Exploring Kebabs and All Foods Cooked on a Stick

Updated on June 23, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

What's In a Name?

Shish kebab—a strange sounding name for a fun, tasty, and easy meal that is anything but strange. The name comes from two Turkish words: “shish” means skewer and “kebab” is roasted meat. Food historians tell us that Turkish soldiers cooked chunks of meat over an open fire, using their swords to suspend the food above the flames.

Of course that’s not the first instance of cooking over an open fire, but it ties together with the name we know best for this cooking method. Even this passage from The Odyssey, written in 800 B.C.E. hints at cooking chunks of meat over a fire:

They had no wine with which to make drink-offerings over the sacrifice while it was cooking, so they kept pouring on a little water from time to time while the inward meats were being grilled; then, when the thigh bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small and put the pieces upon the spits.

— The Odyssey by Homer, 800 B.C.E., translated by Samuel Butler, Book XII

One Food, Many Names, from A to Z

  • Afghanistan – Kabab
  • Azerbaijan – Tika Kabab
  • Bulgaria – Kebap
  • Finland - Kabakko
  • France – Brochette
  • Greece – Souvlaki
  • Iran/Persia - Kebab
  • Indonesia – Satay
  • Israel - Kabab
  • Japan – Yakitori
  • Korea – Dak-kkochi
  • Portugal – Espetadas
  • Russia - Shashlik
  • Spain - Pinchos morunos
  • Turkey – Shish kebab
  • Zanzibar - Mishkaki


List of Recipes Presented in this Article

  • Greek chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce
  • Persian kofta kebab
  • Indonesian satay chicken with peanut sauce
  • Spanish pork skewers (pinchos muranos)
  • Lamb and Rosemary Brochettes with Apricot Crème Fraîche
  • Roasted potato skewers
  • Chicken yakitori
  • Salmon kebabs
  • French toast sausage breakfast kebabs

Greek Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

chicken souvlaki
chicken souvlaki

We will begin our tour of all things cooked on a stick with a basic chicken shish kebab. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is cut into equal-sized chunks, marinated briefly, and threaded along with pieces of red bell pepper and sweet onion onto bamboo skewers. This dish can be grilled or (if the weather is less-than favorable) prepared under the broiler of your oven.

I like to serve this with Greek tzatziki sauce.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for grill)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1.2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large red bell peppers, diced into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced into 1 1/2-inch wedges
  • bamboo or metal skewers for grilling
  • instant read thermometer
  • barbecue grill or broiler pan


  1. In a bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, thyme, coriander, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place chicken in a gallon size resealable bag, pour olive oil mixture over chicken. Seal bag and refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours. (Don't marinate for more than 2 hours; the acid will break down the meat fibers and your chicken will go from tender to mushy, and no one wants mushy chicken).
  3. Prepare your grill for cooking at medium-high heat according to manufacturer instructions. If using wooden skewers soak them in water for 30 minutes.
  4. Thread a red bell pepper, sweet onion, and 2 chicken pieces onto skewer; repeat twice. Brush grill lightly with olive oil, place skewers on grill and cook until chicken registers 165 degrees in center, about 7 - 9 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

Persian Kofta Kebab


This tasty ground meat (usually lamb or a combination of lamb and beef) originated centuries ago when Iran was known as Persia. In Persian, "kofta" means pounded, referring to the way the meat is prepared to achieve a blend of meats, herbs, and spices that can be formed around a wooden stick.

Although these kofta kebabs taste wonderful just as presented in the recipe, may I suggest adding 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves.

Indonesian Satay Chicken with Peanut Sauce


Nagi helps us make amazing foods with everyday ingredients; her chicken satay with peanut sauce is a great example of that. She carefully explains each step in the process of making this dish and where the ingredients can be found.

Spanish Pork Skewers (Pinchos morunos)

Pinchos morunos (marinated and ready for the grill)
Pinchos morunos (marinated and ready for the grill) | Source

Lauren Aloise is a Spanish food and travel expert. She created this wonderful tapas recipe for pork skewers that I'm sure your family will love. Nine different herbs and spices are used to make the flavorful marinade.

Lamb and Rosemary Brochettes with Apricot Crème Fraîche


Sometimes the simplest of ingredients can create the most stunning, memorable dish. Occam's Razor is clearly evident in this brochette; on the surface one would label this as a rather ho-hum offering, but a few quality ingredients, whose flavors meld in harmony, are the basis for these lamb and rosemary brochettes with apricot crème fraîche. If you love lamb, you must try this. If you have never eaten lamb, you must try this, and if you abhor lamb, this will convert you.

Roasted Potato Skewers


Are you ready for something without meat? These roasted potato skewers are crisp on the outside, creamy-tender on the inside, and full of herb-garlic flavor.

Chicken Yakitori


  • ½ cup sake or dry sherry

  • ½ cup soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

  • 8 large, thick scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

  • sesame seeds to garnish (sprinkle on cooked skewers)


  1. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar and mirin in small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until sauce has slightly thickened to lightly coat a spoon. Set aside.
  2. Preheat a grill to medium high heat. Thread 3-4 chicken pieces onto each skewer, with a piece of scallion in between each piece.Grill, turning frequently, until chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 6-8 minutes. Brush the skewers with the yakitori sauce and turn and cook for 2 minutes more.
  3. Garnish skewers with sesame seeds.

