Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs

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best grilled chicken kabobs

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You’ll make these flavorful chicken kabobs all summer long.

One of my all-time favorite recipes for outdoor entertaining, these chicken kabobs are wonderful over a bed of golden basmati rice pilaf with dried fruit and almonds (pictured) or on top of a Greek salad. The chicken is marinated in a yogurt and olive oil-based marinade flavored with lemon, garlic and spices, and then grilled over an open flame until juicy and golden brown. The only time-consuming part of the recipe is threading the meat and onions onto skewers. If you’re in a time crunch, feel free to skip the skewers and grill the chicken pieces whole (the red onions can be cut into large wedges and placed directly on the grill as well). One hint: make extra – the first time I made these chicken kabobs for a crowd, I actually ran out of food!

What You’ll Need to Make grilled Chicken Kabobs

chicken kabobs ingredientsI’ve specified boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe; they’re juicier and more flavorful than boneless skinless chicken breasts, and they also work much better in this type of yogurt and lemon-based marinade (acidic-based marinades make boneless skinless chicken breasts a bit leathery). Chicken thighs are also much easier to cook without drying out.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Marinade

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic.
marinade ingredients in bowl

Stir to combine.

marinade in bowlStep 2: Prep the Chicken and Thread onto Skewers

Trim the chicken of any excess fat and gristle. Don’t worry about getting every last bit of fat; most of it will melt off on the grill. Then cut the meat into bite-size pieces. I think it’s easiest to use kitchen shears as opposed to a knife.

trimming and cutting chicken thighs

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers alternating with the red onions. Metal skewers are ideal as they won’t catch fire on the grill. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes first so they’re slower to char on the grill.

threading chicken and onions on skewers

Step 3: Marinate the Chicken

Place the kabobs on a baking sheet lined with foil, and then brush the marinade all over the meat, coating well. Cover and let the kabobs sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

chicken kabobs ready to marinate

Step 4: Grill the Kabobs

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, grease well, and then grill the kabobs until golden brown.

grilling chicken kabobs

Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Kabob Video Tutorial


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Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs

You’ll make these flavorful chicken kabobs all summer long.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 35 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 50 Minutes, plus at least 8 hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (reduce to ½ teaspoon for less heat)
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2½ to 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1½-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing the grill

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers, folding if the pieces are long and thin, alternating with the red onions. Be sure not to cram the skewers. (Note: You'll need between 6-8 skewers.) Place the kabobs on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the marinade all over the meat, coating well. Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. To grease the grill, lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated. Grill the chicken kabobs until golden brown and cooked through, turning the skewers occasionally, 13 to 15 minutes. (The yogurt marinade makes these kabobs prone to sticking to the grill grates; if necessary, use a metal BBQ spatula to scrape underneath the kabobs and release them.) Transfer the kabobs to a platter and serve.
  4. Note: I've specified boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe; they're juicier and more flavorful than chicken breasts, and they work better in this type of yogurt and lemon-based marinade. They're also much easier to cook without drying out.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 350
  • Fat: 15g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 6g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 41g
  • Sodium: 871mg
  • Cholesterol: 186mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • The chicken was so moist and flavorful, I will be making this dish quite often. Instead of putting the pieces on skewers, we bbq them separately on a grilling mat and they turned out beautiful. Talk about melt in your mouth goodness.

    • — Diane P. on June 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Excellent chicken kabobs loved the rice pilaf.

    • — Holly on June 5, 2022
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  • Made this several times. Love it. One of my go tos.

    • — Pierre on June 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Would the marinade work for a sauce for the grilled chicken kabobs as well?
    Thanks, Diane

    • — Diane on June 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, but you’ll need to boil the marinade for 5+ minutes to kill any bacteria from the chicken. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • I like to make these in advance can I freeze the chicken skewers with the marinade or thaw the chicken skewers and then marinate, what do you recommend?

    • — Brina on June 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Brina, you really can go either way here! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can I use this marinade for chicken breast tenderloins and grill them at the same temperature and time as your Moroccan Grilled Chicken recipe?

    • — Sona on May 31, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sona, I wouldn’t recommend this marinade for the tenderloins. It contains lemon juice which will make the tenderloins tough. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is my FAVORITE chicken recipe! I’m making a huge batch for an upcoming event and would love to make it in advance…could it be reheated?

    • — Susan Miller on May 23, 2022
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    • So glad you enjoy it, Susan! And, yes, it reheats well. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 23, 2022
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  • I’ve made this and searched frantically again for it 3 times on the web. Finally saved to my recipe file. Perfection! I wasn’t sure about cinnamon but it really softens the acid of yogurt and lemon. Marinated lamb in the same recipe, and served with traditional middle eastern sides and a greek salad mixed with farro. Picky eaters love it and very healthy meal. Thank you for making me look like a rock star with minimal effort. I love many of your recipes.

    • — Eileen G on May 21, 2022
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  • This is really the best chicken I’ve eaten. Everyone was raving about it.

    • — Monika on May 18, 2022
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  • DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND MAKE THIS! This is the best chicken kebab recipe ever – the flavors are spot on. We make this at least 3x a month and we fight over who gets more chicken every single time. Thanks for this one Jenn.

    • — Leila on May 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • I mean seriously the best kebab recipe ever! For anyone commenting about it missing a gravy: I recommend a simple tzatziki sauce. I pair this with pita bread and an Israeli salad. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • — Nina on May 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can I swap out lemons for limes?

