Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs

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best grilled chicken kabobs

These grilled chicken kabobs marinated in a yogurt, lemon, garlic, and spices are a huge crowdpleaser.

One of my favorite recipes for warm-weather entertaining, these chicken kabobs are marinated in a tangy blend of Greek yogurt, lemon, garlic and spices and then grilled until golden brown. They’re wonderful over a bed of golden basmati rice pilaf with dried fruit and almonds (pictured) or on top of a Greek salad. Just be sure to make extra — the first time I made these kabobs for a crowd, I actually ran out of food!

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 thighs whole (the red onions can be cut into large wedges and placed directly on the grill as well).

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 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

marinade ingredients in bowlStir to combine.
marinade in bowlNext, prep the chicken thighs by trimming 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.

threading chicken and onions on skewers

Place the kabobs on a baking sheet lined with foil, and then spoon or brush the marinade over top, making sure to coat it well. Cover and let the kabobs sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

chicken kabobs ready to marinate

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

grilling chicken kabobs

Serve and enjoy!

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Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs

These grilled chicken kabobs marinated in a yogurt, lemon, garlic, and spices are a huge crowdpleaser.

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
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (reduce to 1/2 teaspoon for less heat)
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2-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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Reviews & Comments

  • These kebabs are so incredibly tasty, chicken thighs are the right choice. We paired with the Chickpea & Red Onion Salad which also tastes fabulous. Both of these recipes will definitely be repeat performers in our home.

    • — Sabine G on June 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I am wondering about the best way of freezing the chicken, in the marinade, or after cooking. Thank you.

    • — Stella on June 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Stella, You could go either way, but I may lean toward freezing it in the marinade.

      • — Jenn on June 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • I tasted these a few weeks ago when I had dinner at my friend’s house and made them myself yesterday. These are so delicious, really tender, and flavorful. I used chicken breasts and they didn’t dry out at all. Highly recommend.

    • — Anna on June 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I replace the regular paprika with smoked paprika?

    • — Paula on June 12, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • I am looking forward to trying this recipe. Jenn – Would you mind linking the metal skewers you are using here? Thanks!

    • — Chad on June 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Chad, these are the ones I have. Hope you enjoy the chicken!

      • — Jenn on June 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • Wow wow wow! Made these chicken kabobs tonight exactly as per the recipe and served with the Basmati Rice with dried apricots, raisins and toasted almonds. So moist and flavorful. Definitely a keeper recipe. Thank you Jen for another winner!

    • — Cathy B on June 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was hit with the whole family and I will definitely make it again to feed a crowd this weekend. So easy and full of flavour. I have yet to try a recipe from your site that wasn’t a winner.

    • — Susan on June 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made this recipe once and will be making it again this week. I paired it with the recommended rice . It was a huge hit – the flavours were great, we felt like we were in a high end middle eastern restaurant. As a side note, after going back time after time to make Jennifer’s various recipes that I would find on line, I purchased her cookbook as everything turns out so delicious and I love her recipes. The cook book does not disappoint – I’m waiting patiently for the second cookbook (I hope there will be one). 😊

    • — Gerri on June 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the recipes, Gerri! There is a second cookbook coming out in September. You can preorder it here if you’d like. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 7, 2021
      • Reply
      • This is great news – definitely ordering your new cookbook. Thank you for your reply.

        • — Gerri on June 8, 2021
        • Reply
        • Thanks for your support! ❤️

          • — Jenn on June 9, 2021
          • Reply
  • Thank so much for this wonderful recipe, Jenn.
    It has been out go-to chicken marinade for nearly 2 years! The best 🙂

    Quick question, is it an Israeli recipe? We serve it with Israeli salad.
    Yum!

    • — Savanna Faith on June 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Savanna, I’m glad you like it! I’m not sure that I would call it Israeli as I think you can find kabobs like this in various parts of the Middle East (but the Israeli salad sounds like a great pairing)!

      • — Jenn on June 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made the Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs and Basmatti Rice for dinner last week. Never again will I buy grilled chicken kabobs when I can make these at home. They were fantastic! This was also a nice recipe to get familiar with traditional middle-eastern spices as well. All in all, I give the kabobs and the rice side dish a 10 out of 5. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • — Ray Bullman on June 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • While the marinade tastes delicious, it looks nothing like the “step by step” photo; and it’s not thick at all. I used all ingredients noted in the recipe, but am concerned that the marinade will just slide off the chicken/red onions. Company coming tomorrow – time to press the panic button? Thank you for any advice!

    • — Beth Johnson on May 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Beth, I’m not sure why your marinade isn’t thick – it should be. Did you make any substitutions?

      • — Jenn on May 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • Tender and delicious!

    • — Jane Minervini on May 30, 2021
    • Reply

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