Shish Tawook

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Shish Tawook is a beloved authentic Lebanese kebab dish of grilled chicken, in a yogurt-based marinade with lemon, garlic, and spices. These Middle Eastern chicken skewers are so tender and huge in flavor! 

Chicken Shish Tawook on skewers.
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What is Shish Tawook?

Oh, how the Lebanese love their grills! This juicy, highly seasoned Lebanese chicken recipe is a traditional Lebanese food favorite. “Shish Tawook”, pronounced TAH-wook, means chicken skewers or chicken kebabs, and they’re always grilled.

I consider this one of the most delicious ways to cook skinless, boneless chicken breasts that are just as juicy as you find from the pros in Middle Eastern restaurants. Lean, healthy chicken gets the royal treatment in a simple but lush marinade. 

This shish tawook recipe comes together easily, too: dice the chicken, whisk the marinade, combine, and let those chill and marinate. Skewer the marinated chicken, grill for about 15 minutes, and you’ve arrived! 

Cubed chicken in a bowl with marinade for Shish Tawook.

Shish Tawook Ingredients

The list of ingredients for shish tawook may seem long, but these are mostly spices that give the marinade, and in turn the chicken, its incredibly wonderful flavor.

Yogurt functions as a tenderizer for the chicken because of the lactic acid in yogurt. Plus flavor!

Fresh lemon juice. Together with the yogurt, a key flavor maker.

Garlic. Because garlic! Lots of it, a whopping 8 garlic cloves impart tons of savory flavor here.

Tomato paste. For a hit of color and more of the acidic flavors like lemon and yogurt. Paste from a tube is a great way to use just a couple of tablespoons. Powdered tomato paste is also very handy.

Spices: the following make for a combination of warm spices shish tawook is known for: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, allspice, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Together these form the Middle Eastern flavors we love so much.

Boneless skinless chicken breasts aren’t known for being the juiciest choice of meat, but the marinade makes them so tender and juicy. You can substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs, but because they are thinner and less uniform, the kebabs may not be quite as uniform looking as with breast meat.

Keep a little neutral oil (such as canola or avocado oil) to coat the grill grates. Don’t skip this as it makes such a difference when turning the skewers.

Marinade ingredients in a bowl for Shish Tawook.

How to make Shish Tawook

Step 1. Make the marinade. The many spices in the Shish Tawook marinade make for the “wow” flavor factor that this grilled chicken is known for. Use plain yogurt. Labneh or plain Greek Yogurt is thicker, so if you use either of these, just add more lemon juice and olive oil to the marinade to loosen it. In a large bowl whisk the yogurt, lemon juice, and spices.

Step 2. Cut the chicken. Dice the chicken cubes about 1 1/2 inches in size; make sure the cubes are similar in size to ensure even cooking. 

Step 3. Marinating the chicken. Add the chicken to the yogurt marinade. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to one day.

Chicken marinating for Shish Tawook in a bowl.

Step 4: Skewer the Chicken. Thread the marinated chicken pieces on the skewers just before grilling. The marinade will coat the chicken cubes rather heavily. Wipe away some of that marinade as you pull the chicken from the bowl to skewer it. Don’t crowd the chicken; be sure each cube rests next to the last one but don’t push them tightly together. This ensures the chicken can cook all the way through.

Skewered chicken for shish Tawook on a pan.

Step 5: Grill the chicken. Coat the grill grates on your outdoor grill with oil before heating it to medium-high heat. Place the skewered chicken on the grill and cook for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken cubes) or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Turn the skewers once midway through cooking. Look for a golden brown color with some charring.

Grill with shish tawook skewers.

How to serve Shish Tawook

Serve Kebabs, or grilled skewers, off the skewer. Anything that is cooked on a skewer is much easier to serve and eat when it is already removed from the cooking instrument, the skewer. 

A great way to remove the chicken from the skewer is with a piece of pita, flatbread, or other piece of sturdy bread. Be sure the skewers are cool enough to handle or use a hot pad to grab the skewer. Wrap the bread around the meat at the handle end of the skewer and push all of the meat off the pointed end onto a board or platter.

P.S. This pita bread, now laden with juicy chicken flavor, tastes divine! 

Serve chicken tawook with a sauce such as Lebanese garlic sauce (toum) or tahini sauce. This popular dish in restaurants often includes a side of french fries! Another popular dish you need to try is these Lebanese stuffed grape leaves.

Grilled Shish Tawook on a board.

FAQs

What is the difference between shish tawook and chicken shawarma?

The marinade for these two kebab recipes is different. Shish tawook marinade includes yogurt, shawarma does not. Shawarma is traditionally a grilled then sliced chicken, beef, or lamb dish. Shish tawook is pieces of yogurt-marinated chicken.

What is the difference between shish kebab and shish tawook?

Shish tawook is indeed a kebab. Tawook means chicken, so shish tawook is chicken kebab.

