Roast Chicken for Thanksgiving

Tender, juicy turkey is often the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving spread, but not in my house! In my family, we aren’t big fans of turkey. While I enjoy cold cuts for sandwiches or a few dishes made with ground turkey, the idea of eating a roasted turkey with bland gravy on the side doesn’t appeal to me. Even after living in the US for over 20 years, I still haven’t developed a taste for it. So, instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, we have Thanksgiving ki Murgi (i.e. chicken in Hindi) as the centerpiece of our holiday dinner table.

Tandoori Spiced Butter Roast Chicken

Chicken vs Turkey 

An oven-roasted whole chicken is the perfect and easy alternative to Thanksgiving turkey (and who says you must have turkey on Thanksgiving, anyway?!). I find that chickens are much easier to work with and roast compared to the big turkeys. Due to their smaller size, roasting a chicken or two is great for a crowd that needs an additional protein or is perfect for an intimate Thanksgiving dinner for two, a smaller family, or a cozy Friendsgiving. Chicken also offers a more flavorful and economical choice compared to turkey.

Tandoori Spiced Butter Roast Chicken

My Indian-inspired Recipe for Roast Chicken

In my recipe, I roast a whole chicken with tandoori-spiced butter made by mixing softened butter with the classic Indian tandoori spice mix, along with lots of aromatics like fresh cilantro, lemon juice, ginger, and garlic. This Thanksgiving chicken recipe is a classic in my family – I’ve been doing it every year since I started hosting over a decade ago. I developed it as an application of the technique for roasting a whole chicken that I learned at cooking school. With a flavor-packed herb butter and gorgeous golden-brown skin, this spicy oven-roasted chicken will delight your dinner guests. It surely has everyone licking their fingers at my Thanksgiving dinner, and usually, there are no leftovers! I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen. Of course, if you love turkey for your Thanksgiving gathering, you can use the same recipe and technique to put an Indian spin on the roast turkey!

Tandoori Spiced Butter Roast Chicken
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Tandoori Spiced Butter Roast Chicken

  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: For 1 whole chicken (approx. 2.53 lbs) 1x


A recipe for roasting whole chicken in the oven with Tandoori spiced compound butter.


  • 1012 sprigs of cilantro, stems removed and leaves minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 34 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tbsp Tandoori Masala (Everest/Shan/Frontier brands work well) + some more for seasoning the outside skin (see Notes)
  • 1 tsp regular Indian red chili powder (use less for milder flavor)
  • 3/4 stick or 6 tbsp of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature + remaining stick (i.e. 2 tbsp) of butter, melted
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken (about 2 1/2 to 3 lbs), thawed if frozen
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced at an angle
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Special Equipment

  • kitchen twine, for trussing
  • roasting pan with a rack (optional)


Browning the chicken

  • Preheat the oven to 450 deg F.
  • In a small bowl, combine cilantro, ginger, garlic, tandoori masala, cayenne pepper and salt along with softened butter and mix well.
  • Wash the chicken thoroughly under cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel. Loosen the chicken skin by inserting your fingers in between the skin and the flesh wherever possible. Insert the spiced butter and lemon slices under the skin on each side of the breast and also spread the butter into other parts where skin has been loosened. Tie the chicken legs with the twine and tuck the wings.
  • Rub the outside skin of the chicken with melted butter and generously season with salt, pepper and tandoori masala. Also season the inside cavity of the chicken by sprinkling generous amounts of salt, pepper and the masala. Stuff the cavity with a few sprigs of cilantro and the remaining lemon slices, tucking a couple in between the legs and thighs.
  • Set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up and brown it for about 30 mins, turning on to the right and left side every 10 mins and basting with the secreted juices underneath.

Roasting the chicken

  • After browning, remove the roasting pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 deg F.
  • Remove the chicken along with the rack and set aside.
  • Distribute the onion and carrots on the bottom of the pan and transfer the chicken on top of it. Pour the chicken stock over the onions and carrots, baste the chicken and return the pan to the oven.
  • Roast the chicken for about an hour, basting every 10 mins till it turns golden brown and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the drumstick is pricked with a fork. If not, roast for another 10-15 mins.

Resting the chicken

  • Let the chicken rest in the turned-off oven or under aluminium foil for 20-30 mins.
  • Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cut the strings off. Transfer the vegetables along with the juices around the chicken and let it rest for 10 more mins before carving.

Carving the chicken

  • To carve, place the chicken on a cutting board, breast side up and tail facing you. Starting on the left side, cut between thigh and breast until you reach the ball and socket joint. Cut through its cartilage, separating the leg and the thigh from the back bone. Then cut the wing and the breast structure on the same side. Carefully pull the breast meat away from the bones until you reach the wing joint. Separate the wing by cutting into the cartilage connecting it to the breast.
  • Similarly carve the other side and return the pieces to the serving platter.

Keywords: Oven Roasting

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

No Tandoori Masala?

If you can’t find Tandoori Masala, substitute with 2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder + 1 tsp Garam Masala

Recipe Variations

Substitute Tandoori Masala with Curry Powder to make Curried Roast Chicken.

Use the same recipe and technique to make roast turkey, if you like! Depending on the size of the turkey, you’ll need to double or triple the amount of tandoori spiced compound butter.

Happy cooking

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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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