If you’ve ever wondered how to make whole chicken tandoori at home, you’ve landed at the right place, as in this post I’ll share the whole tandoori chicken recipe with step by step photos, and video.
If I made a list of the top 10 things I love to eat, I feel like at-least 7 of them would be chicken dishes. And tandoori chicken is really high on that list, because it’s just impossible for me to resist the lure of perfectly spiced, tender and succulent pieces of chicken, traditionally roasted on the tandoor, but in this case, in my home oven.
However, for many years, we only made the tandoori drumsticks or legs (which is what we typically get in restaurants) as it was quick and easy and really, really yummy.
But my husband wanted us to try making whole roast tandoori chicken at home by roasting the full tandoori chicken in the oven, and while initially I found it a little intimidating, I tried it out anyway, and boy oh boy, this was a whole different level of deliciousness.
Moreover, once I got the spice mix right (which took a fair amount of experimentation), this hardly took much active cooking time, because it took only about 10 minutes to clean, 10 more minutes to marinate, and then finally 10 more minutes to prep and set it in the oven.
Of-course you need to let it marinate for about 24 hours, and it takes a little over an hour in the oven to cook, but there is nothing that you need to actively do during this time.
Also, whenever I have made this over the years, it’s been a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, and it’s also been the recipe that I’ve been asked about the most, which is why I absolutely had to share it here on the blog.
This dish will make for a great replacement for Turkey on your Thanksgiving table, and can even be the star of your Holiday or New Year Party. It is best served with coriander mint yogurt chutney, some lemon wedges & raw onion rings on the side.
As far as we are concerned, it is one of the staples of most gatherings we have. Though, we often make it even when we don’t have guests at home, in which case, after we have gorged on the tandoori on the first day, we use the leftover chicken (mostly breast meat), and separate it into bite sized chunks to use it for tandoori chicken taco the next day; it’s resourceful and still very delicious.
I’ll share the taco recipe / alterations some other day, but for now, here’s my go-to recipe for making whole tandoori chicken with step by step photos and video.
Ingredients You Need
Whole Chicken – I have used the whole chicken from Costco, which weighs about 5 pounds. This recipe / quantity of masalas / cook time will work for chicken weighing from 4.5-5.5 pounds. If you are using a smaller or larger chicken, you can adjust the marinade & cook time accordingly.
Chicken Skin On vs Skin Off – I always prefer to remove the skin, and for this recipe I strongly recommend you do too. When you remove the skin off, it also becomes easier to make gashes in the meat and fill the marinade in it.
2 Step Marination – This recipe calls for a 2 step marination, one for tenderizing the chicken with lemon juice and salt, and the second marination is the tandoori masala marinade.
Though don’t forget to drain out the excess liquid from the first marinade as directed before applying the second marinade, else the marinade might be salty, and more liquid-y than required.
Marination Time – I have recommended marinating for 24 hours, which will require a little pre-planning. But trust me, it’s totally worth it for the taste. That being said, if you are in a hurry, a 4-6 hour marination will suffice.
Prep the Chicken
- Remove the skin and giblets (in case they come with the chicken) & discard them.
I know some people (like my husband) use the giblets, in which case you can feel free to apply the leftover spice mix to them, and roast them along with the chicken.
But as far as the skin goes, you need to take it out from everywhere, though you can keep the skin on the wings if you want to.
- Once you have removed the skin, clean the chicken thoroughly – inside & out.
- Then pat it dry really well with a paper towel, and make several gashes all through the chicken (for the spices to absorb better).
Make the Chicken Marinade(s)
- For this recipe, we make 2 different marinades. The first one to tenderize the chicken, the second one is the tandoori masala marinade to spice the chicken.
- For the first marinade, you need to mix together lemon juice and salt, and let the chicken sit in this mix for 20 mins.
If you feel like you cannot get the liquid everywhere, you can first apply the mix all over the whole chicken, and then let one side sit in the lemon salt mix for 10 mins, and then flip to the other side for 10 mins.
- Once the 20 minutes are up, ensure to dump out the excess liquid from the first marinade. Especially before you apply the second marinade it is important to dump out all excess liquid.
