Indian-Inspired Barbecue Chicken

Every now and then, I have odd cravings that don’t jive with one another, so something new is born. In this case, I wanted Indian and barbecue. There just isn’t much cross-over in that realm (as far as I know). My compromise? A whole chicken, halved, marinated tandor style, smoked, and then slathered with a tangy, strongly spiced sauce that borrows from both barbecue and Indian cuisine for style and flavor.

In reality, this is quite simple and that’s why it’s so darn good (but such is barbecue). The chicken is slowly smoked–richly flavorful, crispy skin, and surprisingly tangy from a simple marinade. Plus, whole chicken is the best (I always love a good roast chicken).

What made this different was the sauce glazed on at the end. It’s a simple barbecue sauce, but tinged with a generous helping of Indian flavors–cinnamon, cardamom, tamarind, fenugreek, cilantro, etc. The total combination worked wonderfully and had me licking my fingers clean.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Marinade
    • 1/8 cup ginger paste
    • 1/8 cup garlic paste
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup yogurt
    • 1/2 Tbsp chilli powder (adjust to taste, as is will give low/medium heat)
    • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Wood for smoking (I also used some whole spices: cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom)
  • BBQ Sauce
    • 1 shallot
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • 1 inch ginger
    • 4 dried chilis
    • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds (black)
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 3 Tbsp tamarind paste
    • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
    • 1/4 cup cashews
    • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • 1/4-1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
    • ground cinnamon
    • ground cardamom
    • black pepper
    • fennel seeds
    • ground coriander
    • ground thyme
    • pinch of dried methi/fenugreek

Begin by cleaning and halving the bird. Remove the gizzards and save for another day.

Then, prepare the marinade (simply mix all of the ingredients together), rub it all over the bird, and seal it tightly before setting in the fridge over night to marinate.

The next day, remove the chicken from the fridge and wipe off any excess marinade. Let it rest at room temperature for about an hour to lose the chill before you start cooking.

Then, get the smoker going and up to temperature (200-225 °F) before you put the chicken halves, skin side up. Leave this closed and check back in roughly an hour to see the internal temperature on the bird–you’re done around 165°F.

While you wait on the bird, work on the sauce. Finely mince the shallot, garlic, and ginger. Sauté the shallot in olive oil for about 7 minutes before adding the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, and dried chilis. Continue to sauté until the mustard starts popping (like popcorn) and not more than 30 seconds after that or the mustard seeds will burn and you’ll be hacking and coughing (burnt mustard seed vapors should be weaponized–that stuff is awful).

At this point, deglaze with the orange juice (to immediately save the mustard seeds from going any further) and then add in all of the remaining ingredients. Leave this on a medium low simmer for about 30 minutes, at which point, you should blend it to a consistency you’re happy with (or not at all if you like a chunkier style sauce), and then leave it a low simmer for a while more until you’re ready for it.

Smoked Indian-inspired barbecue chicken

Once the chicken is done smoking, brush it all over with sauce and crank up the heat on your grill. You want to sear the bird for roughly 5 minutes on both sides to crisp up the skin and to make that sauce nice and tacky.

Finally, get the bird off of the grill and dig in. Enjoy!

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15 Responses to “Indian-Inspired Barbecue Chicken”

  1. nina Says:

    Grilled to perfection and the marinade/sauce is just lipsmackingly good!!!

  2. pam Says:

    OH my gosh! That sauce sounds amazing. I love the combination of spices and flavors!

  3. dawn Says:

    I love strange cravings and mix-ins. This is perfect!

  4. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    I love almost anything that involves mixing half of the spices in my pantry, especially when you throw it on the grill. Mike, you are fearless in the kitchen — now if you can just turn this dish into baby food, you’ll be all set!

  5. anticiplate Says:

    THis looks divine. I wonderful alternative to your everyday BBQ sauce.

  6. Bunny Says:

    Mike I think you’ve out done yourself, this looks scrumptious!

  7. Bren Says:

    i’ve cooked with everything but fenugreek.. sounds like something i need to try.. Indian flavors are so robust, i can only imagine how good this bbq is!

  8. sunita Says:

    Wow!! That looks absolutely delish!

  9. Toni Says:

    Mike – I always love your step-by-step photos. They make anything seem easy.

    As for this recipe, it sounds beyond good. Perfect would be closer to my take on it. I, too, love Indian food, and I also love barbecued chicken. Great marriage, here!

  10. Jude Says:

    I have to admit I’m a bit scared of using fenugreek because of its bitterness. The recipe looks well-thought out and balanced, though. Very nice.

  11. Cate O'Malley Says:

    Love the end result your cravings led to… and now you have *me* craving Indian food!

  12. Spirited Miu Flavor Says:

    Hey Mike, my first time on your website and I’m greeted with a wonderful chicken dish, fair? I think not. This is just too good, look at all those ingredients above that situmulate my senses!

  13. Ninette Says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Anne Bowes Says:

    Making this amazing dish for a New Year’s get together and I’m already drooling!! However, wondering what amounts of the finals spices listed in the BBQ sauce (cinnamon, cardamom, etc.) Thanks so much :)

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