Food & Drink

A tandoori payoff for chicken? No sweat

Tandoori Chicken Thighs makes a very fast dinner.
Tandoori Chicken Thighs makes a very fast dinner. For The Washington Post

Although “tandoori” technically refers to food cooked in a tandoor, a type of coal-burning clay or metal oven, meats cooked that way are typically marinated first in a distinctive mix of yogurt and spices that translates deliciously, and healthfully, to a regular oven.

Yogurt is an overachiever as a marinade base, providing way more advantages than you might expect. Its gentle acidity acts as a meat tenderizer; it clings to food, adhering seasoning to it and forming a protective layer that keeps the inside moist; and it adds a wealth of nutrition because it is packed with protein, calcium and many other minerals and vitamins.

The mix of spices typically used in tandoori cooking also multi-tasks. Ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves and cayenne pepper not only provide the deep, complex flavor and aroma instantly recognized as Indian but also impart a deep yellow color and formidable antioxidant power.

Here, the yogurt-and-spice marinade works its magic on chicken thighs for a meal that is quick and easy. Using skinless chicken lets the marinade get right next to the meat, and the dish is more healthful because of it. Quick-broiling helps keep the meat juicy while it develops a lusciously charred but moist exterior.

I like to serve this dish with lemon wedges alongside a cucumber salad and brown basmati rice for a flavorful Indian-inspired meal that couldn’t be easier.

Ellie Kreiger offers a weekly newsletter at

Tandoori-Style Chicken Thighs

Make ahead: The chicken needs to marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 hours.

1/2 cup low-fat plain (not Greek) yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated (1 tablespoon)

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

8 medium skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds total)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cloves and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.

Arrange the chicken in a large, shallow dish, such as a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Make four shallow cuts across each piece of chicken, then season both sides of each piece with the salt. Pour the yogurt mixture on top of the chicken, then turn all the pieces so they are evenly coated. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (If you’ve refrigerated the chicken, let it come to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before broiling.)

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Lightly grease a broiler pan with cooking oil spray.

Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the broiler pan, allowing some of the marinade to cling to each piece; discard any remaining marinade. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly charred on top, then use tongs to turn the chicken pieces over. Broil on the second side until charred and the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Serve hot, with the lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings.