Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

Easy Shish Tawook Recipe for Garlicky Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

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Our shish tawook recipe makes the Lebanese grilled chicken skewers or chicken kebabs that are popular throughout the Middle East. Served with a garlicky sauce or toum, mezze such as hummus and baba ganoush, and salads such as tabbouli and fattoush, shish tawook is an essential component of a ‘mixed grill’ platter of barbecued meats.

This easy shish tawook recipe will make you one of our favourite Middle Eastern dishes – smoky, succulent, garlicky, grilled chicken skewers or chicken kebabs. You can prep the skewers ahead of time and marinate them in the fridge, then cook them on the kitchen stove in a griddle pan for nice char marks or grill them on an outdoor barbecue, as the locals do.

We loved winter in Dubai when we lived in the UAE. In the cool evenings, families would fill the parks for one of the most quintessential local experiences, and one of our favourites, winter picnics and barbecues. Women would spread dishes of mezze and bowls of salads out on mats, while the men would fan coals and turn kebabs on small portable grills, filling the air with mouthwatering aromas.

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Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

Our shish tawook recipe includes a tangy lemon garlic yoghurt sauce, but garlic lovers should serve these skewers with an even more garlicky sauce called toum. We’re going to share a toum recipe next week.

We love serving these succulent Middle Eastern chicken skewers with hummus, tabbouleh and this Middle Eastern rice with spices, nuts and raisins the first night, and then the second night eating them wrapped in Lebanese bread or any Arabic flat bread.

But if you’re feeding a crowd, you could also make some Middle Eastern mezze dishes such as baba ganoush, salads such as fatoush and more Arabic grills, such as kofta kebabs, for a proper Middle Eastern feast.

Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

 

Tips to Making this Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

Just a few tips to making this shish tawook recipe as it’s really very easy. The first thing to do is to marinate your chicken skewers.

Marinating the Chicken Skewers

While you can imbue the chicken with garlicky spicy flavours in an hour, the skewers will benefit from a few more hours in the marinade, or, at most, overnight.

I make the spiced garlic yoghurt marinade for our shish tawook recipe in the same large container with lid that I’m going to refrigerate the skewers in. Stir the finely diced garlic cloves, spices, salt, and pepper into the extra virgin olive oil, to incorporate well, then add the yoghurt and combine well, and you’re done.

Add the chicken cubes to the spiced yoghurt marinade and use clean hands to rub it into the chicken, ensuring the pieces are completely coated with the spicy yogurt marinade.

Slide the chicken cubes into that spiced yoghurt marinade then use clean hands to rub it into the chicken, making sure the cubes of chicken are completely coated with the yoghurt marinade.

I then pierce the chicken cubes with the skewers – using short 16cm-long wooden skewers – and slide just four pieces of chicken on each skewer. I lay the chicken kebabs down in rows in the container, ensuring they’re all covered with the spiced yoghurt marinade, pop the lid on, and refrigerate the skewers.

You could marinate the chicken skewers for as little as an hour and they’ll be flavoursome, marinate them for 4-6 hours and they’ll be even more wonderful. That’s about as long as I like to marinate them, however, many shish tawook recipes call for marinating overnight.

Marinate overnight and the texture of the chicken changes, and while you’ll get spicier, tangier and even more garlicky chicken skewers, the texture will be a lot softer, which personally isn’t to my liking.

Making the Garlicky Lemon Sauce

While the chicken is marinating, make your garlicky lemon yoghurt sauce: I also do this in a small container with lid, vigorously stirring the crushed garlic cloves, cup of natural yogurt, and lemon juice to combine them well.

Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers
Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers. Copyright © 2024 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

 

Then I just pop the lid on, and refrigerate the sauce until just before serving. Transfer the lemony garlic sauce to a dish and serve it on the side with the mezze or drizzle the sauce on top of the chicken skewers just before serving.

If you’re a garlic lover, then you’ll also want to serve an even more garlicky sauce called toum, pictured in the images above. We’ll be sharing a toum recipe very soon.

Cooking the Shish Tawook or Chicken Skewers

While you can throw these chicken skewers onto an outdoor grill or barbecue with your steaks and sausages, you can also cook these chicken kebabs on your kitchen stove-top on a griddle pan (or grill plate with griddle side) for some nice char marks.

