Easy Persian Chicken Kebabs (Joojeh Chicken)
Marinated Joojeh Chicken that’s been threaded onto skewers with peppers and onions that can easily be tossed on the grill all summer long. These Persian Chicken Kebabs are sure to become a family favorite!
Throw another skewer on the barbie!
Or is it a shish kebab, kebab or kabob? That’s a lot of names for something that’s essentially just chicken on a stick.
It’s officially summer! And that means two things for sure: 1.) the weather is going to be unbearable here in just a second 2.) there will most likely be grilling involved for dinner. One of my favorite things to do during the summer is getting into the kitchen nice and early in the morning when the sun isn’t yet beating down from the kitchen window and marinate chicken with a few pantry staples, a little saffron water, and let it all just hang out in the refrigerator until dinner time. This means I don’t have to be in the kitchen prepping and cooking during the hottest part of the day, and it also allows for the chicken to have enough time to soak up the flavors and tenderize! Chicken joojeh kababs are one of my families favorite recipes to make in the summer, but also, all year round!
On any given night you’ll find meat//poultry//veggies being thrown on the grill and this summer will be no exception. One thing I make every summer (at least a couple of times, if not more) are my moms Persian chicken kabobs.
She started making these around the time that I was in my final year of college, and they became an instant family favorite. If you’ve ever ordered jujeh chicken (or joojeh kabobs) from your favorite Persian restaurant, these chicken skewers taste just like that. We like to add in a few peppers and onions for a little color and more flavor. And of course, there’s an abundance of saffron basmati rice and grilled tomatoes to serve on the side.
Naturally, she shared the recipe with me and when I heard how simple it was, I couldn’t believe it! Jujeh chicken is one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant and never did I think I’d be able to make it at home and have it taste so good. Dare I say it’s almost better that any restaurant? After making it for years and years myself and tweaking things here and there, it’s morphed into these super grilled chicken skewers that no one can get enough of. I’ve shared these at barbecue parties during the summer with friends and family, and they’re always a hit!
The best part: they require just a handful of straightforward ingredients that most of us would consider pantry staples except for one ingredient which I would say is optional. More on that in a bit.
Persian chicken skewers are something I love making for get-togethers because there’s just something about chicken and veggies on a stick that makes people so happy! If you serve the same thing on a plate, it’s just not as appealing as it is on a skewer.
Can I get an amen?
What you need for Persian chicken kebabs marinade:
- Chicken: You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts, skinless chicken thighs, or even tenders. Just be sure to cut everything into the same size so that the skewers cook up evenly.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil: the binder for pretty much every marinade or dressing you’ll ever make
- Mayonnaise: the key ingredient – I’d never make jujeh chicken without it! This is what makes these kebabs outstanding. The mayonnaise helps tenderize these chicken pieces while adding a rich and almost creamy, flavor. Something yogurt would fall short on here. If you’re weirded out by adding mayo, you can also use homemade Toum, I’ve done that several times and it just really amps up all the other flavors that much. I know other people also like to use greek yogurt instead of mayo, but this is how my family makes it and I like it with mayo better.
- Lemon juice: the acid in the lemon juice helps tenderize the chicken along with the mayonnaise. You can also use persian lime juice here – in fact, it’s preferable, but that’s not something that I can find easily in my area.
- Chopped yellow onions: other than adding flavor, the onions break down when you combine them with lemon juice and salt and help tenderize the chicken further.
- Grated garlic: no justification needed.
- Spices: Just a couple of things here. You’ll need ground turmeric and red pepper flakes. That’s it! One other ingredient I use is saffron threads. However, I’ve listed it as optional here because not everyone keeps saffron on hand! The flavor of saffron is very unique and it does really give these kebabs the most delicate floral note. I do suggest using it if you can.
How to make Persian chicken kebabs:
- Let’s start with the marinade. add the saffron powder (or threads) to a small bowl and let them bloom in warm water for a few minutes. You want the water to turn bright yellow. Once it blooms, we’ll combine the water with the olive oil, lemon juice mayo, garlic, turmeric, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and then add the chicken pieces and let it marinate for 6-24 hours. I prefer these with boneless skinless chunks of chicken breast, but you could also make this with chicken thighs if that’s more your thing. Pop the chicken into an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Prep the remaining ingredients. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator once it’s had a chance to marinate. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal skewers alternating with peppers and onions. Repeat this until all of the chicken and veggies have been threaded.
- Grill it up. You can use an indoor grill pan for this recipe if that’s what you have. Make sure to heat it to medium-high heat. I like to grill these outdoors when possible. Be sure to clean the grill grates and slowly heat the grill over medium heat. Once hot, oil the grates and cook the chicken skewers for 8-12 minutes or until the chicken is done. Serve this dish with cucumber salad (I like Shirazi, but tabbouleh or even fattoush would work)
I’d say that’s worth the 15 minutes, wouldn’t you?
A few more tips of Persian Chicken Kebabs:
- Can you marinate the veggies too? Of course! I suggest removing the chicken from the refrigerator for an hour before you’re going to grill them. You can cut the peppers and onions and add them to the marinade for that hour. I don’t suggest marinating the veggies overnight because the acids in the marinade would break them down too much.
- I suggest using metal skewers. These are the metal skewers I own. You can also use wooden bamboo skewers for this as well. If you decide to go the wooden skewer route, I suggest soaking them in water for as long as you allow the chicken to marinate. This keeps them from burning on the grill.
- You can use drumettes or whole tenders. My favorite restaurant marinates whole tenders in the sauce and grills them up instead of making kebabs! So feel free to do that here with tenders or even bone-in drumettes if you prefer.
- Serving suggestions: I like to serve my jujeh chicken with homemade vermicelli rice and hummus on the side. You can also serve it with flatbread, shirazi salad, or a fattoush salad.
- Leftovers will hold up well for up to 3 days, and I usually like to box them up for meal prep with a small portion of rice in these containers. This makes for easy grab-and-go lunches during the week!
- 2 tablespoon EACH: olive oil AND lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ½ cup yellow onions (grated or minced)
- 2 teaspoons grated garlic
- ½ teaspoon EACH: ground turmeric AND saffron (optional)
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt + ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red onion, quartered into 1-inch pieces
- 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (any color)
- MARINATE: add the saffron to a small bowl along with 1 tablespoon of hot water and let it steep, covered for 5-7 minutes or until the water turns a bright yellow (if using). In a large bowl, combine the saffron water and all the marinade ingredients except the chicken. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. At this point, you can pop everything into a zip-top bag (for marinating) or just leave in the same bowl. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Cover the bowl or zip the bag and allow the chicken to marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- PREP: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking. Add the cubed veggies to the chicken, toss to combine and let marinate. Thread the chicken on to the skewers alternating with the red onions, green and red bell peppers. Repeat until you’ve used up all the chicken and veggies and discard any leftover marinade. When ready to grill, prepare the grill by lightly oiling the grates with any high heat oil or just spray with cooking spray and let it preheat on medium-high.
- GRILL: Grill the kebabs until they cook all the way through. You can test to see if the chicken is done by slicing through a piece with a knife, it should take roughly 8-12 minutes total. Serve warm over buttered saffron rice, vermicelli rice, or with flatbread and a salad.
- If you’re using wooden skewers instead of the metal kind, I suggest soaking them in water for at least 6 hours before using them (you can also just soak them overnight if you’re marinating the chicken a day in advance.)
- Though the chicken will be ready to use in 6 hours, I highly recommend marinating the chicken a day in advance, the flavors are so so so much more intense that way!
Serving Size:1/8th of recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 227Total Fat: 10gCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gProtein: 27g
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.