Tavuk Şiş: Authentic Turkish Chicken Kebab

Basic turkish chicken kabobs

The Spruce

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Marinate: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 27 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yields: 6 to 8 kebabs
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
90 Calories
6g Fat
4g Carbs
6g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 90
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 14mg 5%
Sodium 315mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 145mg 3%
*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.

2:25

Click Play to See This Turkish Chicken Kebab (Tavuk Şiş) Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 4 to 5 boneless, skinless thighs

  • 1 medium 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

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, sumac, and paprika, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Turkish chicken kebab ingredients
    The Spruce 
  2. Blot the chicken breasts dry on paper towels.

    Chicken breasts dried with paper towels
     The Spruce
  3. Cut the meat into bite-sized cubes about the size of large dice.

    Cubed chicken breasts on a plate
     The Spruce
  4. Using the finest grater possible, make a pulp from the onion and garlic cloves.

    Grated onion and garlic in a bowl
     The Spruce
  5. Pour this pulp and juice into a fine mesh strainer and, using a wooden spoon, press out the juice into a separate bowl.

    Onion and garlic pressed in a strainer
     The Spruce
  6. Discard the onion and garlic pulp.

    Onion and garlic pulp separated from liquid
     The Spruce
  7. In a glass or ceramic bowl, combine the onion-garlic juice, yogurt or milk, oil, tomato paste, black pepper, paprika, and salt.

    Turkish chicken kebab marinade in a bowl
     The Spruce
  8. Add the cubed chicken and toss to coat.

    Chicken coated in marinade in a bowl
    The Spruce 
  9. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight for the best results.

    Marinating chicken covered with plastic wrap
     The Spruce
  10. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for a few hours so they don't ignite on the grill. 

    Bamboo skewers soaking in water
     The Spruce
  11. Preheat a grill to medium heat.

  12. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and thread them onto small metal or soaked bamboo kebab 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.

    Turkish chicken kebabs on a plate, ready to cook
     The Spruce
  13. Sprinkle the kebabs with salt and put them on the grill. Grill them evenly on all sides, about 12 minutes total. You can sprinkle Turkish spices like oregano, sumac, and paprika over the hot kebabs to add extra flavor.

    Turkish chicken kebabs cooking in a grill pan
     The Spruce
  14. Serve and enjoy.

    Turkish chicken kebab with sides and condiments
     The Spruce

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. 

Are Turkish Chicken Kebabs Healthy?

Shish kebabs, which are typically made from whole pieces of lean meat, are a good protein option for a balanced diet. They tend to be lower in fat than kebabs made from a mixture of ground meat. Chicken shish kebabs are made with either breast or thigh meat—white meat offers a leaner source of protein, making it a healthy main dish.