Making the Tandoori Masala Marinade
- For this second marinade, you need to mix together yogurt, ginger garlic paste, salt, chilli powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, tandoori masala, chaat masala, cornflour, kasoori methi powder & oil – in the quantities mentioned in the recipe card below – till you get a smooth paste.
- Apply this tandoori masala marinade all over the chicken, especially in the gashes that you made earlier, and set it aside to marinate in the fridge for about 18-24 hours.
I know 24 hours seems like a long time, but if you stay patient, you will realize that the flavor is worth the wait.
Having said that, in case you are short on time, you can definitely cut the marination time, but I’d still recommend to wait for at-least 4-6 hours.
Get the Chicken Out of the Fridge
Once you have let the chicken marinate well, take it out of the fridge, and set it on the counter to thaw for at-least 30 minutes, before you put it in the oven, because you don’t want to expose the chicken to extreme temperatures within a matter of few minutes.
However, at this point you can start prepping the chicken to get it ready to go in the oven.
Now, this next part is completely optional, but highly recommended. And I’ll tell you why.
Do you know how in the restaurants, the tandoori chicken has this crispy (for the want of a better word) skin on the surface?
I personally love that. But to be honest, in the many years I made the tandoori chicken at home, for the longest time, no matter how good it tasted, I could never replicate that outside texture.
I mean it was always perfectly juicy on the inside and also tasted amazing, but it just did not feel right on the outside, and it’s been something that has always bothered me.
So you can imagine my joy when I finally figured it out, and it’s something I have to share with you all, because that restaurant-like outside texture is ridiculously simple to achieve.
How to Get Restaurant Like Crisp Texture on the Outside
The secret to getting perfectly crisp tandoori chicken skin (while keeping the chicken moist & juicy on the inside) is merely sprinkling some cornflour on the chicken before putting it in the oven.
I’ll run you through the steps.
- Get the roaster out (on which you will set the chicken to bake in the oven), and place the whole chicken on it face up.
By face up, I mean that place the chicken on the side you want it to be when you finally take it out. I am only mentioning this, because you will be flipping the chicken twice during the roasting process, so it’s simpler to put it on the side you want it out.
- Once you have the chicken set on the roaster, dust corn flour on it through a tea strainer (so that you don’t accidentally dump a lot of corn flour) & also put a little oil over the chicken, and set it aside. It’s now ready to go in the oven.
If you noticed, I only told you to sprinkle corn flour & oil on one side. It’s not an oversight, I’ll come to the second side in a bit.
Of-course this whole oil & corn flour thing is optional, but highly recommended to get that perfect restaurant-like texture.
Get Chicken Into the Oven
Note: Before you actually heat the oven, it might be helpful, if you rearrange your oven racks, so that the rack on which you will place the chicken to cook is positioned right in the center of the oven, just so that there is enough place for the whole chicken to fit in comfortably, and everything cooks evenly.
And then –
- Preheat the Oven to 425 F.
- When the oven comes to temperature, put the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.
At the 30 minute mark, take the chicken out, and flip it on the other side. Now sprinkle some oil & dust the corn flour on this side as well, and put the chicken back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
- At the 1 hour mark, take the chicken out again, and flip it back to the side you first put it in, and put the chicken back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Important Note –
The above mentioned – final 15 minute mark is approximate. You can always do a temperature check to be sure the chicken is cooked all the way through, by inserting a kitchen thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken thigh.
If the temperature reads 165 F to 170 F – the chicken is cooked.
But in the absence of a way to accurately check meat temperature, an additional 10-15 minutes is about the time it will take for the chicken to cook completely.
Once ready, let the chicken cool for 10-15 minutes, before you carve out the pieces to serve. It tastes best when paired with this coriander mint yogurt chutney – that is perfect for pairing with tandoori recipes and kababs.
Using Food Color
If you want the restaurant like tandoori chicken color, then you can add a few drops of red food color in the second marinade. Below I’ve shared the photo of another 5 pound chicken using the same recipe, and a few additional drops of red food color in the tandoori masala marinade.
