With a bold yogurt-based marinade infused with lemon, garlic and warm spices, this authentic Shish Tawook (Middle Eastern chicken skewers) is next level delicious. Serve in a pita with some whipped garlic sauce or plated with a bright salad and some creamy hummus for an easy, healthy meal.

grilled shish tawook skewers on a large blue platter with a side salad, preserved lemons, and pita wedges

What is shish tawook?

In Turkish, the word "shish" means skewer, and "tawook," also spelled taouk, means chicken. Shish tawook is basically Middle Eastern chicken skewers or chicken kebabs, bathed in a bold yogurt-based marinade with citrus, garlic, and lots of warm spices. Originally, this dish was a part of Ottoman Cuisine, shish tawook became a popular dish in many parts of the Middle East, including Egypt and the Levant during the Ottoman's rule starting 1516 and through 1918, in the case of Lebanon.

To make this dish at home, you'll start by marinating the chicken in the yogurt-based marinade, then, the marinated chicken is then laced onto skewers and grilled to juicy perfection! You can go wrong serving this dish at your next BBQ with your favorite Mediterranean salads and sides like Greek oven fries, and dips like toum, tzatziki, or hummus!

What's the difference between tawook and shawarma?

While similar, chicken tawook and chicken shawarma are not the same. Yes, both are made of boneless skinless chicken and are loaded with Middle Eastern flavors, but there is a difference in the marinade and in the way each dish is prepared.

The key difference in the marinade is the use of yogurt, and there is also a difference in the flavor profile. Tawook uses a creamy yogurt-based marinade infused with lemon, garlic, seasonings--like oregano, allspice, and ginger--and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste which give the grilled chicken a beautiful red hue. Shawarma, on the other hand, skips the yogurt and the tomato past, relying more on olive oil and citrus for the base, onions, garlic, and a longer list of spices that lean warmer and slightly spicier, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.

The method of preparation and cooking is also different. Shish tawook is grilled on skewers, while shawarma is traditionally slow-roasted on a vertical spit for hours, though to make it at home, I bake my chicken shawarma in the oven for an easy option (you can also make it in the skillet like I do in this shawarma salad recipe)

ingredients for making shish tawook, including boneless chicken, garlic spices, yogurt, olive oil, and lemons

Why the yogurt-based marinade works

By now you know that the yogurt-based tawook marinade makes all the difference! With both meat and chicken, the job of the marinade is to tenderize, while adding flavor. Creamy, tangy yogurt acts as a great flavor carrier, but, more importantly, because yogurt has lactic acid and calcium, it work to gently break down proteins so that the meat is super tender and juicy.

With a yogurt marinade, as opposed to a highly acidic or vinegar-based marinade, you can allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for hours or overnight without worrying about it getting tough or rubbery. (I wrote a long ode to the best chicken marinade earlier).

What you'll need for the shish tawook marinade

The marinade for these chicken skewers is bold and filled with flavor, and if you have the time, you'll want to give the chicken a couple hours in the fridge to soak in the marinade flavors! Here's what you need to make the marinade:

How to make shish tawook

These Middle Eastern Chicken Skewers are super easy to make - you can easily throw the marinade together in the morning and come home to chicken ready to be grilled! The grill time is just 15 to 20 minutes, so these are great for busy nights!

  1. Make the marinade. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and spices.

    Shish tawook marinade in a glass bowl
  2. Prepare the chicken. I used 2 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks (breast will work as well). Pat the chicken dry and season well on both sides with kosher salt.

    Boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into pieces on a cutting board
  3. Marinade the chicken. Coat all pieces of chicken evenly with the marinade. If you have the time, I highly recommend you cover and refrigerate the chicken for 4 to 8 hours. If not, you can at least marinate the chicken while your grill is heating up.

    Chicken tawook marinating in a glass bowl
  4. Grill the chicken skewers. Heat the grill to medium and lightly grease the grates. Thread the chicken pieces on to skewers, folding larger pieces in half as necessary.
    Arrange the skewers on the heated grill in one single layer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, turning every 5 to 7 minutes, until the chicken fully cooked.

    Middle Eastern chicken skewers ready to be grilled

Tips for the best grilled chicken skewers!

