Shish Tawook Recipe – The Best Chicken Kebab Ever

It’s a big claim, isn’t it? The best chicken kebab ever? If you are doubtful, you possibly haven’t tried this Lebanese specialty as many times as I have during my teen age years. You see, back in 1996 (the post war years), McDonalds and Burger King hadn’t yet entered the Lebanese market, and Lebanon was full of non-franchised eateries that served good quality fast food. The choice wasn’t restricted between a Big Mac and a Double Whopper, but instead we had a vast array of what you could call street food. This is food that is traditional and regional to our culture, food that we know and love and that is ingrained in our cuisine. Think crisp falafel bursting out of fresh Lebanese bread drizzled with lemony tahini and packed with pickles and parsley, or a moist chicken shawarma traditionally carved by a master craftsman, charred and full-flavoured, sitting on clouds of white garlic sauce. Manakish, kafta, lahm mishwi (barbeque beef or lamb), and the list goes on.

When McDonalds (now lovingly reffered to as MacDo by dolled up French-accented Lebanese girls oblivous to the giant’s impact on our local culture) opened in Lebanon, we rushed and queued to get a taste of what was on offer. In retrospect, had I known then what I know now, I would have started my own Slow Food movement, but in our ignorance, as if in a bout of mass hysteria, McDonalds was accepted, and though we knew deep down that the food did not even compare to our local oldies, we embraced the terrible new. I personally haven’t eaten McDonalds for around six years now, and prefer to eat food prepared by individuals who are passionate about what they do. I also hope that my efforts here on my blog can help preserve the enthusiasm people have for regional specialties. One of these specialties is shish tawook.

What I love about shish tawook is that it is so popular all over Lebanon and that there isn’t a single recipe that is used by everyone to reproduce these skewered beauties, but that every home has its own recipe. I also love that though it seems so engrained in our culture, hardly any of us know what the word tawook means. Well, let me tell you. Tawook is a variant on the Turkish word tavuk, meaning chicken. So shish tawook means chicken skewers. The reason for this popular Turkish dish to be on our menu is because the Ottoman Empire ruled Lebanon between the years 1516 and 1920. Today, our generation can not easily identify the mark of the Turks on our history, mainly because the Turks goverened Lebanon through local leaders. But in reality, our love of backgammon and much of our food has been influenced by the Turks, and if we were try to get a positive out of every negative situation, I’d say shish tawook is certainly one positive to add to the list.

The shish tawook recipe below is one of many that you would find out there, but I think it’s the closest in flavour to my favourite version that I used to have in Lebanon. Eat it with plenty of toum and some pickled cucumber with Lebanese bread, and then tell me if it’s not the best chicken kebab ever.

Shish Tawook Recipe


  • 1.5 kg chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dijon or mild mustard
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 10 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white (or black) pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped thyme or 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • mushrooms, optional but highly recommended
  • 1 red and 1 green capsicum, optional but highly recommended


  • Emulsify the mustard with  the olive oil. This is done by whisking a little bit of olive oil into the mustard and continuing to do so until all the olive oil is encorporated
  • Add and whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, tomato paste, garlic and thyme until well mixed
  • Marinate the chicken in the sauce overnight in the fridge
  • Skewer the chicken along with pieces of mushroom and capsicum and barbeque or grill until don . Don’t over cook otherwise the chicken would dry out
  • Eat with lots and lots of toum, pickles and Lebanese bread
  • Blissfully avoid social interaction for 4 days until all garlic symptoms have subsided


  • Oh yum, chicken with garlic and lemon on a bbq is my idea of heaven. I will have to try your toum recipe sometime soon too – my first effort was a disaster and i haven’t been game to try again since!

  • Allow me a small historical correction Fouad, Ottomans ruled Lebanon till after WWI. in 1943 We had the French mandate.
    I love the barbecued mushrooms with Tawook, they get this special flavor, I tend to pick them out. I also like the thyme addition since the ones I had never had it!

  • Chicken, lemon and garlic are a wonderful flavour combination, I will have to give this one a go.

    Helen, you should have another go at Fouad’s Toum, it is incredible (makes enough to feed an army though).

