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lb boneless skinless chicken, cut into strips (about 1 inch thick and 1/2 inch wide)
tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Add the chicken strips to a wide, deep bowl or a resealable bag.
Whisk together the remainder of the ingredients and then pour over the chicken. Mix well.
Refrigerate the chicken for about 1 hour to marinate.
Heat your grill to its medium setting, or prepare charcoals for grilling.
Thread the chicken onto kabob sticks (if using wooden ones, soak them for 30 minutes before using).
Cook the chicken on the grill for about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through.
More About This Recipe
- When I first heard of Chicken Souvlaki, I immediately wrote it off as a greasy, double-fried something or other that I wasn’t interested in.
But this was before I had actually seen or tasted it. As it turns out, this marinated chicken dish is wonderful and craveworthy – something that my whole family loves. Go figure!
But there are only so many chicken souvlaki sandwiches we can eat. At some point, you want it to be a little different…without losing whatever it is that makes it great.
My solution? Put it on a stick. No, I’m serious. It’s amazing what threading a piece of chicken onto a kabob skewer can do for its coolness factor. I’m telling you…this is recipe gold.
These Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs are easy to eat. They are simple, but totally delicious. And imagine all the things you can serve these with. I went with a simple tomato, basil and red onion salad. But these would be awesome with spinach feta rice or served on a Greek salad. You could even serve these as an appetizer before a Greek-themed meal.
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Sarah W. Caron (aka scaron) is a food writer, editor and blogger who writes about family-friendly foods and raising a healthy family at Sarah’s Cucina Bella.
Authentic Chicken Souvlaki Skewers in the Oven Recipe
I have tried my first chicken souvlaki skewers in Cyprus, actually, and they didn’t disappoint. My first thought was, yeah yeah, I knew what chicken skewers were, and I’ve tried many variations. But the authentic souvlaki skewers were something else.
First of all, souvlaki is a grilled dish. You need a grill to cook it the right way. However, the secret of the taste lies in the marinade. And in case you’re not in the position to grill meat at home (living in an apartment), it’s possible to get around with cooking souvlaki in the oven using the right technique.
Here’s what you’ll need for the souvlaki marinade:
- 1 pound of skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
- Souvlaki spices (or dried oregano, pepper, salt)
- Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch cubes
- Mix the olive oil with the spices and lemon juice to make the marinade. Add it with the chicken cubes in a bowl and mix them well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight
- Preheat the oven to 400F (250C)
- Put the chicken on the skewers. Don’t leave space between the pieces but don’t squeeze them together either
- Put the skewers on a baking dish like you would place them on the grill. The chicken should be suspended over the bowl without touching it so the juices could drip down
- Cook for about 12 minutes
- Turn on the oven broiler for about 2 minutes to finish for the broiled effect.
Important! Make sure to watch the chicken cooking for not to overcook it. You’ll get the best results if you use a thermometer (165F or 73C when done). Otherwise, you’ll need to do some trial and error to get the timing right – but it’s worth it!
This is an excellent recipe for any number of servings, and it will work perfectly for a romantic dinner for two. It’s so quick to cook too. And you can make the marinade the day before. It turns out so much better this way as well.
To serve, make a traditional Greek salad and Tzatziki sauce for the whole Mediterranean spiel. These are the best chicken skewers you’ll ever make! And you two will love them!
What is in Chicken Souvlaki?
- chicken breast - cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes.
- souvlaki marinade - made with a combination of water, garlic, parsley, dill, honey (or granulated sugar), salt, lemon, bay leaves.
- saltand pepper - to season the skewers. You can also add some Italiano seasoning (optional).
- olive oil - for grilling.
You will also need skewers, tongs for grilling, and an indoor grill pan (if you are not using an outdoor grill).
How To Make Chicken Souvlaki
A good souvlaki recipe starts with a good marinade! This marinade is incredibly simple! You most likely have all the ingredients ready to go!
In a large ziptop bag, combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and salt.
Add chicken (cubed) into the marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
When ready, thread the chicken with metal or wood skewers. If you are going to broil or grill the chicken souvlaki on an outdoor grill, make sure that the wooden skewers have been soaked for at least 30 minutes!
