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

  • The recipe calls for skewering the chicken and then brushing it with marinade. Any reason not to marinate the chicken first and then skewer it?

    • — Esty on May 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Esty, Either way will work; it’s just a bit messy to skewer the meat once it’s in the marinade.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’d like to try this recipe this weekend and have a question. My husband (the grill-er) typically uses our grill’s rotisserie to grill kebobs (so the kebobs would be above the grate and not directly on it). Do you recommend cooking directly on the grate of the grill instead of above on a rotisserie? Do you think it would make a difference in finished product?

    • — Diana on May 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Diana, I think the rotisserie will work great (and you won’t have to worry about sticking); just be sure the flame is high enough to get some color on the kabobs.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • First, thank you for so many delicious recipes! I love your site and have yet to make one of your recipes that didn’t turn out great.

    Now for my question: I made the marinade yesterday (Wednesday) morning as I was planning to have the dish for dinner tonight. Change of plans and now I have the marinade in a covered bowl in the fridge (not on the chicken). How long do you think it will keep like that? Do you think I could still use it on chicken Sunday night to marinate and cook on Monday or should it be used up before then?

    • — Heather on May 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Heather, I wouldn’t worry about it – it should be fine to use on Sunday. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on May 27, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was wonderful! Made half the amount of kabobs and marinade but total rice! Yes quite time consuming, and after completing it, thought never again🤣. BUT we loved it and since my husband raved so much, I’ll definitely do it again! Only had 1 1/2 % yogurt, but seemed fine. The rice is a true treasure, and don’t leave the red onions out of the kabobs! Everything’s easier after the first run through!

    • — Penelope on May 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, love this recipe! Question-I like to cook with coarse kosher salt. Would I add more than the 1 3/4 tsp or the same? Thanks!

    • — Rosalee on May 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Rosalee, I’d go ahead and add the same amount (and glad you like this)!

      • — Jenn on May 26, 2021
      • Reply
      • It’s a keeper!! My husband vacuumed saved the leftovers. He saves the good stuff for when he hunting at his man cave when I am not around to cook. Will make this several more times.

        • — Carla on May 26, 2021
        • Reply
  • This was very well received when I made it for company; they even asked for the recipe. I followed it exactly but would increase the herbs for cooking for my family; it seemed a little mild to me, but clearly was good for a general population like my guests. We enjoyed it with your rice pilaf with fruit and almonds. thank you.

    • — Linda on May 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • My entire family LOVES this recipe – and I have some picky eaters! It is a wonderful change from our standard dinner fare. The only change I made was 1/2 the red pepper flakes, as some family members don’t like a lot of heat. The chicken is very tender, and I put squash, zucchini, red onion, and red peppers on the skewers. The left overs are delicious, too!!

    • — Anna on May 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello, could we have a bit more guidance on how to serve to a crowd with the rice, please? Would you have the rice separately in a big bowl, and then the skewers out on a platter, for people to go through a line and enjoy both? Thank you for any tips on the best way to serve these to a crowd, especially when dining in a buffet fashion.

    • — Kay Eibl on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, I think what you’ve suggested it the perfect way to go about it. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
    • Kay, you could also use disposable aluminum chafing dishes with Sterno to keep the food hot on a buffet line. When I serve a crowd, I boil a lot of water in a tea kettle, then carefully pour the water into the chafing dish and light a can of Sterno underneath the rack to keep the water hot for a couple hours. Then I use smaller square aluminum serving dishes for the food. Place them carefully in the larger tray of boiling water. As long as the water is high enough to touch the bottom of your serving pan, the food in the pans should stay hot. You can buy all of the necessary components for this at any party store.

      • — Lori on June 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can I use fat free Greek yogurt instead of full fat?

    • — Rachel on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • You can, Rachel, but they won’t be as flavorful. If you are comfortable using 2%, I’d recommend that.

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Jenn, we love this recipe. I don’t use all the marinade on the chicken but put some aside for dipping when served. My big problem is that as much as I oil the grill they still stick. Is my grill too hot?? Usually around 400 degrees. I have started making mine in the oven, just rubbing marinade on the whole boneless thigh and baking them with the red onions. Seems to work, but we love to use our grill. Any suggestions?
    Thanks
    Terry from AL.

    • — Terry Gibson on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Terry, I don’t think your grill is too hot. If anything, you could make it a little hotter. Because of the yogurt marinade being a bit gloppy, these have a tendency to stick a bit. I’d just get under them with a spatula and scrape a little until they release. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on May 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Would nonfat Greek yogurt work in this recipe?

    • — Susan D on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, It will work, but won’t be quite as rich and flavorful. If you’re able to, I’d suggest using 2% instead.

