Tandoori Style Whole Chicken || How to roast a Whole Chicken Indian Style

    Tandoori Chicken is such a quintessential Indian dish that ALL Indian restaurants have that on their menu without fail! It also never fails to impress! The tenderness of the meat combined with the flavors of ginger, garlic, lime and of course the smoky flavor that comes from the ‘tandoor’ or the clay oven. Sounds amazing right? Along with lime juice, yoghurt is used in the marinade in order to tenderize the meat. Since the last three years, I avoid the dairy and have been successfully making tandoori chicken by just using lime juice – I have posted my ‘Paleo Tandoori Chicken‘ recipe earlier which is quite a regular in our home. I really prefer using Chicken thighs or chicken drumsticks for that recipe as they have the best flavor!

Since the last several years, our Thanksgiving dinner also involves a Tandoori Style Whole Roasted Chicken. I started swapping chicken for turkey because of the small size of our family ( the smallest turkey is also pretty big!) and now even when we celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and extended family, I have stuck to the chicken. And since everyone loves it, why change anything right? 🙂

I follow the brining process as one would for roasting a turkey and then I additionally marinate the chicken in a special tandoori marinade for a few more hours (or overnight) and then on the morning of thanksgiving, the wonderfully flavored and scented chicken is ready to hit the oven! Oh gosh, the aroma in the kitchen while the chicken is baking is just so amazing! I also roast some onions, potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes in the same pan!  And I like to serve the roast chicken with a refreshing coconut mint sauce! 

The process of baking a whole chicken is not tedious ..it just involves some steps and hence careful planning is all that’s needed. The brining step helps to keep the meat juicy and so even left-overs have so much flavor! I hope my video tutorial and the detailed recipe below will help you make the perfect roast chicken that is crisp on the outside yet juicy on the inside.  

In terms of planning, here are the three main steps 

  1. Defrosting the Chicken : Takes about 4-5 hours if you place it on the kitchen counter at room temperature (around 70 F). Or you can thaw it by moving it from the freezer to the fridge and keeping it there for at least 10-12 hours.
  2. Brining the Chicken: You can brine for anywhere between 4 to 12 hours
  3. Marinate the chicken: You need to marinate the chicken for at least two hours or up to 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Baking time: Depending upon the weight of your Chicken, it can take anywhere between 1 hour 20 mins till about 2 hours. Approximate cooking time is 20 mins per pound of chicken.

Based on the above steps, you should back calculate and see when you need to start your defrosting step. Since I cook this for our Thanksgiving meal which falls on a Thursday at around 4 PM,  I need to start cooking the chicken at around 12 PM (so I can be done with all the cooking and cleaning before 4). This means that the marinating step should at the very least be done at 10 AM in the morning (for a 2 hour marinating time) or I can do the marinating the previous night which is what I prefer as it gives the meat a lot of flavor. So this means I place the chicken in brining liquid during the day on Wednesday around noon. And this means that I place the chicken for defrost the previous night by moving it from the freezer to the refrigerator on Tuesday night. 

Hope this helps for you to plan your Tandoori roast! If you do try this recipe, please let me know in the comments, how you liked it! I would love to hear your feedback!