If using metal skewers, be mindful that they will be very hot to the touch!
Grill your souvlaki for 8-9 minutes, turning often. The chicken is ready when the juices run clear.
- ¾ cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- ½ cup seeded, shredded cucumber
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- ½ teaspoon Greek seasoning
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large pita bread rounds
- 1 heart of romaine lettuce, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tomato, halved and sliced
- ½ cup kalamata olives
- ½ cup pepperoncini
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a small bowl, mix the balsamic vinaigrette, juice from 1/2 lemon, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over the chicken, seal, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
Toss the shredded cucumber with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and allow to sit at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, sour cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, rice vinegar, and olive oil. Season with garlic, fresh dill, and Greek seasoning. Squeeze the cucumber to remove any excess water stir into sauce. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Remove chicken from marinade and place on prepared grill. Discard remaining marinade. Cook chicken until juices run clear, about 8 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from heat, and allow to sit about 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.
Place pita rounds on the grill, and cook for about 2 minutes, until warm, turning frequently to avoid burning. Arrange warmed pita, sliced chicken, lettuce, onion, tomato, olives, and pepperoncini on a serving platter. Serve tzatziki sauce and feta cheese in separate bowls on the side. Stuff pita pockets with chicken and toppings to serve.
Festival Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs
Remember your local Greek Festival? This Chicken Souvlaki Recipe is very reminiscent of the grilled kabobs served at your local Greek Food Festival or premium Greek Restaurant! Prep time is soooooooo worth it! Enjoy!
Cut chicken tenders into approximately 1 1/2 inch chunks.
Mix together olive oil, lemon juice and OPA! Chicken and Seafood blend.
Put chicken tender chunks into shallow bowl or pan and pour the lemon juice, olive oil, OPA! Chicken and Seafood Blend mixture over the chicken. Reserve about a 1/4 cup for vegetables, and another 1/4 cup for basting if desired. Place in refrigerator for a couple of hours to marinate.
While the chicken is marinating, slice the bell peppers, onion, and zucchini into large pieces. Refrigerate.
After marinating is complete, remove chicken and vegetables from refrigerator. Toss vegetables with 1/4 of reserved marinade. Skewer vegetables and chicken as desired. (Hint: A bell pepper as the last vegetable at the tip of the skewer helps “lock on” the chicken so it doesn’t try to slide off. It also helps protect the chicken from burning at the end of the skewer.)
Fire up the grill to medium low heat. (350-ish°F)
Place skewers on the grill. Flip occasionally to allow for even cooking. Cook about 15-20 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Platter and cover with foil when finished. Rest kabobs 5-10 minutes.
How to Make Chicken Souvlaki
MARINATE. To make it, I started by marinating my chicken in a simple yogurt and lemon marinade, then threading it onto skewers with chunks of red pepper and red onion.
GRILL. My husband loves any excuse to use his grill, so we grilled ours for 6-8 minutes per side.
If you don’t have a grill (or don’t want to stand out in the cold waiting for your skewers to cook), you could also easily bake these skewers in the oven.
OVEN VERSION. I like to line a baking sheet with foil, then place a cooling rack on top of it, and the chicken on top of the rack. It helps the air to circulate better around the chicken as it cooks, and gives it a texture that’s similar to grilling.
SERVE. You can eat it on its own straight off the skewer, but my favorite way to eat the souvlaki is in a warm pita with tzatziki and sliced tomatoes.
If you haven’t had tzatziki before, it’s a cucumber garlic yogurt sauce, and totally yummy. I’ve found it at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores in the deli section, or you can easily make your own.
- Skewers: If you are in a rush or a tight money spot I would suggest using bamboo skewers you can find these at the grocery store or online. If you plan on reusing them past this one recipe you can buy stainless steel skewers online that can be washed and reused for multiple kabob recipes.
- Use Beef : You can use beef for this recipe. Simply find your favorite cut of beef and cut into small chunks and marinate just like the chicken, maybe even longer for the flavor to really get into the meat.
