tandoori poussin

Tandoori Roast Poussin

We are not big meat-eaters. So, oven-busting Sunday roasts don’t tend to happen in our house and if we cooked a turkey for Christmas day we’d probably still be eating the leftovers at Easter. A small bird like a poussin is perfect for us and this recipe with tandoori spices has become something of a festive favourite.

Poussin are small chickens. On the odd occasions that we have oven-roasted chicken, I prefer these tender little birds to the full-sized variety. But to be honest I was getting a little bored of plain roast chicken of any kind. So I thought I’d have a go at a tandoori spiced version and it certainly takes the flavours to a new level. Surprisingly perhaps it seems to go pretty well with English vegetables, we tend to serve it with mashed potatoes, roast parsnips, broccoli, kale and the obligatory Brussels sprouts at Christmas.

This tandoori poussin has a subtly charred dry skin from the oven roasting but remains succulent and juicy inside. The finishing touch is a lovely smokey flavour imparted by burning charcoal using the ‘dhungar’ method.

I have made this several times and one of the joys of this roast is that the leftovers make a sumptuous wrap the next day. Simply chuck a few pieces of tandoori poussin onto a bed of crunchy peppers, red onions; slap in lashings of mint chutney, roll the flatbread and it’s a ‘wrap’… quite literally!

That mint chutney brings out the textures and flavours in this wrap.  It’s the perfect complement for the tandoori poussin and a must if you’re making this roast. So I have included the recipe for it below. I always make plenty because it serves as a perfect lunch for Boxing Day or a summer picnic alike. The word ‘leftovers’ really doesn’t do justice to the combination of crisp and soft textures, the spicy poussin, pungent onions and the cooling minty yoghurt.

Each bird is prepared by seasoning with salt, chilli powder and a few Indian spices, which I refer to as the ‘first marinade’ followed by a second yoghurt based marinade.

Tandoori Poussin

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: Starter, MainCuisine: French, Indian, EuropeanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time




Cooking time


Total time






  • 1 poussin (feeds 1-2 people)

  • For the first marinade
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (skip or adjust to taste)

  • 3 cloves garlic and 1cm piece of root ginger mashed to a purée

  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder

  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi (crushed by hand)

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp chaat masala

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (or amchoor powder)

  • 1 tsp dried pomegranate powder (or anardana powder)

  • 1 tsp garam masala

  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder

  • 2 tsp black salt

  • 1 tsp sumac

  • salt to taste

  • For the second marinade
  • 150g Greek full-fat yoghurt

  • 1 tsp tandoori masala powder (optional)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • juice of 1 lime

  • For the dhungar smoking
  • 1 lump of charcoal

  • 2 tsp ghee or butter

  • For the mint chutney
  • 100g (2 cups) coriander chopped

  • 28g (1 cup) fresh mint leaves

  • 1 tsp chaat masala

  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder (optional)

  • 245g (1 cup) Greek full-fat yoghurt

  • 1 tsp black salt

  • salt to taste

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

  • juice of half a lime

  • 1/2 inch ginger

  • 1-2 green chillies

  • 2 tbsp water


  • Prepare the poussin by removing the skin from the legs and thighs and making 6-8 deep cuts in the breasts, thighs and legs
  • Season the poussin with the dry spices and ginger/garlic purée of the first marinade. Work this first marinade into the cuts thoroughly by hand and leave it to rest for 20 minutes in a lidded bowl
  • For the second marinade, squeeze the lime over the poussin followed by a good sprinkle of tandoori masala. Tip in the Greek yoghurt and again thoroughly rub into the cuts by hand. Finally, pour the oil over the marinade.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 190℃ (fan oven) and prepare a baking tray with a grill to roast the poussin on. Line the tray with silver foil to collect the drips.
  • Place the poussin on the grill and baste generously with a 50/50 mixture of sunflower oil and marinade left in the bowl.
  • Roast for 10 minutes uncovered, then baste again and cover loosely with foil. Return to the oven for 30 minutes covered, basting every 10 minutes. Finally, remove the foil, baste for a final time and return to the oven for 10 minutes (or until fully cooked)
  • Remove the poussin from the oven, cover again with foil and rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  • Place the poussin in a large lidded saucepan or bowl. Using a pair of tongs, heat the charcoal over a naked flame on the hob. Once it becomes red hot, transfer it to a tiny heat-resistant ceramic or steel bowl. Immediately place the bowl containing hot charcoal into the saucepan beside the cooked poussin. Pour the ghee over the hot charcoal and immediately place the lid on the saucepan ensuring the smoke doesn’t escape. Leave covered for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with some mint chutney.
  • Making the mint chutney
  • Grind all the ingredients except the yoghurt. Add the yoghurt and mix.


  • Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the bird, we used 500g poussin for which about 50 minutes is about right. There is no reason why you cannot use the same technique with a larger chicken but please adjust the cooking time to ensure that the meat is properly cooked through.
  • The quantities in this recipe are for a single poussin. Note that one poussin will feed two people with modest appetites. Allow up to one each for big eaters.
  • The tandoori masala is optional. The poussin will still come out tasty if you skip it due to the myriad of other spices in the marinade.
  • Smoking the poussin using the dhungar method is optional.

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