Tandoori-Style Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs Recipe

Tandoori chicken is a staple of modern international Indian cuisine, originating over 100 years ago in Pakistan, and later popularized in Delhi. Tandoor ovens, the reason for the name, have been around much longer. Cylindrical ovens made of clay traditionally and heated with burning coals to nearly 900 F, tandoor offers a dry environment to create smokey, charred breads, meats, and vegetables. For reference, modern charcoal grills usually tap out at around 550 F.

So if tandoor ovens existed for thousands of years before tandoori chicken, what makes this chicken unique? The answer is in Kundan Lal Gujral's original recipe that popularized the cuisine internationally in the 1950s (via New York Times). Using yogurt and bright red chili powder, the chicken becomes moist but crispy, charred, and characteristically red. And you guessed it, that same chicken became the base for international favorites, like butter chicken and chicken tikka masala.

You can make tandoori chicken at home without a tandoori oven or even a grill. In this recipe developed by Michelle McGlinn, tandoori-style chicken becomes a weeknight meal using a broiler-equipped oven, simple spices, and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Crank up the heat for this Indian-inspired dish that everyone will love. 

What you need for tandoori-style chicken thighs

This recipe will work with any kind of chicken, but here, we are using quick-cooking, boneless, skinless chicken thighs. By the end of the recipe, the chicken will be so tender, you won't even need a knife. Marinate the chicken first in full-fat Greek yogurt (you want a thick yogurt here), chili powder, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, grated ginger, and grated garlic. For the traditional deep red hue, you can either seek out Indian Kashmiri chili powder, or use red food coloring in the marinade. Because we're using bright yellow turmeric and standard chili powder here, our chicken is going to take on an orange hue. 

Finally, you'll just need a few pats of melted butter to brush over the chicken before broiling. This is the secret ingredient that gives the chicken that deliciously moist texture and rich flavor. You can optionally serve this with sliced onions, fresh lemon, and cooked rice. 

Marinate the chicken

Slice a small incision at the thickest part of each chicken thigh. Whisk together the yogurt, spices, grated ginger, and grated garlic, until the mixture becomes a thick orange paste. If you're using Kashmiri chili powder or red food dye, the paste should look brighter red. We recommend using gloves to protect your hands from the heavily-pigmented spices, then rub the marinade onto the chicken generously. Put the chicken into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then let it sit and absorb the spices for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

Skewer the chicken

If you are using wooden skewers, soak the skewers, while the chicken marinates, to avoid burning the wood. Then, take each piece of chicken, and poke the skewer through vertically, so the skewer holds the chicken evenly. Place the skewer on the edges of a baking sheet or casserole dish so that the chicken is suspended, like a rotisserie, and the heat can circulate around the chicken as it bakes. If you don't have a dish that works for this, just lay the chicken skewers on a baking sheet. With either arrangement, roast the chicken for 15 minutes, rotating the skewers halfway through to ensure even cooking.

Brush with butter, and broil

After 15 minutes, turn the broiler on high, and remove the chicken while it heats. Brush the melted butter on either side of the chicken, then return the chicken to the top rack of the oven, or whichever rack fits the chicken best without touching the broiler. Roast the chicken until it's dark and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. We recommend turning on the oven light to make sure the chicken isn't burning. You just want a black char around the edges; if the middle of the chicken is turning black or starting to smoke, remove from the oven immediately.

Serve the tandoori chicken

If you order tandoori chicken in a restaurant, you're likely to be served the sizzling chicken with raw or grilled onions, lemon or lime, and perfumed rice. If you love onions, you'll enjoy the crisp, strong taste of raw onion over the charred chicken, but juicy, grilled onion rings are equally as delicious for a sweeter accompaniment. You can pop the onion and lemon slices under the broiler as the chicken is cooking for a quickly-charred side. Of course, sweetly-seasoned rice is a traditional side dish for Indian cuisine, and makes the perfect side dish for this tandoori chicken as well. Not a fan of rice, or want more vegetables on the plate? Try roasted potatoes with bell peppers and eggplant instead.

Tandoori-Style Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs Recipe
5 from 15 ratings
Enjoy tandoori-style chicken from the comfort of your own home with this easy weeknight recipe.
Prep Time
35
minutes
Cook Time
25
minutes
Servings
4
Servings
tandoori chicken on platter
Total time: 60 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup 5% Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • ½ tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Optional Ingredients
  • sliced onions
  • sliced lemon
  • cooked rice
Directions
  1. Slice a small incision at the thickest part of each chicken thigh.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, all seasonings, grated ginger, and grated garlic. Massage the mixture into each chicken thigh. Place the chicken in a covered bowl or plastic bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Arrange one rack in the middle of the oven, and one on the top rack under the broiler.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag or bowl, and thread them onto skewers. Place the skewered chicken on a baking sheet or casserole dish, and place on the middle rack of the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the chicken is no longer pink.
  5. Once the chicken is opaque white, heat the broiler to high, or 525 F. Brush the chicken with melted butter. Move the chicken to the top rack under the broiler, and roast until crispy and beginning to blacken on the edges, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the chicken from the broiler, and remove from skewers to serve. Serve with onions and lemon.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 275
Total Fat 15.3 g
Saturated Fat 7.4 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 131.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.7 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Total Sugars 2.8 g
Sodium 260.4 mg
Protein 28.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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