Persian Chicken Kabob

30 mins
25 mins
This 30 minute dinner for juicy Persian-inspired Chicken Kabobs will be a crowd favorite, especially when served with basmati rice and a refreshing salad! The buttery chicken paired with the saffron lemon marinade flavor is irresistible. Throw it on the grill, roast it in the oven, or sauté in a pan – whichever way, it’ll be delicious!
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Persian Chicken Kabob

This 30 minute dinner for juicy Persian-inspired Chicken Kabobs will be a crowd favorite, especially when served with basmati rice and a refreshing salad! The buttery chicken paired with the saffron lemon marinade flavor is irresistible. Throw it on the grill, roast it in the oven, or sauté in a pan – whichever way, it’ll be delicious!

The Inspiration Behind This Dish

Growing up in SoCal, there was a plethora of Persian restaurants and grocery stores all around me. They have a beautiful cuisine and I remember being so excited whenever a birthday or graduation in the family was coming up. That meant we got to go out for dinner to our favorite Iranian restaurant and I’d always order the chicken kabob plate. The signature bright yellow color of the chicken comes from the saffron which is heavily used both in Persian cuisine as well as Moroccan. I like to call it strands of gold because of how expensive the saffrons are and they are red in color but dye food a yellow gold color. The chicken was both buttery and tangy and perfect in every way!

How to Make It

The kabobs in this recipe are made from chicken thigh but you can also make it with chicken breast if you’d like. Chicken thighs are just a lot more juicy but either one will be fine. If you are using chicken breast, I recommend letting it marinade longer so the flavors can soak in deep.

To make the marinade, you will need:
  • saffron threads
  • hot water
  • plain yoghurt
  • garlic
  • yellow onion
  • smoked paprika
  • black pepper
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • olive oil

Crush the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle to release the color and then add hot water and let it steep for 15 to 20 minutes to create the saffron-flavored dye.

Add half of the saffron water to the chopped chicken thighs along with yoghurt, minced garlic, grated onion, paprika, black pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Combine together to make sure everything is marinated evenly. That’s it!

If you want to prepare dinner ahead of time, you can marinade the chicken from the night before or the morning of. The longer it sits in the marinade, the better. But don’t worry if you don’t have time. It will still turn out delicious!

As the chicken cooks, we’ll baste it to keep it super juicy and flavorful.

The Basting Liquid:
  • melted butter (unsalted)
  • lemon juice
  • saffron water
  • black pepper

Cooking the Kabobs

After marinading, thread the skewers onto sticks. If you are using wooden sticks, allow them to soak in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning.

This recipe calls to make them in the oven because I don’t have access to a BBQ. However, all three options below are fine!

  • Grill on a BBQ
  • Roast in the oven
  • Saute in a pan and skip the skewers

To make in the oven, transfer the skewers to a pan and roast at 450°F for about 20 minutes or until cooked through in the center. Halfway through cooking, baste it. Baste it again 5 minutes before taking it out of the oven too. I like to turn the oven to broil after just for 2 to 3 minutes to give it that BBQ look but it’s not necessary.

Take out of the oven and brush last time with the baste. You can sprinkle sumac or Aleppo pepper on top and it’s ready enjoy.

How to Serve – The Best Tip

When you take the chicken out of the oven, move the skewers to a plate and save all the oil and fat in the pan. It has so much flavor and we’re going to use it. On the plate that you plan to serve the chicken skewers on, add two to three pieces of lavash bread. Pour the meat juice on top and then add the skewers. The bread will soak up all that juice and be so flavorful! I learned this trick from a Persian Restaurant we go to in the Bay Area and the soaked bread under the meat is my husband’s favorite part.

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Persian Chicken Kabobs

This 30 minute dinner for juicy Persian-inspired Chicken Kabobs will be a crowd favorite, especially when served with basmati rice and a refreshing salad! The buttery chicken paired with the saffron lemon marinade flavor is irresistible. Throw it on the grill, roast it in the oven, or sauté in a pan - whichever way, it'll be delicious!

This 30 minute dinner for juicy Persian-inspired Chicken Kabobs will be a crowd favorite, especially when served with basmati rice and a refreshing salad! The buttery chicken paired with the saffron lemon marinade flavor is irresistible. Throw it on the grill, roast it in the oven, or sauté in a pan - whichever way, it'll be delicious!

30 mins
25 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs cubed
SAFFRON WATER
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 cup warm water
CHICKEN MARINADE
  • 2 tablespoons saffron water
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion grated
BASTE
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon saffron water
  • pinch of black pepper
OPTIONAL
  • lavash bread
  • sumac or Aleppo bread
  • lemon wedges for serving

Instructions

MAKE THE SAFFRON WATER
  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush a pinch of saffron. Transfer to a bowl and add warm water. Let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes until it has a rich yellow/orange color.
THE CHICKEN & BASTE
  1. To a bowl, add the cubed chicken along with 2 tablespoons of the saffron water, black pepper, smoked paprika, salt, lemon juice, yoghurt, olive oil, minced garlic, and grated yellow onion. Mix together and if you have the time let it marinade from 30 minutes up to overnight.
  2. After marinating, thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. If using wooden skewers, make sure they have soaked in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning. I like to add about 5 to 6 pieces onto each skewer.
  3. Also prepare the basting mix by combining melted butter, lemon juice, saffron water, and black pepper. Set aside. As the skewers cook in the oven or on the grill, we will brush this on to give it more flavor and juiciness.
COOKING
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. The skewers can be cooked on the BBQ which is preferred for that charred look and taste but if you don't have a grill, you can make it in the oven like me.
  2. Place the skewers on a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until cooked through in the center. Halfway through, baste it with the flavored butter we made. I like to baste it again after 20 minutes where I then turn the oven to broil for a few minutes just to get that charred BBQ look on top. I then baste it again right before serving!
  3. Line a plate with lavash bread. Add the juices from the baking pan on top and place the skewers. Sprinkle with sumac or Aleppo pepper and they're ready to enjoy.
4.8 based on 9 reviews

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS RECIPE?

Rate + Review

Delicious, flavorful, and a unique deviation from our typical weeknight meals. Loved the saffron! We grilled ours and loved the char, but I’m so curious to try it in the oven and get those meat juices onto the bread. Guess we will have to make again!

I’m Persian and made this recipe for my family – we all loved it! The spice combination was perfect, and the chicken was so deliciously flavored! I’ve been trying your recipes one by one and loving all of them. Thank you for making me look like I can cook hahah

Made these recently for a gathering and they were phenomenal! Very flavorful and juicy. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

so flavorful and juicy!! loved them so much and they’re incredibly easy to make

Made exactly as written in oven. This was soooo tasty, juicy, and wonderful! I had to stop my husband from eating ALL of it in one sitting 😉 This will be on regular rotation to put on salads, rice, whatever! YUM!

Hi! So excited to try this recipe
For the grated onion, do I have to squeeze the onions dry or just grate and mix into the marinade?

The chicken turned so incredible!! I paired it with lentil soup, fattoush salad and yellow rice (from your halal guys recipe). Perfect meal. Thank you!

The chicken looks great but I felt like it was a little bland or under seasoned. Any recommendations for how to adjust?

This was AMAZING! It was so good that we forgot to take pictures! lol
I’ll definitely make this again! Just one change….I didn’t have saffron so I used 1/4 tsp of turmeric. YUM!! And thank you!

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