It might be a staple at the kebab house, but there’s nothing quite like my fresh chicken shish tawook, boosted with flavor from a Lebanese chicken marinade.
Growing up in Lebanon meant there were plenty of delicious dishes on our family table. So, I’m a little bit biased when I say this shish taouk bests other chicken dishes any day. When it comes to chicken, there’s just something that hits differently about Lebanese chicken recipes.
Drenched in a Middle Eastern chicken marinade, this shish tawook recipe is packed full of moisture and flavor and can be served in myriad ways. You can grill tawook chicken on the barbecue, serve it traditionally alongside mezze, or make a delicious shish tawook sandwich.
You can generally find chicken tawook all over the world – especially thanks to the proliferation of kebab shops in Western culture. But to me, there’s nothing better than the traditional recipe I grew up eating.
What Is Shish Tawook
Originating the Ottoman Empire (now encompassing much of the Middle East), Shish Tawook are grilled chicken skewers marinated in a thick yogurt sauce to give the chicken flavor. Chicken tawook can be found all over the world in kebab houses. But in its homeland, it can be served a number of different ways.
So, shish tawook vs chicken shawarma – what’s the difference? They have the same core ingredients after all. The difference is in the flavor. A shish tawook marinade will use lemon and yogurt, giving it a lighter flavor and making it tender and juicy.
On the other hand, shawarma has a deeper taste with rich spices like cinnamon and ginger in its spice profile. Consider them delicious cousins – not twins.
What Is Shish Tawook Made Of
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
The key ingredient of these Middle Eastern chicken skewers is, obviously, chicken – generally the breast, as this holds the most moisture. You can also use thighs if you prefer, as it is similarly moist to the breast. I would avoid using any other cut of chicken as it can be difficult to marinate properly.
To make the shish tawook marinade, you’ll need:
- Yogurt: Plain, full-fat – you can use a plant-based alternative if you prefer. Greek yogurt will also work.
- Vegetable oil: You can use any other neutral cooking oil like sunflower oil.
- Apple cider vinegar: White wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar also works here.
- Yellow mustard: Dijon or wholegrain also work. Though I always like to use the basic yellow mustard you can get in the grocery store.
- Spice: Sweet paprika, salt, white pepper.
How To Make Shish Tawook
To make these Lebanese chicken skewers, you’ll need to start by marinating the chicken. Prepare this the day before you plan to serve.
How To Make Shish Tawook Marinade
In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, oil, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper together. This will be the marinade.
Cut Chicken Breast Into Cubes
Take your shish chicken breast and cut them into cubes – about 1 inch in size (2.5cm).
Marinade The Chicken Cubes
Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat completely. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight to fully marinate. This will also tenderize the chicken.
Skewer And Grill The Chicken Cubes
Preheat your grill to 350ºF/175ºC – use an outdoor grill or a regular BBQ over coals.
Take your grilling skewers and carefully thread the chicken onto them. Depending on the size of the skewers, you should aim for 5-6 cubes of chicken per skewer.
Grill the chicken for 8-10 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes. To make sure the chicken is safe to eat, make sure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF/75ºC.
What To Serve With Shish Tawook
Traditionally, this shish tawook recipe is served hot with pita bread, Toum, pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. You can also serve it with other popular side dishes, like creamy hummus, tabouli, and other salads.
In other parts of the world, chicken tawook is served with rice. It won’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the meat but will add another depth to it.
And of course – if you’re looking for an excellent hangover cure, you have to try it with a big serving of my Air Fryer French Fries!
Tips For The Best Shish Tawook
- Cut your chicken into equal pieces. When grilling your chicken tawook, you don’t want different pieces cooking at different speeds. This could change the texture and could leave you with dry chicken.
Not to mention, too small pieces of chicken might dissolve in the marinade. And too big might not marinade properly at all! A ruler is your best friend if you’re not sure.
- Leave your shish tawook marinade alone! You must let the chicken marinate for at least 4-6 hours or the chicken won’t absorb enough of the flavor. The longer the better.
- If you choose bamboo skewers over traditional metal, you should soak them in water for a minimum of 30 minutes. Make sure the skewers are fully submerged when you do this. This will prevent them from burning on the grill as you cook your tawook.
More Lebanese Recipes
If you try this shish tawook recipe, 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!
Authentic Shish Tawook
- To make these chicken skewers, you'll need to start by marinating the chicken for at least 6 hours. Prepare this the day before you plan to serve.First, in a large bowl, mix the yogurt, oil, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper together. This will be the marinade.
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized cubes – about 1 inch in size (2.5cm).
- Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat completely. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight to fully marinate.
- Carefully thread the chicken onto the skewers. Depending on the size of the skewers, you should aim for 5-6 cubes of chicken per skewer. Brush with the remaining marinade from the bottom of the bowl/dish. Then discard any remaining marinade (for food safety reasons).
- Transfer the skewers to a preheated grill to 350ºF/175ºCGrill the chicken for 8-10 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes. To make sure the chicken is safe to eat, make sure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF/75ºC.Please note that different types and models of grill will affect the cooking time, so keep an eye on the grilled shish kabobs the first time you prepare this recipe.
- 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 Store Chicken Kabobs
- 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 (no need to marinate first). Then, when you leave the chicken to thaw in the refrigerator before cooking, it will marinate.Store: you can store the chicken kabobs in a dish/container, covered. Alternatively, remove the meat from the skewers and store it in an airtight container. Store for between 3-4 days.Reheat: reheat the chicken either in a microwave, on a stovetop (deconstruct the skewers first), or in the oven wrapped in foil (at 300ºF/150ºC) for 20-30 minutes.
- 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 sure the chicken is cooked: you can use an Instant Read thermometer and make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is 165ºF/75ºC.
- The perfect marinating time: while you can marinate the chicken for a minimum of 4-6 hours (in the fridge), I recommend leaving the chicken to marinate overnight for the best and tastiest results.
- Tomato paste: use around 1 tablespoon and the results are a wonderfully rich, orange-colored marinade and tangier flavor.
- Oregano: oregano pairs particularly well with the other ingredients.
- Other spices: other spices you can experiment with include cinnamon (a pinch), ginger powder (a pinch), sumac (to taste), mint, thyme, and cayenne/chili powder if you’d prefer a little bit of heat (adjust to taste).
- Vegetables: in many cases, this is served with grilled veggies. So why not make things simpler by combining the vegetables and chicken on the skewers. I recommend using evenly sized pieces (the width of your chicken) of onion, bell peppers, and possibly cherry tomatoes (whole) or zucchini.
- Fresh herbs: I usually use fresh herbs more as a garnish. I particularly like to use parsley.