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.

Platter of Middle Eastern-style grilled chicken kabobs.

One of my go-to chicken recipes for summer cookouts, these Middle-Eastern style grilled chicken kabobs are wonderful over a bed of rice pilaf or served with a Greek salad. The chicken is marinated in yogurt, olive oil, 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. Short on time? Skip the skewers and grill the chicken pieces whole, and slice the red onions into large wedges and pop them right on the grill. A word to the wise: make more than you think you’ll need. 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 hold up better when using an acidic marinade; yogurt or lemon-based marinades can make boneless skinless chicken breasts leathery. Chicken thighs are also much easier to cook without drying out. (If you’d like to experiment with other chicken thigh recipes, BBQ-spiced chicken thighs and char siu chicken are both huge crowd pleasers.)

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


Platter of Middle Eastern-style grilled chicken kabobs.

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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

  • This is truly an AWESOME recipe like the other reviewers mentioned. My kids and I had enjoyed it so much with basmati rice and lightly sauteed bell peppers! So delicious! Will make this again for sure!

    • — Mina on December 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe last night but was too lazy to skewer the chicken. Instead I did a deconstructed version. I cooked the chicken in a pan along with the sauce. For the red onion I cooked that in a separate pan in olive oil along with red and yellow bell peppers. Once the vegetables were to my liking, I took a large spoonful of the sauce from the chicken and drizzled that over the vegetables.

    I made the suggested yellow rice and also made some modifications to that recipe. This recipe is a definite keeper in my book.

    • — Heidi on December 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Thank you for this deconstructed version. I want to make these, but it is currently 4 degrees where I live and grilling outside, is out of the question!

      • — Jill on December 23, 2022
      • Reply
      • I do the same but instead in the air fryer and it’s delicious!

        • — D Salas on January 10, 2023
        • Reply
  • I make this for our family several times a year with the yellow rice. It’s a perfect blend of subtle spices with the yogurt. Flavorful and tender.

    • — Julie on December 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Can I bake in oven?

      • — Jackie Hoover on January 14, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Jackie, These can be cooked in the oven but I’d use the broiler. Flip them once or twice as you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cooking time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on January 16, 2023
        • Reply
  • The spice mix for this recipe is just beautiful, cooked it for my partner and my 7 & 8 year old and everyone absolutely loved it

    • — Louise on November 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • The whole family LOVES this (and many more of your) recipe. This is saying something as my two kids are picky eaters.
    Easy to prep the night before and the next day everything is basically ready to go! Most of the time we already have all the ingredients on hand.
    WE LOVE IT!

    • — Oriana on November 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Incredible flavor and the chicken is butter soft after marinating in yogurt overnight.
    I followed the recipe exactly. Will make again and again.

    • — DS on October 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe is amazing. The chicken was so tender and the rice paired perfect with it. No leftovers. Will definitely do again.

    • — Patricia on September 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi there! Would it be ok to marinate these two days ahead or would that mess with the meat? Thank you!

    • — Emily on September 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Emily, I wouddn’t push it beyond that, but 2 days should be okay.

      • — Jenn on September 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’ve used this marinade on chicken kebab, beef kofta, and even for a fried basmati rice. Easy and always great flavor.

    • — Katherine on September 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Just made for the first time tonight and loved it! I marinated the chicken for 24 hours and just grilled them. Delicious. Thank you!

    • — Sara on September 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Found this recipe it was amazing. We didn’t marinate overnight and it still turned out fantastic.

    • — Anthony on August 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe was very disappointing. The spice profile is bland and the chicken was dry. The chicken was constantly sticking to the grill.

    • — Francois on August 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you think this recipe would work with pork instead of chicken? I have an abundance of pork in the freezer right now. (I love all your recipes – they always turn out so well and end up being family favourites.)

    • — Pam Davison on August 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Pam, So glad you like the recipes! I wouldn’t recommend using pork here though as I think they would come out tough — sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made this for a luncheon today, marinating the chicken around 3:00 the day before. It was delicious. I had tried 2 other chicken kebab recipes which while highly rated disappointed me. Why didn’t I just start with your recipes as they are always perfect! I would love if you could come up with a recipe for Greek Lemon chicken kebabs!

    • — Ann on August 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow! I made this for dinner tonight, and it was spectacular. I marinated it for almost 24 hours, and the flavors were terrific and distinct, and the chicken was tender and delicious. This is one of my new favorites. Thanks for the recipe, Jenn.

