Pakistani tandoori chicken has been an all-time favorite, but we’re sure this recipe will beat every other. Nothing tastes better than flavorful, aromatic chicken pieces marinated and char-grilled to perfection! Not only does it look appetizing, but it also tastes just as great. Follow this simple step-by-step recipe. You will get the most out of this delectable and juicy Pakistani tandoori chicken you’ve ever laid hands on.
Pakistani Tandoori Chicken History
While there are many stories to the origin of this delectable chicken recipe, many historians believe that the Mughals had first discovered tandoori chicken. Kundan Lal Gujral made some changes in the recipe to perfect it further in Peshawar in 1947. We believe this because Kundan was the first person to dug a tandoor in the middle of his eatery Moti Mahal in Gora Bazaar, Peshawar.
Pakistani Tandoori Chicken
- Charcoal Grill
- 4 whole skinless, bone-in chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs)
- 3 tbsp vegetable/olive oil
- 1 tsp salt (or as per taste)
- 1 tsp ground coriander/coriander powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin/cumin powder
- 1 tsp powdered turmeric
- 1 tsp red chili powder/cayenne powder (you can add more for heat)
- 1 tbsp whole spice powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- Optional: 1 tbsp sweet paprika (not hot)
- 1 cup plain hung curd/Greek yogurt (see tips)
- 4-5 freshly minced garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp freshly minced ginger
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- Optional: ¼ tsp orange food color
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 piece of coal
- Place a saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and cook the ground/powdered cumin, turmeric powder, ground/powdered coriander, cayenne/red chili powder, whole spice powder, and sweet paprika.
- Stir occasionally until spices are aromatic, this should take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside and allow cooling completely.
- Whisk the Greek yogurt/hung curd to ensure there are no lumps. Add the spice-oil mixture to the yogurt and mix well.
- Add the lemon juice, food coloring, garlic, ginger, and salt, and whisk until well incorporated.
- Place the chicken legs on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut bone-deep slashes on the thigh/leg pieces.
- Create the slashes on 4-5 places on each chicken piece, while being careful that you do not separate the chicken from the bone. Only create 2-3 deep cuts if you are using separated thighs and drumsticks.
- Submerge the chicken in the yogurt-spice mixture and coat the chicken thoroughly in the marinade, ensuring there is plenty of the marinade between the slashes of the chicken. Cover the bowl, chill, and allow marinating for at least an hour. (see tips)
- Prepare your griller by heating one side of it over direct heat; make sure it is quite hot. Do not place the other side over direct heat; let it be cooler. (see tips)
- Soak a paper towel in a bit of oil or use a heat-proof brush dipped in oil to wipe/brush over the grill gates so that the chicken does not stick to the grill.
- After one side of the grill is hot enough, take the chicken out and shake off the extra marinade from each chicken piece, the chicken should be well coated but not viscous-like.
- Place chicken pieces over the hot side of the grill and cover for 2-3 minutes, without moving the chicken.
- Ensure that the chicken is well charred on both sides after 2-3 minutes turn the chicken piece, so it gets the same color and texture on all sides.
- After chicken is colored, transfer the chicken to the cooler side and allow cooking for at least 20-40 minutes, the cooking time would depend on how hot the grill is and the size of the chicken (see tips).
- Optional: Heat a pan over medium-low heat and transfer the chicken to the pan after it is heated.
- Place a piece of coal over a piece of aluminum foil and add the butter on top of the coal, smoke will emit so make sure you cover the pan so the smoke is trapped and the chicken develops a smoked flavor.
- Rest the chicken for a few minutes before serving. Squeeze lemon juice on top and serve with naan or rice. Enjoy!
- If you do not have hung curd at home, you could also make it by simply using yogurt. Hung curd is made by draining excess whey from the curd to get a thick consistency, which in turn becomes suitable for a recipe that involves marinating, similar to this one.
- Hung curd is relatively low in carbohydrates and sugar and contains ample protein compared to regular yogurt. To make hung curd/Greek yogurt: spread a muslin cloth over a colander and add yogurt to the cloth, tie a knot and hang the cloth, so the whey drips, leaving it for 30 minutes. Then squeeze off the remaining whey from the cloth. Refrigerate the hung curd for 4-8 hours before use.
- If you do not have yogurt, you can also substitute the yogurt with buttermilk.
- It is preferred that you allow the chicken to marinate for six hours for the chicken to be more flavorful. However, do not leave it in the marinade for more than 8 hours.
- Incase if you choose to use a charcoal grill, do not place the coals on one side of the griller, so one side is cool while the other remains hot. As for a gas grill, turn one of the gas burners on only. Proceed as instructed. If you do not have a grill, you can simply broil the chicken legs for a few minutes on each side to bring some color, finish by baking in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until well done.
- The initial stage of cooking is only to bring that appealing charred texture and browning to the chicken. You’ll know the chicken is done when the juices it leaves is clear.