In those parks in Dubai, local families would do their chicken skewers in a BBQ grilling basket over a small portable grill.

If you follow our shish tawook recipe carefully and cut each piece of chicken into a 2.5cm cube, and pierce just 4 chicken pieces onto each skewer, you should end up with juicy chicken skewers.

We can’t have a barbecue on our balcony so I usually do these on the stove-top in a griddle pan over medium-high heat. I use a timer and cook the skewers in two batches for 3-5 minutes on one side.

I turn the skewers in the order that I laid them down in, cooking them for another 3-5 minutes on the other side, then removing them in the same order I laid them down in. Do this and you won’t over-cook your shish tawook.

Note that the shish tawook should cook in just 4-5 minutes, even 3-4 minutes depending on how high the heat is. If you’re unsure if the chicken skewers are ready or not, just taste a piece, or use a meat thermometer.

In those Dubai parks and elsewhere in the Middle East the skewers are continually turned, however, I like the char marks, and I’ve found that 4-5 minutes a side is just perfect.

Once they’re done, I transfer the chicken skewers one by one in the order I laid them down to an oven tray, I cover them securely with aluminium foil to keep them warm, then let the skewers rest for 5 minutes.

Serving the Shish Tawook

While the chicken kebabs are resting, warm some pita bread on the griddle or grill and serve the chicken skewers on a platter with the garlicky lemon yoghurt sauce – or toum – and pickles, mezze such as hummus and baba ganoush, salads such as tabbouli or grilled vegetables. Enjoy!

Shish Tawook Recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers

Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

Shish Tawook Recipe for Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers

This shish tawook recipe makes the Lebanese grilled chicken skewers or chicken kebabs that are popular throughout the Middle East. Served with a garlicky lemon yoghurt sauce or toum, shish tawook is an essential component of a ‘mixed grill’, a platter of grilled meats, and mezze such as hummus and baba ganoush and salads such as tabbouli and fattoush.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinade 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course main course, barbecue
Cuisine Middle Eastern food, Lebanese food, Arabic food
Servings made with recipe26 Skewers
Calories 33 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves - finely diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground sumac
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1 kilo chicken breasts - cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves - crushed
  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 120 ml lemon juice
  • vegetable oil for greasing the griddle or grill

Instructions
 

  • In a large container with lid, make the spiced marinade by stirring the extra virgin olive oil, finely diced garlic cloves, spices, salt, and pepper to incorporate well, then add the yoghurt and combine well.
  • Add the chicken cubes to the spiced yoghurt marinade and use clean hands to rub it into the chicken, ensuring the pieces are completely coated with the marinade.
  • Pierce 4 chicken pieces onto each skewer, lay them down in the same container, ensuring they’re completely covered, put the lid on and marinate in the fridge from 1-hour minimum, ideally 4-6 hours.
  • In a small container with lid, vigorously stir the crushed garlic cloves, cup of natural yogurt and lemon juice to combine well, pop the lid on, and refrigerate.
  • Grease and heat a griddle pan or barbecue, then over medium-high grill the chicken skewers in batches for 4-5 minutes on one side, turn the skewers, then grill for another 4-5 minutes on the other side. Take care not to overcook the chicken; at this size they should take no more than 10 minutes to cook.
  • Transfer the chicken skewers one by one in the order you laid them down to an oven tray, cover securely with aluminium foil to keep them warm and let the skewers rest for 5 minutes.
  • While the chicken is resting, warm some pita bread on the griddle or grill and serve the skewers with the garlicky lemon yoghurt sauce, pickles, mezze such as hummus and baba ganoush, salads such as tabbouli or grilled vegetables.

Notes

Marinate the chicken for an absolute 1-hour minimum, but ideally 4-6 hours, or even overnight.
Take care not to overcook the chicken or they’ll go dry – at this size they should take no more than 10 minutes to cook.
To serve: pita bread, pickles mezze, salads

Nutrition

Calories: 33kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0.4mgSodium: 61mgPotassium: 63mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 43IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 0.2mg

Please do let us know if you make our shish tawook recipe for Lebanese grilled chicken skewers or chicken kebabs, as we’d love to hear how it turns out for you.

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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

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