Grill the juiciest, tastiest chicken kabobs! The secret is in the sauce! I make a punchy chicken kabob marinade loaded with Mediterranean spices, lemon juice, and 15 cloves of garlic! It infuses this chicken kabob recipe with so much bold flavor your family will ask for second helpings!
During the hot summer months, my go-to meals often involve grilled kabobs (or kebabs) with simple sides like mustardy potato salad or sweet-meets-salty watermelon salad. (When temps are high, the less oven time the better, right?)
Depending on the mood, my grill is loaded with marinated and skewered salmon, steak, or lamb and fresh veggies. I cook them hot and fast, just until they’re tender and charred. When I want something light and nutritious, I go for these easy chicken kabobs. They pack bold flavor perfect for an extra hot day when you’re craving a super healthy dinner that’s far from boring.
I like to marinate the chicken a few hours ahead to let the marinade do its magic. I chop up my salad or whip up a hummus or a side of tahini sauce so all that is left to do is to throw the chicken kabobs on the grill!
Garlicky Chicken Kabob Marinade
The secret to these juicy, flavor-packed chicken kebabs is in the marinade, made with fresh garlic, a few bold Mediterranean spices, citrus, and good olive oil. Here is what you need to make the best chicken kabob marinade:
- Citrus: Lemon or lime juice adds a bright, zesty flavor to balance the earthy spices.
- Extra virgin olive oil: EVOO helps to transfer flavors into the chicken. I use about ¼ cup of peppery, full-flavor Spanish Hojiblanca.
- Garlic: You’ll need 15 cloves of minced garlic. Yes, you read that right! You don’t want to skimp on garlicky flavor here: 15 cloves is just right for this bold Mediterranean marinade. See my tips and tricks for how to mince garlic the easy way, or use about 5 tablespoons of store bought minced garlic.
- Seasonings: A mixture of warming and aromatic Mediterranean spices flavor the chicken. Spanish paprika (smoked or sweet are both delicious), ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, and dried thyme add a deep, savory flavor. Salt and pepper enhance the flavor.
How Long to Marinate Chicken Kabobs?
If you have the time, I recommend you let the chicken marinate for 2 to 4 hours in the fridge. This will allow the chicken to soak up as much flavor as possible, and help tenderize the chicken.
If you’re short on time, though, leave the chicken in the marinade for about 30 minutes or so while you heat up your grill or work on the fixings. Or, if you’d like to get ahead, you can marinate the chicken overnight—just be sure to add the citrus juice in the final 30 minutes before grilling. After 4 hours, the acidity in the juice will begin to toughen the meat.
Chicken Kabob Ingredients and Extras
When it comes to making kabobs really anything goes. Think of your favorite vegetables or what you need to use up in your fridge to layer between the chicken pieces. If you need some inspiration check out my grilled vegetable kabob recipe. Once you have chicken soaking in the marinade it's just about chopping up a few extras.
- Chicken: I use lean, boneless skinless chicken breast. Boneless skinless thighs would also be juicy and delicious. Simply adjust the cooking time as they typically take a few minutes longer to cook.
- Yellow onion: Yellow onion imparts its sweet, punchy flavor to chicken as it soaks.
- Grilling vegetables: I love earthy green and red bell pepper and sweet red onion, but any quick-cooking seasonal vegetable works well. Zucchini, white button or baby bella mushrooms, grape tomatoes, or steamed Brussels sprouts would also be delicious.
- Fixings: I love warm pita bread, creamy tahini sauce, and a few fresh things like sliced tomatoes, parsley, and lettuce. Whipped toum or tzatziki and dips like baba ganoush and hummus would also be welcome additions.
How to Make Chicken Kabobs
This chicken kebab recipe is super easy, just make sure you do two important steps: First, if you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 1 hour to prevent sticking. Second, give yourself at least 30 minutes to let the marinade do the work for you. It’s a good time to get your fixings, like tahini sauce and pita bread, ready!
- Make the spice blend: In a small bowl, add 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and mix to combine.
- Season the chicken: Cut 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1 ½-inch cubes.Set in a large bowl and pour the spice mix on top. Use your hands to generously coat the chicken with the spices.
- Marinate the chicken: In a small bowl, whisk together 15 minced garlic cloves and the juice of 3 lemons (or 6 limes). Add 1 sliced yellow onion to the bowl with the chicken, then pour the lemon juice mixture over top. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss the chicken to ensure it's well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours for the best results, but even 30 minutes will give you great flavor. This is a great time to get your fixings ready and your bamboo skewers soaking.
