What’s the Secret to a Tender and Juicy Tandoori Chicken with Homemade Marinade?

Have you ever sunk your teeth into a perfectly cooked piece of tandoori chicken, succulent and rich in flavor, and wondered how you could recreate that magic at home? The aroma, the taste, and the texture of well-cooked tandoori chicken can make any dinner a special occasion. Today, we will not only reveal the secret to this delicious dish, but we will also walk you through a simple step-by-step guide to creating an irresistible homemade marinade.

The Intricacies of Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori chicken, a dish with distinct Indian roots, holds an important place in the culinary world. The name derives from the method of cooking in a ‘Tandoor’, a cylindrical clay oven. This method imparts a very specific and unique flavor to the chicken. However, don’t despair if you do not have a tandoor at home. We will show you how to achieve almost identical results using your oven or grill.

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The key to a juicy tandoori chicken lies in the marinade, a mixture that the chicken soaks in for several hours or even overnight. The marinade works to tenderize the meat, infuse it with flavor, and gives it the classic red color we associate with this dish.

The Essential Elements of the Marinade

A good tandoori marinade is a symphony of flavors that should vividly express the taste of the final dish. It is a combination of yogurt, lemon juice, and various spices, including the much-loved tandoori masala.

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Yogurt is not only a tenderizer but also a carrier of flavors. The acidity of the yogurt helps to break down the protein structure of the chicken, making it more tender. It also has a rich and creamy taste that helps to mellow out the spices and the heat from the chili.

Lemon juice, high in citric acid, works as a powerful tenderizer. It penetrates deeply into the meat, breaking down tough muscle fibers and adding a fresh, citrusy tang that elevates the other flavors.

Spices are the heart and soul of Indian cuisine, and tandoori chicken is no exception. Red chili powder brings heat and color to the dish, while the tandoori masala, a heady mix of various spices, is what gives this dish its unique flavor.

Lastly, oil is added to the marinade. Besides adding richness, it also helps the spices to adhere to the chicken better.

The Perfect Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Now, let’s put the pieces together and prepare a delectable tandoori chicken. Here’s a simple recipe that you can follow.

  • Preheat your oven or grill to 220°C or 428°F.
  • Start with 800gm of chicken pieces. Cleaning and pat them dry. Make a few deep incisions on each piece. This will allow the marinade to penetrate deeper.
  • To make the marinade, mix together 1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon each of red chili powder, tandoori masala, and salt. You can adjust the measurements based on your taste.
  • Add the chicken pieces to this marinade and mix well until each piece is coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Overnight is best if time permits.
  • Once the chicken has marinated sufficiently, place it on the grill or an oven tray. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally until the chicken is cooked and has a beautiful char on it.

Remember, each oven or grill behaves differently, so keep an eye on your chicken to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Adjusting the Flavors to Your Liking

While we’ve given you a basic tandoori chicken recipe, you’re encouraged to play around with the flavors and add your personal touch. If you prefer your chicken spicier, add a little more red chili powder. If you want it tangier, squeeze in more lemon juice.

You can also experiment with other marinades for your tandoori chicken. Some recipes call for a two-step marinade process. The first marinade uses lemon juice and salt, while the second contains the remaining ingredients.

Remember, the secret to a tender and juicy tandoori chicken lies in the marinade and the cooking process. Give it the time it needs to soak up the flavors and then cook it at a high temperature to lock in the juiciness.

Cooking Tandoori Chicken on a Grill

While an oven does a commendable job of creating a beautiful tandoori chicken, using a grill can take it to the next level. Grilling imparts a smoky flavor to the chicken that you’d typically get from a tandoor.

One major thing to keep in mind while grilling your chicken is the temperature. It’s important to preheat your grill before you start cooking. Once the grill is hot, reduce the heat and place your chicken on it.

Remember to turn the chicken pieces frequently to ensure even cooking and prevent burning. Also, baste the chicken occasionally with melted butter or oil to keep it moist and give it a shiny finish. Grill your tandoori chicken for about 20-30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you insert a skewer into the thickest part of the chicken.


From the rich history of its origins to the intricate details of its preparation, the tandoori chicken is undoubtedly a culinary marvel. Whether you choose to cook it in an oven or on the grill, the key to a tender and juicy tandoori chicken lies in the marinade. So take your time, play with the flavors, and you’re sure to create a dish that will transport you straight to the heart of India.

An Alternative Method: Tandoori Chicken in an Air Fryer

Now, we are taking your tandoori chicken game up a notch by introducing the air fryer method. Yes, you heard it right! If you are health-conscious and looking for ways to minimize oil usage, the air fryer is your new best friend.

To make air fryer tandoori chicken, first, prepare your chicken and marinade it using a recipe similar to the one we discussed earlier. But this time, replace the oil with a little more yogurt. You can also add a bit of ginger garlic paste to the marinade for enhanced flavor. And don’t forget the kashmiri red chili powder to add that distinctive color without too much heat.

Once your chicken has taken in all the flavors from the marinade, preheat your air fryer at 180°C or 350°F. Now, place the chicken pieces in the basket ensuring they are not overlapping. Cook the chicken for about 15 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another 10-15 minutes until it is fully cooked and has a nice char on it.

The air fryer method of cooking tandoori chicken is not only healthier but also quicker. Besides, it also gives the chicken a nice crispy texture on the outside while keeping it juicy on the inside.

Extraordinary Twists to Your Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Indian cuisine is all about experimenting and playing around with flavors. Tandoori chicken is no exception. While the classic recipe is always a winner, why not try adding some exciting twists to your tandoori chicken recipe?

One scrumptious twist you can try is chicken tikka tandoori. For this, cut your chicken into small bite-sized pieces before marinating. You can also add garam masala to the marinade, which adds a warm, sweet flavor to your chicken tikka. Once marinated, skewer the chicken pieces and grill them. This chicken tikka tandoori makes a perfect appetizer or can be served with naan bread as a main course.

Another great idea is using greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt for your marinade. Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier, which will give your chicken a rich and velvety texture.

You can also experiment with different types of chili powder to adjust the heat level. If you prefer a milder flavor, use kashmiri red chili powder. If you like it hot, go for cayenne pepper.

And when your tandoori chicken is ready, why not serve it with some homemade garlic paste or mint chutney? These accompaniments will surely elevate your dining experience.


Tandoori chicken is indeed a versatile dish that can be tailored to your personal taste and dietary preferences. Whether you choose to make it in an oven, on a grill, or an air fryer, remember that the real secret to a tender and juicy tandoori chicken lies in the marinade. So, don’t rush this step. Let your chicken soak in the flavors.

Feel free to play around with the ingredients of your marinade, add your favorite spices, and try different cooking techniques. Most importantly, enjoy the process. After all, cooking is not just about the end result, but also about the joy and satisfaction that the process brings.

So, don your apron, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to cook a delicious tandoori chicken that will take you on a culinary journey to India right from your kitchen. And as you savor every bite, remember that the best tandoori chicken is the one that’s made with love and patience. Enjoy!