Tandoori Chicken Legs

5 from 3 votes
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Make juicy Tandoori Chicken Legs and bring Indian-inspired flavors to your next backyard barbecue! Soak drumsticks in a simple, savory marinade rich with coconut milk, lime, and savory spices and toss them on the grill or in the oven for the most tender and flavorful chicken.

Easy Tandoori Chicken Legs

While the word “tandoori” often evokes thoughts of spicy Indian cuisine, it really refers to the method of cooking in a tandoor oven. Using the grill or cooking the chicken on a rack in the oven produces a similar result. It’s really all about the marinade.

This tandoori chicken legs recipe uses coconut milk as the base for the marinade as opposed to the traditional yogurt in order to make a dairy-free version with an extra infusion of flavor. The acid in the yogurt is supposed to help the flavors work their way through the meat. In order to have the acid, the marinade uses the juice of the lime instead of just the zest.

After a long soak, the heavily seasoned marinade permeates the meat and ensures moist and tender chicken legs that are bursting with flavors and spices, but definitely not blow-you-away hot. Whether you bake or grill these tandoori chicken drumsticks, your mind will be blown by how fabulous it tastes.

A platter of grilled spiced chicken legs.

Why You’ll Love This Chicken Tandoori Recipe

I love this recipe for its ease of preparation and amazing flavor. It’s almost like getting takeout but it’s actually from my own kitchen! Here’s why you’ll love this tandoori chicken recipe:

  • You can control the heat level. I love making Indian-inspired dishes at home because I can control the level of spice. This makes it accessible to those of us who may not prefer a lot of heat! But you can also add more spiciness if that’s to your taste.
  • The wonderful spice mix. These tandori chicken drumsticks are marinated with a lot of warm and smoky spices including cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom. They are so flavorful and succulent.
  • So versatile. I love that you can cook this tandoori chicken recipe on the grill or in the oven! I’ve included instructions for each cooking method below to guide you through it.
Grilled tandoori chicken legs on a plate with rice.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you need to make tandoori chicken. Make sure to check your spice cabinet before you start to make sure you have all the spices you’ll need. Don’t forget to scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post for the full ingredient amounts.

  • Coconut Milk: I used light coconut milk in this recipe but you could also use full-fat coconut milk.
  • Lime: Both the zest and juice is needed.
  • Cilantro: You’ll use fresh cilantro in the marinade and for a garnish.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic brings wonderful flavor to the chicken.
  • Ground Spices: You’ll use a mix of dried ground ginger, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper.
  • Chicken Legs: Pick up one big package, about 3-4 pounds of chicken.
Ingredients needed to make tandoori chicken.

How to Make Chicken Tandoori

Follow my simple methods for making the juiciest, most flavorful chicken tandoori. I’ve included details for cooking these on the grill or in the oven.

  • Make the marinade. In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime zest and juice, cilantro, garlic, paprika, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Stir until well mixed.
  • Coat the chicken in the marinade. Transfer the marinade and chicken legs to a large plastic storage bag or a bowl and mix around until the chicken is thoroughly coated. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.

To Grill the Chicken

  • Prepare the grill and the chicken, then cook. To grill the chicken, preheat your grill to medium, remove the chicken from the marinade, dry it with paper towels, and place it on the grill. Grill over indirect medium heat for 40-50 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the meat reaches a temperature of 165°F.
  • Add cilantro and serve. Sprinkle the chicken with additional cilantro for garnish if desired and serve immediately.

To Bake the Chicken

  • Prepare the oven and bake the chicken. Preheat the oven to 450°F, and place a cooling rack on top of a cooking sheet. Remove the chicken from the marinade, dry it with paper towels, and place it on the rack. Bake for 30 minutes, flip the legs, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the meat reaches a temperature of 165°F.
  • Add cilantro and serve. Sprinkle with additional cilantro for garnish if desired and serve immediately.
Close-up of grilled chicken legs

Tips for Success

A few tips outlined below will help you to make the best tandoori chicken:

  • Marinate the chicken for as long as possible. The longer the chicken sits in the marinade, the longer it will soak up all those good flavors and make an extra flavorful result. If you can, 4-6 hours is an ideal length of time to marinate the chicken.
  • Prepare the chicken the night before. To help with prep, you can prepare the chicken and the marinade the night before and keep it in an airtight container or sealable bag in the fridge. This also means the chicken will have longer to marinate, which goes back to tip no. 1!
  • You can serve the chicken warm or at room temperature. This chicken is so good served hot off the grill, simply warm, or even at room temperature, making it great for picnics or potlucks.
  • Make it at an outdoor picnic. Speaking of picnics, you can prepare the chicken and marinade in advance, then bring it along in a sealable bag in a cooler to toss on the grill at your picnic site. You could also bring tandoor chicken camping and cook it on your campsite grill.

