These tender grilled chicken kabobs are packed full of flavor inspired by an authentic shish tawook and the perfect recipe for BBQ and picnic season.
Chicken is as much of a staple at the BBQ as burgers and hot dogs these days and there are plenty of ways to get inventive with it. Juicy, marinated grilled chicken kabobs are the best it gets – perfectly moist chicken with Middle Eastern-inspired flavors brought out by a long, luxurious marinade.
If you’re looking to shake up your traditional cookout fare or just need a summer-friendly weekday meal, this chicken kabobs recipe is easy to pair with other recipes or enjoyed as part of a grander mezze of dishes.
What Are Grilled Chicken Kabobs
My shish kabobs with chicken take inspiration from shish tawook – a Lebanese dish of deeply marinated chicken in yogurt, herbs, and spices that is then grilled to perfection on metal skewers. It’s a great dish for beginner cooks because the marinade does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making it taste good.
Easily transportable, these chicken kabobs are also great for gatherings and picnics during the summertime – and the smell of the grilled chicken is amazing!
What You’ll Need to Make Grilled Chicken Kabobs
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: I find that chicken breast is the juiciest part of the chicken and therefore, best for grilling. But you can also use chicken thighs – they have a higher fat content and will still be plenty tender when grilled.
- Marinade: The full recipe is below, but this is what will give your chicken maximum flavor and keep it juicy and tender.
- Skewers: You can use metal or wooden skewers. If you use wooden, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using them so they don’t burn while grilling.
Chicken Kabobs Marinade
- Yogurt: Plain, full-fat is best, but you can use a dairy-free alternative if you want.
- Vegetable Oil: This has a high smoking point, so is great for chicken skewers on the grill. In a pinch, you can use olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or avocado oil – they all work well in marinades, though they may alter the taste just slightly.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: If you prefer, you can also use white or red wine vinegar or even a squeeze of lemon or lime juice – you just need an acid for flavor and to help tenderize the chicken.
- Yellow Mustard: I use ordinary yellow mustard as it’s not too hot and has a lovely color, but you can switch out for Dijon or Brown for more heat or honey mustard if you want to keep the spice low.
- Spices: I use sweet paprika, salt, and white pepper.
Optional Ingredients for Chicken Kabobs Sauce
- Tomato Paste: Use around 1 tablespoon and you’ll make a wonderfully rich, orange-colored marinade with a tangier flavor.
- Oregano: This staple herb blends particularly well with the other ingredients.
- Other Spices: Experiment with some other flavors to suit your palate – I love a pinch of cinnamon or ginger powder, sumac to taste, mint, thyme, and cayenne/chili powder for a bit of heat (you can adjust to your taste).
How to Make Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Marinate the Chicken
In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, oil, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper together.
Separately, cut the chicken into cubes – about 1 inch (2.5cm) in size. Then, add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat completely. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours – though, preferably overnight to allow the chicken to fully marinate. This is also going to tenderize the chicken.
Prepare for Grilling
When you’re ready to grill, preheat the grill to 350ºF/175ºC. I find the best way how to grill chicken kabobs is with an outdoor grill or a regular BBQ over coals – the grill grates will give you gorgeous grill marks over the chicken and add a smoky flavor too.
Take your grilling skewers and carefully thread the chicken onto them. You should aim for about 5-6 cubes of chicken per skewer, depending on the size.
Chef’s Tip: Remember, if you’re using wooden skewers, you’ll want to soak them in water for 30 minutes before assembling the chicken kebabs.
How Long to Grill Chicken Kabobs
Cook the chicken skewers for 8-10 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes. To make sure the chicken is safe to eat, check it with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be at 165ºF/75ºC when safe to eat.
After the chicken shish kabobs cook, place them under tented foil (or an opened pita bread) to rest for 10 minutes before serving. This helps to lock in all the juiciness for truly tender, moist chicken.
How to Serve Grilled Chicken Kabobs
One of the easiest ways to serve these grilled chicken kabobs is with plenty of fixings in a wrap. Use pita bread or fluffy corn or flour tortillas. I like to make the wraps with fresh vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, pickled red onions, etc) and then dress them toum, hummus, etc. But the combinations are basically endless if you add what you like.
If you’re serving as a main dish, grilled chicken skewers are great with other barbeque sides like potato salad, coleslaw, buttered new potatoes, or even rice. One of the best ways (in my opinion) is to serve them with a hearty helping of French Fries – whether you go normal or sweet potato is entirely up to you.
For more veggies or to enjoy grilled chicken kabobs as a lunch or a lighter dinner, these skewers are great with grilled veggies, pan-fried zucchini or summer squash, pasta salad, greek salad, tabbouleh or corn salad. You can really get the most out of your grill with this recipe and be inventive with your sides to enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
Tips for the Best Grilled Chicken Kabobs
- Equal pieces of chicken will cook evenly – so make your cuts as identical as possible. Too small pieces of chicken can disappear in the marinade and too big pieces won’t marinade properly, so precision is your friend.
- The longer your chicken marinades, the better. At least 4-6 hours, but preferably overnight. It’ll make it taste even better when it’s cooked and the chicken will be tender and juicy.
- If you choose bamboo skewers over traditional metal, you should soak them in water for a minimum of 30 minutes – as you would with wooden skewers. Make sure the skewers are fully submerged; this will prevent them from burning on the grill as you cook your kabobs.
More Recipes for the Grill
If you try this recipe for chicken kabobs on grill, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Grilled Chicken Kabobs (Middle Eastern)
Prepare the Chicken
- In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, oil, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper together.
- Cut the chicken into cubes – about 1 inch (2.5cm) in size. Then, add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat completely.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours – though, preferably overnight to allow the chicken to fully marinate.
- Preheat the grill to 350ºF/175ºC. You can use a grill or ordinary BBQ over coals.
- Take your grilling skewers and carefully thread the chicken onto them. You should aim for about 5-6 cubes of chicken per skewer, depending on the size.
- Cook the chicken kabobs for 8-10 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes. To make sure the chicken is safe to eat, check it with a thermometer – the internal temperature should be at 165ºF/75ºC when safe to eat.
- After the chicken shish kabobs cook, place them under tented foil (or an opened pita bread) to rest for 10 minutes before serving. This helps to lock in all the juiciness for truly tender, moist chicken.
- Soak the skewers: make sure that you soak the wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes before grilling to stop them from burning. Alternatively, invest in some reusable skewers like metal (that don’t require soaking).
- Make sure to cut even–sized pieces: if you don’t, the chicken will cook unevenly.
- To make ahead: you can marinate the chicken up to 24 hours in advance. Alternatively, freeze the chicken and marinade in a Ziplock bag for between 3-4 months. Then, leave the chicken to thaw in the refrigerator before cooking – this will also be the marinating time.
- To store: you can store any covered leftovers in an airtight container (remove the chicken from the skewers). Store for between 3-4 days.
- To reheat: reheat the chicken either in a microwave, on a stovetop, or in the oven wrapped in foil (at 300ºF/150ºC) for 20-30 minutes.