    • — Sohnia on May 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on May 9, 2022
      • Reply
    • Hi. Did you try it with limes? What did you think? I’m making for a dinner party and one of my guests is allergic to lemons and I’m trying to accommodate her for at least a few dishes. Thanks! Jill

      • — Jill on June 6, 2022
      • Reply
  • Five Star Recipe- Just don’t be like some… “I changed from grilling to boiling, thighs to breasts, onion to green beans, I altered the amount and types of seasonings and spices… believe it’s way too strong. I changed the rice to black beans.”

    • — Chris SomeWebGuy on May 9, 2022
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  • Super recipe, went down a treat with everyone.

    • — John on April 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • If I marinate the chicken thigh pieces the exact same way but want to bake it instead of put ons skewers and grill, how long would you recommend baking for? This recipe is delicious!

      • — RMU on May 28, 2022
      • Reply
      • Glad you like this! I wouldn’t really recommend baking them as you won’t get that nice char on the outside that makes the chicken so good. If you broil them, I’d recommend about 6 minutes on each side. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

        • — Jenn on May 31, 2022
        • Reply
  • Absolutely fantastic- glad that I made an extra package of thighs as these literally disappeared! Paired with the Jerusalem salad and Basmati rice recipes – easy to pull off!

    • — John on April 15, 2022
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  • I NEVER comment on recipes, but had to leave one on this.

    This is honestly the best chicken weve ever made, and we make quite a few different recipes/in many ways. The marinade is absolutely perfectly balanced. Several different flavors come through and none seem to overpower, which is important in a truly great marinade.

    Weve done the kebabs as well as just using the marinade on chicken thighs and cooking them on the grill. Both times we absolutely loved it! I actually even took the leftover kebabs to work and they were amazing the next day.

    • — Mike on April 7, 2022
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  • Made on a George Foreman (electric) grill. Delicious, though I marinated overnight till almost 2 p.m. and then found the seasoning a bit too strong.

    • — Carla on April 4, 2022
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  • Made this chicken last night using cut up breasts. Marinated them for 24hrs. Man, they were just the change of pace we needed. Mine was a little lemon-heavy, but the cumin and garlic were fantastic. I did onion, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms, and squash for the veggies, light brushing of marinade for only 6hrs. Served it over mildly spiced quinoa. Sadly, I missed some kind of gravy! I’ll have to figure that out for next time.

    • — Kevin on March 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Dear Jenn,
    Thanks so much for this recipe – these are our favorite kebabs!
    We’d like to use the marinade for bone-in drumsticks and thighs, to take to a ‘Hebron’ concert in July…
    Do you think it would work to omit the yogurt to make them dairy-free, as some people have dietary requirements?
    Thanks very much for your advice!
    🙂

    • — Savanna Faith on March 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Savanna, so glad you like these! I don’t think it would work to omit the yogurt in the marinade but you could use a dairy-free yogurt. You may also want to consider this recipe. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Love this it has become one of my standby recipes

    • — Paula on March 22, 2022
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  • This is the best kebab recipe I have ever used. Numerous times in fact. I have been using it for years now. You won’t be disappointed.

    • — Tammy on March 10, 2022
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  • I made tonight with the Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds. The whole family loved it! Thank you.

    • — Kathy on March 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • My family absolutely LOVES this dish! I have shared the recipe many times and the response is always the same – my friends love it too! Instead of grilling the kabobs, I broil them in the oven. Also, I use Chicken breasts instead of thighs, since I find them easier overall. In addition to the red onion, I also put squash, zucchini, and yellow bell pepper on the skewers. I serve with boxed Rice-a-Roni (chicken or pilaf).

    • — Anna on February 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is a really great alternative for kabobs. Exactly what i was hoping for.

    • — Jimiboy on February 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Would tofu work instead of the chicken?

    • — Lauren G on February 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Lauren, I don’t have any experience working with tofu, but I think the marinade would work well and I see online that tofu can be grilled, so I think it’s worth a try. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on February 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious!! I pair with the Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds as recommended, both so so good! Surprisingly easy, this will be a regular in my dinner rotation.

    • — Christina on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • I love this recipe
      The chicken is so moist and flavorful and the red onion is so sweet when put on the grill.

      • — Patsy on February 17, 2022
      • Reply
    • Hello, can this recipe be made in the oven or air fryer pls ? I do not have a grill. Thank you.

      • — Tan on May 17, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Tan, This can be made in the oven. I’d use the broiler and flip them once or twice as you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cook time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on May 17, 2022
        • Reply
  • HELP – I want to make this now and I only have “smoked paprika” – will that harm the taste?

    • — Mary on January 30, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, It won’t harm the taste; it will just give the chicken a distinctly smoky flavor. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2022
      • Reply
      • I make this all the time with smoked paprika, it’s really good!

        • — Peter on February 5, 2022
        • Reply
  • Made this several times, and it is so good but not too keen on grilling outside. Also it is 20 degrees outside tonight. I deconstruct the kabob. Grill the small pieces of thigh on a cast iron grill pan, and char both sides to get the grill marks. Don’t cook it all the way through. Then I put the pan in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I caramelized the onion in another pan. Served with the pilaf rice. Sort of a kabob bowl.

    • — Becky J. on January 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • Horribly presented recipe, no list of ingredients or any indication of how much of them do you need. Had to search for similar recipes to get the idea on how to actually do those.

    • — Vadim on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Vadim, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2022
      • Reply

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