FAQs

What is tandoori chicken?

Tandoori chicken is a South Asian dish of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and roasted in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven. 

How is it different from tikka masala?

The main difference is that tikka masala uses pieces of cut-up chicken while tandoori chicken typically calls for a whole or half chicken.

A platter of grilled spiced chicken legs.

Make it a Meal

Round out tandoori chicken with loads of options including:

  • Have some naan. Even if you have to avoid wheat, you can still have the classic pairing and enjoy my gluten free naan recipe.
  • With cauliflower rice. My Browned Butter Cauliflower Rice can be made with ghee (clarified butter) for an Indian touch to this low-carb side dish that also keeps it paleo.
  • White or brown rice. My methods for making white rice or brown rice will help you make perfect rice to go along with these chicken legs.
  • Flavorful rice. My Cilantro Lime Rice would be so wonderful with this tandoori chicken recipe! Lime in the rice and in the chicken will bring loads of bright and sweet citrus flavor.
  • Add vegetables. Tandoori chicken legs plus a side of Air Fryer Broccoli would make for a healthy and light dinner. My Crispy Air Fryer Green Beans also make a great pairing with this chicken dish.
  • A side of potatoes. Potatoes and chicken just seem made for each other, and you have several options here. Go neutral with fluffy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, or make a pile of Air Fryer French Fries.
Grilled tandoori chicken legs on a plate with rice.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Store leftover tandoori chicken legs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To serve, place the chicken in a microwave-safe dish and gently heat in the microwave in 30-second increments until heated through. To heat in the oven, place the chicken on a baking sheet and heat in the oven on low until hot.

Can I Freeze Chicken Tandoori?

Yes, you can freeze chicken tandoori. To freeze it uncooked, place the chicken and marinade in a freezer-safe sealable bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost it in the fridge before proceeding with the recipe. You can also freeze leftover chicken. Place the chicken in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost it in the fridge before reheating.

A platter of grilled spiced chicken legs.

Things You’ll Need

  • To get the most zest and juice out of those limes, I like to use a Microplane zester and a handheld citrus squeezer.
  • A set of tongs is essential whether you cook the chicken on the grill or in the oven, but in the oven you can get that grilling effect by cooking them on a metal rack.
Close-up of grilled chicken legs
5 from 3 votes

Tandoori Chicken Legs

Make juicy Tandoori Chicken Legs and bring Indian-inspired flavors to your next backyard barbecue! Soak drumsticks in a simple, savory marinade rich with coconut and savory spices and toss them on the grill or in the oven for the tenderest, most flavorful chicken.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Marinating Time 6 hours
Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 14 -oz. can light coconut milk
  • 1 lime zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro, plus additional for garnish, if desired
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-4 pounds chicken legs

Instructions

  • In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime zest and juice, cilantro, garlic, paprika, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Stir until well mixed.
  • Transfer the marinade and chicken legs to a large plastic storage bag or a bowl and mix around until the chicken is thoroughly coated. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.

For grilling the chicken:

  • If you are grilling, preheat your grill to medium, remove the chicken from the marinade, dry with paper towels, and place on the grill. Grill over indirect medium heat for 40-50 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the meat reaches a temperature of 165°F.
  • Sprinkle with additional cilantro for garnish if desired and serve immediately.

For baking the chicken:

  • If you are baking, preheat the oven to 450°F, and place a cooling rack on top of a cooking sheet. Remove the chicken from the marinade, dry with paper towels, and place on the rack. Bake for 30 minutes, flip the legs, then bake for and additional 10-15 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the meat reaches a temperature of 165°F.
  • Sprinkle with additional cilantro for garnish if desired and serve immediately.
Nutrition Facts
Tandoori Chicken Legs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 345 Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Fat 25g38%
Saturated Fat 10g50%
Cholesterol 120mg40%
Sodium 941mg39%
Potassium 315mg9%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 715IU14%
Vitamin C 0.6mg1%
Calcium 32mg3%
Iron 2.1mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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21 Comments
  1. Yummy – I would love a plate of those. They look amazing! Do you recommend searing over high heat for the last minute or will it just burn the coconut based marinade?

  2. Karen

    How do you think this would work with boneless chicken breasts? My family absolutely refuses to eat chicken on the bone.

  3. Ooh love your Tandoori chicken and all flavorful spices you’ve added !I bet the coconut milk adds its own creamy richness and flavor !So yum!

  4. LOL, I hope there a lots of better picnic days in your future!!! Boy, does your chicken look irresistible!!! I may not be able to wait till my next picnic to try it 🙂

  5. Awww, maybe these tasty chicken legs are the “charm” you need for better picnic situations. They’re definitely worth it in humidity, wind, a way to combat annoying friends…They look delish! I love the idea of coconut milk too.

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