Slow Cooker Tandoori Chicken Recipe

This just isn't going to be a good picture----it doesn't matter how much cilantro I throw on it.

 But I promise it tastes good.

I did some research on tandoori chicken last week and learned that a lot of times, the way the red coloring is achieved in restaurants is through food coloring.

The more food coloring you add, the more red your chicken will be. 

I find this highly amusing, yet no one else in my family finds it as funny as I do. 

But imagine. 

The chicken could be *blue*! or *chartreuse*! and still taste the same!

anyway. If you don't want to use food coloring, don't. 

But you won't get red chicken.

The Ingredients.

3-4 pounds chicken---pieces or whole, your choice. 

I had a whole one I bought on sale a while ago, and skinned it before I put it in the crock. I have abnormal issues with chicken skin.

1 cup plain yogurt, divided (you could use sour cream, instead)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (the picture shows whole. I grabbed the wrong bottle.)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cardamom pods, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
1 tablespoon cumin
6 cloves garlic (I tossed them in whole)
5-6 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 lemon, juiced

The Directions.

Use a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Skin the bird and toss out the neck and the stuff from inside.

 Shudder a few times.

In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup yogurt with all dry spices, and the red food coloring. Smear all over the bird, inside and out. Put the cardamom pods inside the bird, and lower it into the crockpot. Toss whole garlic cloves on top, and squeeze on the lemon juice.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4. 

You can check doneness with a meat thermometer, too. 

Serve with basmati rice.

After removing meat from the pot, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of yogurt to make a yummy sauce to pour over the meat and rice.

The Verdict.

I really liked this a lot. 

The meat was spicy where it was coated in the blend, but otherwise just slightly infused with the smoky flavor. 

I was able to peel some non-spicy meat off the bones for the kids (which they dipped in bbq sauce), and Adam and I piled our plates high with the meat on top of rice with lots of the tandoori sauce. 

If I was going to make this for company, I'd use boneless, skinless thighs. 

The bones got in my way.

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at March 23, 2009

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What they say about this article

  1. Anonymous3/23/2009

    Hi, Stephanie,

    Should I use whole or ground cloves? Your picture has whole cloves, but I'm not sure how that would work.

    Love your site, BTW. My family and I have loved the receipes!

  2. Hi Rebecca! Use ground. I grabbed the wrong bottle from the cabinet when I set up the photo.


  3. Anonymous3/23/2009

    So if you use chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken, and ground cardamom instead of pods (cna't find pods here), should you add the ground cardamom to the other spices in the rub or just sprinkle it over the top? Or maybe you could add it to the reserved yogurt...

    This site is teh awesome, by the by. Just wish my Crock would quit cooking so fast!

  4. Anonymous3/23/2009

    I've never cooked anything in the crock without significant liquid. Should I worry it will get too hot and burn? I usually leave my crock unattended while I am at work.

  5. You're my hero! I am bookmarking you now! What a huge resource, thank you!

    By the way, found out about your blog from a piece Rhonda Franz did for a local website.

  6. Don't you have to put water in your crock pot when you cook stuff? I thought that's what a crock pot used to cook? Looks yummy but I didn't think I could cook it if there wasn't water in it. Does it dry out if there isn't water in it? Thanks for the great recipes. I love your blog.

  7. Hi Laura,
    if you don't use the whole bird, you can put the cardamom pods on top of the food, then just take care to not eat them (I've sewn them together in the past, and some use a little cheesecloth bundle) or use the ground stuff.

    Christina and Bridget,
    ok. If you use a whole chicken, there is a TON of liquid that will come out of the bird. If you're going to use thighs, and don't have a full 3-4 pounds, I may add another lemon for juice, but the thighs will also create an awful lot of cooking liquid.

    Crock-Pots work the best when they are used 2/3-3/4 of the way full. Otherwise, the food will dry out, and yes, you'd need to add some more liquid.

    I prefer to have my meat simmer in it's own juices, instead of adding lots of outside liquid. If you're uncomfortable leaving it unattended, try making a whole chicken on a weekend day when you're home to monitor. I think you'd be surprised at how much juice it creates all on it's own!


  8. Ooo, we're going to have to try this one when I'm actually cooking again.

    I have to tell you, when I first started reading your blog my daughter was young enough that she ate whatever I put in front of her (she was probably 12 months or so) and I totally didn't get why your kids had to have BBQ sauce on everything. Now she is a full-fledged toddler with full-fledged opinions and she has her own bottle of BBQ sauce in the fridge. She dips some really strange things in BBQ sauce.

