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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. Maybe they use mass produced tandoori paste. For sure is nowhere as good as it could be.

Which is too bad because it’s one of the great chicken dishes of all time. I use tandoori marinade all over the place. Tandoori chicken – sure. But tandoori tacos. And chicken tikka. Shashlik. Or rotisserie up a whole tandoor chicken. Why not?

Think of this recipe as an alternative to store bought tandoori paste. It is tandoori paste when you think about it. Just homemade. Fresher. Tastier.

Grill or oven?

My favourite way to cook tandoori chicken is to grill over charcoal. That little hint of smoke just makes it magic for me. If I had a tandoor maybe that would be my favourite.

But if you can’t get to your grill the oven works too. Slather the chicken. Roast the chicken on a rack. Hit it with a blast of the broiler at the end to crisp it up a bit. Beautiful.

That works especially well for chicken tikka. Kebabs just work well in the oven for some reason. That’s what I do in the dead of winter to get my tandoori fix.

Tandoori marinade is better without yoghurt

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 can try 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 the yoghurt out of your tandoori marinade. Break with tradition. It’s not that scary. Honest.

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

Tips from a Bangalore tandoori restaurant

I came to this conclusion after eating at a tandoori kebab restaurant in Bangalore. Their chicken was moist, the flavours explosive. So good.

I thought about it for a while then asked “Do you use yoghurt in your tandoori paste?”. “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.

Put an Indian twist on your tacos with tandoori chicken.

Don’t let the list of ingredients stop you

There’s a lot of ingredients in this marinade. The recipe works really well as written. But it won’t completely fall apart if you leave one out. Even two.

But each ingredient adds a little something. And the combination is what makes this recipe special. Complexity. This isn’t a one-dimensional tandoori marinade.

It might seem harder than it needs to be but all you are doing is mixing some stuff up in a bowl. Nothing more involved than that. Dump some stuff in a bowl and mix. Not so hard.

And it’s 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. Oven or grill or tandoor. Start with a great tandoori marinade and you’ll get great tandoori chicken.

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

Tandoori chicken on a board with green chilies.

Tandoori marinade in a white bowl.
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4.86 from 35 votes

tandoori marinade

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
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinate 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 25 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 478kcal
Author glebe kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp coriander 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

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients except the water and the lemon juice.
  • Add water, a bit at a time until you get a consistency like the picture.
  • Marinate meat at least an hour and up to 12. Add the lemon juice just before cooking.

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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servings | Calories: 478kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 4838mg | Potassium: 393mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 4155IU | Vitamin C: 2.3mg | Calcium: 149mg | Iron: 8.2mg

77 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.

        • It has not in my experience. Even if it were 50 percent vinegar (which it is not) you would be adding 1/2 tsp for a full batch.

    • 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…

      • My mum never bought mint sauce in a jar when I was growing up it was my job to chop mint from the garden whilst dinner was cooking. You just add malt vinegar and caster sugar to taste leave it to stand until dinner is ready. With a blender you could do this in seconds.

    • Mint sauce is usually found in condiment section of the supermarket in the same area as worcestershire sauce, A1 sauce, etc. The bottles are quite small so you have to watch for them.

  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.

  5. A little nervous with amount of ingredients, however tastes amazing! And not difficult at all. Practicing for bbq season. Thanks

  6. This recipe is indeed excellent. I’ve made it a few times now and it never fails. I often make a large batch, particularly if I am lighting the barbecue as that is the best place to cook them as the smoke adds extra flavour and it is easy to get a bit of charring which adds even more.
    They also freeze very well, for adding into curries at a later date or just eaten as is.
    I notice that some posts have queried the mint sauce. If you can’t get it ready made then it is very easy to make.
    And better for being fresh. It is an essential condiment in the Uk to accompany roast lamb.
    Chop fresh mint very finely, mix with malt vinegar ( but any vinegar will do) just enough to form a wet paste, then add just enough sugar to take the acid edge off a bit, but not too much as you need that slight acidity, which helps cut through the fattiness of the lamb. That’s it really. Keeps for years in a sealed jar.

    • I’m sorry. I’ve never tried. I imagine it would be OK. It will keep in the fridge for a week though so if you’re thinking of making something else with it I’d try that first.

      • Hi thank you your quick reply. I’ll make another shaslik with it in the next few days or can you recommend something else.

  7. GREAT recipe. I’ve had tandoori chicken a boatload of times at restaurants all across America, even tried my hand at a few versions on my own grill, but this one is hands down the best.

    You can even use the marinated chicken to do most of the seasoning in a chicken tikka masala, it’s so fragrant.

    One question though – why add the tandoori paste? Why not just add more of the other ingredients that are in the recipe to begin with? Pretty much everything in tandoori paste is already included here.

