One of my very favorite weeknight dinners, these Tandoori Chicken Gyros with Curried Yogurt Sauce are bold, flavorful, and super easy to make! Made by marinating chicken thighs in a well-spiced yogurt-based marinade, this oven, grill, or skillet Tandoori chicken is guaranteed to be a new family favorite.
Tandoori Chicken Gyros
These flavorful, reddish-orange chunks of spice-covered chicken are my go-to whenever I eat at my favorite Indian restaurant. Traditionally cooked on skewers in a clay oven, tandoori chicken is marinated in spice-filled yogurt before cooking.
Fortunately, you don’t have to own a clay oven in order to make tandoori chicken right at home.
Bake, grill, or pan fry, no matter how you choose to cook this chicken, the results are always delicious.
If you’re looking for an easy recipe that you can make ahead and eat all week long, then you are going to love these Tandoori Chicken Gyros.
For this recipe, I’ve chosen to keep things simple and “weeknight-friendly” by skipping the grill and cooking my yogurt-marinated chicken thighs in a hot skillet. Serve with fluffy pita bread, cucumber tomato salsa, curried yogurt sauce, and sweet pomegranate arils, for a winning combination loaded with flavor.
What is Tandoori Chicken?
Tandoori chicken is made by roasting yogurt-marinated chicken in what is known as a tandoor, or a cylindrical clay oven.
The raw chicken is cut into large chunks and marinated in a mixture of plain yogurt and a spice blend typically consisting of garam masala, garlic, ginger, onion, and cayenne pepper, but may also include red chili powder or turmeric for coloring.
Once the chicken has been marinated, it is then threaded onto skewers and cooked at high temperatures in a wood or charcoal heated tandoor oven. The wood and charcoal are what contribute to the highly desirable smoky flavor.
Of course, the tandoori chicken may also be cooked in a standard oven, rotisserie, over hot charcoal, gas grill, or stove-top.
Ingredients in Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori chicken is all about the chicken, marinade, and cooking method. For most of us, the chicken and marinade will be a piece of cake as nearly all ingredients needed to make Tandoori chicken are easy to locate at most major grocery stores.
- Plain yogurt – Marinating meat, not just chicken, in yogurt is one of the best ways to guarantee tender, delicious, and flavorful meat.
- Lemon juice – Lemon juice, like yogurt, is a master at tenderizing meat. You’ll need the juice from one large-ish lemon. In other words, don’t use bottled lemon juice concentrate.
- Garlic – I always like to add fresh garlic. In my personal opinion, it adds loads of flavor. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of powdered garlic, but fresh is better.
- Garam Masala – Garam Masala is actually a blend of spices including black pepper, mace, cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg, and green cardamom. The garam masala blends will differ between brands and region, but this is one that I recommend.
- Ground ginger – Ginger, highly popular in all Indian dishes, adds amazing flavor to any chicken dish. Typically, I will add fresh ginger, but in this case, I added ground ginger instead.
- Ground cumin – A staple in much of Indian cooking, cumin gives an earthy, warming, somewhat peppery character to food.
- Paprika – You’ll want to use sweet paprika, not smoked paprika. Paprika lends a helping hand to the overall color of the chicken.
- Ground turmeric – Turmeric is a bright orangish-yellow spice popular in many Asian dishes. It has an earthy aroma and gives a somewhat bitter flavor to foods.
- Chicken – Technically, you may use any chicken you would like. However, I’ve chosen to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs as they are easy, and filled with flavor. Bone-in chicken thighs may be more traditional and breasts you run a greater risk for the chicken to dry out.
Ingredients in Curry Yogurt Sauce
You’ll notice that several of the ingredients needed to make the marinade are also used to make the curried yogurt sauce.
- Plain yogurt – I know most of us try to cut calories and fat whenever possible, but this yogurt sauce is best when made with thick, full-fat, plain yogurt.
- Fresh cilantro – Fresh cilantro only. If you dislike cilantro, leave it out.
- Fresh parsley – If you decide not to add cilantro, at least add some fresh parsley. The freshness from the herbs makes a huge difference. DRIED HERBS NOT RECOMMENDED.
- Garlic – At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please only use fresh garlic. I only added one clove here because it’s easy to overwhelm the sauce with garlic flavor.
- Lemon – Fresh, fresh, fresh.
- Olive oil – Yep, a little olive oil to make it extra creamy.
- Curry powder – I added pre-mixed, pre-made curry powder because I was short on time and made this curry yogurt sauce up as I went. If you’re feeling experimentative, feel free to add extras to taste.
How to make Tandoori Chicken
- The first thing you’re going to do is prepare and marinate the chicken. In a medium bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients until fully combined (Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, garam masala, ground ginger, ground cumin, sweet paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper). Then prepare your chicken. I knew I wanted a fast-cooking, yet still juicy and delicious chicken. So I chose boneless chicken thighs. Remove any skin, chop into large chunks, and add the chicken to the marinade mixing well to coat. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2-3 days.