    I've shared your blog with too many people to count! My favorite recipe so far is the rotisserie chicken in the crock but I'd guess this one will come in in the top 10, too.

  9. can you tell me the texture of the chicken? I have never had good textured chicken in a crock, its usually yuckily mushy. I have found using good crock pot recipes call for much less liquid than I used on my own...and things turn out fine except for mushy chicken, blech.

  10. Hi Nina,
    it had the consistency of chicken. :-) not mushy. How much liquid are you using when you make chicken in the crock normally? What size crock, and for how long? I haven't had an issue with mushy chicken before. Dry, yes. But not mushy.

  11. I have to tell you how much I LOVE you blog!!! I am a devoted crock pot user but never strayed outside of the typical uses of chicken breasts or pork chops...I have bookmarked you and added you to my blog...hope you don't mind :) Oh...and I finally remembered to buy the yogurt starter today to do the homemade yogurt...can't wait to try that! Thanks so much for all your candid remarks and great sense of humor!

  12. Oh Thank God I'm not the only one! Years ago, when I discovered Indian food, I finally got the nerve up to ask our local restaurant how tandoori chicken gets its red color. They looked at me like I was an idiot and told me about the food coloring. And like you, Steph, I thought it was Hilarious (capital H Hilarious!). Glad to know I wasn't the only one!

  13. Anonymous3/23/2009

    This sounds great. I will definitely be making it soon.

  14. Anonymous3/23/2009

    Steph, I'm right there with you about the food coloring thing. I would love to try making it blue or something--maybe next time we come over (hint, hint!) Jacob and Julia's latest thing is putting food coloring in stuff--last time it was pink pancakes!


  15. That picture made me laugh. Sorry, I'm sure it tastes wonderful, but it looks like that poor chicken spent too long in the sun :)

    BTW, LOVE your blog

  16. Hi there! I'm definitely with you on the "Skin the bird and toss out the neck and the stuff from inside. Shudder a few times." That made me laugh out loud here at work... :) Anyway, I just wanted to recommend that if you freeze your neck instead of tossing it, after saving up a few necks, you can turn them into a nice chicken soup (with or without a crockpot).

    By the way, I'm really enjoying your "totally together" site! How do you have time for all of these impressive endeavors? I think I may be a bit jealous :)

  17. Cool, I love learning new crockpot tricks from you. I'm going to give this one a try, dairy free somehow. I think I'll also try adding beats to get the red color. When I cut them up I can't get the color off my hands, maybe it will stick to the bird too!

  18. Steph,
    Best Recipe Ever!
    I love tandoori Chicken! I am going to use this!
    Oh, and I emailed you a few months ago about a stinky crockpot...I found a solution! crock Pot Liners. LOL happy Crocking!

  19. Yummy.I've always used a premixed Tandori blend so I'm glad to have a spice mix I can make myself with this recipe.

    I've come to the conclusion that boneless skinless thighs are always the best way to go for chicken in the crock.

  20. I made this tonight and it was awesome! I used BLSL chicken breasts (I too have a serious aversion to chicken skin). I think this would also be amazing if you used coconut milk or cream in place of the yogurt, either for the cooking, or when you make the sauce. I think that would only work if you are cooking chicken pieces so they can sit down in the liquid.

    This filled my whole house with the most amazing aroma! When my husband walked in from work he was mezmerized! My 5 year old kept peering into the crock, saying, "it smells so yummy!"

    I served this with baked brown rice, steamed broccoli, tzatziki sauce, and whole grain naan bread (Indian flat bread). My very picky family loved it! Thanks Stephanie! I was in a serious chicken rut!

    By the way, if you have a World Market store near you, this is the BEST place to buy all sorts of herbs and spices for CHEAP! They have lots of exotic things. I had been there recently, so I had every spice in this recipe on hand. That totally made my day!

  21. This is the recipe i used before (so it doesn't seem like a ton of liquid to me) Balsamic Sticky chicken

    1/4 C Balsamic Vinegar
    1 heaping T of Dijon mustard
    Thyme, rosemary, garlic - dried. I don't measure them - just a couple of pinches - to taste
    sliced sweet onions - 1 med - large
    a large pack of chicken thighs (I used drumsticks)

    put the chicken thighs into the crockpot
    combine the vinegar, spices and mustard and mix well
    Pour vinegar mixture into the chicken
    Throw the onions on top and mix together. I make sure all the chicken pieces are well coated. A little of the vinegar mix goes a long way. Put on low for 8 hours and voila! Serve with noodles, rice, veggies whatever.