  • Helen – That garlic recipe has so far only had satisfied customers, as long as you follow it step by step, and not change the amounts. It tastes great too, and it is oily, but in a good way 😛

    Viviane – So so right. Change made and dates fixed 🙂 Zaatar really makes the recipe. You should try it for sure. Try getting fresh zaatar

    Sara – I don’t think chicken works with anything else equally as good. Especially chicken breast, which is otherwise dull and flavourless. The marinade manages to keep it moist and full of flavour. Also, the toum recipe has to be made in those quantities, otherwise, the blades of the food processor won’t churn the garlic properly 🙂 It does refridgerate well, so stop complaining hehehe.

  • <== pokes tongue out at Foud.

    hehe not complaining at all, we managed to get through it all as it keeps really really well and some lucky friends got samples too. I have made it again since – it is extremely addictive and the shop bought "garlic dip" stuff does not stand up to it at all.

    I will be trying the Shish Tawook over Easter 🙂
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Yabbie Dabbie Doo =-.

  • My son while in Lebanon would only eat this, every day, he did not want to touch anything else!
    So, yeah, we are definitely into shish tawouk!
    Thanks Fouad, your recipe is great and the historical titbits is also very useful.
    .-= tasteofbeirut´s last blog ..Lamb Cake =-.

  • hey thanks for the recipe I requested.

    I tried it and it was delicious. I recommend boneless chicken thigh meat as it’s really hard to dry out the meat. And a george foreman type of grill is key too.

    Thanks again.

  • Hi Joumana – thanks for your continuous support hehe. shish tawook is the best! I share your son’s opinion

    Hi Michael – Dark chicken meat works great too, but even chicken breast which usually dries out remains moist because of the marinade

    Hi Cherine – Glad you enjoyed the recipe. let me know how you go. looking forward to seeing a post on it 🙂

  • As a Lebanese, I feel very proud upon reading this post 🙂

    Now, I have a kind of an ignorant question. My grandma had given me some plain ground Zaatar so I can mix it with some simac and sesame seeds and make Zaatar mix. Could this Zaatar be used for the sheesh tawouq?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Hi Fouad, found this recipe yesterday and gave it a go (but without the thyme, dammit, none to hand). Exactly what I’ve eaten in Cairo, and my Egyptian bloke, whose mother is a fearsome cook, said it was ‘so close’ to hers. Rare praise indeed. I blame it on the lack of za’tar;) I too ditched the breast fillets in favour of thigh, which I find much tastier. Thanks for an awesome recipe, will try others on the site as well too – look forward to trying this one again with fresh thyme.

  • Hi Belle. Thanks for your wonderful comment. It’s great to get this kind of feedback. Chicken thighs are great, but there is still something to be said about chicken breast. It really is one of those cuts that everyone accuses of getting overly dry, but when marinaded for long enough, and then cooked just until done, I find its texture and juiciness fantastic. Please let me know how you go with any of the recipes you try (whether they work this well or not hehehe)

  • Fouad! I can’t thank you enough for posting this. I’m a British Arab, and outside of London, you can’t get a decent Lebanese restaurant. So, this lead me to try cooking all of my favourite Lebanese dishes. My absloute favourite is Tawouk, so after alot and, I mean ALOT of reasearch,….I came across this…..and from the ingredients, and after trying it out – I can honeslty say, it is better than my favourite Lebanese restaurant in London.

    And the Toum, was great too, although I really had to beat the hell out of it, and used two egg whites to get a creamy texture. Can’t thank you enough!

  • Shish Tawook is my favorite takeaway, Shish Tawook is a famous Egyptian recipe, and i tried it in many countries but i have to admit that it’s not even close to the Egyptian Shish Tawook yummmm, this is why It’s not in the menu of most of the Lebanese restaurants in Australia as it’s not pulper dish for Lebanese ppl and they can easily live happy without it 🙂

  • This is something I’ll have to try with the fast and easy Toum, which I tried tonight with amazing (well I was amazed!) success, even with a stick blender. Do you think this recipe will work with a stick blender too? By the way, your blog is just great, I drive through Punchbowl all the time and now I just want to investigate all the wonderful food there 🙂

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