chicken kebabs garnished on a plate

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What’s my idea of the perfect summer dinner? Bite-sized pieces of herby yogurt-marinated chicken threaded onto skewers, then grilled to perfection. The kebabs are easy, crowd-pleasing, and you can serve them up any way you like: Simply shower the charred chicken with herbs, slide the pieces onto pasta salad, or pair with the season’s freshest produce.

The key to keeping the meat tender while also infusing it with flavor is a simple yogurt marinade. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to mix that up and grill the chicken to perfection, so you can improve your summer grilling life asap.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Yogurt Is the Secret to Super-Tender Chicken

Plain, whole-milk yogurt works its magic in multiple ways here. First, it evenly distributes the spices and seasonings in the marinade. Second, the lactic acid that gives yogurt its signature tang breaks down the protein in the chicken, making it juicy and ultra-tender. Sugars — like lactose — naturally present in yogurt also caramelize and brown on the hot grill grates, giving these kebabs beautiful (and tasty!) grill marks.

If possible, skip thick Greek yogurt — its concentrated consistency can cause the kebabs to stick to the grill grates. But If Greek is all you’ve got, stir in a splash of milk to loosen it up.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How Long Does the Chicken Need to Marinate?

After mixing up the marinade in a gallon-size zip-top bag, you’ll add the chicken pieces, massage to coat, and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Want to get ahead? You can pop the bag in the fridge and marinate the chicken overnight.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What Are the Best Skewers for Kebabs?

When it comes to skewering chicken for kebabs, I always reach for 9- to 12-inch metal skewers. Here’s why.

  • Unlike bamboo or wooden skewers, which need a 30-minute soak before hitting the grill, metal skewers are ready at a moment’s notice.
  • They can be used again and again, making them a great no-waste option.
  • Their pointy tip can easily pierce chicken (and any vegetable you want to grill alongside it). Just be sure to use tongs or an oven mitt when turning metal skewers, because they will get hot over the flames.

If you choose to use bamboo or wooden skewers, remember that they don’t conduct heat as effectively as metal, so the chicken may take an extra minute or two to cook. I recommend soaking an entire package of at the start of the summer, then wrapping the bundle in plastic wrap and freezing. The moisture stays in the skewers and you can use them straight from the freezer.

How to Serve Tender Chicken Kebabs

Arrange the grilled kebabs on a serving platter and finish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. The long, slender skewers make serving easy, since everyone can add a skewer or two to their own plates. Just remember that metal skewers can remain hot even off the grill, so use tongs when you’re plating them up.

Serve the charred chicken with summery sides like grilled vegetables, or slide the pieces off of the skewers and serve atop crunchy salad greens or pasta salads.

How To Make Grilled Chicken Kebabs

YieldServes 4 to 6

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes to 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish

  • 1 cup

    whole milk plain yogurt

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

  • Vegetable oil

Equipment

Instructions

  1. Prepare the yogurt marinade. Prepare the following, adding each to a gallon-sized zip-top bag as it is completed: Mince 2 garlic cloves. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon, then juice the lemon (about 1 tablespoon). Finely chop 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves. Add 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if desired. Seal the bag and massage to combine.

  2. Cut the chicken into pieces. Cut 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs into 1-inch pieces.

  3. Marinate the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the yogurt marinade. Seal the bag, then massage the chicken to coat. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to overnight.

  4. Heat the grill. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high, direct heat. Meanwhile, soak 8 skewers in water if wooden.

  5. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Thread the chicken onto 8 skewers, 6 to 8 pieces per skewer, leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch space between pieces. Place the skewers on a rimmed baking sheet.

  6. Grill the skewers. Once the grill is hot, scrape the grill grates clean. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the skewers on the grill in a single layer. Cover and grill until grill marks form and the chicken easily releases from the grill, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the skewers and grill until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165°F on an instant read thermometer, 4 to 5 minutes more.

  7. Serve the skewers. Garnish with more parsley and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make-ahead: The chicken can be marinated and refrigerated up to overnight.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

 

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