- As the chicken marinates, prepare the curried yogurt sauce. For best results, you’ll want to make this using a small food processor. This is the one I own. Add the ingredients (plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, curry powder, salt, and pepper) to the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse 4-5 times, remove the lid, scrape down the sides, and pulse 3-4 more times, or until desired consistency is reached. Season with additional curry powder, salt, and pepper, to taste. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to enjoy.
- Cook the chicken.
- Skillet – Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the hot skillet in a single layer, working in batches if necessary (gently shake off excess marinade before adding the chicken to the pan). Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes, Quickly stir and continue to cook an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
- Grill – Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 15 minutes before threading the chicken onto each skewer. Preheat grill to medium-high heat and use tongs to wipe the grill grates with paper towels soaked in vegetable oil. Place skewers on the grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes before turning. Continue to cook, turning once more if needed, until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. A digital meat thermometer comes in handy here. Just keep in mind that different grills and gas versus charcoal will also affect cooking time.
- Oven – Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a large wire rack on top of the baking sheet and lightly grease wire rack with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer chicken pieces to the wire rack (the foil-lined baking sheet will catch any drippings) and bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (approximately 15 minutes or so). For a deeper char, broil for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
What to serve with Tandoori Chicken
For this specific tandoori chicken recipe, I wanted to do something extra awesome with it. Of course, the beauty with recipes such as this is that you can replicate the whole thing, or take your favorite parts. Totally up to you.
- Serve it with a dipping sauce. I made a creamy, mellow curry yogurt sauce. The hope was to balance the heavily spiced chicken with a delicious and fresh easy-to-make sauce. It turned out pretty perfect. Other delicious sauce ideas include tzatziki (not Indian in origin, but still delicious) or Tahini Sauce.
- Add salsa or relish. Not a pickle relish and not a Mexican salsa (let’s just get that out of the way). Rather, any kind of fresh mix of finely chopped vegetables or fruits. This is my favorite way to complete any meal. Here’s what I added to these tandoori chicken gyros,
- Don’t forget the fresh citrus. A little squeeze of fresh lemon goes a long way.
- Wrap it up. May it be pita bread, flatbread, naan, or tortillas, tandoori chicken really loves being served with a side of carbs. Specifically bread.
Tips and Tricks
- Fresh is best. As in, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, and always always ALWAYS fresh lemon.
- If you marinate the chicken in the refrigerator overnight, allow it to come to room temperature for at least 15 minutes before adding to your hot pan or skillet. This is especially important if you chose to use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs.
- Mild or spicy? Depending on your heat tolerance, you may choose to make this Tandoori Chicken mild or spicy. To kick up the heat, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cayenne powder to the marinade.
- Not a fan of chicken? No problem! Give it a try with lamb, beef, mutton, or cauliflower.
- Is Chicken Tikka Masala gluten-free? Yes! (until you add the pita bread)
- The leftovers are fantastic so definitely hold on to those and enjoy all week long!
- Speaking of leftovers, if you don’t think you’ll eat the entire cucumber pomegranate salsa in one sitting, I recommend adding the avocado separately as avocado is best when eaten fresh.
Love Tandoori Chicken? Check out,
- Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- Butter Chicken Recipe (Murgh Makhani)
- Easy Moroccan Chicken Recipe
- Baked Harissa Chicken Recipe
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
- The Best Greek Chicken Marinade
If you try making Tandoori Chicken Gyros, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Tandoori Chicken Gyros with Curried Yogurt Sauce
For the Chicken and Marinade
- 1.5 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon - juiced
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs -
sliced into bite-size chunks
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil - for frying
For the Curry Yogurt Sauce
For the Gyros
- 3 ripe, yet firm Roma tomatoes - finely diced
- 1 English cucumber - chopped into small cubes
- ½ white onion - diced
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- ½ lemon - juiced
- 2 avocados - pitted and diced
- 8 soft pita bread
- Prepare and marinate the chicken. In a medium bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients until fully combined (Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, garam masala, ground ginger, ground cumin, sweet paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper). Add the chicken to the marinade mixing well to coat. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2-3 days.
- Prepare the Curry Yogurt Sauce. Add the ingredients for the Curried Yogurt Sauce (plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, curry powder, salt, and pepper) to the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse 4-5 times, remove the lid, scrape down the sides, and pulse 3-4 more times, or until desired consistency is reached. Season with additional curry powder, salt, and pepper, to taste. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to enjoy.
- Prepare the Cucumber, Tomato, and Pomegranate topping - chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and white onion into small, approximately equal-sized pieces. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the pomegranate arils, avocado, and gently mix with the juice from half a lemon (see notes).
- Cook the chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the hot skillet in a single layer, working in batches if necessary (gently shake off excess marinade before adding the chicken to the pan). Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes, Quickly stir and continue to cook an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
- Assemble. Place desired amount of curry yogurt sauce on top of a soft pita or flatbread and top with 4-5 spices of cooked chicken. Top with a generous spoonful or two of the cucumber, tomato, and pomegranate topping and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.
- If you don’t think you’ll eat the entire cucumber pomegranate salsa in one sitting, I recommend adding the avocado separately as avocado is best when eaten fresh.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)