Marinated in a vibrant blend of yogurt, aromatic spices, and herbs, this spatchcocked Whole Roasted Tandoori Chicken is a bold and flavorful main dish to impress your guests. It's roasted and broiled to crispy, charred perfection in an oven that mimics using a tandoor. Serve it with Cucumber Mint Raita and Saffron Rice as your main course at a dinner party.
My favorite thing to get at an Indian buffet is several drumsticks of tandoori chicken with saffron rice. The charred crispy bits are wildly satisfying.
Thankfully, it's absolutely replicable at home in an oven without spending thousands on a tandoor. Roasting at a temperature above 400°F and then broiling results in the crispy, charred texture that we all know and love.
The Roasted Whole Tandoori Chicken is perfect for a large family, for a dinner or holiday party, or as an alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving. I've received rave reviews about how gorgeously vibrant and flavorful it is.
- Why you'll love this Recipe
- What is Tandoori Chicken?
- Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Recommended Kitchen Equipment
- How to Spatchcock a Chicken
- How to Oven Roast a Whole Tandoori Chicken
- How to Carve a Spatchcocked Chicken
- What to serve with Roasted Tandoori Chicken
- Expert Tips and Tricks
- More Indian Chicken Recipes to try
Why you'll love this Recipe
If you love tandoori chicken at an Indian restaurant, you're undoubtedly going to love how thorough these step-by-step detailed instructions are to make it at home.
- The roast and broil method gets the chicken nice and crispy like it does in the tandoor.
- There are several ways that I offer to simplify or take this recipe to the next level. Some examples are how to add a smoked flavor and making our own spice blend instead of a premixed tandoori masala.
- Spatchcocking a chicken means you'll end up with a juicy, evenly cooked roasted chicken that your guests will love.
- It great for your family with leftovers to make Tandoori Chicken Pizza and Cheesy Tandoori Chicken Garlic Bread, for a small dinner party, a flavorful alternative to Thanksgiving turkey, or for meal prepping.
What is Tandoori Chicken?
A tandoor is an Indian clay oven that's traditionally used to bake breads on the hot surface inside or to roast meat. It can reach temperatures of 900°F.
Tandoori Chicken is a type of Indian roast chicken marinated in a yogurt-base with spices, ginger, garlic, kasuri methi, and lemon. It's then cooked in a tandoor until it's smoky and slightly charred. It's typically found at Indian restaurants, weddings, or a family backyard barbeque.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Whole Chicken - You'll need a 3.5 - 5lbs whole chicken. A normal serving size is 4 ounces of chicken, or a ¼ pound, but account for the weight of the bones when thinking about the size of chicken to purchase. Some grocery stores sell spatchcocked chickens for a few extra dollars, or you can ask your butcher to spatchcock it for you.
- Yogurt - Plain whole milk yogurt, like Indian dahi, is the best but you can use plain whole milk yogurt or full-fat Greek yogurt.
- Ginger Garlic Paste - Or as I call it, gigi paste! This is simply a 50/50 mix of ginger and garlic that's blended into a paste. You can easily make ginger garlic paste at home in a mortar and pestle or blender, or purchase it readymade. Fresh is always best!
- Lemon juice - Lemon removes the chicken smell, goes in the marinade, and a squeeze of it is a must for serving.
- Spices - We use all ground spices for this recipe, including - freshly ground black pepper, coriander, garam masala, cumin, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, and green cardamom. You can also add cayenne pepper for a bit of heat. If you have dried Kashmiri chilis, rehydrate 3-4 in warm water and blend them into a paste.
- Kasuri Methi - Dried fenugreeks leaves are a traditional herb to a lot of Indian chicken recipes.
- Oil - Use a neutral oil that can withstand high roasting temperatures like vegetable, avocado, coconut, or canola oil.
If you want to simplify this recipe even further, you can buy premixed tandoori masala from most Indian grocery stores or online.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Why spatchcock, or butterfly, a chicken in the first place? Well, spatchcocking lays the chicken flat, so the entirety of the chicken gets an even and faster cook. Cooking it trussed will result in the chicken breasts cooking first, and will easily dry out the juiciest part while the rest is still cooking.
