Shish Taouk- A Rare Recipe Challenge

Well, I’ve done something new, actually a few new things. Lina over at Lin’s Recipes created a food challenge for the month of January, a “Rare Recipe Challenge.” Lina did her Rare Recipe Challenge Pichomework and found dishes from around the world that may be new to you and me. People were invited to pick one of the dishes to research, find recipes for, and create. The hook- you had to choose something you had never eaten or made before. Clearly, I was still riding the sugar and cocktail fueled high of the holidays because I quickly agreed to not only my first “challenge,” but also to making something I had never eaten, heard of, or had a recipe for. Oh and let’s not forget, by participating I agreed to post all about it! Yikes!!!

I chose to make Shish Taouk (pronounced “shish tawook”), a Middle Eastern type of fast food. Here’s a bit of trivia: did you know that ‘shish’ means skewer and ‘taouk’ means chicken in Turkish? These marinated chicken kebabs are found throughout Middle East; though each country has its own twist on the marinade. And that is the biggest challenge… not only does each country have its own version, but each cook within each country has their own Shish Taouk ingredients on cutting board: ingredients: cubed chicken breast, plain yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, tomato paste, salt and pepper.version. It would be like doing a Google search among Italian grandmothers, with the inquiry “meatball recipe.” The number of results would equal the number of grandmothers, and each recipe would be slightly different. There would be no ONE meatball recipe. Well, it’s the same with Shish Taouk. There are thousands of recipes out there, and I read a lot of them. Some use yogurt, some don’t; some use tomato paste, some ketchup, and I found a few that use both; the spices were all over place- mint, thyme, cumin, paprika, oregano, cayenne. Lemon juice and bunches of garlic were a constant, though even there the amounts varied. For example, one recipe called for 1 cup of lemon juice, while another (using the same amount of chicken) used only ¼ cup. Cooking methods ran the gamut from grilled on a barbeque to pan fried to broiled. I would have preferred to grill, but because of weather, I broiled my chicken kebabs and the veggie kebabs I made to serve alongside the meat.

After loads of research I came up with my recipe for Shish Taouk; full disclosure here, since I’ve never tasted an authentic Shish Taouk I have no Shish Taouk on pita with grilled veggies and toumidea if my method is a proper interpretation or not. That said, the night I was making this for dinner my oldest walked into the house after basketball practice and announced, “It smells good in here, like a Middle Eastern restaurant!” Ahhh, the sweet smell of success (or shish taouk!). The yogurt tenderized the chicken; the lemon juice added just enough tang to balance out the pungency of the garlic. The spices I chose worked well- cumin brought just the right amount of heat and the smoked paprika added a lovely smokiness that was especially welcome since the kebabs were cooked under a broiler, not grilled outside over a fire. The tomato paste and smoked paprika turned the entire mixture an orange-pink which provided a beautiful color to the finished dish.

The entire family loved it and I’ll definitely be making it again. I served the chicken with broiled skewers of bell peppers, red onions, grape tomatoes and warm pita bread. In Lebanon they traditionally serve Shish Taouk with toum, a garlicky lemony mayonnaise. Oh my, it is good and will be used in my house for more than just these kebabs. Tzatziki would also be delicious- not traditional, but it seems everyone has their own version of this dish, so why not?

Well, I’m off to the Rare Recipe Challenge and bringing my Shish Taouk. Thank you to Lina for creating this fun challenge, and thank you to Jhuls from for judging the entries. I loved getting outside my culinary comfort zone, researching this delicious dish, and devouring the results. New year, new foods, new challenges!

Platter of shish taouk with grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes

Shish Taouk

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

For marinade-
2 cups plain yogurt
2 lemons, juiced
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into kebab sized pieces

For Toum-
2 cloves garlic
1 egg white
juice of ½ lemon
generous pinch of kosher salt
½ cup of canola oil
1-2 Tablespoons ice water

Combine yogurt, juice of 2 lemons, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Add chicken pieces to yogurt marinade and stir. Be sure that all the chicken pieces are coated in the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

While chicken is marinating make the toum (garlic mayonnaise). In a food processor place garlic, lemon juice and generous pinch of salt. Process to chop up garlic. You will have to stop and scrape sides of processor several times while chopping the garlic. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the egg white. As the processor continues to run, slowly add the canola oil in a steady stream. You should have a mayonnaise at this point. Thin out slightly by adding 1-2 Tablespoons of ice water while the machine is running. Transfer mayo to airtight container and refrigerate.

