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This authentic Shish Tawook recipe (aka Shish Taouk) features tender, juicy chicken that’s marinated in a mixture of spiced yogurt, lemon, and garlic, and then grilled to perfection.

shish taouk chicken kebabs with toum sauce

When I lived in Syria, I remember buying incredibly delicious pre-marinated Shish Tawook from a local butcher.

It wasn’t fancy. It came in a plastic bag with the open end tied into a knot. The marinade had a pretty pinkish color flecked with spices and pieces of garlic. It smelled divine.

We’d get it home and cook the chicken on the little grill on the balcony or roast it in the oven. It was amazing served on top of fresh flatbread (from the baker whose bread shop was downstairs on the bottom floor of our building!) to soak up all the flavorful juices from the grilled chicken.

We usually ate the chicken along with grilled onions and tomatoes from the vegetable shop on the corner. That shop was owned by a man who brought fresh produce into Damascus from his family’s farm every morning. Talk about supporting local!

And we always had this meal with Toum (garlic sauce) for dipping. Toum is a pungent fluffy white dip that’s redolent with garlic. It only has four ingredients – garlic, salt, oil, and lemon juice – but it’s packed with flavor. Its creamy texture is perfect for using as a condiment or dipping sauce, and it perfectly complements the smoky, garlicky, spiced flavor of this chicken.

The beautiful thing about this recipe is how easy it is to make, and how few ingredients it calls for. You’ll be surprised at how flavorful the end result is. And how moist, tender, and juicy the chicken is!

front view of arabic shish taouk kebabs

The Best Authentic Shish Tawook Recipe

What is Shish Tawook?, you ask. It’s is a type of Middle Eastern grilled chicken skewers! I’m sharing the authentic recipe I learned to make in Syria.

The secret ingredients that result in juicy, tender chicken every time are so common that you probably already have them in your kitchen: yogurt and fresh lemon juice!

Tomato paste lends beautiful color to this dish. Garlic adds aromatic flavor. A few spices add depth, mainly paprika with a touch of allspice, and cayenne adds a touch of spicy heat.

If you prefer, you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts; that’s actually what I had every time I had this dish in the Middle East. However, I love the rich flavor and juicy texture of dark meat chicken so I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs here.

Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

shish tawook chicken ingredients
  • Plain yogurt – Regular unflavored plain yogurt is the base of our marinade. Yogurt makes a great marinade for chicken because unlike vinegar-based marinades, yogurt works slowly to tenderize the meat, and doesn’t result in a rubbery texture.
  • Fresh lemon juice – The acid in fresh lemon juice also helps to tenderize the chicken. Additionally, my Syrian mother-in-law taught me that lemon helps to take away the fishy flavor and aroma that chicken can sometimes have.
  • Olive oil – Oil slows down the tenderizing effect of the yogurt and lemon juice so that the meat tenderizes gradually without breaking down too much.
  • Tomato paste – Mostly for red color, but it also adds another layer of flavor.
  • Garlic – We use a generous amount of fresh garlic here.
  • Paprika, salt, allspice, cayenne pepper, and black pepper – This is the spice blend that the butcher in Damascus told me he uses to marinade the chicken for this dish.
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – Or you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, toss to coat, and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 1 to 24 hours.
  3. Skewer the chicken and grill it!
grilling shish taouk

Storage

Once the chicken is grilled, let it cool to room temperature and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Variations

  • You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs.
  • The tomato paste is optional; it’s mostly used to lend color to this dish.
  • Play with the level of spicy heat. Feel free to add more or less cayenne pepper to taste.

Chef’s Tips

  • Be sure to let the chicken marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
  • If you’re using wooden skewers to grill the chicken, soak them in water for 20 minutes before skewering the chicken.
  • If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use a grill pan inside. Alternatively, you can roast the chicken pieces in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes.
shish tawook sandwich wrap

Shish Tawook Recipe FAQs

How Do You Keep Chicken Juicy on the Grill?


There are a few ways to keep chicken from drying out on the grill.

For starters, use dark meat instead of white meat. Here we use boneless skinless chicken thighs.

Also, marinating chicken helps keep it moist and juicy when grilling. The yogurt and lemon juice in this marinade do a great job of not only tenderizing the meat, but also preventing this chicken from drying out on the grill.

Another important factor is to not over-cook it. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.

Where Does Shish Taouk Come From?


It’s a common dish in the Levant area of the Middle East, which includes present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.

An old family friend told me that this particular recipe came to the Levant area from Turkey during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

This recipe is commonly transliterated as Shish Tawook, Shish Tawouk, Sheesh Tawook, and Shish Taouk.

What Do You Serve with Shish Tawook?


Traditionally, this grilled chicken recipe is served on top of Middle Eastern flatbread to soak up the juices. You can either tear off a small piece of flatbread and use it to scoop up a bite-sized piece of chicken, or wrap the chicken inside the bread to make a Shish Tawook sandwich.

Grilled onions and tomatoes are commonly served on the side. Salads, such as Fattoush and Tabbouleh are popular side dishes, and so are fried potatoes (aka French fries). If you’re in the Middle East you’ll also find this dish commonly served as a platter with a generous portion of rice.

Additionally, in the Middle East, Toum (a creamy garlic spread) is frequently served with these grilled chicken skewers.

More Authentic Middle Eastern Recipes to Try

middle eastern spread with grilled chicken skewers flatbread and toum garlic sauce

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Shish Tawook Recipe (Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken Skewers)

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time12 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Other Time1 hour
Yields: 6 servings
This authentic Shish Tawook recipe (aka Shish Taouk) features tender, juicy chicken that’s marinated in a mixture of spiced yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic, and then grilled to perfection. The result is moist, flavorful meat with garlicky, smoky spiced flavor.

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Ingredients
 

  • 5 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 large cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Optional Additions:

  • Chopped or sliced tomato
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Sliced onion
  • Fresh parsley
  • Flatbread
  • Toum Lebanese Garlic Sauce

Instructions
 

  • Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, oil, tomato paste, garlic, paprika, salt, allspice, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).
  • Thread the chicken onto skewers. I like to divide the chicken onto 6 skewers so each serving gets 1 skewer.
    shish tawook on grill
  • Remove the chicken from the grill. Serve.

Video

Notes

  • Net Carbs: 3g per serving
  • Nutritional Information: The information this recipe was calculated for the marinated chicken only (not the optional additions).
  • Soak Wooden Skewers: If you’re using wooden skewers to grill the chicken, soak them in water for 20 minutes before skewering the chicken.
  • Other Ways to Cook This Chicken: If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use a grill pan inside. Alternatively, you can roast the chicken pieces in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes.
  • Recipe Inspiration: Recipe adapted slightly from the recipe in my cookbook An Edible Mosaic, published by Tuttle Publishing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1skewer | Calories: 221kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 556mg | Potassium: 441mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 494IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken Skewers, Shish Taouk, Shish Taouk Chicken, Shish Taouk Recipe, Shish Tawook, Shish Tawook Recipe

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shish taouk recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    5 stars
    So I thought I had my Mediterranean-style, grilled, shawarma-type chicken perfected but this one is delicious. Definitely going in the rotation. My son ate 4 chicken thighs!

  2. 5 stars
    Tender and juicy with great flavor!

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