For Tandoori Chicken, the skin of the chicken is removed so we also can't put butter under the skin to keep the chicken moist and juicy while it bakes.
Nowadays, most grocery stores sell packaged spatchcocked chickens or you can ask your butcher to do it for you. But if those options aren't available to you, then I promise spatchcocking a kitchen is really straightforward.
First, start off with a clean work surface. Now, flip the chicken so the breasts are facing downwards. Locate the backbone of the chicken. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut on both sides of the backbone to remove it completely.
Now, flip the chicken back over. Stack both of your hands over the breast plate and push down. You should hear a crack and the chicken will flatten.
Note: You may also need to remove the giblets from the chicken cavity.
How to Oven Roast a Whole Tandoori Chicken
Now that you've spatchcocked your chicken, let's get into marinating and roasting the chicken!
Marinating the Chicken
Start by removing the chicken skin everywhere except the wings. Typically, Indian chicken is skinless, as tragic as that may be to some.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. With a chef's knife, make three deep cuts on each chicken leg and breast.
Cut a lemon in half. Rub a half of the lemon all over the chicken. Then, sprinkle the salt and Kashmiri chili powder all over the chicken and rub it in using a brush or with gloved hands.
Let the chicken dry out in the fridge for at least an hour. This is how the chicken's surface gets nice and crispy in the oven.
In the meantime, let's work on the tandoori marinade. In a large mixing bowl that can fit your chicken, add the yogurt, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, coriander, garam masala, cumin, kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, green cardamom, kasuri methi, and vegetable oil. Give everything a really good mix until you have your tandoori paste.
Pro Tip: Kashmiri chili powder is a mild chili powder and gives that really bright red color you see in butter chicken and tandoori chicken. If you want it even brighter, the trick is to use a red food coloring powder or a few drops of red food coloring. Just check on if Red 40 is listed, because a lot of people are allergic to it so you may want to avoid some food dyes.
The yogurt is what keeps the chicken tender and moist without the skin. Be sure to use dahi, or plain whole milk yogurt.
Remove the chicken from the fridge. Wearing a pair of gloves, put the chicken into the bowl with the tandoori paste and really massage and rub it into every nook and cranny.
Cover the bowl with cling wrap and return it to the fridge to marinate. Ideally, you marinate it for 8 hours or a full 24 hours for maximum flavors. However, the tandoori paste is so flavorful you can even get away with 1 hour.
Note: Be sure to clean and sanitize your workspace after working with raw chicken.
Roasting the Chicken
Once the chicken is done marinating, put the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F. A hot temperature over 400°F is the difference between roasting a chicken to create a crispy crust on the outside vs baking it at a lower temperature.
While the oven is preheating, line a roasting pan or half baking sheet with aluminum foil. Top it with the rack. Spray or brush the rack with a bit of neutral oil to prevent sticking.
Lay the chicken on top of the rack, being sure to tuck in the wings. Don't rinse out the leftover marinade! Once the oven is ready, transfer the tray to the oven. Roast the chicken for 25 minutes to start with.
Remove the tray from the oven. Brush the remaining marinade all over the top of the chicken. Return the tray to the oven to continue roasting. For a 4lbs chicken, it should take about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes total. Refer to FoodSafety.gov for roasting guidelines.
To check for doneness -
Insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast, chicken thigh, and under the wing. We're looking for an internal temperature read of 160 - 165°F. Keep in mind that the internal temperature will continue to rise out of the oven. The juices should also run clear.
How to Carve a Spatchcocked Chicken
Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving into it.
Carving a spatchcocked chicken is much easier than a trussed chicken!
The chicken legs should be already almost falling off the chicken, so start there by sliding a chef's knife where the thighs connects to the breast via the skin. You can cut the drumstick from the thigh if you'd prefer to, as well.
Next, cut alongside the keel bone in the middle and then glide the knife along the flattened bone cage to remove the breasts. Cut those into slices for serving.
