The name’s shish. Chicken shish. Tavuk şiş, if we’re being authentically Turkish.
And it’s high time we have a chicken shish kebab recipe on this blog. Well, we eat it often enough!
When the words ‘Turkish’ and ‘kebab’ are put together, for many people, the phrase becomes synonymous with the country’s two most famous types of kebab; the döner kebab and the shish kebab.
Shish Kebabs Are A Must
And if you’re in a restaurant that is famous for the quality of its meat, well, a shish kebab is an absolute must.
In Turkey, one of the best type of restaurants to look for if you want a great shish kebab is an ‘ocakbaşı.’
The ‘ocakbaşı‘ is a special type of grill restaurant – a huge, open barbecue.
In some of these restaurants, customers can sit on high stools along the ocakbaşı whilst the ‘usta’ (the kebab master chef) expertly threads the meat onto long metal skewers and cooks the shish kebabs to order over the white hot, open coals.
In others, it’s usually an open kitchen where the aromas of the meat waft through the air as the kebabs sizzle and char.
Slightly crisp on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside.
What Is Chicken Shish Kebab?
Put simply, we’re doing a recipe for chicken skewers. In Turkish, the word ‘şiş’ (pronounced ‘sheesh’) means skewer.
So, any food that is threaded onto a skewer becomes a şiş kebab.
In other countries, you might see words such as sashlik, shawarma, satay or souvlaki.
In restaurants and kebap salons (kebap salonu), we often opt for a kuzu şiş (lamb shish) or ciğer şiş (liver shish).
A ‘kebap salonu’ can be anything from a large, well known restaurant to a small, unassuming eatery in town.
But the majority of the time, if you go into these places, you just know you’re gonna get a really good shish kebab from there.
Because it’s not just about the meat that’s been pierced and threaded onto the skewers.
It’s the marinade, the cooking method, the accompaniments – even in a small eatery, you’re often served with an array of meze plates.
What To Serve With Chicken Shish Kebab?
Whether it’s meaty but tender chicken or any other meat on the metal or bamboo skewers, eating şiş kebab is an experience.
The şiş (or the skewer) is a great way to prep, cook and serve meat.
Some eateries will serve the chicken şiş on a plate with lavaş bread and then the grilled vegetables meze plates and turşu are served separately.
Others will serve up a huge plateful of loveliness!
In these cases, your chicken shish kebab (or other meats) will usually come with lavaş bread; charred, grilled vegetables and a rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf serving.
When we’re making şiş kebabs at home, it’s often chicken kebabs that win the day.
We love chicken. And charred but juicy chicken threaded onto wooden skewers and eaten with grilled vegetables and dips – divine!
And the beauty is, that ‘divine’ meal needs very little effort.
It’s really quick and easy to make once you’ve treated your chicken to a simple marinade that is going to make all the difference to your chicken shish kebab recipe.
How We Make Chicken Shish Kebab
This is right up there as one of our favourite chicken recipes.
We like to get as close as we can to all those amazing şiş dishes we’ve enjoyed in eateries around Turkey over the years – an authentic chicken shish kebab recipe!
In restaurants, the usta will cook the kebabs over a charcoal grill; the meat skewers resting above the open coals either side of the ocakbaşı.
No grill grates for them to worry about – this means no chance of your kebabs sticking to the grill.
So, ideally, your chicken şiş kebab will be cooked on a barbecue for best results.
This means shish kebabs are often associated with warm summer days, grilling outdoors.
Well, let us tell you, shish kebabs – and other grilled meats like köfte and sucuk – are a year round food in Turkey.
There is no grilling season, here. Turkish people will light that barbecue whatever the weather, whatever the season!
But, if you’re like us and you don’t have a barbecue, you can use the next best thing.
We’re going to be using a cast iron skillet.
We’re cooking indoors and we still get the same charred but juicy pieces of chicken.
Thighs Not Breast
The best Turkish chicken kebab is made using boneless, skinless chicken thighs, in our opinion.
Whilst we do love chicken breast for some dishes, chicken shish kebab is not one of them.
Thighs are more juicy and the texture is perfect when cooked. Most kebab restaurants around the country will use thigh meat.
We cut our thighs into rough 1-inch chunks. Try to keep the size of the chicken pieces roughly even so that they cook evenly on the skewers.
Chicken Shish Kebab Marinade – No Yoghurt
Our marinade is very simple but really flavours and tenderises your chicken thigh pieces.
Once you have cut your chicken pieces, place them into a large bowl and then add your marinade.
How much you use depends on how strong you want your flavours to be. We use a teaspoonful each of sweet paprika and cajun chicken spice.
In Turkey, on spice stalls, you can buy ‘chicken spice rub‘ with stall holders creating their own concoctions.
If you want to create your own ‘chicken spice,’ a mix of garlic powder, onion powder and paprika will do the trick.
Some hot red pepper flakes will add a bit of heat if you like a spicy kebab.
Then we go in with a dessert spoonful of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a couple of twists of ground black pepper.
Give all of that a good mix and leave in the fridge for around two hours.
Lots of chicken shish kebab marinade recipes use yoghurt.
We’ve experimented with different recipes for marinades over the years and we find that yoghurt makes the chicken too soft for our liking.
Our pieces of chicken are quite small so that they cook quickly and don’t require much tenderising.
How To Cook Your Chicken Shish Kebabs
You can thread your marinated chicken pieces onto wooden or metal skewers ahead of time, if you like.
