Traditional Shish Kebabs

Traditional shish kebabs on a white plate

The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Marinating Time: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
690 Calories
52g Fat
7g Carbs
47g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 690
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 52g 66%
Saturated Fat 18g 92%
Cholesterol 183mg 61%
Sodium 846mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 84mg 420%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 748mg 16%
*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.)

Traditional shish kebab is made with lamb, grilled hot and fast on skewers. The key to any shish kebab recipe is to marinate the meat long enough to get the flavor into the lamb. It's easy to begin the meat marinating the night before, or in the morning, so you can quickly grill the shish kebabs for a no-fuss dinner.

This is truly a classic dish that is worth making. The grilled vegetables are already included on the skewers, so all you need to add is rice or pita. Couscous or tabbouleh are also common sides for shish kebab.


For the Shish Kebabs:

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 3 medium bell peppers, any color, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the Marinade:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon grated freshginger

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Lemon and lime wedges, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for shish kebabs gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 

  2. In a small plastic or glass bowl, combine the marinade ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, cumin, grated ginger, and black pepper).

    Marinade ingredients in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn  

  3. In a resealable container (a large zip-top bag works best), place the lamb pieces with the marinade. Massage them to mix and seal bag. Refrigerate the meat in the marinade for 2 to 24 hours.

    Beef for shish kebabs marinating in a zip-close plastic bag.

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Preheat the grill to high heat. Thread lamb, onion, and pepper pieces onto skewers—intermixing the pieces or making skewers of just meat and just vegetables (see Recipe Tip below).

    Beef kebabs and veggie kebabs assembled on a white plate

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 

  5. Place the kebabs on the hot grill and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, uncovered. Starting at the 2-minute mark, turn the skewers to cook another side of the cubes. Do this every 2 minutes until all four sides of the cubes have been grilled. Cook longer if lamb chunks are larger than 1-inch.

    Beef and veggie kebabs on a grill

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 

  6. Once cooked to your desired doneness, remove the kebabs from the grill.

    Remove kebabs from grill and place on plate

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 

  7. Serve on or off of the skewers, with lemon and lime slices.

    Traditional Shish kebabs on a white plate with lemon and lime slices

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn 


  • The longer you marinate the meat, the more flavor it will gain. The USDA notes that lamb cubes can be safely marinated for up to two days.
  • For food safety, discard the marinade that has been in contact with the raw meat. If you wish to use it as a sauce or to baste the kebabs, you must use a saucepan over medium-high heat to bring it to a boil and simmer for several minutes to kill any bacteria.
  • Use flat metal skewers so the meat doesn't twist on the skewer. This is a problem with round skewers, making it hard to get each side equally grilled. If you have only bamboo skewers available, be sure to soak them in water for an hour before you put the meat and vegetables on the skewers. Otherwise, they may burn and break off inside your lamb cubes.
  • While it's traditional to alternate meat and veggies on the skewer, because they have different cooking times, in order to get everything cooked to perfection it is best to make up skewers of just meat and just vegetables so you can control the level of doneness with ease.
  • To make it easier to control and turn on the grill, double up on your skewers for each kabob.
  • Cut the pieces of meat and vegetables as close to the same size as possible—they will cook more evenly together that way.