Lastly, pop the joint at the wings and cut the wings off. They'll be the crispiest and sooo good!
What to serve with Roasted Tandoori Chicken
Serve the Whole Roasted Tandoori Chicken with a side of Cucumber Mint Raita, Saffron Rice, and Cilantro-Mint Chutney. Your guests will love that there's flavor throughout each and every portion of the dish. It's also amazing with Naan.
For garnish, we love a heavy sprinkle of lemon juice, raw onion slices, and cilantro.
Expert Tips and Tricks
Removing the chicken skin. If you decide not to remove the chicken skin, that's totally fine. Just be sure to get the marinade inside the skin and on top of it. You may need extra marinade. If you are removing the chicken skin, be extra careful where the legs join the breast. We removed the backbone when we spatchcocked the chicken, so the joints are gone.
Spice level. Kashmiri chili powder is a really mild chili powder. I truly don't think anyone with low spice tolerances will have an issue. If you'd like more spice, add cayenne pepper or break down a serrano pepper in a mortar and pestle and add it in with the marinade.
Using yogurt. Use a whole milk-based yogurt, like dahi or whole milk plain yogurt from any grocery store. It keeps the chicken tender and juicy while roasting at higher temperatures. However, you can omit it and just use extra oil to make a paste. Just be sure to baste the chicken in ghee or butter every 25 minutes to keep it moist.
Wear kitchen safe gloves when rubbing in the tandoori paste. Especially if you're using food dye!
A smoky flavor. Using a tandoor also imparts a bit of a smoky flavor to the chicken that's hard to replicate at home. However, you can use 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika. Another option is to place a little bowl filled with hot coal in the mixing bowl with the marinade, spoon a tablespoon of ghee into it, and then cover the mixing bowl with a plate for 5 minutes to impart the smoky flavor. Then discard of the coal and ghee.
More Indian Chicken Recipes to try
Whole Oven-Roasted Tandoori Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, (4-5 lbs) spatchcocked
- ½ lemon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder
- ½ cup whole milk yogurt, or dahi
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1.5 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoon Kashmiri chili powder
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi, (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 drops red food coloring, (optional)
- red onion, lemon slices, and chopped cilantro
- Start with spatchcocking, or butterfly, your chicken. You can ask your butcher to spatchcock it for you. Otherwise, flip the chicken over to it's back. With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken. Flip it over again. Press down on the breast plate to crack it so that it lays flat.
- Remove the skin from the entirety of the chicken, except the wings. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Use a chef's knife to cut three deep gashes on each thigh and each breast.
- For the Dry Brine, rub a halved lemon all over the chicken. Then, rub the salt and kashmiri chili powder all over the chicken. Refrigerate the chicken for at least an hour to let the chicken's surface dry out and absorb the dry brine.
- In a large mixing bowl that can fit the chicken, mix together the wet marinade - the yogurt, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, coriander, garam masala, cumin, kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, cardamom, kasuri methi, and vegetable oil.(Optional) Add 2-3 drops of red food coloring for a vibrant red chicken.
- Pull on a pair of kitchen gloves. Transfer the chicken to the mixing bowl and massage the marinade all over the chicken. Cover and place in the fridge for 8 hours, ideally for 24 hours for the best flavor. 1 hour is the absolute minimum for marinating.
- After the chicken has marinated, preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and place the rack on top. Spray or brush the rack with oil. Place the chicken on the rack, tucking the wings underneath the chicken.
- Transfer the chicken to the middle rack in the oven. Roast the chicken for 25 minutes. Carefully remove it from the oven. Brush the chicken with the remaining marinade. Put the chicken back in the oven. Continue roasting for another 20 minutes, adding 15 minutes for each additional pound of chicken, i.e. 4lbs = 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Turn the broiler on high and broil the chicken for 5 minutes to char it. Remove the chicken from the oven. To check for doneness, use a food thermometer to measure for 165℉ at the thickest part of the breast, the thigh, and under the wing and that the juices run clear. *See Notes
- Allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes before carving into it.