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Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs

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Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs


Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs are a flavorful and refreshing dish perfect for grilling season. These kebabs feature juicy chicken marinated in a zesty lemon and fresh basil mixture, then grilled to perfection. But what makes these kebabs a favorite at gatherings and cookouts?

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History of Kebabs

Origins of Kebabs

The concept of cooking meat on skewers dates back to ancient times and is found in many cultures around the world. Kebabs originated in the Middle East, where they were traditionally made with lamb. Over time, they have evolved to include various meats and marinades.

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Evolution Over Time

Kebabs have been adapted into countless variations, each with unique flavors and ingredients. Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs are a modern twist, combining fresh herbs and citrus for a light and vibrant taste.

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Nutritional Benefits

Health Benefits of Chicken

Chicken is a great source of lean protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. It’s also low in fat, making it a healthier choice for many diets.

Health Benefits of Lemon and Basil

Lemon is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, boosting the immune system and aiding in digestion. Basil offers anti-inflammatory properties and is a good source of vitamin K, essential for bone health.

Choosing the Right Chicken

Best Cuts of Chicken to Use

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs work best for kebabs. Thighs are more forgiving as they stay juicy even if slightly overcooked, while breasts offer a leaner option.

Tips for Preparing the Chicken

Cut the chicken into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Remove any excess fat or connective tissue before marinating.

Marinating the Chicken

Importance of Marination

Marinating the chicken infuses it with flavor and helps to tenderize the meat. A good marinade can make a significant difference in the final taste and texture.

How to Make the Lemon Basil Marinade

  1. Combine Ingredients: In a bowl, mix fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, chopped basil leaves, minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Marinate: Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2-4 hours for maximum flavor.

Preparing the Skewers

Types of Skewers to Use

You can use either wooden or metal skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from burning on the grill.

Tips for Assembling the Kebabs

Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, leaving a little space between each piece to ensure even cooking. You can alternate the chicken with vegetables like bell peppers and cherry tomatoes for added flavor and color.

Cooking Techniques

Grilling Method

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and has a nice char.

Oven-Baking Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the skewers on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through, until the chicken is fully cooked.

Step-by-Step Recipe

Detailed Cooking Instructions

  1. Prepare the Marinade: Mix lemon juice, zest, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Marinate the Chicken: Add chicken pieces to the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  3. Prepare the Skewers: Thread the marinated chicken onto skewers, alternating with vegetables if desired.
  4. Cook the Kebabs: Grill or bake the kebabs until the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred.
  5. Serve: Serve hot with your favorite side dishes.

Tips for Perfect Results

  • Don’t over-marinate the chicken as the acid in the lemon can start to break down the meat.
  • Ensure the grill or oven is properly preheated for even cooking.
  • Let the kebabs rest for a few minutes before serving to retain their juices.

Serving Suggestions

Ideal Accompaniments

  • Rice pilaf
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Fresh salad

Presentation Tips

Arrange the kebabs on a platter and garnish with lemon slices and fresh basil leaves. Serve with small bowls of dipping sauce for added flavor.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Over-Marinating the Chicken

Marinating the chicken for too long can make it mushy. Stick to the recommended marinating time.

Overcooking the Kebabs

Chicken can become dry if overcooked. Monitor the cooking time closely and use a meat thermometer if needed to ensure they reach the safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Variations of the Dish

Adding Vegetables to the Skewers

Add bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions, or zucchini to the skewers for added flavor and color.

Using Different Herbs and Spices

Experiment with different herbs like cilantro or parsley, and spices like cumin or paprika to change up the flavor profile.

Pairing with Sauces

Best Sauces to Complement the Dish

  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Garlic aioli
  • Pesto
  • Lemon yogurt sauce

Homemade Sauce Recipes

For a simple garlic aioli, mix mayonnaise with minced garlic, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. For a refreshing tzatziki, combine Greek yogurt with grated cucumber, garlic, dill, and lemon juice.

Cultural Significance

Role in Various Cuisines

Kebabs are a beloved dish in many cultures, from Middle Eastern shish kebabs to Greek souvlaki. Each variation brings unique flavors and traditions.

Popularity in Different Regions

Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs are particularly popular in Western cuisine, where fresh, light flavors are favored during the warmer months.


Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs are a delicious and versatile dish that’s perfect for grilling season. With their zesty marinade and juicy chicken, they’re sure to be a hit at any gathering. So why not give them a try and bring a taste of summer to your table?


Can I use other types of meat?

Yes, you can substitute chicken with turkey, shrimp, or even tofu for a vegetarian option.

What’s the best way to store leftovers?

Store leftover kebabs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven or on the grill.

Can I make them gluten-free?

Yes, ensure all ingredients in the marinade are gluten-free, and use gluten-free sides and sauces.

How do I make them more flavorful?

Add more garlic, increase the amount of basil, or include other herbs and spices like thyme or oregano.

Are they suitable for meal prep?

Absolutely! Marinate the chicken and assemble the skewers ahead of time. Store them in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Yield: 6

Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs

Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs

Lemon Basil Chicken Kebabs are a flavorful and refreshing dish perfect for grilling season. These kebabs feature juicy chicken marinated in a zesty lemon and fresh basil mixture, then grilled to perfection. But what makes these kebabs a favorite at gatherings and cookouts?

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes


  • 1 c plain, full fat yogurt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • ½ c basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb chicken breast cut into 1’’ cubes
  • Rice or crunchy bread to serve


  • In a food processor, combine the yogurt, black pepper, salt, honey, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and basil. Puree until smooth (there will be some large pieces of basil, that is fine) then add the olive oil and mix just until combined. Taste for additional seasoning and set aside.

  • In a large bowl with a lid or a Ziploc bag, combine the yogurt and the chicken and let marinate for 24 hours.

  • Before cooking, heat the grill to medium-high. Transfer the chicken to the skewers (about 5-6 metal skewers), making sure to not pack the meat together too tightly on the skewer (this will cause uneven cooking). Grease the grates of the grill well with an oiled rag, then grill the kebabs until fully cooked and lightly charred—4-5 minutes per side.

  • Alternative ways to cook meat if you don’t have a grill: use a cast iron skillet to cook the meat. Heat the pan on the stovetop to medium-high. Once hot (and likely smoking a little, add some neutral oil, then place the skewers on top and cook, about 4-5 minutes per side, until fork tender with an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F.

  • You can also place the skewers across a walled cast iron skillet so that the meat is not touching the bottom (the skewers will be suspended over the pan rather than touching the bottom). Rotate the skewers as needed until fully cooked.

  • A third option is broiling the meat on a wire rack directly under the broiler until lightly charred and cooked through—the meat can be on skewers or not.

  • Serve with basmati rice and garnish with a generous amount of mint.


Letting the chicken marinate overnight is key to getting the best texture and flavor from this recipe—however, be careful not to let it sit too long (up to two days) because the acid in the marinade will begin to cook the chicken and change the texture.

Chicken thighs can also be used instead of chicken breasts. Thighs, because they have more fat, won’t dry out as easily as chicken breasts, making them a great alternative if you’re concerned about undercooking the meat.

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