Buttermilk Roasted Tandoori Chicken


Recipe codeveloped by Mehreen Karim.

Serves 4


Tandoori Chicken:

2 lbs chicken quarters, patted dry

1 teaspoon garam masala

2-3 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder, depending on your spice tolerance 

½ tablespoon smoked paprika or paprika

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

½ teaspoon fenugreek leaves, optional

1 ½ tablespoons garlic paste or 7 cloves, grated

2 ½ teaspoons ginger paste or a 1” knob, grated

½ cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced, about 3 tablespoons 

2 tablespoons canola oil, or any neutral oil

1 medium red onion, sliced, for serving 

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving 

Cilantro, roughly chopped, for serving



⅓ cup buttermilk 

¼ teaspoon chaat masala or ground cumin 

¼ cup grated cucumber¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped 

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste



  1. Toast the spices in a dry pan over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl or resealable bag, combine the garlic, ginger, buttermilk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and toasted spices. Score the chicken by cutting shallow, one-inch slices in the skin, then add the chicken pieces and mix ensuring each piece of chicken is well coated in the marinade. Marinate for 2-6 hours in the fridge. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 425℉ and line a sheet pan with foil. Transfer the marinated chicken to the prepared sheet pan and drizzle over the oil. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until nicely charred and a digital thermometer registers at least 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken. 
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving to retain the juices. 
  5. While the chicken rests, prepare the raita by combining the buttermilk, chaat masala or cumin, cucumber, cilantro, kosher salt, and black pepper. Taste and adjust quantities to your flavor preference.
  6. Garnish the chicken with thinly sliced red onion, lemon wedges, and more fresh cilantro alongside warm buttery naan, basmati rice, and a generous drizzle of raita.



Notes on the Inspiration:

Roast chicken and rice is a classic easy-weeknight-meal combo. Another classic combo – buttermilk and chicken. Whether you’re frying chicken or roasting it to perfection, buttermilk is the perfect vehicle for marinades and never fails to yield tender and juicy chicken. Our tandoori chicken recipe is inspired by our love for this South Asian staple and our even deeper love for make-ahead, weeknight dinners. Though neither of us has the pleasure of owning a tandoor in our tiny New York apartments, we put our ovens to work and behold—an unbelievably juicy and flavor-packed roasted chicken, paired with a cooling and tangy buttermilk raita to bring it home.

Notes on the Technique:

Once you master this straightforward recipe and its technique, you’ll never break a sweat when roasting chicken again. While tandoori chicken traditionally calls for yogurt (another top contender in chicken marinades), we went for chef and food star, Samin Nosrat’s recommendation for buttermilk and skin-on chicken. She opened our eyes to just how crispy roast chicken can be when its skin is marinated or brined in a buttermilky solution. 

Because the buttermilk marinade is both acidic and salty, we knew we’d be left with the juiciest, most flavorful piece of roast chicken. Various qualities of the buttermilk—like its pH level, calcium levels, and the generous addition of salt— make for an ideal, tenderizing environment that breaks down the proteins in the chicken while retaining moisture. And why not make the most of your carton of buttermilk and make a refreshing buttermilk raita to accompany your chicken? You won’t miss your yogurt, we promise.


May 1, 2021

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