These grilled Lebanese chicken shish tawook skewers are a great way to spice up humble boneless skinless chicken. With bold middle eastern flavors and lots of warm spices, these middle eastern chicken skewers are going to be a family favorite without a doubt! Serve these chicken tawook skewers with homemade lebanese garlic sauce, yellow shawarma-cart rice, batata harra, and even a fresh and bright lentil tabbouleh salad, for a complete meal.
👩🏽🍳 Why This Recipe Works
- Versatile cooking options: This shish tawook (sometimes spelled shish taouk) recipe is a great one as you can use different cooking methods to achieve the same delicious, juicy chicken result. You can make these skewers on an indoor grill pan, an outdoor grill, or even the air fryer. The options are endless, just like with my Greek pork souvlaki recipe.
- Full of flavor: This yogurt-based marinade is the reason why these chicken kebabs are such a popular dish. The marinade is packed with yogurt, lots of warm spices, a touch of tomato paste, fresh lemon juice, and a little olive oil. Combined together, all the pieces of chicken become little morsels of goodness! If you usually find chicken breast to be bland and dry, these skewers will change your mind.
- Different ways to eat: I love these shish tawook recipe because you can use the chicken pieces in different ways. You can have these skewers as a main dish paired with your favorite sides, but can also make a shish tawook sandwich made with warm pita bread, with creamy hummus, fresh onions, and even some garlic sauce. The choice is entirely yours!
🥘 Ingredient notes
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: Although many people may believe that chicken breasts are on the bland and dry side, I find that it is the ideal cut for this recipe. It is easier to get good-sized chicken cubes out of chicken breasts as opposed to chicken thighs, which tend to be thinner. The yogurt marinade also locks in the moisture and juiciness of the chicken, so nothing dries out.
- Greek yogurt: For any of my yogurt-based marinade (like chicken shawarma, chicken tikka, etc.) I recommend using greek yogurt. Greek yogurt adds the rich moisture you want, without adding excess water and liquid to the marinade. This also helps prevent the excess moisture from "steaming" the chicken when you are cooking it. Full fat is the best option for this recipe, but you can make do with lower fat greek yogurt as well.
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste is one of the "secret" but key ingredients in shish tawook. The marinade needs a very small amount of tomato paste, which adds some added body and color to the marinade. Because you need such a small amount, I recommend using the tomato paste in a tube to avoid spoilage.
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
- Chicken breasts: Chicken thighs will work just fine in place of chicken breasts. Keep in mind that the your chicken pieces will be slightly smaller/thinner than if using chicken breasts. This means you may need to use more chicken thighs in place of chicken breasts, to get the same quantity/servings.
- Greek yogurt: In a pinch, you can use regular yogurt instead of greek yogurt. I recommend straining out some of the extra liquid if possible, to get a similar thick consistency to greek yogurt. You can also use sour cream as a substitute, as long as it is full fat.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon adds an earthy, warmth to the marinade. You can substitute with seven spice (which I use in my homemade shawarma) if you prefer.
- Extra herby: Add some finely chopped mint, parsley or cilantro to the marinade for an extra bright, herby twist on this classic shish tawook marinade.
- Dairy-free: Substitute greek yogurt with mayonnaise, coconut milk, or keep the marinade entirely oil-based for a dairy-free recipe.
- Spicy marinade: Add extra red chilli powder, chilli flakes, or chopped red chillies for an extra spicy kick to these chicken skewers.
⏲️ Step-by-step Instructions
Prep Work Before Cooking
- Collecting all your ingredients: This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
- Cube the chicken: Cut the chicken breasts into even-sized cubes.
Add the cubed chicken, yogurt, seasonings and spices to a large bowl. [photo 1]
Using tongs or your hands, combine the chicken with the marinade. Be sure to mix the yogurt and the spices together well, so each piece of chicken is properly coated. [photo 2]
Let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, to a maximum of a few hours.
Thread the chicken pieces onto bamboo or metal skewers, alternating between chunks of red onion and chicken. [photo 3]
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat, until the a drop of water sizzles on the surface right away. Spray the grill pan with oil cooking spray. Place the skewers of chicken on the grill pan, and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F on a meat thermometer. [photo 4]
💭 Expert Tips
- If using wooden skewers: Be sure to soak the skewers for at least one hour, ideally, to prevent the skewers from burning.
- Remove extra marinade before cooking: If you are using an indoor grill pan, I recommend lightly wiping off the extra marinade from the chicken to prevent excessive burning, and to keep the grill pan from smoking up indoors.
- Rotate the skewers: To get a nice char all over the skewered chicken, rotate the skewers routinely while cooking.
- Avoid over-marinating: The lemon and acid in the marinade will start to break down and change the texture of the chicken. I do not recommend marinating this chicken for extended periods of time for this reason.
🍽 Make Ahead & Storage
Allow the grilled chicken skewers to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To reheat, use an oven, air fryer, or grill. Avoid reheating in the microwave, as this can make the chicken slightly rubbery.
You can marinate the chicken in advance and then freeze it for another day. Store the marinated chicken in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container, remove excess air, and freeze. Thaw the chicken in the refrigerator when you are ready to eat.
⭐ Recipe FAQs
Fresh lemon juice is strongly suggested for its vibrant flavor, but you can use bottled lemon juice if you do not have any fresh citrus around.
Boneless, skinless chicken is the most common cut of meat for a traditional shish tawook recipe. You can use this marinade on bone-in chicken, but you will probably not need to skewer it.
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Lebanese Shish Tawook Skewers
- Add the cubed chicken, yogurt, seasonings and spices to a large bowl.4 Chicken breasts, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, ¼ cup Olive oil, 4 cloves Garlic, 1 teaspoon Tomato paste, ¼ teaspoon Turmeric, ½ teaspoon Paprika, ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon Red chilli powder
- Using tongs or your hands, combine the chicken with the marinade. Be sure to mix the yogurt and the spices together well, so each piece of chicken is properly coated.
- Let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, to a maximum of a few hours.
- Thread the chicken pieces onto bamboo or metal skewers, alternating between chunks of red onion and chicken.1 Red onion
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray the grill pan with oil cooking spray.
- Place the skewers of chicken on the grill pan, and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F on a meat thermometer.