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Image: Getty Images; design Archi Banal
Image: Getty Images; design Archi Banal

KaiDecember 28, 2023

Indian barbecue ideas to spice up your summer

Image: Getty Images; design Archi Banal
Image: Getty Images; design Archi Banal

Sick of sausages? An Indian barbecue is spicy, tangy, tender and colourful – and the magic is in the marinade.

Around the time of the Black Friday sales, I made the mistake of pining over a Weber barbecue online while builders hammered together our new deck. I was unsure if future me would be a barbecuing-meat-over-the-coals goddess or a wood-fired pizza angel. 

Before I could decide, the stalking began. 

Businesses selling sauces, meat thermometers and pizza peels relentlessly tried convincing me that barbecue season was here and what was I doing still cooking dinner on the stove? But, I showed Meta who’s boss and spent three hours derusting my trusty $100 Warehouse grill. And while others went shopping at Kmart for the endless Secret Santas, I went to my local butchers because I wanted, no needed, to have a grilled meaty meal. 

One of the best parts about an Indiany barbecue meal is that there are never any sausages on the menu. Nor do we eat meat that tastes of just meat, salt and pepper. 

An Indiany barbecue is spicy, tangy, tender and colourful. Think fiery red and smoky tandoori steak, earthy and bright green hariyali chops or creamy, garlicky malai chicken tikka. Sounds tasty but complex? Think again. The magic is in the marinade and they’re all relatively easy to master.

Tandoori chicken kebabs and hariyali chicken kebabs on the grill at a street stall in Kolkata (Photo: Getty Images)


A tandoori marinade is an Indian staple that works on every meat and also with paneer, potatoes or tofu. The internet is full of recipes but be warned that they’ll have a long list of ingredients. If you’d like the spicy, smoky tandoori flavours at home, you’re better off starting with a ready-made tandoori paste instead. A good-quality paste will contain fenugreek leaves, black cardamom and cinnamon but if it doesn’t just add those in at home. Mix the tandoori paste with yoghurt and lemon juice and you’re good to go. 


Malai translates to cream making it the perfect marinade for children and spice-averse guests. Combine ginger-garlic paste, cream cheese, cream, salt, pepper, thick yoghurt and a green chilli if you’re feeling brave. Allow the meat to bathe in the marinade for a couple hours before popping it on the grill. The result? Garlicky, creamy, succulent chicken or paneer.

Chicken malai skewers (Photo: Getty Images)


Hariyali translates to lush greenery and if you love herby, earthy flavours this is the marinade to try. Process together coriander, mint, green chilli, garlic, ginger, cumin, garam masala and lemon juice to create a chutney. Coat your beef, fish or paneer in the chutney and you’re ready to grill. You can also use this chutney to create en papillote-style steamed fish parcels.


Spicy and pungent, an achaari marinade is made with spices that are normally used in an Indian pickle and will give a robust, zesty kick to your barbecue. Grind together fennel, mustard, fenugreek and nigella seeds with chilli powder and dry mango powder. Combine the spice mix with mustard oil to create a paste that you can coat onto the meat. If you’d rather not muck around with multiple spices, invest in a bottle of Mother’s mango pickle instead and use that after you’ve brined the meat.


If you love a more subtle earthy flavour then opt for this golden saffron-infused marinade which goes best with chicken, fish or paneer. Soak a generous pinch of saffron in warm milk to release its aroma. Mix the milk with yoghurt, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste, green cardamom, cumin and coriander powder to form a smooth paste. Allow the protein to marinate in the paste for 2-3 hours before charring on the grill for a mild, smoky meal. 

So ditch the salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard this summer and try some Indiany flavours on your barbecue instead. And, if it all gets too hard (it’s school holidays after all!), head to your local Pakistani/Indian butcher where you can buy the meat already marinated for a little extra.

Keep going!