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Tandoori Style Whole Chicken || How to roast a whole Chicken
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
Whole chicken marinated with ginger, garlic and a blend of indian spices and cooked to perfection!
  • 1 whole chicken about 5 lbs (if your chicken is a bit bigger or smaller than this, then adjust quantity of spices and amount of time in the oven accordingly)
For the brine:
  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • whole spices - 2 bay leaves, 1 star anise, 10-12 whole black pepper, 2 one inch cinnamon stick, 3-4 whole cloves
  • ⅓ cup sea salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (optional)
For the marinade:
Brining the chicken:
  1. The chicken should brine for anywhere between 8 to 12 hours. So about 36 hours to 24 hours before serving the chicken, take the chicken out of the freezer and thaw it either at room temperature (it will take around 4-6 hours) or in the refrigerator (about 12 hours). Once the chicken is at room temperature, you can place it in the brining liquid and keep it back in the refrigerator for another 6-10 hours.
  2. Take the insides of the chicken out (you can reserve them for cooking later or discard)
  3. In a large stock pot, warm the water and add all the whole spices and the salt and the maple syrup (if adding). heat the water only for 5 mins or so until warm. no need to boil. Then turn heat off and let the water cool a bit and come to normal room temperature. Now place the whole chicken inside the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and place inside the refrigerator for anywhere between 6 to 10 hours.
Marinating the Chicken:
  1. About 6-8 hours before placing the chicken in the oven, take it out of the brining liquid and pat dry using paper towels. Discard the brining liquid and the spices.
  2. Make 6-8 slight superficial cuts on the skin of the bird on the breast side as well as the back side. This will help the marinade spices to penetrate inside the skin and into the meat.
  3. Now take the marinade paste and using your hands gently massage it onto the chicken everywhere including the inside cavity.
  4. Place the chicken on a baking tray or any other platter and cover with foil. place it back in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or even up to 6 hours)
Baking the chicken:
  1. About 2½ hours before serving time, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 mins.
  2. Pre heat oven to 425 F. Take an Al foil roasting pan and brush with olive oil. Place any vegetables you want to cook along with the chicken onto the pan (I use a mix of onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots). Sprinkle with sea salt.
  3. Now you can place the marinated chicken directly onto the vegetables in the pan or place a roasting rack over the vegetables and place the chicken on top of the rack breast side up. Brush the top of the chicken with olive oil. Place the roasting pan into the oven. Let the chicken bake for 30 mins at 425 F.
  4. Now take the roasting pan out and flip the chicken over carefully (this step is optional) and again brush with oil and also baste with any juices that are in the pan.
  5. Now lower oven temperature to 375 F and let the chicken cook for another 35-40 mins. Again take the pan out and brush with oil. Sprinkle with some extra Kashmiri chilli powder on top and spread with the brush. Place back in the oven and continue baking for another 20-30 mins until all the outside looks well-done and crisp.
  6. Then take the pan out. If you had flipped the chicken before, now turn it back breast side up. Turn oven to Broil and place the roasting pan with the chicken on the upper half of the oven so as to get the chicken some nice chars on the top. Broil for 5 mins (keeping the chicken at least 2 inches below the flames).
  7. Take the chicken out of the oven and remove the roasting rack (if using ) and place chicken directly over the vegetables. Cover the roasting pan with Al foil and let the chicken sit for 20 mins.
In general, cooking time is around 20 mins per pound of chicken. So if you are chicken weighs 5 lbs, you need to cook for a total of 100 mins or 1 hour, 40 mins. you can also use a meat thermometer and check to see if the temperature inside the middle of the chicken is around 140-160 F which means it is cooked thoroughly.


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  1. Hello, can I replace the apple cider vinegar with yogurt?

    First time hosting thanksgiving and excited to use your recipe!

    • Hello Anusha, sorry for the late reply. Yes you can use regular yoghurt or non dairy milk yoghurt instead of apple cider vinegar. Hope you tried the recipe and it turned out well!

  2. Hi, for the marinade for the spice measurements in your video they look more like tablespoons then teaspoons with your measureing spoon. Just curious if you meant tablespoon over teaspoon. I’m still in the brining stage. Thank you!

    • Hello Michelle
      thanks for your question! The measure is teaspoon for all the spices. I know my spoon looks a bit large in the video but it is actually a small plastic spoon that fits inside my spice box so it is really smaller than a typical teaspoon spoon and so I am taking a heapful of that which is exactly 1 teaspoon. If you see my measuring spoon when I measure the olive oil, that is actually a half tablespoon measure. So if you compare the spice spoon to that you will realize that its smaller than that. Hope this helps! And Good luck with baking the chicken. Let me know how it turns out! 🙂

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