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a variety of skewer recipes
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Grilled food on a stick is common fare in many countries, with each culture offering its own rendition with unique regional ingredients. Japanese yakitori, Peruvian anticuchos, Turkish döner kebab, Greek souvlaki — each of these street-food staples is infused with unique spices and enticing aromas.

Many of them also offer health benefits. Ground and whole spices are a source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Grilling extracts excess saturated fats from meats — just be sure to avoid flare-ups to minimize exposure to potential carcinogens. Plus, the flavor-enhancing effects of spices and char mean that you can often use less salt than usual. (For more on the healthiest grilling techniques, see “8 Tips for Healthy Grilling.”)

If you’re not the grilling type, you can make these recipes indoors using a cast-iron grill pan, a panini press, or the broiler setting in your oven. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a skewer full of flavor.

6 Steps to Skewer Success

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using so they don’t burn.
  2. Don’t overload your skewers; if the ingredients are too tightly packed, they’ll steam rather than brown.
  3. Leave an inch of empty space at the bottom of each skewer for easy handling.
  4. Allow skewers to cook undisturbed on each side. The more you move them, the less browning they’ll develop.
  5. For the grill: Preheat to 400 degrees F and ensure the grates are clean. Pour a bit of oil on a paper towel, then use tongs to swab the grates with the towel before cooking.
  6. For the broiler: Preheat on high for at least 10 minutes. For each recipe, broil skewers on a heavy, greased sheet pan for five to six minutes per side until evenly cooked.

Al Pastor Pork Skewers With Cilantro Chimichurri

al pastor kabob recipe

Makes 4 servings  •  Prep time 30 minutes, plus one to four hours for marinating  •  Cook time 12 to 16 minutes

Marinade

  • 3 dried guajillo chilies, seeds and veins removed
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, seeds and veins removed
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • ¾ cup chopped pineapple
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tbs. achiote paste (or add more cumin, smoked paprika, and oregano as noted below)
  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin (plus ½ tsp. if not using achiote paste)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika (plus 1 tbs. if not using achiote paste)
  • ½ tsp. Mexican or Italian oregano (plus ¼ tsp. if not using achiote paste)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves

Chimichurri

  • 2 ½ cups loosely packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion, rinsed under cold water
  • 2 tbs. lime juice
  • 2 tbs. water
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. Mexican or Italian oregano
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Pork Skewers

  • 1 ½ lb. boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple (¾ inch)
  • 1¾ cups cubed red onions (¾ inch)
  • 20 presoaked wooden skewers

Prepare the marinade:

  1. Add the dried chilies and water to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and cover the pan; allow the chilies to soften for eight to 10 minutes.
  2. Place the softened chilies and remaining marinade ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Set aside ¼ cup of the marinade for brushing the skewers during grilling.
  4. Place the pork cubes in a medium bowl and pour the remaining marinade over them.
  5. Allow to marinate for at least one hour (or up to four hours) in the refrigerator.

Prepare the chimichurri:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.
  2. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil.

Prepare the skewers:

  1. Alternate the pork, pineapple, and onion cubes on the skewers.
  2. Grill the skewers for three to four minutes on all sides until golden brown.
  3. Lightly brush the skewers with reserved marinade and cook briefly on each side to seal.
  4. Serve with the chimichurri on the side.

Jerk Eggplant Skewers With Mango Chutney

vegan eggplant kabob recipes

Makes 4 servings  •  Prep time 40 minutes, plus one to four hours for marinating  •  Cook time 12 to 16 minutes

Marinade

  • 1 tbs. ground allspice
  • 1 tbs. granulated garlic
  • 1 tbs. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 tbs. lime juice
  • 2 tbs. water

Chutney

  • 3 cups roughly chopped mango (fresh or frozen)
  • ⅓ cup minced red onion, rinsed under cold water
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup water

Eggplant Skewers 

  • 2 medium globe eggplants, cut into 1¼-inch cubes
  • 1 ⅔ cups cubed red onions (1 inch)
  • 3 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 20 presoaked wooden skewers

Prepare the marinade:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients except the peppers, lime juice, and water in a medium bowl.
  2. In a food processor or blender, purée the peppers with the lime juice and water until smooth, and add to the bowl, whisking until smooth.
  3. Add the eggplant cubes and marinate for a minimum of one hour (or up to four hours) in the refrigerator.

Prepare the chutney:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated, then add the water and simmer for eight to 10 minutes more until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and lightly mash any large mango pieces with a fork.

Prepare the skewers:

  1. Alternate the eggplant, onion, and pepper cubes on the skewers. Reserve the marinade left in the bowl.
  2. Grill the skewers for three to four minutes on all sides until golden brown.
  3. Lightly brush with the reserved marinade and cook briefly on each side to seal.
  4. Serve with the mango chutney on the side.