We work roughly on a ratio of 100 grams of chicken per skewer for the length of our skewers.
Note that in Turkey, chicken shish kebabs – and other meats – are just that. No alternating vegetables in between. They’re served seperately.
When you are ready to cook your shish kebabs, place the griddle pan over a medium-high heat. And whilst it is heating, prep your other vegetables.
Slice an onion horizontally into rings (you can use red onion if you like) and remove the skin. Slice a handful of cherry tomatoes in half.
And then we also like to have some chestnut mushrooms on there, too. When they’re in season, Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms are also ideal.
And not forgetting the essential peppers.
In Turkey, we use sivri biber which is a long, green pepper and kapya biber which is a long red pepper.
Green bell peppers and red bell peppers are fine to use. Just cut them lengthways into quarters and remove the seeds.
When your pan is hot, lightly brush it with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray) and then cook your vegetables first.
The aim is just to char and soften them a little. No need to stir them around.
Just cook on one side for a couple of minutes and then turn them over and do the same again.
After your vegetables are cooked, you can go in with your chicken. This will only take around 10 minutes to cook, turning once or twice.
Once you have charred it in the hot pan, you can reduce the temperature to a medium heat if you feel like they’re cooking too fast.
The amount of time your kebabs take to cook will depend on the size of your chicken chunks.
And once your chicken shish kebabs are cooked and tempting you, take a couple of pieces of lavash bread and, one at a time place them into the pan.
Just a few seconds on each side to get a bit more of that charring.
Now you can arrange everything on a large serving plate to enjoy between the two of you.
Take a piece of the lavash and make yourself a chicken kebab wrap.
Make lots of smaller chicken shish kebabs ahead of time and they make great party food, too, with lots of dips and other meze.
As chicken skewer recipes go, our recipe for chicken shish kebab (tavuk şiş) is right up there!
Chicken Shish Kebabs – FAQs
Yes. Chicken is a healthy option and we use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in our recipe.
If you want to make your kebab even more healthy, you can use chicken breast. However, this will change the texture and the flavour. An authentic Turkish tavuk şiş usually uses thigh meat.
In Turkey, there are a few staples that you often eat with chicken shish and other shish kebabs.
Griddled vegetables such as onion, peppers and tomatoes are common. A side serving of rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf is also common.
Common meze plates that are served with chicken shish are spicy ezme and yoghurt-based dishes such as cacık or carrot yoghurt dip.
A mixed salad such as shepherd’s salad is also common.
Some places also serve turşu (pickled vegetables) as a side dish. We especially love to see pickled red cabbage on the table.
If you prefer to cook your shish kebabs in the oven, cook them on a baking sheet in a high heat – around 230 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit) – for around 20 minutes, turning half way through.
If you want to get ahead of the game and get your prep done in advance, you can keep your uncooked chicken skewers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
If you are cooking them in advance to eat as part of a cold buffet, your chicken shish kebabs will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Chicken Shish Kebab Recipe
- 4 Skewers metal or wooden
- 1 Cast iron skillet or outdoor barbecue
- 1 Sharp knife
- 1 Pair of grill tongs
- 4 medium skinless, boneless chicken thighs approx 400 grams total
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium lemon juice of
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon cajun spice
For The Chicken Shish Kebab Accompaniments
- 2 pieces lavash bread
- 1 large onion peeled & sliced into rounds
- 2 green pointed peppers or bell peppers
- 4 large chestnut mushrooms halved
- 1 handful cherry tomatoes
- First of all, use a sharp knife to cut your chicken thighs into rough 1 inch chunks and place into a large bowl.
- Sprinkle your paprika, cajun spice and black pepper over the chicken and mix around.
- Now add your oil and lemon juice and stir around to make sure all the chicken pieces are covered.
- Place the chicken pieces into the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours.
- When you are ready to cook your chicken shish kebabs, remove the chicken from the fridge and thread the pieces onto four skewers.
- Have your prepped vegetables to hand. If you are using bell peppers, you can deseed and quarter them lengthways at this point.
- Place your cast iron skillet on a medium high heat the pan get hot for a couple of minutes.
- Lightly brush it with olive oil or add a little cooking spray before adding your vegetables to the pan.
- You might need to cook your vegetables in stages depending on the size of your pan. We cook the onion slices and peppers first.
- Leave the vegetables in place to char for 2-3 minutes in the hot pan before turning them over with your tongs and doing the same on the other side. Note that your cherry tomatoes will only need a few seconds on each side, otherwise they will go too soft.
- Remove the vegetables from the pan and now add your chicken skewers.
- Sear for a couple of minutes on each side before reducing the heat a little and allowing to cook through.
- Depending on the size of your chicken chunks, your kebabs will cook in around 10 minutes.
- Remove from the skillet once cooked and now you can add your lavaş bread, one piece at a time.
- Heat for around 10 seconds on each side before removing and cutting in half.
- Arrange your chicken kebabs, vegetables and lavaş on a serving plate and place in the middle of the table to share.
- Serve with meze plates, rice or bulgur wheat if desired.
- As with all of our recipes, calories are meant as a rough guide and are calculated on a per serving basis.
- Our recipe is based on a serving of two chicken skewers per person with one lavash bread each.
- If you want to make a lot of chicken shish kebabs in advance for a party, they will keep in the fridge, uncooked for a couple of days. If they’re cooked, they will keep for up to three days, covered.