When you are ready to make the kebabs, preheat your broiler or grill. Thread 5-6 pieces of chicken on each skewer (It will be gloopy, but don’t worry. There is no need to scrape yogurt mixture off the chicken pieces).

Broil or grill chicken until done, about 15 minutes, turning over once at the halfway mark. Serve immediately with pita, toum, and grilled veggies.

Shish Taouk ingredients on cutting board: ingredients: cubed chicken breast, plain yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, tomato paste, salt and pepper.
Gather your ingredients: cubed chicken breast, plain yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, tomato paste, salt and pepper.
Combine ingredients to make yogurt marinade.
Combine all the ingredients, except the chicken, to create the marinade.


Make the toum while the chicken is marinating…

Raw Shish Taouk skewers on broiler pan.
After marinating, preheat grill or broiler. Thread chicken on skewers. (Tip- if using bamboo skewers, give them a soak in water so they don’t burn on the grill or under the broiler.)
Grill or broil the kebabs- depending on your grill or oven, approximately 7 minutes per side. My broiler pan was set about 6 inches under the heating element; my kebabs took about 7 minutes per side.
Grill or broil the kebabs- depending on your grill or oven, approximately 7 minutes per side. My broiler pan was set about 6 inches under the heating element; my kebabs took about 7 minutes per side.
Platter of shish taouk and grilled veggies.
Serve with grilled veggies, toum, and pita bread.
Shish Taouk on pita with grilled veggies and toum
Shish Taouk with grilled veggies and toum on pita bread.

63 thoughts on “Shish Taouk- A Rare Recipe Challenge

  1. This looks inspiring! Coming from the UK as I do, I am very familiar with chicken marinaded for Tikka in indian spices but this middle eastern version is new to me. I’m gonna try it though being phobic about Mayo (I know …. it’s ridiculous since I live in France mostly and am now in the US for a while – I need to get over this one) I will make a garlic and lemon tzatziki instead as my gloop of choice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You’re absolutely right, the yogurt marinade is just as you would do for tikka, only a different combination of spices. That’s too funny about the mayo! I love tzatziki, and actually had it with the leftover chicken for lunch the other day… perfect accompaniment. Does that make this dish greek-middle eastern fusion, then? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I write, create and tweak so many recipes Jean I am in the thousands. My large young family loves choices and my mission daily is to provide them with balanced meals! Sometimes, most home cooks get bored or in a rut in the cooking arena! Not me I love foods too much. Glad the family enjoyed your choice! Yay.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m with you, Cheryl! I love being in the kitchen and trying new recipes, tweaking as needed, or starting from scratch and creating my own. I think the more time you spend playing around in the kitchen, the more comfortable you feel improvising. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thrown into it at an early age working with my Father in his restaurant here in sunny Florida by age 12 I was peeling 50 lbs sacks of potatoes! LOL move up under his tutelage to the grill top and then steam table and then my Uncle (Dad’s brother) recruited me to work also in Restaurant across town! Both Brothers were excellent Chefs. My Father and I still cook together in my home. My Mother is also a wonderful home cook. Destiny I tell you! LOL Cheryl

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly we usually eat out for Shwarma. There is a Shwarma King near my daughter’s dance studio but I did make a Shwarma burger that was amazing. Posted it on my blog just a week or two ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved your post soooooooo much….It was like a story in fact! Middle Eastern food smells so amazing! This dish of yours has come to so so well!’s evident you have done your research well! Great job!! Thank you so for taking part

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the very kind feedback! I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge- though I was a bit nervous because I’ve never participated in any sort of blog related group activity. Thanks for encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone, I’m looking forward to more of your challenges! Thanks for organizing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love everything about here – the introduction, your experience in making this and your chosen recipe. I have tried making shish taouk before and it was really good. I cannot remember if I have tried authentic one before, but I loved my version more than the take-away ones. As the saying “Homemade is always the best.” I love that you made your own garlic sauce as well, I always cheat and buy a ready made one. 😀 Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe and for sharing your adventure with the first Rare Challenge.

    Looking forward for more delicious recipes. 😀

    x Jhuls

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jhuls! Shish Taouk really is a great meal. The ingredients aren’t exotic and the cooking method adaptable enough to suit outdoor grilling or indoor cooking… it is certainly worth trying to make it homemade. Thanks for the support and encouragement! I really enjoyed being part of the Rare Recipe Challenge. xx 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely gorgeous looking. You can’t go wrong with chicken on a skewer and when you add a Pitta bread, well you have my attention.
    I adore this type of food and even more so since my operation so thank you for finding it out, it will definitely feature in my diet over the coming weeks…..

    Liked by 1 person

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