Grilled Tandoori Chicken

These drumsticks are packed with flavour. They are great as part of an Indian meal, BBQ picnic and more. Excellent served with a bed of rice, or naan bread.

Chicken drumsticks cooking on a grill.

Sometimes the best meat is the cheapest meat and these grilled tandoori chicken drumsticks prove that statement correct. There is an Indian buffet near my house and I love their tandoori chicken. Every time I go up with my plate, I make sure to throw on a couple of drumsticks.

Tandoori chicken is so delicious and it is surprisingly easy to make at home on your grill. This recipe will work great on a gas grill, charcoal grill and even a wood fired pellet grill!

Seasoned chicken drumsticks on a grill.

Ingredient Notes

  • Chicken Drumsticks
  • Yogurt – Make sure to use plain unsweetened and unflavoured yogurt. I also like to use 2% or 3% fat yogurt, but lower and even non fat yogurt will work fine.
  • Garlic – whole garlic cloves are best, but garlic paste or minced garlic in a jar will also work.
  • Ginger – I use a whole ginger piece and peel the skin off.
  • Garam Masala – a blend of spices that is commonplace in Indian cuisine.
  • Cumin – ground cumin is best for tandoori chicken
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric – I use ground dry turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper – or ground hot chili pepper
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cardamom
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon juice – this adds a nice tang to the seasoning on the chicken

Red Food Colouring? If you purchase a jar of tandoori paste, or order tandoori chicken at a restaurant, you will notice a red colour on the chicken. Some recipes use annatto seed, red chili pepper or paprika to give the red colour, but that deep red seen on a lot of tandoori chicken is, many times, food colouring. If you do not care whether it is red or not then simply omit it from the recipe.

Chicken drumsticks marinating with seasonings in a large bowl.

How To Make Tandoori Paste

Tandoori chicken is an amazingly simple way to make grilled chicken drumsticks. All that is required is about 5 minutes to make the marinade and a couple hours to let the chicken marinate. Add all the garlic, ginger and spices to a food processor and pulse until a smooth paste is formed. Then add in the yogurt, lemon juice and optional red food colouring and blend until smooth.

Can We Use Whole Spices? Some spices like cumin, coriander and cardamom have whole seeds or pods that can be purchased and used in cooking. While I use them in some Indian cuisine, I find that using the spices already ground to be better in this recipe for grilled tandoori chicken because the food processor will not blend the spices smooth enough and the paste could end up gritty.

Once the tandoori paste is formed, it is time to marinate the chicken! Toss the chicken in the marinade and cover the bowl with lid or plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to marinate.

Can The Chicken Marinate Overnight? Yes – I often prepare the marinade the day before and let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight and it works great.

Raw seasoned chicken on grill grates.

How To Grill Chicken Drumsticks

Grilling chicken drumsticks is best done using the indirect grill method. To do this, only turn on the burners on one side of the grill. Preheat the grill to 350F. Place the chicken drumsticks on the side of the grill with the burners turned off.

Close the lid and cook until the chicken reads 175-180F in the centre of the meat, when checked with a digital thermometer. During the grilling, turn the drumsticks over every once in a while to ensure an even cooking.

Close up picture of grill chicken drumsticks.

More Chicken Drumstick Recipes!

While these grilled tandoori chicken is likely my favourite way to prepare drumsticks, here are a number of other recipes using this piece of chicken.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

5 out of 5
3 reviews
Tandoori chicken is easy to make with only 5-10 minutes of prep. Tandoori chicken is typically deep red in colour and full of Indian spice and flavour! Easy instructions for how to grill chicken drumsticks.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 16 drumsticks


  • 16 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch ginger peeled
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • red food colouring (optional)


  • Prepare the tandoori marinade by blending everything except the yogurt, food colouring and chicken in a food processor. Process until a smooth paste is formed. Blend in the yogurt and, if desired, a few drops of red food colouring.
  • Mix the marinade in with the chicken drumsticks and marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Cook using indirect grilling on grill set to medium heat for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 175-180F.
  • Move the chicken to be over the heat and use direct grilling for a couple minutes per side to crisp up the skin.


Per serving:

Calories: 148kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 15gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 385mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 2g

Nutrition Disclaimer

This recipe was originally posted in March 2012.


Chicken drumsticks cooking on a grill.

Did you try this recipe?

Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out. Or, take a picture to share on Instagram and tag me @theblackpeppercorn.

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  • 5 stars
    This stuff is awesome.we grilled it over the fire. squeezed lime juice over and genrous shake of salt. Delicious. It kina blackened in that expensive restaurant blackened chicken sorta way and it was sooo good. Definitely a must in my recipes

    • Reply
  • Do you use Skinless drumsticks, or leave skin on?

    • Reply
    • I usually leave the skin on, but I have done it sometimes with the skin off and it works great that way as well.

      • Reply
  • I am looking to try my hand at Tandoori chicken (and this one looks wonderfully simple, thank you for being clear and concise) but I have a question about the yogurt. Is there a particular kind I should use? If it is a kind that is easily obtainable (existing at grocery stores or a not too uncommon specialty shop, for example), that would be great.
    Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

    • Reply
    • I would just use a plain yogurt. Not flavoured (i.e. french vanilla, etc). Just a simple, plain 2% yogurt found in any supermarket should do the trick.

      • Reply
    • I would just use a plain yogurt. Not flavoured (i.e. french vanilla, etc). Just a simple, plain 2% yogurt found in any supermarket should do the trick. I would also marinate the chicken overnight rather than just the two hours recommended in the recipe.

      • Reply
  • Very unique yet simple method of preparation…!!
    great job!!!

    • Reply
  • Sounds good and love that it looks simple to make!

    Want to come add it to our March @IndianFoodPalooza…would love to have it be a part of the foods we’re sharing.

    • Reply
  • These sound so flavorful…great recipe…thanks!

    • Reply
  • Oh my, that looks to die for. What a lovely marinade 🙂

    • Reply
  • I concur….cheap meat can be the best meat. just needs some love.

    • Reply
  • Steve this looks fantastic!! The grill really makes the tandoori chicken look beautiful with it’s slight char and grill marks. That is the one dish I have to do in the oven and it never looks this good!! Well done!

    • Reply
  • Love tandoori and this one seems not to stick to the grill.

    • Reply
  • Those drumsticks look amazing! I love tandoori chicken and this looks like a great recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
  • HAD to pin this one, those look incredible.

    • Reply
  • This just looks so darn good, Steve. Chicken drumsticks are perfect for grilling and that spice rub does a great job of dressing them up.

    • Reply
  • Oooh I just love the spices!

    • Reply
  • Hi Steve, These look great and sound tasty. On my to try list for sure.


    • Reply
  • Great recipe! and wallet friendly too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply

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