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 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

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

  • The grilling is telling. 🙂 Smells like a good Middle Eastern restaurant. Tastes great too. Greek yogurt is essential. Made once with non Greek yogurt…marinade not thick enough to cling so flavors get into meat

    • — Jane on September 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this and OMG it was so delicious! I marinated the chicken overnight and the chicken was so moist. It had a nice char from the grill.

    • — Darlene on September 3, 2021
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  • I’m making these for a party on Monday. Some like white meat, some like dark. If I use both do I need to vary the cooking time? Would it be better to cook on the bone? Also, how strong is the flavor of cinnamon? Concerned some guests may not enjoy. Thanks!

    • — Vickey on September 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Vickey, I’d stick to the kabobs. The white meat kabobs will cook more quickly; they should take 7 to 10 minutes. And the cinnamon is not pronounced in the dish so I wouldn’t worry about it. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on September 6, 2021
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  • yum!

    • — Lauri on August 27, 2021
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  • How do you make the pilaf rice? I see it’s yellow in the pictures. What ingredient did you use? thank you!

    • — crina on August 26, 2021
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    • Hi Crina, Much of the coloring comes from turmeric. You can find the full recipe here. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on August 27, 2021
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  • Have made this a few times and is always incredible. Would definitely recomend.

    • — D dawg on August 26, 2021
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  • Excellent! We have made this a few times and always a very good result!
    The chicken is moist and flavourful. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Lynn on August 12, 2021
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  • Outstanding! This is a keeper!

    • — Catherine V. on August 8, 2021
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  • This is really good!
    My kids (4 and 2) enjoyed it with the pilaf rice. And they can be picky eaters. I’ll definitely keep the recipe and make it again.
    I marinated the meat for 6 hours only because I lacked time and I didn’t have cinnamon in my pantry but the result was super delicious 😋

    • — Marie on August 2, 2021
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  • EXCELLENT! Delicious flavor that is well rounded and has a bit of a kick! The flavor profile is very different from the usual chicken marinades. The chicken was deliciously juicy and the yogurt-based marinade got a beautiful char on the grill. I will make this many more times!

    • — Samantha on July 31, 2021
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  • This is fantastic. It is fairly easy and so tasty. Definitely a keeper.

    • — Ann Cameron on July 26, 2021
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  • Outstanding! Served with the Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Nuts. Will be great for a gathering! I only brushed the top and let the marinade drip down the sides. Should I brush the prepared skewers on all sides?

    • — Shellie on July 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked it! Yes, you should brush the marinade on all sides of the chicken.

      • — Jenn on July 27, 2021
      • Reply
    • Tasty and moist, we loved it! My husband’s mother is Lebanese, and Middle-eastern food is among our favorite cuisine. I alternated cubes of chicken thighs with cubes of breast, and subbed plain whole milk yogurt (had it on hand). Had only 4 hours to marinate, and cooked them on the greased grill at 375-350 flipping four times (total 14 minutes) to brown each of four sides until they reached about 160 degrees; then tented with aluminum foil for 1-2 minutes. They were terrific! Sides were cumin rice, yogurt, hummus, fresh fruit chop plate, and Persian cucumber/tomato/parsley salad with sumac. Next time I will plan to marinate overnight! Thank you for your intro and helpful photos, Jenn.

      • — NewWorldComing on August 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • hi..we actually made this recipe a few times before and it was amazing..and we’re gonna make it again during a family reunion..I usually marinate it overnight and we cook it by lunchtime the next day..but in the upcoming event, we’ll cook it for dinner.. I just want to ask the maximum time for marinading the chicken??

    • — Herschelle on July 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Herschelle – so glad you like it! Marinating the chicken until dinner is perfectly fine. The maximum marinating time I would suggest is 48 hours.

      • — Jenn on July 26, 2021
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  • So good! The first time I made this recipe, I used boneless skinless thighs and marinated overnight. It was amazing. The second time, I used chicken breasts and only marinated for an hour. It was also amazing! You can’t go wrong with this marinade. Can’t wait to make again and again.

    • — B on July 23, 2021
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  • I don’t have a grill. What indoor cooking method would best replicate outdoor grilling?

    • — Sharon Jachem on July 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, I’d use the broiler in your oven — I’d flip them once or twice like you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cook time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 22, 2021
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  • This was delicious but I changed the oil to garlic oil as I have family member who can’t have garlic – just delicious – I also added zucchini and capsicum and served with Greek yoghurt/parsley/lemon dressing – a true easy hit thank you.

    • — Susan on July 22, 2021
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  • We love this recipe. My fussy child absolutely adores it, especially BBQed. I double the seasoning though!