What is shish tawook in English?

The word “shish” means skewer, and the word “tawook” means chicken. Chicken skewer!

What are the best types of skewers to use?

Metal skewers are my favorite, so I keep shorter, 10- to 12-inch metal skewers on hand. Wooden skewers such as bamboo skewers are fine, just be sure to soak them in water for about 30 minutes before threading the chicken on them so they don’t burn on the grill.

How to tell when grilled chicken is done?

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Use a meat thermometer and insert it halfway into the chicken in several places.

Can shish tawook be made in advance?

This shish tawook recipe tastes best hot off the grill, but because the chicken must marinade, do that in advance. Marinate the chicken in the bowl for the marinade or transfer it to an airtight container.

What to Serve with Tawook:

Toum Lebanese Garlic Sauce

Tahini Sauce

Lebanese Vermicelli Rice

Grilled Vegetable Platter

Fattoush Salad

Homemade Pita Bread Recipe

More Lebanese recipes for kebabs

Kafta Kebabs are a mixture of ground lamb or beef with lots of spices, so flavorful.

My Grilled Chicken Shawarma recipe is the ultimate! The marinated grilled chicken is pushed off the skewer and sliced to help create that shawarma-style chicken.

Lamb Skewers are just simply divine with quality lamb meat as the star of the show.

Chicken Shish Tawook on skewers
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4.56 from 9 votes

Chicken Shish Tawook Recipe

Shish Tawook is a beloved authentic Lebanese kebab dish of grilled chicken, in a yogurt-based marinade with lemon, garlic, and spices. These Middle Eastern chicken skewers are so tender and huge in flavor!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt or laban
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Several grinds black pepper
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • Neutral oil, such as canola or safflower, or oil spray, to coat the grill grates
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Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl, whisk all of the ingredients except the chicken and neutral oil.
  • Add the cubed chicken to the marinade, mixing well to coat the pieces fully. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to one day.
  • Thread the marinated chicken on metal or soaked bamboo skewers.
  • Heat the grill to medium high. Coat the grates generously with oil just before adding the chicken.
  • Place the skewered chicken on the grill and cook for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken cubes) or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Turn the skewers once midway through cooking. Look for a golden brown color with some charring.
  • Remove the skewers and allow them to rest for a few minutes. Push the chicken from the skewers using a piece of pita bread or a large fork. Serve immediately.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 276kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 999mg | Potassium: 679mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 341IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Lebanese
Servings: 6
Calories: 276
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18 Comments

  1. Pat Schuppert says:

    5 stars
    Made this tonight , big hit. Flavor was great. Thanks for sharing your recipe
    Pat

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      So glad to hear it Pat, thank you!! We made Shish Tawook this weekend and it was just delectable!

  2. Beth says:

    I don’t have an outside grill. Can you recommend another method to cook the chicken?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Beth, oh yes thank you for asking–you can bake the chicken at 375 degrees to 160°F, then broil briefly to get a little char going on the edges.

  3. Mike says:

    5 stars
    Only had time for a 2 hours of marinating and it still came out amazing. Did this with chicken thighs. Juicy, tender and flavorful. Can’t wait to try again with a longer marinating time.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      SO so good, this dish and it’s amazing how little time it takes to get all of that flavor. Thank you Mike!

  4. DM says:

    looks great, will try this & grape leaves recipe

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Oh good, both so delicious and fun to make!

  5. Kate Ranieri says:

    Your recipe has the best flavor and tenderness I’ve ever made and I’ve made many over the past decades. Because there were only two of us, we had leftovers which were divine but the recipe, as written, is terrific for a party. Thanks so much.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you for the high compliment! very delicious!

  6. Patricia Asseff says:

    Maureen,
    I love your recipes and cookbook.My mother-in-law was a great Lebanese cook, and I always used her cookbook for the last 55 years we have been married. Now I use your recipes and love the taste, spices and techniques on your site and love your cookbook. I made your spinach fataya and with a little practice they are great. Love your web site and directions.
    Thank you,
    Parrt

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Pat this is so wonderful, thank you for your note. I bet your fatayer are just so good, one of my all-time favorites. I’m honored you’re using my recipes! Thank you!

  7. Kathleen Shaheen says:

    Can you broil them in the oven?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Sure Kathleen, use medium heat and keep an eye on them to cook through but not overcook, and to char a little!

  8. Tom abbott says:

    Making tawook for our memorial day annual picnic..7 lbs of chx. Marinade smells and tastes wonderful..and I found and cleaned up uncle George (Shalhoup’s) homemade metal skewers ..with wooden..tree branch handles…wonderful memories..tom abbott

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of chicken and sounds just like we do here! And those skewers! Thanks Tom.

  9. Eileen says:

    Could I use already mixed Lebanese spices or schwarma spices instead of mixing all from separate?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Absolutely can use any premade Lebanese spices you like!