Chicken Chooza

Servings : Serves 2-4

Chicken Chooza is a spicy tender whole spring chicken that has been marinated in yoghurt and various spices and then grilled in a traditional tandoor oven until cooked through. It is HIGHLY popular in parts of East Africa, especially in my home-town of Mombasa. The results are usually moist and super delicious! Since most of us do not have a tandoor oven in our home, I have modified the prep and cooking method so as to achieve a similar end-result for those of us who do not have access to a tandoor. This is my personal version of the famous recipe.

First Marinade

  • 2 tbsp lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Other Ingredients

  • 1 small spring chicken, skin removed (600g-800g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (less for milder)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp lime/lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp fresh thick yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp cooking cream (optional)
  • 1/4 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp orange or red food colouring
  • 4 tbsp oil plus some extra for brushing the chicken during grilling
  • 1 tsp tandoori masala powder (optional)


First, clean the chicken then brine it by completely immersing it in water that has been seasoned with 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, quarter cup white vinegar, juice of half a lemon plus some roughly chopped fresh herbs like coriander or parsley. This helps plump up the chicken, making it moist and tender and infusing more flavour into it. Refrigerate the chicken in its brining water for 1-4 hours. Then drain out the liquid, rinse out the chicken properly to get rid of any excess salt and proceed with the marinating.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, carefully cut it open from the breast side by dividing the breast clear through the middle to open up the chicken. Make deep slits on all the thick parts of the chicken. Set aside.

Combine all the ingredients for the first marinade (lime/lemon juice, chilli powder and salt) and rub into chicken. Set aside for 1 hour.

Next, combine the remaining ingredients, yoghurt, cream, ginger, garlic, tandoori masala, food colouring and 4 tbsp oil. Mix these ingredients well using a whisk or fork. Pour this marinade over the chicken and rub it on, ensuring it goes into all the slits for maximum flavour. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the fridge at least half an hour to an hour prior so that it is no longer very cold. Turn on the charcoal grill on medium heat and place the chicken on top. Ensure the flames are not too hot as we need the chicken to cook all the way through. Allow it to cook for a total of about 10-15 minutes on each side, occasionally brushing the chicken with a touch of oil and turning regularly until you notice some charring and the chicken is cooked through. You can cut into the thigh part to check that the chicken is fully cooked. It does help to use a grilling mesh basket as it will prevent the chicken from falling apart as you keep turning it during the grilling.

Remove on to a plate and cover with foil to allow the chicken to rest for a bit before serving. If you have some marinade leftover, add about half a cup of water to it and simmer for 10-15 minutes to serve with the chicken as a sauce.

Serve with periperi chips, naan, salad, raita or with rice.


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