Grab a slice of Tandoori Chicken Pizza, a flavorful Indian-inspired pizza topped with with homemade Tandoori Chicken. The chicken is spiced with tandoori masala and slightly charred in the oven, as if it came straight out of a tandoor! Top it with red onion and green pepper and it'll feel like you're in your favorite uncle's backyard (the one with the tandoor)!
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Tandoori Chicken is the best meat dish to come out of the Indian subcontinent. I'm obsessed with how flavorful it is, the vibrant red color from spices alone, the bit of charred pieces, and its versatility.
I became a huge fan of tandoori chicken as a child. There was an Indian restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona where I grew up for a few years where we'd always go to their buffet on the weekends. I'd load up my plate with tandoori chicken and chicken tikka masala with chawal (rice). If you don't already know, the only meat I eat is chicken. But boyyy do I love Indian chicken dishes!
Their tandoori chicken drumsticks were my absolute favorite. It was lightly charred, flavorful, and red in color without any food coloring. My heart broke when the restaurant was sold to a new owner. They got rid of the weekend buffets, and the tandoori chicken along with it. Thankfully, my uncle in the Bay Area is famous for his tandoori chicken, made on the grill in his backyard. Every time we visited, I got to watch him make it, and we all fiended over grabbed a leg as soon as it was ready.
This Tandoori Chicken Pizza is topped with homemade tandoori chicken, no tandoor necessary! It's accompanied by homemade pizza sauce that's spiced with tandoori masala. Lastly, it's topped with plenty of cheese, red onion, and green bell pepper. Then, it's baked in the oven at the highest heat possible so that it gets those charred bits which are reminiscent of tandoori chicken made in a tandoor.
What is Tandoori Chicken?
Tandoori chicken is a dry chicken dish made by roasting chicken in a tandoor, a clay oven, after marinating it in dahi (yogurt) and an assortment of spices that give it a vibrant red color. The dish itself originated from the region of Punjab in the Indian subcontinent, and dates back to before the independence of India and partition in the mid-1900s.
It's often served as an appetizer, or even as a main course along with naan or rice. It's said to have inspired butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, as well as many other Indian chicken dishes which use yogurt and spices as a marinade.
The best part is that because tandoori chicken is dry as opposed to Indian curries, it's also versatile enough to add to just about anything, i.e. burritos, quesadillas, pizza, etc.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
To make the actual pizza, you'll need pizza dough (store-bought or homemade), cheese, pizza sauce, and your favorite toppings.
- Pizza dough - I've kept the pizza dough open to your preference, whether you have a favorite pizza dough or purchase pre-made dough from the grocery store. Thin or thick crust work super well. If you like thin crust, you can try my homemade No-Yeast Pizza Dough. Feel free to use gluten-free crusts as well.
Cheese - I think mozzarella cheese goes the best with Indian spices! It's mild, yet tangy and delicious.
- Pizza Sauce - We're making a homemade pizza sauce using San Marzano whole peeled tomatos and Indian techniques and ingredients. You can also substitute it with plain pizza sauce, but try adding a bit of tandoori masala to it for the extra burst of flavor.
- Toppings - The main toppings I'm recommending are red onion and green bell pepper, which is what tandoori chicken is typically served with at our family barbecues.
To marinate the chicken, I've denoted the spices which may require a trip to the Indian grocer with an asterisk* and included substitutions if you can't find them. A lot of businesses also sell readymade tandoori chicken marinade, which will work just as well.
- Chicken - I prefer to just buy chicken tender cuts so that the tandoori masala has more surface area to cover and bring flavor to. You can also cut chicken breasts into smaller sizes. Chicken thigh will work as well. A good vegetarian substitution would be to use cubed paneer and marinate it the same way.
- Ginger garlic paste - A must in every Indian dish. Use equal amounts of finely minced ginger and garlic instead.
- Kasuri methi* - Or dried fenugreek leaves. This can be omitted, but imparts a bit of flavor. It can also be substituted with dried cilantro.
- Lemon juice - For freshness and acidity
- Yogurt - Preferably dahi, or Indian curd yogurt. Plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt works as well. It adds a bit of tang, balances out any spiciness, and coats the chicken in the marinade.
- Tandoori masala* - An absolute must! I prefer store bought mix, but you can also make your own at home. The tandoori masala brings the vibrant red color to tandoori chicken. If it's not red enough, add more Kashmiri chili powder. A lot of people also use red food coloring to get the red color. There's really no substitutions for this masala. It's a must.
How to make Tandoori Chicken
This is, admittedly, an abridged version of making tandoori chicken. But, rest be assured we are still getting the full impact of the flavor! We are just skipping a few steps (i.e. cutting slits and basting in chili oil) that I would generally do for maximum flavor and getting the vibrant red color.
Also, 98% of people don't have a tandoor at home, which feels like a must for tandoori chicken. An oven makes tandoori chicken super easy and accessible. Alternatively, if you have a grill, then grilled tandoori chicken is the next best alternative to a tandoor!
- Marinate the chicken. Use a ziploc bag, a bowl, whatever you have to marinate your chicken. Add the ginger garlic paste, kasuri methi, lemon juice, oil, yogurt, and tandoori masala into the bowl and whisk it together. Slice the chicken into tenders, or into half so it gets more surface area. Place the chicken into the bowl with the marinade and toss it thoroughly so the chicken is completely coated. The tandoori masala is key to getting the red color, so add more Kashmiri chili powder as necessary or red food coloring. The yogurt balances out the spiciness. Cover the chicken and refrigerate it for a minimum of 1 hour, and ideally marinate it overnight to let the flavors permeate the chicken.