    • — Steve on August 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi, I did this for a birthday lunch, prepared the night before and the taste was amazing. Not overly spicy yet flavourful. Thank you for all wonderful recipes.

    • — Katarína on August 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi, can they be baked in the oven?

    • — maria miranda on July 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Maria, These can be cooked in the oven but I’d use the broiler. 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 July 26, 2022
      • Reply
  • I plan to make this in an air fryer/ grill without the skewers. Has anyone attempted and had success? Any recommendations or tips on cook time or temp? – Excited to try!

    • — Girl In a Kitchenette on July 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, I can’t help b/c I don’t have an air fryer; hopefully someone else will weigh in. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 16, 2022
      • Reply
    • Yes! I’ve done them in the air fryer, 350 for about 10-12 minutes then increase to 400 to get the crisp/char to your liking. Total cooking time about 20 minutes.

      • — Jas on July 22, 2022
      • Reply
      • 👍

        • — Evita on August 6, 2022
        • Reply
  • I’ve made this so many times and it’s DELISH every time! I also add bell peppers

    • — Indra on July 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe a few weeks ago and we just loved the chicken! Can you use this marinade for shrimp?

    • — Karlyn on July 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! I haven’t made this with shrimp, but I think it’ll work. I’d cut the marinating time down to 30 to 60 minutes. And, be careful not to overcook the shrimp – you’ll need about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on July 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • Have made many times to rave reviews. But I have a stupid question…I have been using the smallest container of Fage Greek yoghurt assuming it was a cup. With my new eyeglasses I see it’s only 6 ounces…should I have been measuring into a cup measure?
    Thank you.

    • — Diana on June 30, 2022
    • Reply
    • Not a stupid question at all! A 6 oz. container is just under a cup so technically you’ll need a little from a second container. That said, if it’s worked just fine with the 6 ounces, it’s okay to stick with that. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 30, 2022
      • Reply
      • Jenn, again you have given us another winner. I live in the Middle East, and we call this dish Shish Tawook. Your marinade is authentic, and just perfect with a nice kick from the spices and such tender chicken. Thank you!

        • — Fiona on April 29, 2024
        • Reply
  • 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.

  • Made this several times. Love it. One of my go tos.

    • Just made this dish today & my kids loved it!!!! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

      • — Pia on July 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Would the marinade work for a sauce for the grilled chicken kabobs as well?
    Thanks, Diane

    • Sure, but you’ll need to boil the marinade for 5+ minutes to kill any bacteria from the chicken. 🙂

  • 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?

    • Hi Brina, you really can go either way here! 🙂

      • Hi Jenn, can you marinade these in advance and freeze the kabobs prior to cooking?

        Thanks!!! They’re delicious!

        • — Mary on January 17, 2024
        • Reply
        • Sure, that should work. 😊

          • — Jenn on January 18, 2024
          • 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?

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

      • can i make ahead for a party and freeze cooked kabobs, defrost and reheat gently in oven?

        • — Rhonda Siegel on July 11, 2022
        • Reply
        • Sure, Rhonda that will work. I’d cover them with foil when reheating. Hope everyone enjoys!

          • — Jenn on July 11, 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?

    • So glad you enjoy it, Susan! And, yes, it reheats well. 🙂

  • 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.

  • This is really the best chicken I’ve eaten. Everyone was raving about it.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Can I swap out lemons for limes?

    • Sure!

    • 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
    • Reply
  • Super recipe, went down a treat with everyone.

    • 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!

      • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!
    🙂

    • 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!

  • Love this it has become one of my standby recipes

  • 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.

  • I made tonight with the Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds. The whole family loved it! Thank you.

  • 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).

  • This is a really great alternative for kabobs. Exactly what i was hoping for.

  • Would tofu work instead of the chicken?

    • 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!

  • 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.

    • I love this recipe
      The chicken is so moist and flavorful and the red onion is so sweet when put on the grill.

    • Hello, can this recipe be made in the oven or air fryer pls ? I do not have a grill. Thank you.

      • 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!

    • Amazing recipe! Thank you 🙂 I’d like to broil the chicken kabobs the next time I make them. Just wondering what temperature to broil them at. Please let me know.

      • — Zahra on October 31, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Zahra, Glad you enjoyed them. I’d broil them on high.

        • — Jenn on November 1, 2022
        • Reply
  • HELP – I want to make this now and I only have “smoked paprika” – will that harm the taste?

    • 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!

      • I make this all the time with smoked paprika, it’s really good!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

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