Barbara Kafka's Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Blake Royer

The juiciest chicken I've ever had is tandoori-style. Something about the marinating process, with thicker, yogurt-based sauces, renders the chicken moister than ever. This recipe from Barbara Kafka's The Intolerant Gourmet (focused on gluten- and dairy-free recipes) uses no yogurt but coconut milk and lime juice instead.

Why I Picked This Recipe: In the mood for something spicy and grilled, I found that this recipe fit the bill. The technique of caramelizing onions and garlic with an intoxicating mixture of spices as the base of a marinade was too intriguing to pass up.

What Worked: As I'd hoped, the texture of the chicken was supremely tender; it's hard to say whether coconut milk has the same tenderizing power as yogurt, but the addition of lime juice probably helped. The chicken was deeply flavored and complex, belying the relatively simple preparation.

What Didn't: While the recipe was described as "mildly spicy," it was pretty hot indeed. Not exactly a criticism, but I'd watch the cayenne levels and tailor to your own taste.

Suggested Tweaks: There's no doubt that this recipe has a pretty long ingredient list of spices. A good curry powder--such as garam masala--would make a fine stand-in.

In preparing the recipe, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts; because they're thinner, it allows you to cut the marinating time way down and speeds up the cooking process. For a quick weeknight dinner, it's a good tweak.

Adapted from The Intolerant Gourmet.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

Rate & Comment


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs


  1. In a medium (10-inch) skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and all the spices (including the salt) and stir well to combine. Turn the heat to low and cook until the onion is translucent, about ten minutes.

  2. Combine the onion mixture, coconut milk, and lime juice in a blender or small food processor. Blend for a full minute until smooth. You should have about 1/2 cup of marinade.

  3. Cover the chicken with the marinade and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes, preferably for 30 or longer. In the meantime, preheat a grill or broiler.

  4. Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through, 8-10 minutes per side for breasts and 3-4 minutes per side for thighs. Serve immediately.