When they invented the kabob, did they know it would satisfy hunger pangs that strike in the middle of the night? Because in this household, boy do we get kabob cravings on the regular!
I’ve always ordered lamb and chicken kabobs from food trucks, and while I’m appreciating these beautiful meat skewers, I can’t help but wonder:
- What is it that makes kabobs so darn delicious?
- Is it the spices or the juiciness of the grilled chicken?
- Does it taste this good when we’re sober?
On one of those kabob-filled nights, I vowed to myself that I’d learn to make these kabobs at home. I may never get to sell them in a food truck, but I was determined to have the ability to cook it whenever I want.
The goal was to be able to make it in my indoor kitchen grill, without having to go through the trouble of starting up a barbecue.
Lo and behold, after countless skewers of burnt chicken thighs, I now have a recipe for the juiciest Greek chicken kabobs. The secret here, as I’ve discovered, does not lie in just one component of the recipe.
It’s everything. It’s preparing the marinade. It’s the time spent waiting overnight for the chicken to soak up all the spices. It’s skewering correctly. It’s grilling slowly and patiently to avoid burning the meat.
And after all this time, the reward is totally worth it: Mediterranean chicken kabobs that are beautifully charred, bursting with flavor, and just a pleasure to eat.
I like to pair these kabobs with soft homemade flatbread and some tangy Greek tzatziki sauce. I’m drooling just thinking about it!
This recipe will make 10 skewers.
- Chicken thighs – Cut boneless and skinless chicken thighs into 1 ¼ inch chunks. Chicken thighs are ideal, because they have higher fat content and are softer cuts of meat.
- Extra virgin olive oil – Olive oil helps to tenderize chicken and make it even juicier.
- Lemons – A subtle citrus flavor in chicken kabobs will come from lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Garlic and shallots – Chopped finely, garlic and shallot add depth and umami to the marinade that you can’t get anywhere else.
- Herbs and spices – In this recipe, we will season with oregano, basil, salt, black pepper and paprika.
These ingredients make up the bare minimum of Greek chicken kabobs. That said, you can 100% customize your own recipe (See Other Vegetables & Variations section).
Step One: In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, paprika, oregano, basil, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper.
Step Two: Then, add in chicken chunks (cut 1 ¼ inch cubes) and stir until well coated with marinade. Marinade for at least 2 hours, turning the chicken occasionally.
- Pro Tip: If the marinade starts to decrease in volume as the chicken soaks it up, spritz some lemon juice in the bowl when turning the chicken during the marination process.
Step Three: Thread the chicken chunks onto the skewers. Brush each skewer with the remaining marinade and season with salt and pepper.
- Pro Tip: To consistently cook through all the pieces of chicken, keep the skewers uniform. Keep the same gap between each piece of chicken and also make sure the surface area touching the grill is the same.
Step Four: Preheat the grill to medium heat. Place the skewers on the grill pan and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally until the chicken is completely cooked through. You should be able to smell the garlic, shallot and spices by now.
- Pro Tip: To check if the chicken is done, use an instant-read thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 165°F.
Step Five: Serve immediately. I recommend pairing with my tzatziki and Greek salad recipe. They go so well together!
Other Vegetables & Variations
Most restaurants and kabob food trucks also slide in some vegetables in the skewers. If you are having this dish alone without any salads, then you’ll definitely need some vegetables to bring fiber (and bright colors) to your kabobs.
So, what vegetables can you add into grilled chicken kabobs?
- Green, yellow or red peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Zucchini and eggplants
- Portobello mushrooms
- Yellow squash
- Fresh pineapple
- Fresh corn
- White onions and red onions
Expert Tips and Tricks
Marinate the chicken overnight.
I personally marinade the chicken anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for the ultimate flavor. It truly makes a difference as the garlic and shallots and spices seep into the meat. Good things come to those who wait!
You want your chicken kabobs to be tender, juicy and full of flavor. So, the temperature you are grilling at is crucial!
If the grill is too hot, the chicken will burn on the outside while still rare inside. On the other hand, a lower temperature allows chicken to cook evenly, get a nice color on the outside, and stay juicy inside. When in doubt, grill on low heat.
Again, the internal temperature should reach 165°F.
Turn the skewers regularly.
To avoid burning the chicken, you should turn the skewers regularly. Do not leave them out of sight! If you must excuse yourself, ask a trusty friend to help you with this (someone who won’t sneak a bite when you’re not looking!).
Here’s how to store your Greek chicken kabobs for optimum freshness.
To keep leftover grilled chicken kabobs:
To store cooked chicken kabobs, slide them off of the skewer (to save space) and place them in an airtight container. Store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just a heads up: Leftover kabobs will dry out slightly after it’s been kept in the fridge.
To keep raw and marinated chicken chunks:
If you would like to marinate the chicken for 24 to 72 hours, cover and refrigerate the bowl of marinade.
Did you know that chicken kabobs are also meal-prep friendly? Simply apportion the marinated chicken into Ziploc bags and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I usually keep 3 skewers worth in one Ziploc bag and then let it thaw until room temperature before grilling.
Chicken Kabobs Recipe
GREEK CHICKEN KABOBS
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lemons juiced
- 1 lemon zested
- 10 garlic cloves minced
- 2 large shallots chopped finely
- 1 ½ tablespoons oregano
- 1 ½ tablespoons basil
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ cups grated cucumber (from about 1 medium cucumber)
- 2 cups thick whole milk Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tablespoons dill, freshly chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
GREEK CHICKEN KABOBS
- In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, paprika, oregano, basil, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper.
- Stir in chicken until well combined; marinate for at least 2 hours to overnight, turning occasionally. The marinade really soaks into the chicken, if the marinade starts to lower in the bowl add a spritz of lemon juice when turning chicken occasionally in the bowl during the marinade process. I personally marinade this recipe anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for the ultimate juicy flavor.
- Thread chicken onto skewers. Brush with remaining marinade; season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the grill to medium heat. Add skewers to grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until the chicken is completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 10-12 minutes.
- Start by grating the cucumber, using your cheese grater.
- Next, the most essential step for making a creamy tzatziki – squeeze the water out of the grated cucumber. Do not skip this step as the water from the cucumber will cause your tzatziki to separate and become watery. Place the cucumber on a towel (or paper towel) and gently squeeze out the excess water directly over the sink.
- Lastly, stir everything together! In a medium bowl, combine the squeezed cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, salt, and dill. Chill until ready to use.