Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Tomato Basmati Rice

Why is meat so much more delicious when it’s on a stick? One of life’s great mysteries. Today I bring you the best damn chicken kebabs you EVER had, that are also perfect for grilling amateurs (aka me). I don’t know my way around a grill very well, but these kebabs are hard to mess up. The secret is using chicken thighs. You can overcook them by a half hour and they won’t be dried out. Also, the marinade. Don’t let the weird goopiness of the uncooked marinade deter you — the Greek yogurt, spices and lemon juice do a fantastic job of tenderizing the chicken, and form¬†this delicious charred crust when grilled.

We devoured these sitting outside on our balcony. I encourage you to do the same. Adapted loosely from a Once Upon a Chef recipe.

Ingredient list, clockwise: Cooked basmati rice, chicken thighs trimmed and cut into chunks, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, curry powder, cinnamon, plain Greek yogurt, tomatoes, garlic, green chili, lemon and onion.

Kebabs 012In a large bowl, mix together the greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes and cinnamon to make the marinade. Mix the chicken in, coating every piece in the yogurt marinade, and refrigerate for 2-8 hours.

Thread the chicken onto soaked bamboo skewers, and place them on a large tray. Go outside and start up the grill (if you have a charcoal grill).

Back inside, prepare the rice. Dice an onion, green chili and 1.5 tomatoes. In a large pan, saute the onion and chili for 5-6 minutes on med high.

Add a few spices and saute another minute. Add in the tomatoes, and let simmer about 10 minutes. Add the rice (I cooked about 1.5 cups of rice, which was almost too much) and stir. Add in spices (several tablespoons of each) to taste until the color and taste are to your liking. I used a lot of curry powder, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes, adding a little at a time, until it tasted and looked how I wanted.

Time to grill! Brush the grill with olive oil, so the kebabs don’t stick. Arrange them like so. Turn every so often. You’ll know when they are done — they will be nice and char-grilled on the outside. My coals weren’t that hot, so this process took about a half hour for me.

Time to eat!

Grilled Kebabs with Tomato Basmati Rice
Serves 4-6, cook time 1 hour (prep chicken and marinade in advance)

  • 4 pounds chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups uncooked basmati rice, cooked per packaging directions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely diced
  • 1.5 tomatoes, diced
  • Spices to taste: cumin, paprika, red pepper, curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Do this step 4-8 hours in advance. In a large bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix in the chunks of chicken. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to prepare the meal.
  2. Soak the bamboo skewers in water so they don’t catch on fire on the grill. Thread the marinated chicken onto the skewers and place them on a large tray. If you have a charcoal grill, light the coals at this time.
  3. Dice the onion, chili and tomato. In a large pan, saute the onion and chili in 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high for 5-6 minutes. Add some spices and saute another minute.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes to the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes, until thoroughly cooked. Stir in the basmati rice and cumin, paprika, red pepper and curry powder to taste, a little at a time. Add as little or as much spice as you want, until it tastes to your liking and the color is right.
  5. On the grill, brush the grate with olive oil to keep the chicken from sticking. Grill the kebobs, turning every so often, until charred on the outside and all the way cooked. On low heat, this can take up to a half hour.
  6. Serve kebabs on a bed of the tomato rice and enjoy!