Shish Tawook, Lebanese Grilled Chicken Skewers
Jul 01, 2022, Updated May 24, 2023
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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 on flavor!
Oh how the Lebanese love their grills! This juicy, highly seasoned Lebanese chicken recipe is a traditional Lebanese food favorite. “Shish Tawook” 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 is 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.
The 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!
Ingredients for Lebanese Chicken Kabobs
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, which 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 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.
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 are thicker, so if you use either of these, just add more lemon juice and olive oil in 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. Marinade the chicken. Add the chicken to the yogurt marinade. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to one day.
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.
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.
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 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!
The marinade for these two kebab recipes is different. Shish tawook marinade includes yogurt, shawarma does not. Shawarma is a traditionally a grilled then sliced chicken, beef, or lamb dish. Shish tawook is pieces of yogurt marinated chicken.
Shish tawook is indeed a kebab. Tawook means chicken, so shish tawook is chicken kebab.
The word “shish” means skewer, and the word “tawook” means chicken. Chicken skewer!
TAH-wook. The word is also spelled taouk, in Turkish, with a similar pronunciation.
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 for about 30 minutes before threading the chicken on them so they don’t burn on the grill.
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.
The chicken 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 to an airtight container.
What to Serve with Tawook:
Homemade Pita Bread Recipe
More Lebanese recipes for kebabs
Chicken Shish Tawook Recipe
- 1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt or laban
- Juice of 2 lemons (1/4 cup)
- 1/4 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
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Several grinds black pepper
- 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- Neutral oil, such as canola or safflower, or oil spray, to coat the grill grates
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.