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Shish Tawook (Lebanese Chicken Skewers)

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! 

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! | www.CuriousCuisiniere.comShish 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

To look at where this widely popular dish comes from, let’s first take a look at the name.

  • Shish comes from the Turkish word meaning skewers.
  • 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 we see a lot of Turkish influence in Lebanon cuisine. Like the name of this dish.

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! | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

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.

However there are three ingredients that are key to getting an incredibly flavorful shish tawook.

  1. Lemon
  2. Yogurt
  3. Garlic

Many recipes will call for a touch of tomato paste and paprika blended in with the above three. And, personally, we loved the way that the addition of tomato paste and paprika gave a robust depth to the lighter, brighter flavors of lemon and garlic 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 and incredibly juicy shish tawook.

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! | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

What is the difference between shish tawook and shawarma? 

Some restaurants will (mistakenly) use the terms shish tawook and shawarma interchangeably for Middle Eastern style marinated chicken served on a pita sandwich. 

The most basic difference between shish tawook and shawarma is the spices that are used in cooking. Chicken shawarma most often adds warmer spices (cinnamon, allspice, etc) and omits the lemon brightness, for a deeper flavored meat. 

How to serve shish tawook?

Shish tawook is served different ways depending on the region you are eating it.

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.

(Go all out and make your own pita bread with our recipe!)

In Turkey, shish tawook is commonly served with rice and grilled vegetables.

 

No matter how you serve it, shish tawook is a recipe that need to be on your summer grilling agenda.

These skewers are a fun way to jazz up your grilling game! And, the make-ahead nature of this dish makes it perfect for summer entertaining!

Yield: 4 servings

Shish Tawook (Lebanese Chicken Skewers)

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! | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

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!

NOTE: For best flavor, marinade the meat at least 4 hours, up to overnight, before grilling.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

The Meat

  • 2 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-1 ½ inch pieces

For The Marinade

  • 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

For the Skewers

  • 6-7 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 10 minutes

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients together.
  2. 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.
  3. Cover the container and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
  4. 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.)
  5. Thread the chicken pieces onto the soaked skewers, pressing the pieces up against each other.
  6. Grill the chicken skewers for 8-10 minutes a side, until the chicken is firm and golden.
  7. Serve the shish tawook with pita bread (get our pita bread recipe here) and sliced tomatoes or with rice and grilled vegetables.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1/2 lb of chicken (1/4 of recipe)

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 482

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below or share a photo on Instagram. Don't forget to tag @curiouscuisiniere!

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Sarah Ozimek

Sarah is co-owner of Curious Cuisiniere and the chief researcher and recipe developer for the site. Her love for cultural cuisines was instilled early by her French Canadian Grandmother. Her experience in the kitchen and in recipe development comes from years working in professional kitchens. She has traveled extensively and enjoys bringing the flavors of her travels back to create easy-to-make recipes.

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Our Lebanese cuisine night – Cuisine Night

Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

[…] Shish tawook with zucchini salad […]

June casselman

Monday 19th of November 2018

The recipe looks appetizing. Can I cook this in the oven?

Sarah Ozimek

Monday 19th of November 2018

Hi June. While we haven't tried it, I don't see why you couldn't roast these skewers in the oven. I would try them at 450F for 20-25 minutes. If you do try it out, definitely pop back by and let us know how they turn out for you!

Roger

Thursday 26th of July 2018

Hey Sarah . . . discovered a new use for this recipe. I made the shish tawook for the second time but used it as the chicken in a Chicken Cesar salad. It worked perfectly. My Cesar dressing is a variation on Craig Claiborne's (I use his ingredients but run everything through a small food processor, including the garlic) and the combination with the chicken was spot on.

Sarah Ozimek

Thursday 26th of July 2018

That sounds WONDERFUL!! We'll have to make this again soon and try it this way! Thanks for sharing!

Meliana

Wednesday 27th of June 2018

OMG, is my first time ever making Lebanese food and the taste was AMAZING. I think I could make this once a week and I won't get sick of it ? it was delicious. it was really good with the sauce and I make Tabbouleh for the side dish, it goes well together. thank you so much for sharing your recipe ?

Sarah Ozimek

Sunday 1st of July 2018

We're so glad you enjoyed the recipe Meliana! Thanks for your comments!

Roger

Monday 18th of June 2018

Tried the shish tawook yesterday with great results. We did not go to the effort of making toum but rather served it with sch'ug - which worked perfectly. I think tahini would work as well. What was interesting to me was how similar the technique is to tandoori chicken, albeit with a different flavor profile.

Sarah Ozimek

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

We're so glad you enjoyed it Roger!

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