Tandoori Honey and Saffron Infused Chicken Drumsticks

As some of you know – I have been trying to learn to use a ceramic tandoor.  This evening’s experiment was with a recipe for honey and saffron infused chicken drumsticks.  It is an extremely simple recipe but one that brings out the best flavor in chicken.  I usually find that chicken is the US is mass-produced and as a result the taste is often compromised. To make up for the lack of taste I have taken to using complicated marinades or a lot of spices. But this recipe was simple and the chicken drumsticks actually tasted like good old chicken that I am used to eating in Asia!


1.    12-14 skinless chicken drumsticks
2.    One large yellow lemon
3.    1.5 tablespoons of honey
4.    One large onion or two medium onions
5.    2 teaspoons of paprika or Kashmiri Mirch (chili powder available in South-Asian stores)
6.    Salt to taste (I add 2 teaspoons of low sodium salt)
7.    One pinch of saffron (about 8-10 strands)
8.    2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


1.    Wash the chicken drumsticks under cold water and pat them completely dry with paper towels.
2.    Using a sharp knife make slits in the flesh of the drumsticks (so that they get cooked thoroughly on the grill and no pink is left inside) and set them aside.
3.    Peel the onion and coarsely chop it in a few pieces and then grind it in a blender to make a fine pulp.

4.    Using a fine sieve (or cheesecloth, squeeze the onion pulp with a spoon to take out the juice of the onion. It should be about ½ a cup of more.

5.    Squeeze the juice of the lemon and mix the saffron strands in it.

6.    Also add the salt and onion juice to the lemon juice to make a marinade.

7.    Dip the chicken drumsticks into the marinade and rub it in thoroughly (so that the juices get into the slits in the flesh that you had made earlier).
8.    When all the drumsticks are covered with the marinade, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken legs and refrigerate them for at least 6 hours.

9.    When you are ready to grill the chicken, take it out of the refrigerator so that it comes to room temperature.

10.    Drain a little bit of the lemon juice and onion juice mixture out into a separate container and add the paprika powder or Kashmiri Mirch powder to it.  Also add the olive oil and honey and whisk it thoroughly.

11.    Pour this new marinade over the chicken legs again and coat all the legs with this fresh marinade completely.
12.    Light up the charcoal in your grill. In my case I used the Homdoor tandoor but you can also use a regular charcoal grill. Personally I prefer the tandoor because the heat is evenly spread out and the inside of the chicken got cooked without burning the outside layer.
13.    Using sharp metal-skewers skewer the drumsticks and place them in the tandoor or on the grate of the grill.

14.    Cook till the outer layer of the chicken legs is brown and crispy.
15.    Take the chickens legs off the skewers and serve them while they are still hot with a side of salad, flat bread and raita (I used Labneh and fresh mint leaf raita).


Related Posts


  1. Permalink Submitted by Shilpa Patel on Tue, 10/07/2012 - 08:20

    yummm!!! I am now filled with an intense desire to see and perhaps test out your tandoor! The chicken looks absolutely picture perfect… wish you’d shown a picture of the naans that you had cooking on the side, too! This marinade sounds delicious – but does the saffron flavour persist through the smoky tandoor roasting?

  2. Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 10/07/2012 - 21:12

    Hi Shilpa – yes the saffron flavor lasts through the cooking process but only if the quality of the saffron is real good. The naans came out real good and I was thinking of putting that recipe up but my son ate them up even before I could take pictures – so I’ll have to make them again when he is NOT home 🙂 I am also just learning to make the naans – they came out soft inside and crunchy outside but it was difficult to make them stick to the side of the tandoor (I think less ghee would have been better)…also I think the tandoor was too hot (which I needed for the chicken drumsticks). So even I am still experimenting with the dough recipe – will get it down soon – definitely before you get back into town. We’d love to have you guys over – you can experiment all you want with the tandoor – it is quite an intriguing instrument/toy!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shilpa Patel on Wed, 11/07/2012 - 17:20

      I guess in a traditional tandoor the naan sticks to the somewhat coarse surface of the clay pot – here the ceramic is likely to be too smooth?

      • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Thu, 12/07/2012 - 14:15

        No, no Shilpa – this tandoor does have a coarse surface to it but the mistake I made was that I added too much Ghee and so the dough was very soft and when the ghee melted, it tended to “unstick” the Naan from the sides. The ones that did stay stuck came out GREAT and were gobbled up by the family even before the chicken was ready! But I am still experimenting and should get it down soon 🙂

  3. Permalink Submitted by Richard on Wed, 11/07/2012 - 15:04

    The chicken looks very good and I will try that recipe soon. I have found that the naan needs to be cooked first while the tandoor is cooler. Should not be over 400 to 450 degrees. Also have found that non yeasted naan also cooks better,

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Thu, 12/07/2012 - 14:21

      Thanks Richard! Let me know how the chicken turns out! My Naans tasted great (the ones that didn’t fall) but I probably added too much ghee/butter to the dough. Also, this was my first attempt at making them in a tandoor so I am still learning the process. Yes, I guess heat had a bit to do with it too – I will take your advice and cook them ahead of the meats. I am partial to the “yeasted naan” – I guess the Indian in me prefers the texture and fluffiness it adds to them. I know that Iranians, Afghanis and other Central Asian cultures prefer their flat bread really flat. I am still experimenting with the various ingredients for the dough and hopefully will be able to standardize the recipe and upload it on the blog soon. Have you been using the tandoor for quite some time? Tell me what you think of it? Good to hear from you – would really appreciate any feedback you might have – Shabnam

      • Permalink Submitted by Richard on Mon, 16/07/2012 - 16:56

        I have only been using the Homdoor for a couple of months now. It has turned out some great meals, with fish being consistently the best. Haven’t tried a whole fish yet, but rather have been cooking cubes of thick cut filets. I have tried several breads, but have yet to make a batch that I would consider to be stellar. Let me know if you perfect your naan, I would love to try it. Now that I am cooking breads at a lower temp, the yeast breads will likely do better.

        • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 17/07/2012 - 02:32

          Hi Richard – yes, I did try the whole fish and that was delightful! I am planning to try some swordfish kababs this Friday (our neighborhood fish vendor brings a truck around on Fridays and his fish is far better than any I find in the local supermarkets, so I wait for him). I also tried some naans and they came out great but I haven’t been able to post the recipe on the blog as yet because before I could take any pictures, the family had already devoured them. The only problem was that I probably added a bit too much butter which make them a bit unsticky/slippery so I lost a few in the tandoor. I am planning to try some more tomorrow (along with tandoori baby red potatoes) – let’s hope I have better luck keeping them stuck to the side this time! BTW, if you are on facebook – my page is FlavorNspice and if you “like” the page you can get regular updates on whatever I post next and these days I am on a tandoori-experimentation binge and would love to exchange some notes with you. if you have some tips, do pass them along…Happy cooking!

  4. Permalink Submitted by Nutan K on Thu, 03/07/2014 - 12:41

    Hi Shabnam, this chicken recipe was a bust at our barbeque last night. The color didn’t look anything like yours, the flavors were really bland and the onion juice marinade not a hit with the family & friends. Did you by any chance add orange color to the marinade because the saffron did not add the color & I used very good quality saffron I must add. Even after cooking the drumsticks, we kept getting a raw onion taste, which was off putting. Sorry to see a much anticipated barbeque dinner turn into a disappointment.

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 04/07/2014 - 17:11

      I am so sorry to hear that the recipe did not turn out well. No I did NOT add any color to the recipe – the color came from the Kashmiri Mirch. I haven’t made this recipe in a while but now that you have mentioned that it didn’t work out well, I’ll do it again one of these days and see if it needs more work. Also I made this in a ceramic tandoor and I am wondering if you used a regular grill. I don’t understand why the dish seemed so bland. The only thing I do remember is that I used organic chicken and usually the original taste of the chicken is crucial in getting right taste for the dish. However, it is NOT a very strong tasting grilled chicken (it does NOT taste of a lot of masalas like Tandoori Chicken) but it does taste VERY good. If you don’t like milder flavored dishes, then this would not be the recipe for you. I am so sorry for the inconvenience this caused you and your guests.

add new comment