The Meatwave

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs View Recipe

I went a little kebab crazy at the Meatwave opener last summer. In all, I made nine different skewers that day, and the full aftermath will be coming to you all Meatwavers over the next few months. I've already unleashed the super beefy steakhouse kebabs and the extra flavorful herb-crusted lamb skewers, so for a change meat this time, I'm presenting these smoky and spicy yogurt marinated chicken kebabs.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

My original inclination for these was to make chicken tandoori skewers, but as often happens, my mind started wandering and creativity took hold to take it in a different direction. So the foundation of the marinade was laid with a tandoori influence that included plain yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger. Instead of layering in the traditional tandoori spices of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and sweet paprika though, I simply went with a 50/50 mix of both sweet and hot paprika along with salt and pepper.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

As always, juicy and flavorful chicken thighs were my cut of choice here. In my recipes, I always write to cut the thighs into 1-inch cubes, which over simplifies the process a bit. Thighs don't cube well like breasts do, so instead I often cut pieces a bit bigger and then fold them over when skewering to achieve a roughly 1-inch size—uniformity is the end strategy for even cooking.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

Since this marinade had an acid, I needed to strike the happy balance between giving the salt enough time to do its job enhancing the flavor and moisture of the meat, but not long enough for the lemon juice to turn the chicken mushy. Because of that, I didn't go overnight with this marinate like I sometimes do, but instead opted to clock it in at 5 hours, although you can probably safely push that to about 8.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

I wasn't quite prepared for the mess of skewering this chicken. I'm used to thinner marinades that mostly drip off as I remove the meat from the liquid, but this thick yogurt based mixture clung to the chicken and splattered a bit as I forced the chicken on the bamboo skewers. Once all done, the skewers will still swimming in a sea on marinade—it was a good thing I had them on a rimmed baking sheet to keep everything contained.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

Over direct high heat, that wet marinade quickly baked down, adhering well to the chicken and giving it an earthy orange hue. I kept the skewers over hot coals, giving them a quarter turn occasionally, until I had them seared well on all sides and the meat was just cooked through.

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers

The end result were kebabs that were equally, if not more, delicious than the tandoori chicken I'd originally set out to make. The two paprikas gave a strong smoky and spicy boost to the moist, tender chicken. It just goes to show how even a small change can create something totally and wonderfully new.

Print Recipe

Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs

  • Yield 4-6 servings
  • Prep 30 Minutes
  • Inactive 4 Hours
  • Cook 15 Minutes
  • Total 4 Hours 45 Minutes


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes


  1. Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, oil, ginger, salt, smoked paprika, hot paprika, garlic, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for 4 to 8 hours.
  2. Thread chicken thighs on skewers, folding larger pieces of chicken over to create uniform size.
  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill skewers until well browned on all sides and center of chicken registers between 160-165°F on an instant read thermometer, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

You Might Also Like


  1. Jason Looks great Josh! Yet another recipe I look forward to trying. Did you serve these with anything? Raita Dip perhaps or any ideas of a good accompanying side dish(es)?


  2. Josh @Jason Didn't make anything in particular as a side for these. A yogurt sauce would certainly be good, maybe one with some cumin, lime, and cilantro. Fresh naan would be good too.

  3. sylvie Love this cumin and paprika marinade, adding yogurt avoids skewers are too fat and that's great!