Grilled Tandoori Chicken Thighs

5 from 1 vote
5 from 1 vote

Delicious tandoori chicken thighs fired over the grill. Prepared in a Kashmiri chili and yogurt marinade, these grilled chicken skewers are tender, juicy, and loaded with incredible flavor.

grilled tandoori chicken

These grilled tandoori chicken thighs are delicious scooped up with naan and raita, as the perfect topping for a salad, or even added to your favorite butter chicken sauce to give an even greater depth of flavor. Once you add this recipe to your grilling arsenal, you’ll come back to it time and time again.

From making the perfect marinade to keeping your chicken perfectly juicy, here’s how to make grilled tandoori chicken today. Let’s get cooking!

grilled tandoori chicken

What is Tandoori Chicken?

Ranked among the most beloved Punjabi recipes, tandoori chicken stands out for its rich spice-laden flavor and juicy texture achieved through a two-step marinating process. The meat is first soaked in lemon juice and salt to help tenderize it before it’s then marinated in a yogurt packed full of spices, garlic, and ginger for a punch of flavor. It’s also known by many for being vivid red but this is often due to a food colorant being added rather than any particular ingredient.

The chicken derives its name from the oven in which it’s cooked, known as a tandoor. This is a ripping hot clay oven that quickly cooks the meat and imbues it with a distinctive smoky flavor. The cylindrical clay oven is heated below with charcoals and is open at the top to allow long skewers of meat, fish, and cheese to be placed inside. Anything cooked in this fashion is referred to as ‘tandoori’. Don’t worry: we’ll tell you how to capture that same taste on your grill at home. 


You only need a handful of ingredients to make this Punjabi delicacy. Keep them in stock, and you can make a takeaway favorite whenever the urge strikes. 

  • Chicken Thighs: We’re using boneless chicken thighs for this recipe, although traditionally entire legs or even the whole bird are used
  • Lemon Juice: Combined with salt, the lemon juice provides a more traditional marinade for tenderizing the chicken with the acid breaking down and tenderize the meat
  • Yogurt: The lactic acid in the yogurt works similarly to the lemon juice in softening the meat, but also adds a creaminess to the final dish. Full-fat yogurt is best here as it doesn’t contain as much water, so results in a thicker marinade.
  • Spices: These are key to the end result of tandoori chicken, so try to ensure you buy good quality as it really does affect the flavor. Garam masala, coriander and cinnamon are the spices used here to create the traditional tandoori taste.
  • Chili Powder: Kashmiri chili powder is traditionally used but if can’t find that, substitute for a 3:1 smoky paprika to cayenne pepper mix
  • Garlic: Some recipes will use garlic powder, but fresh garlic is traditional and gives a more pronounced flavor 

How to Serve Tandoori Chicken

This flavorful meat can be served in so many different ways but these are our favorites:

  • Traditionally the chicken will be presented alongside rice, naan, and raita. The naan is used to wrap all the other ingredients to create the perfect mouthful
  • Add the charred chicken to a curry to take the flavor to the next level. It’s thought that butter chicken and chicken tikka masala were both created to use up leftover tandoor meat 
  • Salads are always made better with the addition of this well-flavored meat and we like to boost the taste with pops of fruit like pomegranate or sultanas.
  • Add a twist to the traditional chicken salad sandwich by using tandoori chicken meat as the base
grilled tandoori chicken

Quick Tips

  • Metal skewers are best for grilling meat as they are great conductors of heat so ensure a more even cook (be careful then handling them though – they can get hot!). If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in advance to keep from burning.
  • Pat the chicken dry before marinating to prevent excess water from thinning it out
  • Try to marinate the chicken in the spiced yogurt for as long as possible (2 hours minimum and up to 24) to add as much flavor as possible 
  • When basting the chicken with butter, be careful to do this to each skewer is over indirect heat. If you do it directly over hot coals or burner, you risk creating dangerous flare-ups.
  • If some skewers are cooking more quickly than others, make sure to move them from direct heat to indirect (and vice-versa) to help them cook 
grilled tandoori chicken

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Thighs

5 from 1 vote
Delicious tandoori chicken thighs fired over the grill. Prepared in a Kashmiri chili and yogurt marinade, these grilled chicken skewers are tender, juicy, and loaded with incredible flavor.
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Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Marinating Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • metal skewers


  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

First Marinade

  • 4 lemons juice of
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder

Second Marinade

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 green chilis
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp salt


  • 2 tbsp butter melted

For Serving

  • fresh cilantro roughly chopped
  • 4 flatbreads lightly toasted


  • Slice the chicken thigh into 1-inch pieces, big enough to be skewered
  • In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice, salt, and 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder. Add the chicken to the mixture and toss to coat. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour
  • Make the second marinade by blending the garlic, ginger, and green chilis into a paste (I use an immersion blender but you can use a food processor). Add the paste to a small bowl, and add the yogurt, garam masala, Kashmiri chili powder, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, and salt. Combine well.
  • Add the second marinade to the chicken thighs with the first marinade. Combine well (I just use my hands) and cover again. Place back in the refrigerator and marinate for a further 2 hours.
  • Fire up your grill to medium-high 375-400°F (190-205°C). Set up for 2-zone cooking, with a direct side with the coals and an indirect side without any. We will be using both sides during the cook.
  • Thread the chicken onto skewers, packing as many as you want onto each skewer
  • When the grill’s up to temperature, oil the grate to prevent sticking and then lay the chicken skewers on it. Grill for 15-20 minutes, basting with the melted butter and turning occasionally until cooked through.
  • Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and flatbreads

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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