tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken is synonymous with Indian cuisine and I am excited to be sharing my easy recipe for charcoal grilled tandoori chicken legs. It is one of the most popular and iconic dishes that originated in the Indian subcontinent and continues to dominate the Indian food scene wherever you go!

Charcoal Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs

The name “tandoori” refers to the method of preparation, in which bone-in chicken legs and thighs (or leg quarters) are marinated in a medium spicy yogurt based marinade and then roasted in a “tandoor,” a traditional clay oven similar to a brick oven used for making pizzas. The tandoor oven gives the chicken its unique, signature flavor, along with its juicy and tender texture, a smoky aroma, and a delightful charred taste.

the tandoor technique

The tandoor grilling is an age-old Indian cooking technique popular for grilling meats and minced meat kebabs on a long metal skewer, cooked vertically in a cylindrical clay oven. In addition to the meats, it’s also used for making Indian breads like naans, rotis, and parathas. The tandoor, i.e. the clay oven, is just like the pizza brick oven, known for reaching very high temperatures, close to 900-1000 °F (480-540°C). This intense heat allows for rapid cooking while locking in the juices of the meat, resulting in dishes with a charred exterior and a moist interior. Tandoors are typically fueled by wood or charcoal, contributing to the distinctive smoky flavor and aroma in the dishes cooked within.

Charcoal Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs

Since I don’t have a tandoor in my home, I love to use my charcoal grill to create the tandoor effect for making tandoori chicken at home.

the marinade

When it comes to the marinade, I stay pretty close to the traditional recipe used in most classic Indian restaurants. The recipe calls for yogurt and lemon juice, which act as tenderizers for the chicken, allowing it to cook faster in the tandoor oven. The mustard oil in the marinade, that has a high smoking point of around 480°F (250°C), helps keep the meat moist, preventing it from drying out, and makes it more succulent and flavorful as it roasts in the clay oven at very high temperatures.

Charcoal Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs

Various spices, including ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala, contribute to the distinctive and aromatic profile of tandoori chicken. Two types of red chili powders, hot and Kashmiri, give it a subtle kick and its characteristic vibrant red-orange color, making it visually appealing. This perfect marriage of yogurt and spices in the marinade creates a rich and aromatic coating that infuses the chicken with a depth of flavor not only during the marination phase but also during the cooking process.

accompaniments

Tandoori chicken pairs wonderfully with classic accompaniments such as fragrant basmati rice or vegetable pulao, tandoori naan or rotis, along with mint or tamarind chutneys, with the luscious makhani or korma sauce for dipping, or a cooling cucumber or tomato-onion raita. You can use a combination of these foods and serve the grilled chicken legs in the form of a rice bowl or allow people to build their own tacos or burritos with different elements on their plates.

Charcoal Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs

It also works very well when pulled off the bone and sandwiched between naan, layered on top of a pizza, stuffed in a tortilla or chapati wrap or served over a bed of salad with crisp romaine or iceberg lettuce and lots of crunchy vegetables like shredded cabbage, carrots, sliced red onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, etc., drizzled with a mint-yogurt chutney dressing.

With so many possibilities for serving, you’ll want to make extras so you can savor the deliciousness over multiple meals with lots of leftoversI have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Easy Charcoal Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x

Description

A recipe for vibrant Indian Tandoori chicken legs, made at home on your charcoal grill, without any food colors!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 3 skinless chicken leg quarters (approx. 0.751 lb each) (see FAQs & Notes and Variations)
  • 46 sprigs of cilantro, leaves and tender parts of stem, roughly chopped, for garnishing
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced, for garnishing
  • 1/2 lemon cut into wedges, for serving
  • tandoori naan or roti, for serving
  • mint-yogurt chutney, for serving

The Marinade

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil or a neutral oil of your choice
  • Juice of a 1/2 medium lemon
  • 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder or as needed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder

Instructions

  • Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 slits across each of the chicken legs, about 1.5-2 inches apart. Set side until you’re ready to use.
  • Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl.
  • Using a whisk or a spatula, stir to combine all the ingredients well.
  • Using your hands (you can wear gloves if you want), add the chicken to the mixed marinade and massage the marinade, ensuring it gets into the slits and the crevices.
  • Make sure all the chicken legs are coated evenly.
  • Cover and let it marinate on the counter for 30 minutes – 1 hour. If you have time, you can marinate in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours or overnight.
  • While the chicken marinates, preheat the charcoal grill to about 400°F (200 °C).
  • Place the marinated chicken leg quarters skin side up on the grill.
  • Grill covered for 18-20 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken legs to grill the other side.
  • Continue cooking covered for another 18-20 minutes .
  • Chicken is ready when the internal temperature of the chicken on a thermometer reads 165°F or 75°C.
  • Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sliced onions. Serve immediately with tandoori naan or roti, lemon wedges, green chilies and cooling mint-yogurt chutney.

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 slits across each of the chicken legs, about 1.5-2 inches apart. Set side until you’re ready to use.

Step: 2

Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl.

Step: 3

Using a whisk or a spatula, stir to combine all the ingredients well.

Step: 4

Using your hands (you can wear gloves if you want), add the chicken to the mixed marinade and massage the marinade, ensuring it gets into the slits and the crevices.

Step: 5

Make sure all the chicken legs are coated evenly.

Step: 6

Cover and let it marinate on the counter for 30 minutes - 1 hour. If you have time, you can marinate in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours or overnight.

Step: 7

While the chicken marinates, preheat the charcoal grill to about 400°F (200 °C).

Step: 8

Place the marinated chicken leg quarters skin side up on the grill.

Step: 9

Grill covered for 18-20 minutes.

Step: 10

Flip the chicken legs to grill the other side.

Step: 11

Continue cooking covered for another 18-20 minutes.

Step: 12

Chicken is ready when the internal temp of the chicken reads 165°F or 75°C.

Step: 13

Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sliced onions. Serve immediately with tandoori naan or roti, lemon wedges, green chilies and cooling mint-yogurt chutney.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Love chicken skin?

Feel free to use chicken legs with skin on.

Don't like dark meat chicken?

You can use bone-in breast meat in the recipe.

Using frozen chicken?

Thaw the chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Rinse and pat dry with a kitchen paper towel as excess moisture will cause the marinade to water down and not stick to the skin.

How do you know if the chicken is properly cooked?

Chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature of the chicken on the thermometer reads 165°F or 75°C

Recipe Variations

Instead of chicken leg quarters, you can also use chicken drumsticks or bone-in skinless thighs or breast meat.

Don’t have a charcoal grill? You can use a gas grill or simply bake the marinated chicken legs on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet in the oven at 375°F (180°C) for 30 minutes, flipping them half way through and basting any excess marinade left in the bowl. Finish them off under the broiler for 3-5 minutes on each side to get them charred on the outside.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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