Tip:

Garam Masala Chicken Skewers With Cucumber Raita

garam masala chicken kabob recipe

Makes 4 servings  •  Prep time 30 minutes, plus one to four hours for marinating  •  Cook time 10 to 12 minutes

Marinade

  • 2 tbs. cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1 ½ tbs. coriander seeds (or 1 tbs. ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
  • ½ tsp. green cardamom seeds (or ground cardamom)
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick (or ½ tsp. ground cinnamon)
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Cucumber Raita

  • 2 cups plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup grated English cucumber
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro, plus more to garnish
  • 2 tbs. minced fresh mint leaves (or 2 tsp. dried mint), plus more for garnish
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ tsp. sea salt

Chicken Skewers

  • 1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch cubes
  • 20 presoaked wooden skewers

Prepare the marinade:

  1. If using whole spices, place a small pan over medium-low heat and add all ingredients except the cloves, nutmeg, salt, and olive oil.
  2. Toast for four to five minutes, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant and slightly browned.
  3. Remove from heat and add the cloves and nutmeg, stirring for only a few seconds.
  4. Transfer to a spice grinder and allow to cool completely, about seven to 10 minutes. (If using ground spices, add them all with the cloves and nutmeg, and toast for only 10 to 15 seconds. Then transfer them to a blender.)
  5. Grind or blend the spices until smooth, then pour them into a medium bowl, add the sea salt and olive oil, and stir to combine.
  6. Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade for brushing during grilling. Add the chicken to the remaining marinade, toss to coat well, and allow to marinate for a minimum of one hour (or up to four hours) in the refrigerator.

Prepare the raita:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to thoroughly mix.
  2. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Prepare the skewers:

  1. Place four or five pieces of chicken on each skewer. Grill on two sides for five to six minutes each until golden brown.
  2. Lightly brush with the reserve marinade and cook briefly on each side to seal.
  3. Serve with the cucumber raita on the side.

Balsamic-Glazed Fruit and Goat Cheese Skewers

balsamic fruit and cheese kabob recipe

Makes 4 srvings  •  Prep time 20 minutes  •  Cook time 15 minutes

Herbed Goat Cheese

  • 8 oz. plain goat cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (zest lemon first and reserve)
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbs. lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup unsalted pistachios

Fruit Skewers

  • 1 large peach, pitted and cut into eight wedges
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp. honey, divided
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 oz. blackberries
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 16 presoaked 3-inch cocktail skewers

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 star anise

Prepare the goat cheese:

  1. Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice, honey, and pinch of salt.
  2. Use a fork to thoroughly combine, then roll the goat cheese into 16 even balls.
  3. Place the lemon zest, parsley, mint, and pistachios in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  4. Pour the nut mixture onto a plate, then roll the goat cheese balls in the mixture and refrigerate.

Prepare the fruit:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the oil, 1 teaspoon of the honey, and the cinnamon; add the peaches and toss to coat the wedges evenly.
  2. Grill for two to three minutes on each side, then cut each grilled wedge in half to make 16 pieces.
  3. In another small bowl, combine the blackberries, remaining honey, and black pepper, and allow to macerate while you prepare the glaze.

Prepare the glaze:

  1. Combine the balsamic vinegar and star anise in a small saucepan over low heat, and simmer for eight to 10 minutes until reduced by about half.

Prepare the skewers:

  1. For each skewer, place a goat cheese ball on top, two berries in the middle, and a peach piece on the bottom.
  2. Arrange on a plate and drizzle glaze over the top.
  3. Keep skewers refrigerated until serving.

Bulgogi Beef Skewers With Pickled Veggies

Korean beef kabob recipe

Makes 4 servings  •  Prep time 45 minutes, plus one to four hours’ marinating time  •  Cook time 6 to 8 minutes

Marinade

  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • ½ medium pear, finely grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ½ tbs. finely grated ginger
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. sea salt

Pickled Veggies

  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs. water
  • 1 tbs. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp. finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp. red-pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 8 large radishes, cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)

Beef Skewers

  • 1 ½ lb. rib eye steak (three 8-oz. steaks)
  • 20 presoaked wooden skewers1 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 head of Boston Bibb or romaine lettuce

Prepare the beef:

  1. Wrap the steaks individually in beeswax or plastic wrap and freeze for 45 minutes to an hour for easier slicing.

Prepare the marinade:

  • Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade for brushing during grilling.
  • Add the beef slices and allow to marinate for at least one hour (or up to four hours) in the refrigerator.

Prepare the pickled veggies:

  1. Place all ingredients except the vegetables in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer for four to six minutes, until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Place the vegetables in a large glass container with a tight-sealing lid and add the hot pickling liquid.
  3. Seal the container and shake to incorporate.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.

Prepare the skewers:

  1. Slice the steaks across the grain, 1/4 inch thick, and thread onto the skewers so that each piece folds like an accordion.
  2. Grill the skewers for three to four minutes on both sides until golden brown. Lightly brush skewers with reserved marinade and cook briefly on both sides to seal.
  3. Sprinkle the skewers with toasted sesame seeds and scallions, and serve inside lettuce cups, if desired.
  4. Top with the pickled vegetables.

This article originally appeared as “Skewers Around the World ” in the July/August 2024 issue of Experience Life.

Photography: Terry Brennan; Styling: Betsy Nelson
Jose
Jose Guzman, RDN

Jose Guzman, RDN, is a New Mexico-based dietitian and chef.

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