Kebabs: They’re Not Just For Summer!

Kebabs aren’t just for summer. Little bits of meat and veggies on a stick are universally appealing for both kids and adults, yet we too often relegate them to grilling season. But for those of us living in the northern climes, they just fall off the radar for six months out of the year, and that’s a shame. They’re a great way to spiff up a winter meal and add some variety to your family’s dinner without too much work. So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to give up on them.

Chicken Kebabs with Asian Spice Paste
Chicken Kebabs with Asian Spice Paste

High-heat cooking methods work best with kebabs since the meat is generally cut into bite-sized pieces before threading onto a skewer. Grilling–either on a grill or in a stovetop grill pan–and broiling are well suited for these recipes because unlike baking, you can achieve that critical sear and caramelization that makes them so tasty. Sauteing can work as well, but unless you have a square pan, you may find that the skewers limit how many you can cook at one time. Regardless of the method you choose, you’re not committing more than ten or fifteen minutes of your time to cook your dish, and that’s a very good thing indeed.

Just about any firm protein source–shrimp, beef, seitan, tofu and even firm-fleshed fish–works in a kebab recipe, and my recipe for Chicken Kebabs with Asian Spice Paste (below) is no exception. So feel free to substitute in whatever main ingredient (or a combination) that suits your fancy if chicken isn’t your thing. If you choose to use tofu, be sure to select the extra-firm variety and press it between paper towels to remove as much moisture as you can. This will ensure that the curd can absorb as much flavor as possible without dilution, and less water overall will result in more crispy goodness (flavor!) on the outside. If you choose to use beef, slice a thick-cut lean sirloin steak into quarter inch slices and thread onto a skewer à la Chinese restaurant teriyaki sticks.

My recipe is inspired by the curry mixtures popular in Thai cuisine. As you mix and mash the aromatic ingredients together, the oils from the zest and the moisture from the shallots and ginger create a rough paste that adheres well to the meat. Flavorful sesame oil and vegetable oil thin the mixture down to make it easy to coat all of the meat evenly, ensuring consistent flavor in each bite. If you’re not a spicy food kind of person, feel free to reduce or even omit the jalapeno. If you use 6” skewers, your kebabs will fit perfectly into a gallon-sized zippered storage bag for marinating–and if there are any leftovers.

As the holidays approach, you can adapt this recipe to serve as an appetizer for your party. Simply marinate the chicken in the paste, place in a single layer on a sheet pan, and once they’re cooked, skewer them with a small decorative pick. Served on a festive tray, they’re a crowd pleaser. As an entree, this recipe pairs perfectly with my Asian Slaw and a serving of perfectly steamed rice.

Chicken Kebabs with Asian Spice Paste

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A moist spice rub acts as a thick marinade in this recipe to produce deeply flavorful, moist chicken that can be readily served with your favorite vegetable dishes.

Servings: 6 (134 g )

Prep Time: 20 min.

Cook Time: 2 hours


Spice Paste:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced jalapeño chile
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper


  • 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed


  1. Soak bamboo skewers in cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Mash the spice paste ingredients using mortar and pestle or blender to form a wet paste.
  3. Place chicken on skewers and rub with paste, coating evenly. Place in a covered dish in the refrigerator and marinate (2-12 hours).
  4. Place oven rack in the top position and heat broiler to high. Place chicken on a baking sheet and cook until no longer pink in the center, turning once halfway through cooking (8-10 minutes).