If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant that has a clay oven, you may have tried their tandoori. It’s typically made by adding the meat (usually chicken) to a very, very hot tandoor oven. They also make bread in this ovens in which the dough actually sticks to the side of the oven and cooks itself quickly- I absolutely love that! The smell is amazing- anything on fire tastes so good and that flavor is quite hard to replicate at home without your own clay oven, but it can be done with a few tweaks if you’re willing to make those changes. It may not be exact, but the flavor can be nicely emulated such as in this recipe for my version of Chicken Tandoori, which is baked in the oven- a regular home oven like mine. I’m going to give you a few options for making it, depending on how you like the results.
Start out with some really aromatic spices, plus the crown jewel of Indian cooking- ginger and garlic (paste). Onion, cilantro and lime is for garnish at the end; yogurt is for the marinade.
We’re using so many wonderful spices, all ground: smoked paprika, cayenne pepper (for the much-needed kick), ground annatto (for coloring and instead of artificial food colors), cumin, coriander, turmeric, sea salt.
You can add the spices to the yogurt in any order. This is the cumin, which looks so similar to the ground coriander.
Smoked paprika- it’s what adds that smoked flavor that resonates with a real smoky tandoor oven.
This is ground annato, or achiote. You can find it at most Latino or Mexican markets. It comes in a bottle or bag with annato seeds, which is a flower. You simply grind the seeds in a spice grinder and get this powder. It’s a great alternative to unnatural food coloring in savory dishes because it’s used to color foods, especially rice.
The turmeric adds a lovely color to the chicken, too. It also stains everything in sight so be careful! If you can find fresh turmeric, great- use it!
Add the remaining coriander and sea salt plus the ginger and garlic and lemon juice to the yogurt and mix it all in. It will smell amazing.
It’ll be a light orangish color, not the bright red you might be used to seeing in restaurants, because we’re not using artificial food coloring.
Now the chicken- you can use any cut you like, really but just know that if it has bones, it will need to cook longer than if it’s boneless. I’m mixing up the cuts because I’m interested in having both. The drumsticks are a popular cut for this dish, but it’s just not my favorite so I’m using what we have the most: split breast and boneless pieces which I’ve cut myself. You’ll also need to slit the meat so that the yogurt can penetrate the meat and tenderize it for easier cooking.
In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the yogurt and combine it all up. It needs to marinate for at least four hours, but the best is overnight so that the yogurt can do its thing: tenderize.
Simply mix it all then cover- and leave it alone in the fridge for the time being.
Once it’s ready to bake in your oven, place it all in a deep oven-safe dish. Add a few pats of butter, about six for about three pounds of meat. Trust me, it makes this dish turn out wonderful and prevents the yogurt from burning. I don’t suggest using oil, but ghee is a good replacement for the butter, if you don’t have it. You can choose to cook the chicken without the yogurt marinade, but the cooking temperature and time will be quite different.
Cover with foil (or lid) and poke some holes to let the steam out.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. Open up the foil and turn all the pieces around. Bake for an additional 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare all the goods- naan bread, fresh cilantro, sliced white or yellow onions and quarter some fresh limes. Get some extra yogurt on the side so you can add it to the naan bread and make a sandwich, if desired.
Uncover during the last 5-10 minutes of baking. You’ll have a masala (sauce) in the pan. At this point, you can remove the chicken from the pan and place the chicken on broil to get the grilled effect. I did not do that because the masala was so tempting. I loved dipping my naan in it and mixing in some yogurt, adding the fresh lime juice, a few onions and fresh cilantro leaves.
Maybe not exactly like an Indian restaurant with a tandoor, but the flavor was definitely there and I’ll be making it over and over again, insha’Allah.
This recipe is sponsored by Zabiha Halal, a Canadian company that produces halal-certified (US andCanada) and hormone-free poultry products such as the split breast and boneless breast meat used to make this dish. They also provide fresh leg quarters, and even all natural and nitrite/nitrate-free deli meat like chicken breast or smoked chicken breast . You can learn more about Zabiha Halal on their website and even enter for a chance to try their products for FREE in this giveaway. They’re also offering a pretty grand contest on their Facebook page where you could win a trip worth $10,000 to anywhere in the world.
- 2 cups whole milk yogurt
- 1/2 cup lemon juice concentrate
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground annatto seed (achiote)
- 2 tablespoons grated garlic (about 7-8 garlic cloves)
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 2 split chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
- 6 pats butter
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
- 4 limes, quartered
- Prepare the meat by slicing into each piece so as to allow the yogurt marinade to seep in and tenderize the meat.
- In a large bowl, add the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger and garlic, plus all of the spices. Mix well and remove any lumps in the yogurt. Add the chicken and mix to fully combine.
- Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for about 4 hours to overnight, which is ideal.
- Preheat an oven to 400° F. Pour the chicken with the yogurt sauce into a deep oven-safe dish. Cover with a lid or foil with holes poked in the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes then move the meat around with a spoon. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, uncovering the dish for the last 5-10 minutes of baking only.
- If desired, use tongs to remove the meat from the dish and the yogurt sauce and place on a separate tray to broil or use the broil setting on your oven to sear the meat, about 3-5 minutes per side.
- Serve with fresh naan bread, sliced onions, cilantro, limes and a yogurt sauce on the side for dipping.