My Tandoori Chicken Kebabs feature succulent chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices and grilled to perfection! These tasty kebabs are equally suitable for a casual weeknight barbecue or for weekend entertaining. Serve them with yogurt and naan bread and you've got the perfect summer meal!
Grilling is one of my favorite healthy cooking techniques- it's quick, easy and uses a minimal amount of oil. Now that I live in South Florida, I can grill all year round. I make everything from Beef Kofta Kebabs to Spice-Rubbed Grilled Salmon to Cuban Mojo Pork Tenderloin on the grill.
Even if you don't have an outdoor grill, you can still grill using a stovetop grill pan. My grill pan has been one of my most used kitchen items ever since I started cooking years ago in my tiny New York City apartment!
If you're looking for something a little different to throw on the grill, you must try these Tandoori Chicken Kebabs. Serve a big platter of these tasty kebabs with my cucumber raita (yogurt sauce) on the side for dipping at your next backyard barbecue and watch them disappear!
Why You'll Love This Dish
- This Indian-inspired dish is packed with flavor!
- Marinating the chicken in yogurt makes it so tender and juicy
- It can be prepped ahead of time- the longer it marinates, the better!
- It's healthy- made with nutritious ingredients and grilled with minimal oil
- It's a great way to introduce your kids to spices- flavorful without being too spicy
- It's fun- who doesn't love food on a stick?
What Is Tandoori Chicken?
Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish that's a staple on most Indian restaurant menus. Traditionally, it’s prepared by marinating whole pieces of chicken overnight in a flavorful yogurt-based marinade. Then it's cooked at very high heat in a tandoor oven, a cylindrical clay oven.
Ordinarily, when you cook meat at such high heat, you run the risk of it drying out. But with tandoori chicken, the yogurt in the marinade helps keep the meat very moist and tender.
Since most of us don’t have a tandoor oven at home, you can use a grill or grill pan instead to get similar results. Grilling is one of my favorite healthy cooking techniques. It's quick, easy and uses a minimal amount of oil.
Tandoori Chicken Kebabs or Skewers
While tandoori chicken is usually made with whole chicken parts (like legs and thighs), I prefer to cut the chicken into cubes and skewer them. It's easier and the chicken cooks much faster. Prep these kebabs ahead of time and then you have a quick, healthy meal ready and waiting for you to throw on the grill on busy weeknights.
Kebabs are also great for entertaining, especially in the summertime. Who doesn't love food on a stick, right? They're the perfect finger food and there's no mess!
Plus, kids love kebabs. My kids gobble these up! This dish is a great way to introduce your kids to spices because it's very flavorful but not overly spicy.
An Indian dish like this may seem intimidating because of the number of spices. However, it’s actually pretty simple to make. All you have to do is purée the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor or blender and mix it with the chicken.
This tandoori marinade is very versatile and works well with other proteins as well such as shrimp, fish or lamb. For vegetarians, try this marinade with your favorite vegetables or tofu.
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs- I like to use chicken thighs because they stay moist when cooking. However, you can use chicken breast if you prefer.
- Plain yogurt- you can use Greek or regular yogurt. The yogurt does double-duty as a marinade and dipping sauce. As a marinade, it helps tenderize the chicken and infuse it with flavor.
- Aromatics- ginger and garlic are the foundation for building flavor in many Indian dishes. Fresh has more flavor but you can substitute dried ginger and garlic.
- Dried spices- although it seems like a lot of spices, once you have these spices, you can make pretty much any Indian dish! Many tandoori chicken recipes call for a type of Indian red chili powder known as Kashmiri chili powder, which has a deep red color and smoky flavor with a mild spice level. However, because it can be difficult to find it in most grocery stores, I often substitute a mixture of cayenne pepper and paprika. I use the following dried spices in this dish:
- garam masala (an Indian blend of dried spices)
- cayenne pepper
- Lemon juice- adds acidity to balance the spices
- Oil- I usually use grapeseed or vegetable oil for their neutral flavor but you can use olive oil
- Cucumber- for the cucumber raita dipping sauce
- Cilantro- adds brightness to the raita
One of my favorite healthy cooking tips is to “spice it up.” Adding bold spices to your food is a great way to add lots of flavor without adding calories and fat. Also, many spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This dish is packed with aromatic spices!