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Sorry, I just saw that someone else had already asked this question. Will make with sour cream instead of yogurt! 🙂

    • — Lynda Freedman on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • I am intolerant to yoghurt, can I make this with sour cream instead?

    • — Lynda Freedman on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure — enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi,

    I’m making these today and i don’t have a grill, do you have any estimates or suggestions on baking then putting under the broiler?

    Thank you!!

    Charlene

    • — Charlene Floyd on May 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Charlene, I think I’m weighing in too late to help — sorry. If you haven’t made them yet, 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.

      • — Jenn on May 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi!!! I only had two chicken breasts on hand, but that didn’t stop me from using your recipe! I marinated them a couple of nights ago, and grilled them last night on the bbq! I watched them very carefully as you had mentioned that this type of meat would dry out more quickly. The skewers cooked in approx. 20-25mins. Turned out great 🙂 Soft, tender, and lots of flavour. I think there might have been too much marinade, hence a bit salty. I will likely half the recipe next time. It made about 3 1/2 skewers which was shared amongst the 3 of us. Thank-you for the easy instructions and recipe.

    • — Lisa on April 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello ! I marinated these last night and am going to cook them tonight but was wondering if I were to bake them instead, what temperature and how long ?

    • — Brianna on April 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Brianna, I would 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.

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was AMAZING! My first time working with chicken thighs and it was a little intimidating with the amount of trimming I wanted to do. I ended up trimming only the major areas and was prepared to hate the outcome – but totally loved it! (And I am one to be very sensitive to “bad bites” of chicken.) it seems the thighs are forgiving! The taste was so fresh and light – and truly better than any kebabs we’ve ever ordered at an Afghan or middle eastern restaurant. The whole family – including husband, mother in law, and two elementary aged kids all raved about it! This will be a favorite for a long time! Thank you!

    • — Joanna on April 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe delivered and then some! Everyone loved them and I took Jenn’s advice and made extra and have enjoyed the leftovers for lunch this week! Rice pilaf is a MUST! Thanks Jenn!

    • — Kristin Wolff on April 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • OMG, this is seriously delicious!! It tasted very authentic. I served it with a Tabbouleh salad, hummus and flat bread for a bbq. This will be definitely be on my menu for my bbq’s over the summer!

    • — Simpky on April 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • If I want to make this entirely in the oven, so I broil on high for the whole 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally? Or bake first and then broil?

    • — Manavi Sharma on April 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Manavi, You don’t need to bake them at all; just broil for 10 to 15 minutes and turn occasionally. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this many times my family loves it.
    So tasty better than any other chicken kebab.

    • — Lisa on April 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious dish, especially with the basmati rice dish. I served it with a Middle Eastern-type salad, toasted pita bread with olive oil and sumac on it & had a wonderful meal.

    • — Joan Cohn on April 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi there. I only have vanilla yogurt and sour cream. Would sour cream be okay to sub? Thx!

    • — Annie on April 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Annie, sour cream will work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 7, 2021
      • Reply
      • Would this marinade work on lamb chops as well?

        • — Katz on May 20, 2021
        • Reply
        • Sure!

          • — Jenn on May 21, 2021
          • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, can you freeze the skewers in their marinade before cooking?

    • — Christine on March 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2021
      • Reply
    • Can this be done in a Foreman Grill?

      • — Natalie on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
      • I’ve never used a Foreman grill so I can’t say from experience, but I suspect it will work. Please LMK how they turn out!

        • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
        • Reply
  • Excellent dish! No grill, so I roasted them in a hot oven, then finished with the broiler to get some crispy bits. Came out fantastic. Thenks for a great recipe

    • — Maribeth on March 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was a great dish. Made it with the couscous. Scrumptious

    • — Ruth Levy-Franks on March 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is such a hit with my family. I make it as often as possible and from kids to grandparents, everyone raves about them. So delicious!

    • — Jeanne on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Wow, this marinade is amazing! I made it a couple of weeks ago and will make it again today. Instead of kebabs, I left the chicken thighs whole and cooked them on a cast iron skillet. This recipe is a keeper, no doubt! Thank you!

    • — TTD on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I just make these in the oven because I don’t have a grill? What temp and for how long?
    I love your recipes and the fact that I do not have to tweet them! Thanks Jenn

    • — Renee P Medina on February 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Renee, you can broil them in your oven. Set the broiler to high. The timing should be the same; just be sure to turn the skewers so they brown evenly. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is our favorite chicken recipe. Can’t. Stop. Eating. It. We have to stop ourselves from eating an entire 2lbs of chicken (and there’s only two of us!) . I have found a couple hours is even enough to marinate, and have spread the chunks of marinated chicken on a sheet pan (with sides as there’s a lot of juice) and it’s also come out great!