- Get ready: Slice a red onion, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper into 1 ½-inch pieces. Optionally, make the tahini sauce and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
- Skewer!: A few minutes before grilling, thread the chicken, bell peppers, and red onion onto the skewers (discard the yellow onion, it was just to flavor the chicken). Lightly oil and heat a gas grill or griddle to medium-high heat.
- Grill: Grill the chicken kabobs, turning occasionally until chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should register 165°F), 10-12 minutes.
- Serve: Serve the chicken kabobs immediately, optionally with warm pita, tahini sauce, and other bright sides like chopped parsley, sliced tomatoes, and crisp lettuce
Tips and Tricks for the Juiciest Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Chicken breast is a lean meat, so a common pitfall is that they become dry if they’re overcooked. Here are a few tips to help you get the best, juiciest grilled chicken kabobs:
- Cut the chicken to the proper size. Typically 1 ½-inch pieces work best for chicken breast. If you go for larger cubes, they will take longer to cook and may give you burnt exteriors and a raw center.
- Be consistent. Try to cut the chicken pieces so they’re all about the same size. This ensures even cooking, rather than drying out the small pieces while you wait for the big pieces to cook.
- Marinate! Especially if you're using chicken breast, giving it a bit of time in the tasty chicken kabob marinade infuses it with flavor while working to tenderize it. Ideally the chicken bathes for 2-4 hours, but even if you have just 30 minutes it will make a big difference.
- Allow a bit of room on the skewer. Don't thread the meat and vegetables too tightly on the skewer. Give a little bit of room between the chicken and vegetables so the heat can move about freely to cook everything more evenly.
Allow the meat to come to room temperature before grilling. Allowing the chicken to sit for 30 minutes will ensure an even temperature throughout. An icy cold center usually forces you to overcook and dry out the outside of meat, making it much tougher.
What to Serve with Chicken Kabobs
These Mediterranean grilled chicken kabobs have your protein and veggies covered, so you can keep the sides simple! At my house, warm pita and tahini sauce are essential with kebabs, but here are some salad and side options you can serve along.
A side salad makes for a complete, healthy, and nutritious dinner. Traditional Mediterranean salads like tabouli, fattoush, or cucumber tomato salad are all classics that go perfectly with kebabs.
Or, for a classic BBQ with a Mediterranean twist, serve with a starch like mustard potato salad, pearl cous cous, or orzo salad. Fluffy grains are also ideal for soaking up all the juices. Serve over a bed of basmati rice or Middle Eastern rice pilaf, or barley.
Grilled Kabob Recipes for Summer Celebrations
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Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Zesty Garlic Marinade
- 12 skewers, wooden, bamboo, or metal
For the Chicken Kabobs
- 2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large cubes (1 ½-inch or so in thickness)
- 15 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- ½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
For the Tahini
- Make the spice blend: In a small bowl, combine the paprika, thyme, nutmeg, cardamom, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Set the chicken in a large bowl and pour the spice mix on top. Use your hands to generously coat the chicken with the spices.
- Marinate: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and citrus juice. Add the yellow onion to the bowl with the chicken, then pour the lemon juice mixture over top. Add a generous drizzle (about ¼ cup) of extra virgin olive oil. Toss the chicken to ensure it's well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to4 hourIf you’re short on time, allow the chicken to sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before grilling.
- Get ready: While the chicken sits in the marinade, make the tahini sauce according to this recipe and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. A few minutes before grilling, thread the chicken, bell peppers, and red onion onto skewers (discard the yellow onion, it was just to flavor the chicken). Lightly oil and heat a gas grill or griddle to medium-high heat.
- Grill: Lightly oil and heat a gas grill or griddle to medium-high heat. Grill the chicken kabobs, turning occasionally until chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should register 165°F), 10-12 minutes.
- Serve: Place a kabob on a warm pita, and drizzle with tahini sauce.
- If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 1 hour to prevent sticking.
- To make these in the oven: Preheat your oven broiler on high. Coat a sheet pan with a little oil. Arrange the skewers in a single layer on the sheet pan. Broil for 5 minutes, then flip the skewers and broil on the other side for 5 more minutes.
- Leftovers? You can refrigerate leftover chicken kabobs in tight-lid containers for 3 days.
- If you’d like to marinate these skewers overnight, hold off on the citrus. Add the lemon juice 30 minutes before grilling to prevent toughening the meat.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.
*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015. It has been recently updated with new media and information for reader's benefit.
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Yay! Thank you so much, Raquel!