardamom pods
2 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 ½ (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
Process all ingredients in spice grinder until finely ground, about 30 seconds.
Everyday Chili Powder:
This balanced all-purpose powder is mild but has perceptible smoke and heat. We prefer the robust flavor of Mexican oregano, but you can substitute any dried oregano.
2 ounces (7 to 8) dried New Mexican chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into ½-inch pieces (1 ½ cups)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Working in batches, process New Mexican chiles, cumin seeds, and oregano in spice grinder until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Stir in paprika, garlic powder and cayenne.
Nutrition information per serving: 428 calories; 164 calories from fat; 18 g fat ( 4g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 226 mg cholesterol; 991 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 57 g protein.