If you enjoy bread and are a fan of Pakistani / Indian flavors like chicken tikka masala or tandoori chicken with naan, you will LOVE these tandoori chicken naan buns! They are made with the softest, fluffiest naan bread, filled with spicy, smoky chicken, and drenched in warm garlic butter. Every bite is heavenly with a beautiful explosion of flavors in your mouth, and these are absolutely perfect for Ramadan and Iftar feasts. And the best part? This recipe is EASY! I am all about simplifying things, and you will find this to be as simple as it gets for such a beautiful dish.
How did I come up with this recipe? Well, I have always been a sucker for warm, soft bread rolls, and am always looking for new ways to innovate them. Being a Pakistani, I also love tandoori chicken with fresh naan. So as I was ideating recipes for Ramadan, it was only logical for me to merge all of that into one with these tandoori chicken naan buns!
Tandoori (Smoked) Chicken Filling
So, originally, tandoori chicken refers to marinated chicken that is grilled in a "tandoor" or clay oven. It has a smoky flavor and a beautiful char on it. If you have access to tandoori chicken, just buy and shred that! But for this filling, we are simplifying things for the home cook who doesn't have a clay oven.
Here's what you will need to make this filling (quantities are given in the recipe card at the end of this post):
- Chicken breast tenderloin (also called chicken tenders), cut into medium sized cubes. I like using tenders as I find them to be most moist than breasts, but you can use any boneless chicken you like
- Plain, full fat yogurt: Yogurt is incredible for marinating chicken and lends a fresh flavor
- A pureed tomato: I just blend a tomato in my Nutribullet, but you can also use canned crushed tomato
- Ginger garlic paste: Use fresh or bottled
- Lemon juice
- Fresh coriander (or cilantro)
- Oil, butter or ghee to cook
- Optional: Shredded mozzarella cheese. I just like cheese in everything, but you can totally skip this!
The exact quantities are written in the recipe card below!
To get the smoked flavor, you will also need smoking chips or coal! In the US, I find smoking chips easier as they smoke less aggressively (and we don't want to set off that smoke alarm, if you know you know).
For the naan dough, you need the most basic pantry ingredients:
- Warm milk (~110F)
- Active dry yeast (you can substitute instant yeast)
- All purpose flour (also called plain flour)
- Softened, unsalted butter
- Plain full-fat yogurt - this is what lends naans their moist, soft texture and slightly tangy flavor!
Great news is, these are eggless (except the egg wash, but you can do that with just milk)! So if you don't eat eggs or have an allergy, you can use this recipe to create naan buns or plain naans, and fill them with anything you like. Yay!
To bring everything together, you will need:
- Egg wash: This is just a mixture of egg yolk and milk, brushed onto the buns it lends them a beautiful shiny golden color
- Sesame seeds: Because they're added to naans and are yummy
- Garlic butter: I make this with butter and garlic powder, simple!
- Freshly chopped cilantro / coriander
You can also serve these buns with chutney (like mint and coriander chutney), but I loved them just as they are.
HOW TO MAKE TANDOORI CHICKEN NAAN BUNS
Now let's walk through the process. As promised, I will make this very simple for you guys 🙂
Check out this video on the entire process:
1. Marinate the chicken
Combine everything except the oil, coriander and cheese in a large bowl and set aside. See, promised you guys simple!
This will take ~30 minutes, during which you will get started on the naan dough.
2. Prepare the naan dough
The dough is also simple. First mix the yeast with warm milk and let them foam up (usually ~10 minutes), then add everything else and knead. You can knead this dough by hand or use a stand mixer like my KitchenAid.
If kneading by hand, know that this will be a soft and sticky dough, and it will take ~10 minutes or more of a push-pull motion for the dough to come together. Don't be tempted to add more flour, just keep working it. I find it really helpful to use a scraper to keep my counter clean while doing this.
Once the dough is smooth, soft and stretchy, transfer to a clean bowl sprayed with some oil, cover with cling wrap, and set in a warm spot for about 60 minutes or until it doubles in size.
3. Cook the Tandoori Chicken Filling
By this point, your chicken should be done marinating. Heat oil or butter in a large wok, and cook the chicken on high heat until it becomes tender and most of the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat, and use a fork and knife, or two forks, to shred the chicken into smaller chunks.
Now, take your smoking chips in a piece of aluminum foil. Gently fold the foil so that there is a small opening at the top. Place onto your stove with the burner on low heat, and heat until you see smoke leaving the opening on the top. At this point, use a tong to transfer the foil into your work, open the foil more, and cover with a lid. Let the chicken smoke for 5-10 minutes.
Note: Be very careful when handling smoking chips as you don't want to set off the smoke alarms. Keep your exhaust on on the highest setting.
Finish with some fresh chopped coriander, and this filling is done!
4. Assemble the naan buns!
Once the dough has doubled in size, your filling should be ready and slightly cooled down. Now you can start assembling the buns!
Prepare a 9x13" pan with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (using a kitchen scale makes this easier), then roll each piece into a ball with your palms.
Working one ball at a time, flatten into a small disc (roughly ~3.5" in diameter). Use a 2" scoop to scoop the chicken filling into the center of the disc. Add some mozzarella cheese if using. Then pull up the edges and pinch them in the middle, so you have a ball that is filled with the chicken. Using your fingers, press the edges together so the ball is well sealed, then gently roll in your palms to perfect the shape. And now you have a chicken filled naan bun! Place onto the baking tray, and repeat until all 12 rolls are done.
Now let the rolls rise again for ~30-45 minutes until they are more puffy.
5. Bake and serve!
Once the buns have risen again, brush them generously with egg wash and sprinkle over some sesame seeds.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until they have a beautiful golden color all over.
Take out of the oven and brush with some garlic butter and garnish with fresh coriander.
The naan buns are ready for you to enjoy! And enjoy, you shall 😉
This is a very versatile recipe which you can modify in different ways! For example:
- Use the naan dough to make actual naans, instead of filled buns
- Make naan buns without any filling and serve with garlic butter - yum!
- Make naan buns with a different filling. For example, you could do just cheese. Or you could make a keema (minced meat) filling. Or a vegetarian filling - really, whatever you like as long as it's not soupy!
No fancy equipment is needed in this recipe. You will just need:
- A few large mixing bowls
- A stand mixer like a KitchenAid (or knead by hand)
- A large wok with a lid
- Wooden spoon
- Aluminum foil for smoking chips
- A scoop (but you can also use a spoon)
- A 9x13" baking sheet
- An oven, of course
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The buns will develop a beautiful golden color all over when they are done baking. You can also test by pulling one bun away and looking at the edges - do they look raw or cooked?
You can keep these in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Use a toaster oven or normal oven to heat up for a few minutes before enjoying!
Yes! You can use this dough to make naan. After the first rise, divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll out into naan shapes. Either bake in a pizza oven, or cook on a pan until they are done. Brush with some ghee or butter and serve!
Now let's get baking!
Looking for a dessert to eat after these buns? Check out my delicious cinnamon rolls, which use a similar dough, and my ultimate chocolate chips cookies!
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