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Exploring Kebabs and All Foods Cooked on a Stick

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Kebabs are a delicious meal with a long history. Read on to learn more.

Kebabs are a delicious meal with a long history. Read on to learn more.

What's In a Name?

Shish kebab is 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.
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Delishably

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)

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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