Follow these simple tips for best results:

  • Cut the chicken into equal-size pieces. Cut all pieces of chicken into similar sizes, so that they cook evenly. I tend to like larger chunks of chicken when working with boneless thighs.
  • Don't cut the marinating time short, if you can help it! While the yogurt marinade helps infuse the chicken with flavor, it also works to tenderize it, making the the final product extra juicy. Shoot for anywhere from 2 to 8 hours in the fridge, but if you don't have the time, try for at least 30 minutes (and if you're chicken had been refrigerated, you can set it out for a few minutes at room temperature).
  • How to tell when grilled chicken is done? The most accurate way to tell when grilled chicken is done is to use an internal thermometer. Chicken is done when it reaches 165F.
  • Soak your wooden or bamboo skewers. If you are using wooden or bamboo skewers for this recipe, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes to an hour prior to placing them on the grill.
Shish tawook on a blue plate with pita

What to serve with tawook?

The sky is the limit for what to serve along your shish tawook! It's a kebab party, after all! I always like to include a couple of fresh salads such as my 3-ingredient salad, fattoush or a simple tomato salad. A heftier black bean and corn salad is fine too!

For dips, I love tzatziki, hummus, or baba ghanoush with tawook; my Lebanese friends say whipped toum is a must though! And if I have pickled cucumbers or preserved lemons, I throw those in the mix too!

You can also ditch the skewers and turn your shish into a loaded pita sandwich! Just unthread the grilled chicken into a pita pocket and add a drizzle of tahini and some fresh chopped veggies.

How to store leftovers

While I definitely recommend eating these juicy, flavorful chicken skewers straight from the grill, you can store them in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat once on the stovetop or grill or enjoy cold in wraps or atop salads!

More chicken recipes:

Browse more Middle Eastern recipes or all Mediterranean recipes.

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4.89 from 45 votes

Grilled Shish Tawook

Suzy Karadsheh
Shish tawook skewers on a platter with a salad
The best AUTHENTIC Shish Tawook (Middle Eastern chicken skewers) recipe you'll find. You'll love the amazing yogurt-based marinade that's loaded with garlic, spices and amazing flavors! If you can, budget some time to allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for a few hours
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 20 minutes
Marinating time 4 hours
Cuisine:
Lebanese
Serves – 6 servings
Course:
Main Course

Ingredients
  

For the chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (cut into large chunks)
  • Kosher salt

For the marinade

  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (plus zest of 1 lemon)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the marinade. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, zest, EVOO, Tomato paste, garlic, and spices.
  • Pat the chicken dry and season with kosher salt on both sides.
  • Add the chicken to the marinade, and using a pair of tongs, toss to combine, making sure all the chicken pieces are well covered in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
  • Heat a gas grill to medium and lightly oil the grates.
  • Thread the chicken pieces through skewers (you can fold larger pieces so that they would fit better through the skewers, they also look better this way and are more manageable on the grill).
  • Arrange the chicken skewers on the heated grill in one single layer. Cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 to 7 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • For best flavor, do allow a few hours of marinating time in the fridge. If you don't have the time, let your chicken marinate for 30 minutes or so while you prepare the grill. 
  • Serve tawook with any number of Mediterranean salads and dips from this site. I shared a few ideas in the post including my 3-ingredient Mediterranean salad and sauces like tzatziki and hummus
  • Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices used in this recipe. 

Nutrition

Calories: 298.4kcalCarbohydrates: 5.2gProtein: 32.6gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3.2gCholesterol: 145.3mgSodium: 189.9mgPotassium: 472.2mgFiber: 0.8gSugar: 2.2gVitamin A: 375.3IUVitamin C: 6.6mgCalcium: 65.9mgIron: 1.7mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.89 from 45 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. David Gelormino says:

    Hi Suzy

    I think the nutmeg can be left out. Too strong
    Love your recipes!

    Dave

  2. Meredith Walker-Sims says:

    OMG!!! This chicken is sooo good!!! Followed the recipe, used Mesquite wood on my charcoal grill, also made vegetable kabobs of purple onion, mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, paired the chicken and vegetables with Cilantro/lime rice and salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, parsley, with olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing....DELICIOUS!! Will definitely make these kabobs again.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Wonderful! Thanks so much, Meredith!

  3. Carole says:

    I used to live in a city where I could buy pre marinated Shish Tawook and it was wonderful. Ive had to try to make it myself and it has never tested quite right. I'm looking forward to this recipe,bit how can I cook it without access to à grill?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Carole! If you don't have access to an actual grill, you can make these on your stovetop using a grill pan like this or this instead.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Can I marinade this over night?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Stephanie. Yes, you can marinate this overnight in the refrigerator. Just be aware that letting chicken sit too long in a marinade containing an acid, like lemon juice, can start to change it's texture.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    5 stars
    This was outstanding. Everyone said the chicken was very flavorful. The yogurt kept the chicken very moist and tender. Will make again.

