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Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs bring Indian-inspired flavors to your backyard barbecue. Or they can even be baked. Just soak them in a simple marinade made with coconut milk and a blend of savory spices before you toss them on the grill or in the oven to end up with juicy and mouthwatering drumsticks that will disappear as soon as you set them on the table.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Gallo Family Vineyards via Sunday Supper, LLC. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gallo Family Vineyards.
Tandoori Chicken Legs on the Grill or in the Oven
My husband absolutely loves Indian food. When we lived in New Jersey, many of our Indian colleagues would take him to their favorite restaurants where he would dig into curries and butter chicken and naan, then follow it all up with Mango Lassis.
It was a good thing that his friends would take him to enjoy these dishes because, unfortunately for him, the richness and spices have always been a bit much for my tastebuds and stomach. But I didn’t want him to miss out too much, nor did I want to. Because I actually love the flavors of all of those ingredients and spices.
So I started experimenting with making some Indian-inspired dishes at home, where I could control the level of spice. So I could enjoy how delicious it was without overdoing it too much for what I can handle.
Like these Tandoori-style grilled chicken drumsticks. Tandoori chicken is typically marinated with a lot of spices, but it isn’t necessarily spicy. It’s just an explosion of the flavors from the warm and smoky spices like cinnamon and cumin and cardamom.
Why This Recipe Works
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.
Make sure you check your spice cabinet to make sure you have all the spices you’ll need. Other than that, it’s just a few simple ingredients to make this gluten free, paleo-friendly, and keto recipe.
- Light coconut milk: You’ll need one can.
- Lime: Zest it first, then juice it because you’ll need both.
- Cilantro: Mince some for the marinade, then if you have extra you can use the leaves for garnish.
- Garlic: Finely mince it with a knife or crush it with a garlic press.
- Dried 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.
How to Bake or Grill Tandoori Chicken Legs
It’s really simple. Just check out the recipe card for all of the details.
Marinate the chicken drumsticks
Stir all of the ingredients except the chicken together in a bowl. Place the chicken legs in a plastic storage bag (or a bowl, though a plastic bag allows the marinade to coat the chicken better). Pour the coconut milk mixture over the drumsticks, seal the bag, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.
Grilling chicken legs
If you are grilling, preheat your grill on medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, dry 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.
Baking chicken drumsticks
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 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.
Sprinkle with additional cilantro for garnish if desired. Enjoy right away!
Four to six hours in the marinade is plenty, but if you are preparing for a picnic the night before, you can throw the chicken in the marinade then, and toss it on the grill at your picnic site. If you will be cooking it at home, wrap it in plenty of foil to keep it warm, or just enjoy it at room temperature.
What Can I Serve with Tandoori Chicken Legs?
- 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. Or try some Cilantro Lime Rice.
- Dal Makhani is Indian Buttery Lentils from The Food Charlatan that you can serve with these chicken drumsticks or offer as a main dish to your vegetarian guests.
- Quick Fresh Peach Chutney from Boulder Locavore is a great side condiment for this dish.
- Slow-Cooker Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding) from Magnolia Days is a dessert to round out your Indian-inspired meal.
Baked or Grilled Tandoori Chicken Legs
- one 14 oz. can light coconut milk
- juice and zest of a lime
- 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
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3-4 pounds chicken legs
- 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.
More chicken recipes
Chicken is so versatile that it never gets boring. There are so many flavor combinations and coking methods you cna use. Here are some of our favorites that are especially good for summer!
I made baked legs for my kids and they loved it. thanks for such a delicious recipe.
I’m so glad you and your kids enjoyed the chicken legs recipe!
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?
Love all your gritty picnic anecdotes, but you have redeemed yourself today. Wonderful recipe, and I’m so happy to cook alongside you for this picnic!
How do you think this would work with boneless chicken breasts? My family absolutely refuses to eat chicken on the bone.
Yes, I’ve done exactly the same thing with breasts. I actually cut them into large chunks and put it in the oven, but I don’t think that is necessary.
Your picnic streak has ended because this is a WINNER!! Thanks for the laughs!
Yeah, at least I can look back and laugh!
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!
This chicken looks amazing, love all of the spices!
I’m glad you finally get to enjoy a picnic! Especially with this delicious chicken!
This chicken looks absolutely delicious!!
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 🙂
What a wonderful change up to chicken! I love it! I am drooling looking at your photos!
It’s not a picnic without drumsticks!
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.
Thanks Nichole, I hope so 🙂
I love Indian food and spices so these chicken legs would be great for my picnic basket.
It really adds such amazing flavor!
Oh boy! You and picnics don’t mix, but this chicken sounds delicious with or without the picnic 😉
I’m happy to send the hubby out to the grill and enjoy these in my kitchen 🙂