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!




Slow Cooked Jerk Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro Lime Basmati Rice

There is a simple trick I recently learned that will make chicken of any kind absolutely amazing. Slow cook it, then pop it under a broiler and the end result is fall off the bone chicken with crispy skin. This jerk chicken recipe, based off of an America’s Test Kitchen recipe that I found here, packs so much flavor it’s ridiculous. It’s sweet, spicy, crunchy and all the seasonings and herbs really work well together. I added Chipotle style cilantro lime basmati rice, and made sure to drizzle tons of lime juice all over everything.

Jerk Chicken 031Slow cooked jerk chicken served with cilantro lime rice and lime wedges. Half of the chicken shown here.

Ingredient list: Tilda basmati rice (the best), molasses, salt, olive oil, cardamom, all spice, 4 pounds of chicken drumsticks (thighs will work as well), cilantro, ginger, green onions, limes, habanero peppers and garlic. Not pictured: thyme.

Peel 1 inch of the ginger with a spoon. Using a spoon makes this otherwise difficult task so quick and easy. Then, crack the cardamom pods and extract the seeds. Be very careful about touching the habaneros with your hands — even after scrubbing with soap and hot water, touching your eyes or other sensitive area HUUURTS. Just trust me on this.

Throw the chopped green onions, seeded habaneros (leave the seeds in if you really like heat, only use 1 pepper if you just want a little), garlic, thyme, molasses, salt, all spice, cardamom seeds and olive oil into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes a fully pureed.

Add the drumsticks and half of the sauce into a crock pot, making sure each piece of chicken is coated. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 3.

Turn your broiler on high. Cover a large pan in tin foil, and arrange the chicken on a greased rack. Brush each piece with half of the remaining mixture. Broil for 10-15 minutes. Turn over, coat again, and broil a second time for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is blackened and crispy on the outside.

While the chicken is broiling, prepare 2 cups of basmati rice according to the packaging instructions. For best results, I usually soak basmati rice in cold water for a half hour, then drain before cooking. Add the juice of 1 lime, the zest of 1 lime and 3 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro.

Jerk Chicken 043
Serve hot out of the oven with limes for garnish.

Slow Cooked Jerk Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro Lime Basmati Rice
Serves 4-6, cook time 4 hours

  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 habanero chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 (1-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 teaspoons all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 pounds skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • 2 cups uncooked basmati rice, prepared
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges for garnish
  1. Peel the ginger with a spoon and chop into pieces, extract the cardamom seeds out of their pods, peel the garlic cloves, chop the green onions, and de-stem and seed the habaneros.
  2. In a food processor, add the green onions, olive oil, habaneros, ginger, molasses, garlic, thyme, all spice, cardamom seeds and salt. Pulse until the mixture is fully pureed.
  3. In a crock pot, add in the drumsticks and half of the mixture, making sure each piece of chicken us fully coated. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 4 hours.
  4. Turn your oven to broil on high. Line a large pan with foil, and position a greased rack over the pan. Place each drumstick on the rack, and brush on half of the remaining mixture. Broil the chicken for 10-15 minutes, then flip and coat with the rest of the mixture. Broil for another 10-15 minutes, or until the skin has become crispy and dark.
  5. Add the lime juice, lime zest and chopped cilantro to the basmati rice.
  6. Serve hot with lime wedges.