    • — Sara on July 11, 2021
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  • Wow – I have never heard so many compliments from my family about a meal. I made the kebabs and a few of your other recipes (basmati rice, israeli salad, tzatziki, hummus and pita). (from the 9 middle eastern recipes you should make). All were delicious. Aside from a fair amount of chopping, the recipes were so easy to make. Thank you!

    • — Julie on July 8, 2021
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  • Make this recipe!! This was simply delicious. I made it in the broiler and simply laid the kabobs on a sheet pan lined with foil, turning occasionally. Perfection! Jenn – you are beginning to ruin us for restaurants! Other than in Syria itself, this is the best chicken kabob I have ever had. It was a hit with the whole family and friends group. Amazing with the recommended rice with fruits and nuts (also another Jenn winner).

    • — S from DC on July 8, 2021
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  • This chicken is delicious. I don’t go through the trouble to make kabobs. I leave the chicken thighs whole and grill them on my cast iron griddle on my gas grill. They are scrumptious.

    • — Tara Branham on July 6, 2021
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  • Have made on the grill many times. Wonderful. BUT when I used the broiler – 2x- the coating stuck to the pan after I turned them over. Didn’t look attractive when I served them.., If I preheat the broiler pan, before putting the kabobs on it, can I skip turning them???
    Thank you.

    • — Diana on July 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sorry they stuck, Diana. Yes, what you’ve suggested is fine. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can these be cooked in the oven/under the broiler?

    • — VA Dean on July 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, you can broil them, flipping once or twice like you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cook time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Can I marinate the chicken for more than 24 hours, say 48 hours? I’d like to prep Saturday night to grill Monday night. How long is the maximum you would recommend letting the chicken sit in the marinade?

    I’ve made this before with an overnight marinade and it was sensational. My guests loved it. And now I’m making it for them again.

    Thanks so much for your recipes!

    Nancy

    • — Nancy Kao on July 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it, Nancy! 48 hours should be fine for marinating, but I wouldn’t exceed that.

      • — Jenn on July 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can I use non fat Greek yogurt for this recipe? I happen to have that on hand.

    • — Hallie on June 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Hallie, It will work, but they won’t be quite as rich and flavorful. Please LMK how they turn out.

      • — Jenn on June 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can I use regular yogurt, or does it being Greek yogurt matter?

    • — Bruce on June 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, regular yogurt should be fine here. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • Deliicious! These kabobs were even great after my husband threw me a scheduling curveball that required me to throw them on the grill after only an hour of marinating! There was minimal sticking on the grill after I took the time to preheat it for 15 on high and then oiled the grates twice, letting it “bake on” for 5 min after each application. Paired with the recommended Basmati rice pilaf and it was all so good!

    • — Marybeth F. on June 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! used chicken breast and it was moist and yummy. made one change- ground coriander instead of cumin. also added zucchini and red pepper tossed in olive oil, garlic powder and lemon pepper.

    • — charrington on June 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    This is a delicious recipe.
    I was wondering if you could let me know how to cook them in a conventional oven (temp and time) before the last grilling to brown them.
    Thanks!

    • — Abhijit Chatterji on June 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! If you want to use the oven, I wouldn’t bother to finish them off on the grill. I’d broil them in the oven, flipping once or twice like you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cook time will be about the same. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • These look delicious! For a dairy free option, do you think mayonnaise would work as a substitute for the yogurt? Thanks!

    • — Catherine Levu on June 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, I’d probably go with a dairy-free yogurt instead of mayo. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2021
      • Reply
    • What temp should I use for oven? Help!

      • — Adria Calnon on July 6, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Adria, If you want to use the oven, you can broil them. I’d flip them once or twice like you would on the grill so they brown evenly – the cook time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on July 6, 2021
        • Reply
  • These were super for our Father’s Day BBQ. Everyone loved them. Thank you for sharing!

    • — Melanie O. on June 20, 2021
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  • Wow. This is a winner and definitely a repeat recipe. The key is using the chicken thighs and the mix of ingredients listed in this recipe. Thank you for sharing. My husband does not enjoy lemon in his food, but he loved the taste in this recipe.

    • — Teresa Plutz on June 20, 2021
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  • 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
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  • 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
  • Hi Jenn – This recipe looks great, & I’d like to make it for small Father’s Day family gathering this weekend. Can I substitute full fat regular yogurt (which I have on hand) for full fat Greek yogurt? And, if so, is something lost in the translation? Thx!

    • — Dan W on June 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think that should be fine. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on June 16, 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
    • marinade was thick for me, did you sub the yogurt?

      • — charrington on June 23, 2021
      • Reply

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