    I have no idea how to tell what size my crock is. big. round. rival. standard high low and off. I tried another recipe from mabel hoffman's crockpot cookery and usually her recipes are great but the chicken was mushy so I haven't made chicken again.

    for spices I recommend penzeys. super cheap (even with paying shpping and better if you live close) and they sell small amounts so you don't have them get old and tasteless. they have the cardoman pods (but I haven't gotten those jsut got my first order tonight)

  22. hahahahaha you crack me up!! I'd like to go for some purple chicken!

  23. Anonymous3/26/2009

    You can also achieve a red coloring by using some type of powdered pepper. I've had this in London before and the place I was at used red pepper. Of course it had a LOT of heat to it also.

  24. Well, I had no idea on the food coloring either. I thought other cultures tended to color their food naturally through spices/herbs like turmeric. I think I'd go for purple, too! LOL


  25. No Mam! This was too good and so so easy. I didn't have any cloves or cardamon so just used Garham Masala. Delicious, Thanks!

  26. good recipe. However, to avoid the food color, just add the tumeric and paprika often called for. (1/2 tsp each). Check out David Lebovitz's recipe:

  27. I cannot stop laughing at the cilantro comment. That's just too funny! Maybe I'm just really tired but I'm rolling here. Tears and everything!

    Just looking at the chicken with the chunk of green to make it look pretty is HILARIOUS!

    Ahh...I needed a good laugh.

    Thanks and I am sooo excited to have found your blog! I really could use crock pot recipes with my big family and busy, busy, busy life.

  28. This recipe was fantastic! I made it last weekend:

    Used bone-in thighs rather than a whole bird, turned out very well. Didn't add any extra liquid.

    And I turned the leftovers into a chicken salad for lunch today - just added some celery, a little bit of mayo, and some turmeric and cayenne. Delish.

  29. If you prefer the taste of sour cream over yogurt, but want something low or no fat, try Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt. Stonyfield's Oikos is good - organic, zero fat, delicious. Sometimes regular yogurt is too runny so Greek yogurt is a good alternative. My store just had an amazing sale on whole chickens (69 cents a pound) so I'll be making this soon from the whole chickens in my freezer.

  30. ha! i like the "shudder a few times". love it.

    great blog. been lurking here for awhile & making your listed meals. good to see you are still posting.

  31. I made it and while the pink color didn't faze me the texture and taste wasn't too hot. I think the process of cooking is what made it so yecky, Tandoori refers to a Tandoor, the traditional oven used making this and I have to think the dry heat must do something extra to the chicken.

    Sadly, it smelled pretty good while cooking and we did eat it, some of it anyway, so it wasn't a total loss. Just not something I'll make again.

  32. I think a lot of restaurants and home cooks use paprika to make the chicken extremely red.

  33. Did your whole house smell like the cardamon for a week?

  34. Hi!
    Crissi (Wine County Mom) directed me to your site, and I have made a couple recipes off of it so far -- this and the split pea soup. Both were great, but I wanted to tell you how much I particularly LOVED this recipe.
    I started making it with frozen chicken breasts rather than whole chicken after the first time, just 'cause dessicated bones and such squige me out, and don't bother with the food coloring, but this recipe is so easy and SO frickin' yummy. Thank you for posting it. I'm looking forward to trying more of your recipes.

  35. I made this today and it was great! I used boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut back on the spices a little because I was afraid of it being too spicy. Next time I will definitely go full fledged on the spices though, it was perfectly flavorful but not at all spicy the way I did it today. Since I used breasts instead of a whole bird I just set the cardamom pods and garlic on top of each piece; some pieces got garlic and cardamom from both sides since I stacked the chicken in the crock! We ate this over jasmine rice (since that's what we had on hand!) with the extra sauce and some tzatziki. Will definitely be making this again!

  36. um...this was amazing! i LOVED the spices and skinning the chicken ahead of time was THE BEST idea so you don't lose the flavor when you skin it after! YUMMY! kids (4 - 4 and under) devoured it!

  37. I made this with skinned thighs and it was fabulous. Love your recipes.
    Thank You