Lemon and garlic bring a burst of flavor to these grilled chicken skewers. Middle Eastern Shish Tawook will make a great addition to your next cookout!
Shish Tawook (or Shish Taouk) is a traditional Middle Eastern marinated chicken dish. These grilled chicken skewers are incredibly popular in Lebanon, but they are also commonly found in Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Israel as well.
Shish Tawook: Turkish Origins
Shish comes from the Turkish word meaning skewers, and tawook is an adaptation on tavuk, which comes from the old Turkish takagu, meaning chicken. The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire ruled Lebanon in some capacity from 1516 to, roughly, 1918, which is why you can see a lot of Turkish influence in Lebanon cuisine.
Lemon and Garlic
Like any widely-loved recipe with deep cultural roots, there are as many recipes for shish tawook as there are cooks who make it. Lemon, yogurt, garlic are the key ingredients to a successful shish tawook.
Many recipes will call for a touch of tomato paste and paprika as well, and we loved the way these two give a robust depth to the lighter, brighter flavors in the marinade.
The yogurt and lemon act, not only for flavor, but also to tenderize the meat as it marinates. While 4 hours is sufficient to give the chicken a nice flavor, letting it marinate overnight will ensure tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful shish tawook.
How to serve shish tawook?
In Lebanon and Syria, shish tawook is most commonly found served as a pita ‘sandwich’ with a creamy garlic paste called toum (like an aioli or garlic mayo) and tomatoes. (Make your own pita bread with our recipe!)
In Turkey, shish tawook is commonly served with rice and grilled vegetables.
- 2 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 lemon, juiced (roughly ¼ c)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ c plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1 tsp ground thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 6-7 wooden skewers, soaked in water
- In a small bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients together.
- Place the cubed chicken into a flat, sealable container and pour the marinade over the chicken. Mix the chicken with the marinade to be sure all the pieces are well-coated.
- Cover the container and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
- Preheat your grill to a medium heat, roughly 350F. (You should be able to hold your hand about 3 inches from the cooking grate for 6-7 seconds.)
- Thread the chicken pieces onto the soaked skewers, pressing the pieces up against each other.
- Grill the chicken skewers for 8-10 minutes a side, until the chicken is firm and golden.
- Serve the shish tawook with pita bread (get our pita bread recipe here) and sliced tomatoes or with rice and grilled vegetables.