Chicken Shish Tawook
My authentic Shish Tawook recipe is absolutely perfect! These skewers start with an easy yogurt, lemon, and garlic marinade loaded with spices. Lebanese grilled chicken skewers are perfect to serve with rice pilaf or wrapped up in pitas with lots of garlic sauce!
Fire up the grill, it’s chicken kabob season!
And these Shish tawook skewers are absolute perfection. The marinade is simple. You start by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, tomato paste, and lots of seasonings together in a bowl. The hardest thing about making my shish tawook recipe is that the more patience you have, the more delicious it is. So if you’ve got 8 hours to marinate this, these skewers will undoubtedly be some of the best you’ve had. Since I’m not cooking these on a charcoal grill, I’ll show you a simple way to still give them that delicious charcoal flavor – even if you make these on an indoor grill!
But seriously… why is chicken on a stick just so darn delicious? Whether it’s shish tawook (or shish taouk) chicken satay or my chicken souvlaki skewers, marinated chicken threaded onto skewers and grilled over an open flame is just the most flavorful thing that summer has to offer.
We love to order shish tawook pita bread wraps loaded with sumac onion salad at our favorite middle eastern restaurant with a bucket of french fries and lots of toum (or garlic sauce) to dip it all in.
And now you can have them at home too!
Ingredients for chicken shish tawook:
- Chicken: Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken tenders, or even boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. The key is to make even-sized chicken cubes so that they marinate in the same amount of time.
- Yogurt: I like to use plain yogurt for most of my Indian and Middle eastern dishes. If you have Greek yogurt on hand, that will also work. You may just want to thin it out with a tablespoon of water so that the marinade isn’t so thick.
- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is the acid in the marinade. Unlike chicken shawarma, it provides a delicious tart flavor to the chicken.
- Olive Oil: Also goes into the marinade.
- Garlic: I use a handful of garlic cloves that I’ll press or grate with a microplane. Remember, if you mince the garlic, the flavor won’t be as prominent as it will be if you grate or press the garlic. The finer the garlic, the more flavor it packs on.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste adds more color and a bit of umami to the shish tawook marinade.
- Spices: You’ll need a ton! We’re using kosher salt, ground sumac, but also sweet paprika, dried oregano, white pepper, ground ginger, allspice, ground cinnamon, and Aleppo pepper. I know Aleppo pepper isn’t something that’s always easily available, but it is something that’s used quite a bit in Turkish and middle eastern cuisine in general. Feel free to swap it with a dash of cayenne pepper and some pepper flakes if you’d like.
- Yellow mustard: I know this isn’t something that’s very common in a shish tawook recipe but it adds the most delicious flavor. Just a small squeeze so you won’t taste the mustard but it just bumps up the flavor profile of the dish.
Homemade shish tawook recipe
- Marinate the chicken. Grab a large bowl and whisk together all of the seasonings as spices along with the lemon juice, yogurt, mustard, tomato paste, and olive oil. Add the chicken pieces into the marinade, cover, and pop into the fridge for at least an hour and ideally, between 4-8 hours. The longer the chicken sits in the marinade the more flavorful it’ll be. You’ll also want to soak the skewers if you are using wooden skewers for this recipe.
- Smoke the chicken. No – you don’t need a smoker! If you want the chicken to have a smoky charcoal flavor but don’t want to (or can’t) cook the chicken on a charcoal grill, here’s something you can do. Please read the directions carefully and do so at your own risk. You’ll want to heat up a piece of charcoal over an open flame over medium-high heat. You can do this outside if you prefer. I usually use the side burner on my barbecue. When the brickette is lit, add it to a small basket made out of aluminum foil. Pop the basket in the center of the chicken marinade (with the chicken pieces moved to the side.) Place the brickette on the foil and pour a teaspoon of oil over the coal. Cover the dish immediately with a tight-fitting lid and allow the chicken pieces to smoke for 30-45 seconds. I usually remove the charcoal basket after this and pour water on it to extinguish the flame. Discard when the charcoal cools to room temperature. This step is purely optional and should be done at your own risk.
- Grill the chicken. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal or the soaked wooden skewers. Preheat an indoor grill pan or an outdoor grill to 450ºF. If you’re grilling this outdoors, you’ll want to clean and oil the grill grates. Grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes flipping around the halfway mark until the chicken cooks through to 165ºF. Allow the skewers to cool for a few minutes before serving. Tons of serving suggestions below!
FAQs about this recipe
The main difference between shish tawook and shawarma is that shawarma doesn’t contain yogurt or lemon in the marinade.
You could always grill up some tomatoes, onions, and green bell peppers and serve this with homemade toum and flatbread. If you want to go the rice route, my Lebanese rice pilaf is always a hit with my family or you could even do a cranberry rice pilaf. A Shirazi or Fattoush salad on the side with french fries or batata harra is another option! Leftovers are great the next day in a salad or wrap.
I like to remove the chicken from the skewers and pop it into an airtight container. Keep leftovers in the fridge and consume within 3 days of grilling.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Beef Shawarma (two ways)
- Persian Chicken Kebabs (Jujeh kebab)
- Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Herb Stew)
- Beef Kefta Kebabs
- 2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1-inch pieces
- ⅓ cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground sumac
- ½ teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon EACH: sweet paprika AND dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon EACH: white pepper AND ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or ½ tsp red pepper flakes)
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: allspice AND ground cinnamon
- MARINATE: In a large bowl, dish together all the ingredients other than the chicken until combined. Taste and adjust with more seasonings as desired. Place the chicken in the bowl and stir to coat the chicken evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and ideally, 4-8 hours. You’ll also want to soak wooden skewers if you’re using those.
- SMOKE: This step is optional, and should be done at your own risk. To give the chicken a charcoal flavor (if you aren’t cooking it on a charcoal grill) Heat a charcoal brickette over medium-high heat on a gas stove until the coal lights up on all sides. Make a small basket out of aluminum foil by wrapping it around the bottom of any bottle. Place the foil (without the bottle) in the center of the chicken with the marinade. Place the lit charcoal with tongs in the foil basket. Grab a lid that will fit the bowl. Pour 1 teaspoon of oil over the hot charcoal and immediately cover with a lid. Allow the chicken to ‘smoke’ for 30-45 seconds. The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavor. Carefully remove the foil basket. I usually pour water on it in the sink to extinguish before allowing it to cool and discard. Smoke the chicken at your own risk though, please. Feel free to omit this step.
- GRILL: Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. Preheat an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to 450ºF. Make sure to clean the grill grates thoroughly and oil the grates. Grill for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through until the chicken is done to about 165ºF.
- SERVE: You can serve the Shish Tawook skewers with Lebanese flatbread with Toum, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onions, or with prepared salad-e-shirazi and Lebanese rice pilaf.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 310Total Fat: 14gCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 40g
The nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is just an estimate. To get the most accurate information, please input the ingredients you've used into a nutrition calculator.