Tavuk Şiş (Turkish Chicken Kebab) Recipe

Authentic Turkish chicken kebab recipe

The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Marinate: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 27 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 to 8 kebabs
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
276 Calories
11g Fat
5g Carbs
37g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 276
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 98mg 33%
Sodium 311mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 37g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 63mg 5%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 442mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Kebabs originated in Turkey, so you can't get much more authentic than these Turkish chicken kebabs, or tavuk şiş (tah-VOOK’ SHEESH’). The method of cooking meats on a skewer over an open fire originated on the steppes of central Asia. In Turkey, it’s said the descendants of Genghis Khan himself skewered their daily catch on their swords and cooked it over an open flame. This concept was refined over time and was brought to the world with the westward migration of Turkic peoples.

In comparison to some modern kebabs, authentic Turkish shish kebabs are actually very plain. The key to great authentic Turkish kebab is in the quality of the meat and the flavor imparted by the marinade. In a typically hospitable Turkish way, chicken kebabs are often served alongside grilled beef and lamb to offer an alternative for diners. 

There are many versions of traditional chicken kebabs, and this one features a simple marinade made from plain yogurt, onion, garlic, and spices that transform white or dark meat chicken into succulent, flavorful kebabs. Serve with bulgur and summer vegetable salad or rice pilaf with orzo for a starch, and okra with tomato and olive oil or eggplant and vegetable ragout as your vegetable, and bread like lavaş.


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"The onion juice and other ingredients impart incredible flavor, and the yogurt does a great job tenderizing the chicken. I marinated the chicken overnight for maximum flavor. If possible, don't skip the tangy sumac garnish. It's practically essential!" —Diana Andrews

Tavuk Sis: Authentic Turkish Chicken Kebab/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

  • 1 large onion

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, or milk

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

  • Sumac, dried oregano, and paprika, for garnish, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make authentic Turkish chicken kebabs

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  2. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels.

    raw chicken on a white plate

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  3. Cut the meat into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

    raw chicken cut up into small pieces on a cutting board

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  4. Using the finest grater possible, grate the onion and garlic cloves over a medium bowl.

    bowl of grated onion

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  5. Pour the pulp and juice into a fine mesh strainer and, using a wooden spoon, press out the juice into a medium bowl. Discard the onion and garlic pulp; reserve the juice.

    drained onion in a glass bowl

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  6. Stir together the onion-garlic juice, yogurt, oil, tomato paste, black pepper, paprika, and salt.

    onion-garlic juice, yogurt, oil, tomato paste, black pepper, paprika, and salt in a bowl

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  7. Add the cubed chicken and toss to coat.

    chicken pieces in spiced yogurt marinade

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  8. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight for maximum flavor.

    chicken pieces in marinade and covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  9. Prepare a medium (350°F to 375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers in water for 30 minutes so they don't catch fire on the grill. 

    wood skewers soaking in water

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  10. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and thread them onto soaked bamboo kebab skewers or metal skewers. The chunks of chicken can touch each other, but don’t put them too close together to ensure they cook through. Discard any remaining marinade.

    chicken kebabs on a cooking sheet

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  11. Sprinkle the kebabs generously with salt and place on pre heated grill. Grill evenly on all sides, about 12 minutes total.

    chicken kebabs cooking on a charcoal grill

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  12. Garnish with sumac, dried oregano, and paprika, if desired, and serve.

    Tavuk Şiş (Turkish Chicken Kebab)

    The Spruce/Julia HartbeckTavuk Şiş (Turkish Chicken Kebab)

Recipe Variations

  • You can adjust the ingredients to your taste and add hot red pepper in place of sweet paprika to spice things up.
  • You can also add vegetables like cherry tomatoes to the skewers if you wish.