Storing / Using Tandoori Chicken Leftovers
If we have leftovers, it’s usually the breast meat. Because the legs & wings are always in high demand.
I usually break the meat into small chunks and refrigerate, to later use as taco filling. But you can use it to make quesadillas too. Or in sandwiches, or salads. Basically.. the possibilities are endless!
More Chicken Recipes to Try!
As always, I hope you found this recipe useful. If you did, please let me know your rating ⭐️ and feedback 📲 in the comments below, or simply rate the recipe right on the recipe card. I’d really appreciate it. ❤️
How to Make Whole Chicken Tandoori | Whole Tandoori Chicken Recipe
- 5 pounds whole chicken
- 5 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tbsp oil for basting
- 1-2 tbsp cornflour for dusting
Prep the Chicken
- Remove the skin & the giblets (in case they come with the chicken) and discard them. In case you want to use the giblets, clean them, apply the leftover spice mix to them & bake them alongside the whole chicken. But remove all the skin, though you can keep the skin on the wings, if you want to.
- Clean the chicken thoroughly – inside and out.
- Pat it completely dry, using a paper towel.
- Make several gashes through the chicken (for the spices to absorb better).
Marinate the Chicken
- Make the first marinade (to tenderize the chicken), by mixing 5 tbsp lemon juice / extract with 2 tsp salt.
- Let the chicken sit in this lemon-salt mix for 20 mins.
- Make the second marinade (to spice the chicken) by mixing together 1/2 cup yogurt, 4 tbsp ginger garlic paste, 3 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder, 1 tbsp garam masala powder, 1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tbsp tandoori masala powder, 1 tsp chaat masala powder, 1.5 tbsp cornflour, 2 tbsp kasoori methi powder, 1 tsp salt & 3 tbsp oil, till it forms a smooth paste.
- Dump out the excess liquid from the first marinade & apply the second (tandoori masala) marinade all over the chicken, especially inside the gashes made earlier.
- Set the chicken aside to marinate in the fridge for 18-24 hrs. If you are in a rush, you can marinate it for lesser time, but no less than 4-6 hrs.
- Once the chicken has marinated well, take it out of the fridge & set it on the counter to thaw for 30 mins, to let it come close to room temperature, before you put it in the oven.
Prep The Oven for Whole Chicken
- Before you heat the oven, re-arrange the oven racks so that the rack on which you will place the chicken is positioned right in the center of the oven, just so that there is enough place for the whole chicken to fit in comfortably, and everything cooks evenly.
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.
Making Whole Chicken Tandoori in the Oven
- Place the whole chicken face up on the roaster (which you will put in the oven to bake).
- Put a few drops of oil on the chicken, and then, using a tea strainer, sprinkle cornflour on the chicken.
- Place the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.
- At the 30 minute mark – take the chicken out, flip it to the other side, and add a few drops of oil & sprinkle cornflour to this side.
- Put the chicken back in for another 30 minutes.
- At the 1 hr mark – take the chicken out, flip it back to the side you first put it in, and put the chicken back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
- This 15 minute mark is approximate, and only to be used as an estimate if there is no other way to check if the chicken is done.
- The best way to know if the chicken is done, is to insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. If the temperature reads 165 F to 170 F – the chicken is cooked.
- Once the chicken is done, set the roaster on the counter, and let it cool down a bit for 15-20 minutes, before you carve and serve.
- Do not forget to dump out all excess liquid from the first marinade before you apply the second marinade.
- Do not forget to re-arrange the oven racks – before you pre-heat the oven – so that the rack on which you will place the chicken to roast is in the center of the oven. This is important to ensure the roaster and the whole chicken will fit well and cook evenly.
- Drizzling oil & sprinkling corn flour on the chicken before putting it in the oven is optional, but HIGHLY recommended. Especially if you want to get the crisp, restaurant like texture on the outside.
Please note: The nutrition values are best estimates provided as a courtesy. The exact values can vary depending on the exact ingredients or brands used. If you rely on them for your specific diet and/or health issues, please consult a registered dietician or nutritionist.
This post was first published in Jan 2018, and has been republished with updated notes /photos and recipe video in Nov 2020.
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