Shish tawook is a popular dish in Arab countries. Restaurant menus typically include the Middle Eastern chicken dish as one of the main dishes, along with grilled meat, kofta, or grilled kebab. The smell of these tender juicy chicken pieces as they grill (courtesy of the shish tawook marinade) reminds me of every Sunday spent with my family in the Lebanese countryside.
There, shish tawook was a traditional Sunday meal, served alongside some lovely tabbouleh, fattoush, and hummus. When you visit restaurants in Beirut, it’s mandatory to taste this signature sandwich, served with our delicious garlic paste sauce (also known as toum).
Shish tawook (also known as shish taouk) is of Turkish origin. Shish means a skewer and tawook means chicken. The practice of marinating small chunks of meat, threading them on a skewer, and cooking them over charcoal is called shish kebab. People use both metal and wooden skewers to make these delicious chicken kabobs.
Lebanese shish tawook is light on the stomach, making it the perfect summer main dish. It’s often eaten by patients with high blood pressure or cholesterol unless it’s served with mayonnaise or on white bread, as heart patients generally limit their consumption of red meat. Another reason that this is a relatively healthy dish is that it’s prepared with boneless skinless chicken breast and it’s grilled over fire, eliminating the need for excess oil.
I recommend that you try this traditional shish tawook recipe with toum to experience one of Lebanon’s most popular dishes.
You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast.
Feel free to make the garlic sauce up to two days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can use any kind of oil in the garlic paste, including grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, safflower, canola, or vegetable oil.
Any type of paprika works in the Lebanese chicken marinade, including regular or smoked paprika (pimenton).
If you don’t have access to a grill, a grill pan works just as well to make these Lebanese chicken skewers.
What’s the difference between shish tawook and shawarma?
Shish tawook is grilled chicken skewers prepared in a yogurt-based marinade. Meanwhile, shawarma is thinly sliced meat prepared on a rotating vertical cone. You know, the one you see regularly at kebab shops? The traditional flavors and seasonings used in both dishes are also different.
What is toum?
Toum is similar to garlic aioli or mayonnaise. However, we use garlic to stabilize it, rather than egg. But you can easily use it as a substitution for mayo. As you can see below, it has a long shelf life.
Is shish tawook gluten-free?
Yes, this recipe is gluten-free. You’ll just want to serve it with your favorite gluten-free side.
How do you store shish tawook and toum?
Store leftover grilled chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. You can serve cold or reheat on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in the air fryer. Meanwhile, when stored in an airtight container in the fridge, toum will last up to three months.
How do you serve shish tawook and toum?
Serve your shish tawook and toum with pita bread, flatbread, or homemade naan bread. You can add a side salad or one of the traditional side dishes mentioned above, including tabbouleh, fattoush, couscous, and hummus. Some other popular serving suggestions include grilled cherry tomatoes, grilled halloumi, grilled zucchini, olives, pickles, and a squeeze of lemon.
You can also make a double batch of toum, as the shish tawook sauce tastes absolutely delicious when drizzled over roasted vegetables or baked potatoes, used as a dip with grilled eggplant or other grilled meat, or spread on warm bread.
Can I add vegetables to my grilled chicken skewers?
This isn’t the traditional way to serve shish tawook, but yes, you can definitely thread vegetables onto your skewers alongside the chicken pieces. I’d recommend onion, zucchini, and bell pepper.
How do I make the garlic taste less strong?
One of my top tips is to soak the garlic for 30 minutes in ice water before making toum. The lemon juice also helps in making the garlic taste less strong.
Chicken Skewers with Garlic Sauce (Shish Tawook with Toum)
2 1/4poundsboneless chicken breast, cut into 1½-inch pieces
1/4teaspoonground black pepper
1/2tablespoonground cardamom, optional
For the Lebanese Garlic Sauce:
2tablespoonsfreshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Chicken Shish Tawook, place the chicken in a large mixing bowl. In a blender, combine the onion, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, salt, pepper, vinegar, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, if using, and tomato paste. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour the marinade over the chicken, and stir to coat the cubes with the marinade. Cover the bowl. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour; it is preferable to marinate the chicken for up to 6 hours to get the best flavor.
For a traditional preparation, preheat a grill to medium-high. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. Grill the skewers for about 15 minutes, flipping them to cook all sides, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
To bake the chicken tawook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the chicken and marinade in a pan large enough so the chicken is in one layer. Bake the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
To make the Lebanese Garlic Sauce, in a saucepan whisk together the water and cornstarch until a smooth paste forms. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low. Keep cooking and stirring the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, until it becomes transparent and looks like jelly. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.
In a blender, blend the yogurt, garlic, and salt until well combined. Add to the blender the cooled cornstarch mixture, oil, and lemon juice. Mix well.
Serve the chicken tawook with garlic paste and pita bread.
Farah is a Lebanese recipe developer who was born in Kuwait and moved to Lebanon to continue her studies in Beirut when she was 17 years old. She has a background in sales and marketing. Farah discovered cooking when she started taking care of her little brother and sister when her mom was travelling away. She fell in love with Lebanese cuisine and its complexity of culture. Farah cooks with passion and love. All of her friends can’t wait to be invited for lunch or dinner to her house just to taste her meals! She enjoys travelling and trying traditional street food. Having a great time with the people you care about and enjoying a tasty meal is what she calls a good life.