    • — Leslie on February 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is our go to recipe especially when we are able to cook on the backyard grill. The whole family loves these.

    • — Liz Malone on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Amazing!

    • — Bina Indelicato on February 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • How would this marinade go with lamb? I am wanting to do both chicken and lamb kabobs!

    • — Monet on February 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • I think it would work nicely with lamb. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • Wow these are popular! Look how many reviews! I can see why, these were delicious. We’re apartment dwellers without a grill, so I make these on a rack over a foil lined baking sheet and put them under the broiler which gives them nicely charred tips, too. Even without the flavor of the grill, these are really great.

    It’s personal preference, but I agree with you, I prefer chicken thighs for a variety of chicken dishes, especially when skewered. To me, not only do they taste better, but they’re more forgiving too and don’t dry out even if a little overcooked.

    I have yet to try the golden rice pilaf but want to (hubby not crazy about dried fruit/regular fruit in savory recipes), always make this over a simple greek salad. A very easy supper.

    Thank you, Jenn!

    • — Tiina on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made these Kebabs yesterday and my family loved them. I love the flavor the red onion gave the chicken. I did them with thighs as I prefer dark me. It is a simple and easy ingredient recipe. I will definitely make these again for the 4th of July.

    • — Ericka on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
    • This recipe just did not work. Made exactly as written, but halved it and the marinade did not become a “crust”. It stayed in its original form of just a gooped on mess. I ended up trying to scrape it off, but they didn’t even taste good. Wouldn’t recommend. Would give 0 stars if possible.

      • — Laura on May 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • These kebabs are so delicious and juicy, perfect pairing with the rice pilaf.

    • — Ian on February 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • My husband is Middle Eastern, and he thinks this dish tastes very authentic! When it’s too cold or snowy in NJ to grill, I use my oven and turn to low broil. Still comes out delicious!

    • — Donna and Dave Shahrabani on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made this so many times for my KETO loving husband . He had this dish years ago in an Indian Restaurant in L.A. and had always remembered it and asked me to find a recipe just like it. So finally after years of trying unsuccessfully… this recipe is just like he remembered, DELICIOUS! Thanks

    • — LuAnn Pitts on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is one of the best chicken recipes we’ve had in quite awhile. We used lean chicken tenders instead of thighs, increased cumin and marinated over night. In mild weather we grilled but when the weather is harsh use a grill pan indoors and find it delish! Have shared this recipe with multiple family members and even the children love it. We serve with the yellow rice recipe to which we add dried fruit. Amazing !!!

    • — Maureen Lacey on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • The best chicken kebabs I’ve ever had! I made them first a few years ago for my high school friends’ annual reunion and now they are a “must”! The yogurt marinade keeps the chicken moist. I’ve cooked both on an outdoor and an indoor grill and they are a winner either way!

    • — Andria K on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is absolutely delicious! There is so much flavor. I saved the marinade to use as extra sauce over the grilled chicken, my husband couldn’t get enough. I made it with the recommended Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds, and used all the dried fruit varieties mentioned for the recipe, so good!

    • — Lindsey B. on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • These kebabs are outrageously delicious – definitely make more than you think you will eat, because you will eat every bite! Worthy of making for company or for a special occasion.

    • — Mairi Townsend on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love these Middle Eastern Chicken Kabobs! This recipe is so flavorful and easy! I serve it with white basmati rice and a side of yougurt and cucumber!

    Thanks for your yummy recipe!

    • — Penny Dodd on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • Have made this both with thigh and breast meat and can confirm that it is much better with thigh meat! Delicious either way, though.

    • — Jess K on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • The first time I made this, we were amazed at the wonderful flavor that comes with just a few key ingredients! Absolutely delicious! So the next time I made it, I tried it with the Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds, as recommended. This combination totally completes the dish and my family requests it often now. In addition to threading the red onion on the skewers, I sometimes include wedges of red bell pepper, which complements the flavors nicely. It’s so nice to have new “Go-To” recipes, which I always get from “Once Upon a Chef”. Thank you!

    • — Nancy Chambers on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • i made this yesterday ! excellent !

    • — Karine Roussel on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • These kebabs are simply delicious! I make these very often and my family loves them, even my picky eaters! My husband and I enjoy it with rice and my kids usually have it with a piece of naan. Win win!!

    • — Shivani Agarwal on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • So good! I was looking for something a little different and this recipe for perfect – easy and delicious.

    • — Joy P on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Love these kabobs! My family is Armenian so we are particular about our kabobs and these are excellent! They are perfect with the rice

    • — Mara on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely delicious! Loved the rice too!

    • — Michelle Bryant on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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