  8. I like to think that I am a bit of a curry aficionado , this is THE BEST tandoori recipe I have come across. It works so well on a barbecue (BBQ). Great recipe, Thanks very much

  9. Patak have stopped making the Tandoori Paste (now only do tandoori marinade which is much weaker in flavour). Can you recommend any other paste?

  10. I used this in my batter mixture for Chicken Pakoras. They turned out brilliantly and the crispy batter flavour was to die for
    Thanks

  11. This a great recipe for use in my tandoor oven. I have tried this twice now. The first time I used skinless and boneless chicken thighs which were far better than chicken breast. One tip that I found was use less marinade than you are asked to as the spices can be over powering. Because of the tearing of the chicken during de-boning the shredded pieces of meat catch the tandoor flames so much better than breast meat. Highly recommended and good to find a marinade that doesn’t contain yoghurt as I found yoghurt makes the chicken too wet when it’s cooked. Wear gloves when rubbing the marinade onto the chicken. 🙂

    • I’m glad you like it and especially happy you don’t use yoghurt in your marinade!

      Great advice on the gloves. If you are going for red chicken you have to plan on red fingers otherwise:-)

  12. I used this recipe as written with 6 chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks. I removed the skin and put the pieces in a zip lock bag with a double portion of the marinade which I left in the fridge for about 8 hours. The feedback was that this was the best tandoori chicken ever and that the chicken was very moist. After reading the comments here I realize now that I made a small mistake in using mint chutney which I though was what was meant by mint sauce. Searching around now, mint sauce doesn’t appear to be readily available in my area so next time I might have to improvise something. Either way it was a great success.

    • Glad it was a success. I have always loved this one!

      I think, if you can get mint, it would be easy enough to make mint sauce.

  13. Thank you for your recipe it was superb, had it with a family BBQ. Did chicken thighs marinated overnight, simply grilled on the BBQ and they were well acclaimed by everyone, they were so moist and tender.When I was preparing the marinade I realised I didn’t have any Hot Curry Powder so I used a teaspoon of a hot Cajun spice!! It seemed to work fine, will definitely do it again.

    • Glad it worked out for you! It’s one of my favourites. I haven’t tried it with cajun spice but I always have that around so I will give it a go. It does sound tasty that way!

    • It would likely freeze really well if you left out the water, cilantro and mint sauce. Just mix up the other ingredients and just freeze the “paste”. When you thaw it, mix in the cilantro and mint sauce. Dilute with the water to get your desired consistency and go. That way the cilantro and mint sauce would be as fresh as they can be. As the lemon goes in late in marination process you should leave that out and add it per the recipe.

  14. We’ve made this recipe for ourselves numerous times now, and for friends as well. It never ceases to impress. What I really love is how simple and easy it is to throw together ahead of time, and then toss it on the grill once friends come over. If you have a charcoal grill, it is absolutely worth the trouble to fire it up for this.

  15. What oven temperature should I use and for how long? And then how long under the broiler. Thanks so much, I have been looking for a tandoori recipe without yogurt!

    • I would go around 375-400F to bake them off to about 165F for thighs and then under the broiler just long to get a little char on either side.

      I find tikka works better than tandoori chicken in the oven (easier/cooks more evenly).

  16. I just used your marinade for a tandoor chicken recipe on Serious Eat website. Thanks for the suggestion to leave out yogurt and lemon while marinating. I added it right before cooking to the recipe since it needed it for the sauce. Also I added fresh mint, fresh garlic and fresh ginger to the mix and it worked fine. The chicken was delicious.

      • Lovely recipe. Best tikka i have ever made. The only problem i have is the chicken dries out. This is always my issue. Do i add oil?

        • Dry chicken is almost certainly an over-cooking problem. Oil will not fix it. White meat to a max of 165F and dark to a max of 175F and you will never have dry chicken again. An instant read thermometer is one of your best friends in the kitchen.

    • The acid in the lemon juice denatures the protein (chicken) so if you keep your marination time short (say 30 minutes) you should be OK this time.

  17. Thank you for getting back to me…quickly. Cooking it now! I think your recipes are not all only fantastic, but so easy to follow. I’ve got at least 20 friends (who all thought they cooked fantastic curries) Raving about you thank you for these (now our favourite) curries. I’m trying the hotel curry gravy this week finger crossed

  18. Hello , the recipe looks great , I’d like to try it but I’m a bit confused over the nutritional values ! It says that it’s 478 calories per serving , so is that just the marinade or on the chicken ? And if it is on the chicken , how is the fat so high and the protein so low ?? I need to know because I eat low carbs high protein so have to watch ingredients, the carb count seems quite high too !! Please explain .

    • It is for the marinade alone. There is sugar in the mint sauce. The fat content comes from all the oil in the marinade.

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