- Bake the chicken. If you have a tandoor, please invite me over. Otherwise, bake the chicken at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 165°F to ensure it has fully cooked. The chicken should char in a few places, which is where all the delicious flavor is! Be careful not to overcook it, otherwise the chicken will be very dry.
- Shred the chicken. Once the chicken is ready, pull it out of the oven. Use two forks to shred the chicken into smaller, bite-size pieces. Alternatively, toss the chicken into a bowl and use a stand mixer or handheld mixer to shred the chicken quickly. Be careful not to overshred.
If you have leftover shredded tandoori chicken, I highly recommend making this Cheesy Tandoori Chicken Garlic Bread!
How to Make Tandoori Masala Pizza Sauce
To make the pizza sauce, we combine making a classic pizza sauce with a few components from Indian cooking, namely ginger garlic paste and adding the masala.
Start by heating olive oil in a large pot, and then adding in the diced onion and ginger garlic paste. Cook the onion until it's translucent, and the ginger garlic paste should be aromatic. Next, add the whole peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, tandoori masala, sugar, and oregano. Smash the whole tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
Allow the sauce to simmer for ideally around 30 minutes so it thickens up and is rich with flavor. Use an immersion blender so the sauce is silky smooth.
Assembling the Pizza
Before assembly, preheat your oven to 550°F, or as high as your oven will go. I don't know about you guys, but it always causes the smoke alarm to go off in my tiny NYC apartment, so be sure to open your windows. To assemble the pizza, begin by prepping your toppings. My recommendations are thin slices of green bell pepper and red onion.
Start by oiling your surface - if you're using a cast iron skillet, rub a bit of olive oil on the bottom and sides. Other surfaces, like a pizza pan or pizza stones, may require using cornmeal to ensure your pizza doesn't stick to the surface.
If you're using refrigerated store-bought pizza dough, let it come to room temperature for half an hour before use, otherwise it'll be difficult to stretch. Once it's at room temperature, transfer your desired amount of pizza dough to the skillet and begin using your fingertips to stretch it out evenly to the sides.
Next, ladle in a serving of the tandoori-spiced pizza sauce we made into the middle of the pizza. Use the bottom of the ladle to spread the pizza sauce in a circular motion to the edges. Now, cover the pizza in fresh or shredded mozzarella, and then a layer of shredded tandoori chicken. Then, add the toppings.
Transfer the pizza to the hot oven using oven mitts - be careful with the blast of hot air! Bake the pizza for 13-15 minutes. Immediately pull it out of the oven when it's done. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into 6-8 slices.
The Best Toppings for Tandoori Chicken Pizza
Plain Tandoori Chicken is typically served with roasted green bell pepper, rings of red onion, and a wedge of lemon juice. It's also served with raita, which is made out of dahi, to balance out any spicy flavors.
For Tandoori Chicken Pizza, I recommend bell peppers (red or green) and red onions as your main toppings. Other toppings that would be great are cloves of garlic, diced tomato, jalapeños or serrano peppers, or mushrooms. I would also use mozzarella cheese as opposed to other cheeses. A spritz of lemon juice would also be delicious and compliment the chicken!
If you like saucy pizza, I would highly recommend a side of raita for dipping or drizzling on the pizza. I also think brushing a garlic butter mixture on the crust while hot would be a serious game-changer.
More Indian Dinner Recipes to try
- Butter Masala Pasta
- Whole Masoor Dal
- Paneer Masala Cheesesteaks
- Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Creamy Garam Masala Lemon Butter Chicken
Tandoori Chicken Pizza
- ~20 oz pizza dough, see notes
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese
- red onion, for topping
- green bell pepper, for topping
Tandoori Pizza Sauce (makes ~16 servings)
- Add the ginger garlic paste, kasuri methi, lemon juice, oil, yogurt, and tandoori masala into a bowl and whisk it together. Slice the chicken breasts into tenders (into half) and place them in the bowl. Toss the marinade and chicken to coat it completely. Cover the chicken and marinate it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour. Towards the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- While the chicken is marinating, make the Tandoori Pizza Sauce. In a large pot, pour in the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and ginger garlic paste and sauté until the onion begins to brown and the paste is aromatic.
- Add in the tomato paste, whole peeled tomatoes, salt, black pepper, tandoori masala, oregano, and sugar. Smash the whole tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes until it's thickened and rich in flavor. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce.
- Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge and transfer it to a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes at 400°F, or until the internal temperature has reached 165°F. The chicken will be charred in certain areas.
- Using two forks, shred all of the chicken into small pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 550°F, or as high as the oven will go. Assemble the pizza. If using a store-bought pizza dough, let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before use. Rub a cast iron skillet in olive oil. If using a pizza peel or sheet pan, be sure to use corn meal to prevent sticking.
- Transfer the pizza dough to the skillet. Use your fingertips to stretch the dough out to the edges. Ladle in a scoop of pizza sauce to the middle, and then use the bottom of the ladle to spread out the sauce in circular motions to the edge.
- Top the pizza with mozzarella cheese, shredded tandoori chicken, and the sliced toppings. Bake the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the skillet with oven mitts and place it on to a heat resistant surface. Garnish with cilantro or basil, according to preference. Use a pizza cutter to cut the pizza into 6-8 slices. Enjoy while hot.
- The amount of pizza dough is entirely dependent on personal preference according to size of pizza and how thick the crust is. Start with 1-ounce per inch, and make adjustments to the thickness by adding or removing dough. Most store-bought pizza doughs are enough for 2 10-inch thin crust pizzas, be sure to read instructions before use.
- If you're baking at 550°F, be sure to open a few windows to prevent the smoke alarm from setting off.
- If you're using a pizza peel and pizza stones, let the pizza stones preheat with the oven at the highest temperature. Dust the pizza peel with a bit of cornmeal so it's easier to shimmy off the pizza on to the pizza stones in the hot oven.