  6. Neil says:

    5 stars
    Really tender chicken due to the marinade. Excellent flavour profile and you can change heat level very easily.
    I served with pita, tzatziki and a tomato heavy salad.

  7. DLaw says:

    2 stars
    For the amount of prep time this took, my family and I were unimpressed with this recipe. Marinaded for 6 hours, grilled, then served kabob. I even added EXTRA garlic. It was really just Meh.

  8. Kim B says:

    Do you think I could try cooking this in my airfryer?
    Thank you for so many amazing recipes!!

    1. TMD Team says:

      I'm sure you could, Kim! I recommend taking a look at the instruction/recipe book that came with your air fryer to see if they have any similar type of recipes so you can get an idea of what timing/temperature may work. If you end up giving it a try, we'd love to hear how it worked out for you!

      1. Kim Butze says:

        5 stars
        They came out perfect! You’ve introduced me to so many new and amazing flavors. I cooked them for a total of 18 minutes at 400 degrees. They were nice and juicy with a little char. Thanks, Suzy!

  9. Patrick says:

    5 stars
    One thing I miss about going to the Middle East during my USAF time is shish-taook. That, with Shwarma, hummus and pita bread fresh off the cooking stone, are all things I loved about the region. I'm going to use your recipe very soon, and perhaps I can replicate it to perfection!

    1. Suzy says:

      I think you will love it, Patrick!!

  10. Timothy Miranda says:

    5 stars
    Made it for the family and everyone loved it - making it again not adding or subtracting any of the ingredients - absolutely delicious
    Thank you for sharing

    1. Suzy says:

      My pleasure, Timothy! So glad y'all enjoyed it!

  11. Lorna says:

    Suzy, I love your recipes. I make at least one daily. I would love to try some of your barbecue or grilled ones. However I live in an apartment and have neither. Could they be done in the oven and would they turn out as good?.

    1. Pauley says:

      5 stars
      Hi Lorna,
      I have a Cuisinart Griddler, which has flat griddle plates on one side and ridged grill rows on the other side. I absolutely love it, and use it often for many different dishes.
      I made this DELICIOUS Tawook chicken, but did not use skewers nor an outside grill. I used the grilled ridged side of the Cuisinart, and it came out amazing! I wouldn't hesitate to make it on the flat griddle side, or in a cast iron pan on the stove. Just put down a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and turn with some tongs.
      The taste is amazing, and one needn't have an outside grill to get that yummy taste!

      1. TMD Team says:

        Thanks for sharing this info, Pauly! Great to know!

  12. Catherine says:

    5 stars
    So delicious! We love a Lebanese restaurant nearby for their Chicken Tawook. This recipe was so close to their dish and equally delicious. I love the simplicity of your recipes.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks, Catherine!

  13. MaryAnn Alcocer says:

    I have made this recipe before and it was delicious and juicy. I made it again and the chicken was dry. In both cases I used breast meat. I followed the recipe exactly.
    Where did I Go wrong?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, MaryAnn. Without being there, it's a bit hard to say. Usually they dry out due to over-cooking. Grills can vary, which can affect cooking time. On my grill, they usually take 15-20 minutes to cook, but they may cook faster on yours. I highly recommend using meat thermometer to test for doneness. The chicken is done cooking when it reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. Hope that helps!

  14. David says:

    Making this for tonight. First observation is that prep time is a whole lot more than 5 minutes 😅 Took longert than 5 to just assemble the spices. And I know my way around a kitchen. Once everything was prepped, the marinade smells wonderful! Will report back on final outcome.

  15. Robin Wiese says:

    5 stars
    (swoon) OMG this was SO GOOD! I was out of nutmeg and allspice so I used (don't laugh) a little pumpkin pie spice. Was only able to marinade about 3 hrs, but it was absolutely delicious! Had to use a panini press as a cold front came through today and it was only 12 degrees outside - served in gyros with tzatkizi sauce, diced radish, cucumber, romaine, tomato, olives and feta ... I could eat these every single day. Thank you SO much for recipe!

    1. Suzy says:

      Nice pivot with the pumpkin pie spice! Sometimes you just have to figure out how to use the closest thing you have on hand! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  16. Paul Altamore says:

    This is a pretty awesome version of Shish Tawook. I marinate the chicken using a vacuum sealer container so it's done in 15 mins only. I then use metal skewers supported in a lined half sheet baking pan so I can effectively grill the in the oven. Served with home made Hummus, some Turkish pickled vegetables, and Tabbouleh it's a brilliant midweek dinner. Suzy's suggestion of using chicken thighs is spot on, such a flavorsome part of the chicken and amazing value, too.