Traditional Shish Kebabs

Traditional shish kebabs

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn 

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Marinating Time: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
684 Calories
50g Fat
5g Carbs
50g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 684
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 50g 65%
Saturated Fat 18g 91%
Cholesterol 187mg 62%
Sodium 931mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Protein 50g
Calcium 54mg 4%
*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 of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 medium bell peppers, various colors, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • For the Marinade:
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Garnish: lemon and lime wedges

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for shish kebabs
    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn 
  2. Trim the lamb of all excess fat and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Cut the bell peppers and onions into 1-inch pieces.

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

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn  
  4. 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.

    Marinade meat
    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn
  5. 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).

    Preheat grill and kebabs
    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn 
  6. 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.

    Place kebab on grill
    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn 
  7. Once cooked to your desired doneness, remove the kebabs from the grill.

    Remove kebabs
    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn 
  8. Serve on or off of the skewers, with lemon and lime slices.

    Shish kebabs
    The Spruce / 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.