Step 1: Purée the yogurt, ginger, garlic, dried spices, lemon juice, and oil in a food processor.
Step 2: Cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces.
Step 3: Pour the marinade over the chicken.
Step 4: Stir to combine well. Marinate the chicken 1-2 hours or overnight.
Step 5: Thread the chicken onto skewers (if using bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 20 minutes first).
Step 6: Grill the kebabs on a grill or grill pan about 10-12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Turn them over halfway through.
Step 7: While the chicken is cooking, make the Cucumber Raita by mixing yogurt, cucumber, cumin, cilantro and salt together in a bowl.
Step 8: Serve tandoori chicken kebabs with cucumber raita, lemon wedges, and naan bread or basmati rice.
If you're using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 20 minutes first. That way, they won't burn on the grill.
What to Serve with These Kebabs
To counteract the spicy chicken, I like to serve my tandoori chicken kabobs with a cooling cucumber raita (see recipe card below). Raita is a traditional Indian condiment made with yogurt, cucumber and spices.
To round out the meal, you can serve naan (Indian flatbread) or basmati rice on the side. My Naan Bread Pudding with Spinach and Caramelized Onions is also a nice side dish.
Storage and Leftovers
Leftover tandoori chicken skewers can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. You can use leftover tandoori chicken in a wide variety of meals like my delicious Tandoori Chicken Pizza. You can also use it in sandwiches, wraps, and quesadillas or use it to top a green salad.
Yes, you can make these kebabs in the oven, on a grill or stovetop grill pan. If you cook them in the oven, they won't get the same char but they will still be juicy and delicious! To bake in the oven, place the skewers on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F about 20 minutes, turning the kebabs halfway through. The chicken is done when it reaches 165°F.
Tandoori chicken in restaurants often has red food coloring added to it to give it a characteristic bright red color. However, I like to add natural color with bright yellow turmeric and brick red paprika. Many tandoori chicken recipes call for type of Indian red chili powder known as Kashmiri chili powder, which gives the dish a deep red color and smoky flavor. If you can't find it, you can substitute a mixture of cayenne pepper and paprika, like I do in this recipe.
I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe because thighs stay moist and are less prone to drying out on the grill. However, you can use breast meat if you prefer. Chicken breast usually cooks a little faster so adjust the cooking time accordingly.
This tandoori chicken is flavorful without being overly spicy so it's a great dish to serve to your kids. Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to your preference. Start with just a small amount for a mild spice level (¼ teaspoon) or leave it out altogether.
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Tandoori Chicken Kebabs
- ½ cup plain regular or Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons garam masala*
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed, vegetable or olive oil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 18 oz), trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Oil for brushing the grill
- Cilantro leaves for garnish
- Lemon wedges for garnish
- ¾ cup plain regular or Greek yogurt
- ½ cup finely diced or grated English cucumber
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- To make the marinade for the chicken, place the first 12 ingredients (through oil) in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
- Place the chicken in a glass baking dish.
- Pour the marinade on top.
- Stir to coat all of the chicken pieces with the marinade. Marinate the chicken at least 1-2 hours or overnight.
- Heat a grill or grill pan over medium high heat and brush the grill with oil. Thread the chicken onto 8 wooden or metal skewers (about 9 inches in length). If using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 20 minutes first to prevent burning. Grill the kabobs about 10-12 minutes until the meat is cooked through, turning them over halfway through. Remove them from the grill.
- To make the cucumber raita, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Chill before serving.
- Serve kabobs with raita and naan or basmati rice, if desired. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lemon wedges.