Back in the day when my family lived in Edmonton, my dad would often travel for business. My mum has never loved cooking and my dad was always the more keen chef, so when he was away, we knew it was more likely that we might get to go to a fast food restaurant for dinner.
I should preface this by saying that we didn’t eat fast food often – it was very much a treat reserved for when friends were coming for sleepover parties, celebrating basketball and soccer team victories, and when dad was away.
I never had a favourite fast food spot, and I don’t think my mum or sister did either. This is why our little ‘tour de fast food drive thru’ was born. We had a McDonalds, Arby’s, KFC and Dairy Queen all within a 5 minute drive of each other, so on nights when we really wanted to have fun, we’d rent a movie from Blockbuster (remember when that was a thing!?), and my mum would drive the loop of these fine dining establishments.
We’d order our favourite items from each: roast beef sandwiches from Arby’s, McDonalds fries, Dairy Queen Mr. Misty’s (kinda like a slurpee) and Blizzards for dessert. Occasionally we’d also stop at KFC and pick up an order of their cinnamon twists, which were puffy, crunchy, twisty things coated in cinnamon sugar. They were deeevine, and if I knew how to make them at home, I would.
A family bucket of KFC’s chicken was sometimes on our fast food tour menu, and I always went for the drumsticks. I haven’t had a drumstick – KFC or otherwise – in years, and I think it’s because while reminiscing about these nights makes me smile, the thought of catching as much as a whiff of KFC these days makes my stomach flip flop. With all that said, in my recent work with MeatMe.ca (a company that sources ethically and sustainably raised meats from local farms), I was given some chicken drumsticks to create a recipe with.
You guys know I’m always up for a good kitchen challenge, and you also know that deep fried chicken isn’t quite my style. What I came up with was pretty darn tasty – and far better, if I may say so! I’ve been really into using heaps of warming spices lately, especially Indian-inspired combinations. Some of my favourite Indian dishes are tandoori cooked meats and veggies, which just means that they’re cooked in a clay pit-like oven over charcoal, usually in a marinade of yogurt and spices. Obviously, I don’t have a tandoori oven in my apartment, but I do have yogurt and a bunch of spices. And so, these Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks were born.
Tandoori style cooking is a pretty healthy method, just like baking or roasting in a regular oven, which is exactly what I did. About 30 minutes was all it took for these little guys to be golden and slightly crispy on the outside, yet juicy and full of Indian-inspired flavour on the inside. You could 100% apply the same marinade to different cuts of meat (or even tofu), but regardless of what you use, know that these are definitely a healthier option than fried chicken!
A quick note for my paleo and grain-free friends: You can easily make this a grain-free meal by swapping out the rice for cauliflower rice, and you’ll reduce your cooking time too. See the note at the end of the recipe for my tips for making it just as tasty.
Marinated in a mixture of coconut yogurt and warm spices, these healthy Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks are full of Indian-inspired flavours.
For the chicken
- 1 cup coconut yogurt (or other non-dairy yogurt, to keep it dairy-free)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tbsp finely minced or pureed ginger
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp each ground cumin, paprika, coriander and turmeric
- pinch of cayenne pepper and sea salt
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- mango chutney, for serving
For the rice:
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 cup brown or wild rice blend (this will yield about 3 cups cooked, so you may have leftovers)
- 2 1/4 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
For the chicken:
- Stir together all ingredients for the marinade. (If you want it super smooth you can use a food processor, but if you mince or grate your garlic and ginger, there’s no need.)
- Remove the skin from the drumsticks if you like, then toss them in a bowl or resealable bag and pour the marinade over top. Seal or cover and set them in the fridge for at least 3 hours – ideally overnight for the best flavour.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooking rack over top to allow chicken juices to drip. Optional: rub the rack with coconut or olive oil for easier cleanup.
- Place the marinated chicken on the rack and baste with any remaining marinade. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until the drumsticks are fully cooked. To crisp them up a bit, switch to the broiler setting for a couple of minutes at the end. (Monitor closely though – burning happens fast!)
For the rice:
- Heat the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan for about 1 minute, then add the garlic, shallot and curry powder. Stir fry until fragrant (1 minute), then add the rice and vegetable broth.
- Cover the pot with a lid and cook the rice for as long as the package indicates (this will vary depending on the type of rice, but brown rice typically takes ~40 minutes.) Check occasionally to ensure there is enough liquid.
- Once cooked, drain off any excess liquid and stir in the cilantro or parsley and lime juice.
- Plate the chicken alongside the rice. Spoon chutney over top or serve on the side for dipping, then garnish with additional herbs and lime wedges if desired.
To make this recipe paleo, simply swap out the rice for cauliflower rice. Skip the vegetable broth and stir fry it in the garlic, shallot and curry powder until warm. Stir in fresh herbs once warm throughout.
[Tweet “Dinner tonight: Better-for-you Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks with Mango Chutney”]
If you’re also craving warm Eastern-inspired food now that it’s getting chilly outside, be sure to also check out this Anti-Inflammatory Curried Salmon with Rice Biryani and Coconut Mango Chicken Curry!
So tell me… Do you have any recipes that need a makeover? Or, have you recently made over a less-than-healthy dish from your childhood with raving success? Do share!