This tandoori marinade is loaded with big Indian flavours. If you can grill, you can make better tandoori chicken than you can buy.

I don’t know why it is but the tandoori chicken in restaurants in North America is just not good. Maybe it’s marinated too long. Maybe it’s overcooked. For sure is nowhere as good as it could be.

I’m a bit of a heretic when it comes to tandoori marinade. I don’t like to include yoghurt. That goes against pretty much every tandoori recipe out there. But there’s a reason. Yoghurt and other acidic marinades break down the proteins in the chicken. Think of ceviche. That is fish cooked with nothing but acid. No heat at all.

That pre-cooking effect turns chicken into mush. Terrible texture. Just not tasty. You to fix it by cooking it over crazy high temperature. That helps some as long as you don’t overcook it. That’s what a tandoor oven does. Searingly high temperatures.

Or you can set yourself up for success from the start. Leave out the yoghurt. Break with tradition. It’s not that scary. Honest.


Chicken shashlik - chicken tikka on a bed of spiced peppers and onions.


I came to this conclusion after eating at a tandoori kebab restaurant in Bangalore. Their chicken was moist, the flavours explosive. I thought about it for a while then asked “Do you use yoghurt in your marinade?”. “No, we don’t”.  Haven’t used yoghurt since. I add the lemon at the end. I don’t get mush and nor will you.

There’s a lot of ingredients in this marinade. Each one adds a little something. The recipe works really well as written. But it won’t completely fall apart if you leave one out. Even two. It’s still going to be better than you have been getting at your local Indian restaurant. Unless you live in India I guess. Then it will just be as good.

Try it to make really good chicken tikka, tandoori chicken or even tandoori tacos.

Leave the yoghurt out completely and add the lemon juice right at the end for a tandoori marinade that works every time.


Restaurant style chicken shashlik explodes with Indian flavours.

4.8 from 5 votes
Tandoori marinade in a white bowl.
tandoori marinade
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
12 hrs
Total Time
12 hrs 5 mins
Leave the yoghurt out completely and add the lemon at the end to keep the mushy texture away. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. You can skip one or two if you can't find them. Each one adds a little bit to the whole, though.
Course: marinade
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 1
Author: glebe kitchen
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp corriander powder
  • 2 tsp hot curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves aka kasoor methi
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mint sauce
  • 2 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp chopped coriander leaf/stem
  • 1 Tbsp Patak's tandoori paste optional
  • 1 Tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 4-6 Tbsp water to make a runny paste
  • pinch red food colouring
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the water and the lemon juice.
  2. Add water, a bit at a time until you get a consistency like the picture.
  3. Marinate meat at least an hour and up to 12. Add the lemon juice just before cooking.
Recipe Notes

Find dried fenugreek leaf or kasoor methi at any Indian food store. It's a key flavour to many indian dishes so if you like to cook Indian, it's good to have on hand.
I used food colouring for this marinade. Other than colour it adds nothing. It's messy as well and you have to use gloves to handle the chicken. I normally leave it out.
If you don't have, or can't get a mild kashmiri chili powder, substitute 1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1 1/2 tsp paprika.
This marinade makes enough for one chicken plus four chicken thighs.


18 thoughts on “tandoori marinade

  1. This is the best marinade I’ve found so far. Delicious! The only change I made was to add a little mango powder for a bit of ‘zing’. Thank you

  2. My husband has requested tandooori chicken for Father’s Day. This sounds like the perfect recipe!

    Were I to double the marinade it would keep okay in the fridge for a few weeks, correct?

    • I think you’ll like this recipe. It will most certainly keep OK in the fridge so long as you are not trying to re-use it.

    • Hot curry powder is any one of many pre-made spice blends. Lalah’s madras curry powder is an example. Mint sauce is a sweet mint mixture that is literally called “mint sauce” in North American and European groceries.

    • I’ve never tried mint leaves but that could work. Maybe with a pinch of sugar as mint sauce is sweet. Or you could just leave it out. Not the end of the world…

  3. I’m also confused by the mint sauce, what is it? Mint jelly like you’d serve with roast lamb? That green Mint chutney, which seems interchangeable with Coriander chutney? Please, point me in the right direction.

    • This one confused me at first as well. It is not mint jelly and it is not mint chutney. It’s a liquid sauce with bits of mint. It’s a bit sweet. If you google images for mint sauce Colemans is one brand. Crosse and Blackwell is another.

      I think it’s English originally. I can get it in grocery stores in Canada without difficulty. A bit of mint chutney would work as well. And worst case, just leave it out. There’s a lot of other flavours going on in this recipe…

  4. I regularly cook chicken tikka & tandoori chicken, using a different but similar marinade recipe.
    Most of the ingredients are the same. However, I don’t use the hot curry powder and the tandoori paste.
    However, I use 1 tsp of sumac.
    I will try your recipe with sumac and see how it goes.
    Thanks for all your great recipes.

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