Tandoori Chicken (Paleo)

paleo tandoori chicken

paleo tandoori chicken

This tandoori chicken recipe is going to knock the socks off of any paleo tandoori recipe you’ll find. Roby came home after eating lunch and somehow managed to inhale four of these chicken drumsticks. My non-paleo family loved this dish too. This chicken is incredibly tender, juicy and full of flavor.

Tandoori chicken is an extremely popular dish. I think it’s fair to say it’s probably one of the most ordered dishes at any Indian restaurant. It’s typically marinated with yogurt and spices and then baked in a tandoor aka a clay oven. My tandoori chicken is made with freshly ground spices and coconut milk. You can’t taste any coconut in this dish – it just helps tenderize the chicken the way that yogurt would.

oh so tasty. don't you want to take a bite?

oh so tasty. don’t you want to take a bite?

When you’re following the paleo diet, ordering from an Indian restaurant is risky. Chances are they’re using vegetable oil or butter (not organic grass-fed ghee). Additionally, the creamy dishes are typically made with yogurt, milk and/or heavy cream. When I decided to go paleo, I knew what I’d be giving up – some of my absolute favorite Indian dishes. Now when I go to Indian restaurants, I have to ask 20 questions before I can order. Needless to say, we rarely eat at Indian restaurants anymore.

Tandoori chicken is usually made with skinless chicken. I know most people typically cook with the skin on because it keeps the chicken from drying out. Not to worry – the coconut milk will keep this chicken nice and juicy.

If you’ve ever eaten tandoori chicken before, you’re aware of its signature red color. Well, that’s food coloring (would you like some red #40 with that chicken? no thanks.). No amount of paprika can get you that shade of red. To get a reddish hue, you can make a couple deep incisions on each drumstick and then with a spoon, add a mixture of paprika, salt and lime. Do this before adding the marinade and you’ll get a redder color than you would otherwise. Additionally, this will help get more flavor into the chicken.

add spice paste into drumsticks to enhance color

add spice paste into drumsticks to enhance color

When you blend your marinade, it should have some texture. You don’t want a completely smooth paste. Texture will make your chicken look a little more authentic and you’ll be able to better taste some of the individual flavors in the marinade. Once the chicken is well coated, add a couple tablespoons of mustard oil on top. This will give the chicken a nice sheen and add a touch of tanginess to the dish.

Chicken in Marinade

Chicken in Marinade

I wouldn’t marinate this chicken for long – you don’t want it to become mushy. I’d say after no more than 30 minutes, bring it to room temp and then pop it in the oven.

When you take a bite of this chicken, you’ll see that it’s just as good if not better than what you’ll get in any restaurant.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Paleo Tandoori Chicken
  • 4 pounds of chicken drumsticks, skin removed
Spice Paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ lime, juiced
Tandoori marinade
  1. Rinse chicken and remove skin. With a sharp knife, make 2 deep incisions in each drumstick and cut tendon on drumstick.
  2. Make a spice paste by combining salt, paprika and lime juice in a small bowl. Rub the paste into the cuts in chicken.
  3. While the chicken is absorbing the flavors from the spice paste, coarsely grind your coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamom and cloves in a spice grinder.
  4. In a blender, add garlic, ginger, lime juice, coconut milk, salt, paprika, cayenne and the freshly ground spices. Blend together and add mixture to the chicken. Once the chicken is well coated, add a couple tablespoons of mustard oil on top.
  5. Place the chicken in refrigerator to marinate for about 20 minutes. Take out of fridge and bring to room temperature before putting in oven.
  6. Place the drumsticks on a wire rack sitting on top of a foil lined pan.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees on the convection setting and cook for 20 minutes or until done.


  1. says

    I can tolerate yogurt & butter, but I daren’t eat tandoori chicken in a restaurant because they use the same oven for naan… but it’s so delicious! I’m going to try your version for sure!

  2. bmayeaux says

    I have all of the spices needed for this recipe already ground up(not fresh). Any idea what amounts I should use of each?

    Any idea of what I can use as a substitute for mustard oil?

    • says

      Hi Donna, add the mustard oil when you add the marinade – I just updated the recipe to include that info – thanks for letting me know. If you’re using pre-ground spices, I’d suggest just using a little less that what the recipe calls for. You can always taste the marinade before putting it on the chicken to make sure that you like it. Hope you like the recipe!

  3. says

    It took a little longer without convection to take it to 165, but it was PERFECT!!!!! Halved recipe and used boneless thighs. Thanks for the great dairy free recipe. Moister than restaurant and no fake color. Ate with your aloo curry and simple lettuce salad. Keeper.

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