Makes 8 skewers

Salmon Kebabs


Nutritionists tell us that we should include foods rich in omega-3 in our diets at least twice a week; salmon is my favorite way of achieving that goal. This recipe and video for Middle-Eastern Spiced Salmon Kebabs was adapted from an article in Bon Appetit magazine.

French Toast Sausage Breakfast Kebabs


Can you believe it? Someone even created a sweet-savory kebab for breakfast! And, that someone is Sommer. She introduces herself as "...Wife, Mom, Travel Enthusiast, and Resident Cookery Queen of A Spicy Perspective. Let me help you make meal time memorable, and life a little spicy!"

© 2017 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you. It was fun writing this and finding so many diverse recipes.

    • raucciwrites profile image

      Billie Raucci 5 months ago from Illinois

      Great article! Looks amazing!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 8 months ago from Central Florida

      Diva, it's only me and my son in the house. He's 25, has a job and our hours are rarely conducive to dining together. I don't plan meals anymore. I did when I was married and he was young, but now I'm free to do what I want when I want, if I want. :-)

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna - I had forgotten about this article. I'm glad you jogged my memory. Have been wondering what to put on the menu for this weekend (do you plan out your meals for your family ahead of time or am I just too much of a control freak?....don't answer that).

      I think it's time for salmon kebabs in the Carb Diva house.

      Hope you have a great weekend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 8 months ago from Central Florida

      The salmon kebabs look yummy! Love the idea of breakfast kebabs, as well. The sausage would certainly balance out the sweetness of French toast!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, yes the allspice really is unique and gives it a wonderful flavor. I'm glad that you stopped by. The Spanish pork skewers are also very flavorful. Actually all of these have unique, vibrant flavors. Maybe that's why kebabs are so popular.

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 8 months ago

      Kofta is my favourite, especially with some of the Persian spices mixed in.

    • profile image

      nithyasree 9 months ago


    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I had a feeling this one would be right up your alley, and I know you've got a full plate so no need to apologize. It's time to fire up the grill.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I am ridiculously behind in my work, so pardon me for the rush comment. Yes, I would eat these...more meat, less veggies please. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Rachel - Another (unintended) bonus of cooking outdoors--the smoke alarm won't go off LOL. If you give any of these a try, please let me know. I know you're a great cook and value your opinion.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 9 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Yes, your book is, I have sent you a screen shot of it on Facebook.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 9 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Linda, You hit it right on the nail with these recipes; just in time for the summer months when you don't feel like cooking on the stove or turning on the oven. They all look so appetizing. Thanks for sharing.

      Blessings to you.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Mary, I think anything cooked outside tastes better and now that the good weather has FINALLY arrived in my corner of the world, we will be doing just that. Thanks so much for your support. BTW, is my book available on Amazon in Brazil?

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 9 months ago from Brazil

      Wow, wow, wow. I can see me trying some of these. In fact, my husband spent a few years in Indonesian and makes a mean chicken satay with peanut sauce.

      I love the potato circles as I am always looking for new ways to prepare spuds.

      The combination of sausage and French Toast on a skewer has my name on it. I would never get hubs to eat that though as the Brits don't want to mix sweet and savoury.

      Lamb, yum, that is one of my favourites. Many years ago an Iranian friend took us to an Iranian restaurant and we had minced lamb (I think it was lamb) on skewers, it was gorgeous.

      Have to go and find my skewers now!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric - I agree that Middle-Eastern people would not have salmon. I think the creator of that dish was taking "editorial license"--using Middle Eastern flavors to enhance a salmon dish. Forgive me for accepting some cultural "fusion" into my article.

      I'm sure that you and yours have amazing Thai/Vietnamese kebabs that would be as good or better than what is given here. If you would share any of those recipes with me I would be honored.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 9 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic. Our Satay here is found in Thai restaurants. I was kind of taken aback by the Middle-Eastern Kabob with Salmon. Now just where do they get the Salmon? hihihi.

      And for the first time my dear Linda you disappointed me. I even scrolled down first thing to find it. Smore's.

      But seriously I kept this marked as I love this stuff.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish - I REALLY want to do that french toast/sausage thing this weekend. I can almost taste it now. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. You're a great support and friend!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Ohmygoodness John, I just realized that you are in the midst of Winter. And I don't know what your new home provides--can you set up a hibachi on the back deck?

      But I think you could adapt almost all of these recipes to cook under the broiler in your oven. Love and hugs to you.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 9 months ago from Queensland Australia

      mmm..thanks for that. It sounds great...looking forward to bbq season.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 9 months ago from USA

      These look fabulous and right in time for summer! I want to try several, including that French toast and sausage version. Wow!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      John - I will admit that I have not yet tried the sausage/french toast thing but I'm pretty sure that it will show up Saturday morning in the Carb Diva house. Yakitori is one of my favorite dishes (I love sweet/salty) and I'm also a huge fan of salmon.

      Actually, that reminds me that there is another kebab I should have included in this article. Mix together equal parts of soy sauce and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Use as a 30-minute marinade for strips of salmon. After 30 minutes thread the salmon onto bamboo skewers in a zig-zag fashion (does that make sense?) and grill until cooked through. The salmon should be thin. Watch carefully. It only takes a few minutes on the grill and the sugar burns easily.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 9 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow, Linda, my mouth is watering. Those kebabs and skewers look and sound amazing. There are certainly some I would never have thought of.. "French toast sausage" for instance.