- Other veggies: Zucchini or any type of bell pepper would be great additions.
Quick and Easy Authentic Chicken Souvlaki in the Oven
We’ve all been through those phases when we are looking for different ways to prepare chicken. Generally “Greek” style roasted chicken that is flavored with lemon, garlic and oregano and stewed chicken in tomato sauce are our favorites, but sometimes we want something different. And this recipe for authentic chicken souvlaki is it! The best part is that you can roast it in the oven! That was a game changer for me, since trying this roasting method, I’ve made it several times, and the kids love them!
The word “souvlaki” in Greece typically means just the meat on the skewer. The word souvla means skewer so that’s where this comes from. Nowadays it is a term that means all kinds of souvlaki but when ordering, you still need to specify what exactly you want.
- Souvlaki Kalamaki: Just meat on the skewer (not wrapped in pita)
- Souvlaki Pita: meat is removed from the skewer and served in a pita along with tzatziki, tomato and onion.
- Pita me Gyro: This is similar to the gyro you see in the U.S. but smaller.
*And then you also have to specify if you want chicken or pork. Typically pork is the original souvlaki, chicken kind of appeared later.
How do you serve a chicken souvlaki
Contrary to what you may have read, the classic Greek souvlaki on the wooden skewer is served on it’s own, with a slice of bread and plenty of lemon squeezed over it. I still remember getting these souvlakia when we went on road trips in Greece: they would give you the souvlaki to hold, and put a slice of bread on the tip of the skewer. A good souvlaki kalamaki is enjoyed on its own (not in a pita or with tzatziki) because if the meat is good you don’t want to cover its flavor with sauces and pita –kind of like taking a good steak and cutting it up and putting it in a sandwich. Having said that, chicken is less flavorful than pork, so you could serve it with tzatziki or tirokafteri (spicy feta dip) or even plain Greek yogurt, but I avoid pita as I feel it is too bulky and does not allow me to enjoy the meat. So my suggestion is this: serve with some bread and a salad on the side.
Secrets of a good souvlaki
An important part of making a good chicken souvlaki is the marinade, so don’t skip that step because it imparts flavor (which is necessary for chicken) and makes the meat more tender.
Size of the souvlaki pieces:
Don’t use big chunky pieces, they are difficult to swallow and not as tasty. In Greece souvlaki made with small pieces is prized over big bulky ones. I just want to add one more point here: if you have young children- I would pull apart each piece into smaller pieces to avoid any choking risk.
You want to make sure not to over roast the meat, otherwise the result will be dry and boring. Since the pieces are small they will roast quicker. Use a meat thermometer early on to not over roast. And since we are roasting these in the oven and want to get the grilled effect, put the souvlaki under the broiler for one or two minutes.
Making Souvlaki in the oven
To roast the souvlaki, you will need a pan or casserole dish like the one below that is wide enough to match the length of the skewers-like the photo below- and place them one next to other and put in the oven.
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Cook the chicken in a hot pan for this Greek chicken souvlaki dish
Grab those large wooden skewers you soaked, and add chicken pieces to five skewers, distributing it evenly among them. (Note that if you are cooking the meat in a pan, it's okay to use skewers you did not pre-soak. If you're cooking on a grill, it's really best to have prepared the skewers in water.)
Heat a large nonstick skillet or a lightly greased pan over medium flame, and once it's warm, add three skewers. Allow the chicken to cook on both sides for about seven minutes, checking for an internal temperature between 160 and 165 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and add the remaining two skewers, cooking them in the same way. (And yes, you can use two pans and cook it all at once!)
Begin by combining the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.
Stir to combine.
Next, prep the chicken thighs by trimming any excess fat and gristle. Don’t worry about getting every last bit of fat most of it will melt off on the grill. Then cut the meat into bite-size pieces. I think it’s easiest to use kitchen shears as opposed to a knife.
Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers alternating with the red onions.
Place the kabobs on a baking sheet lined with foil, and then spoon or brush the marinade over top, making sure to coat it well. Cover and let the kabobs sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, grease well, and then grill the kabobs until golden brown.