Shish Taouk with Toum (Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Sauce)

October  4, 2022
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

When I mentioned this week's contest (Your Best Use of Lemon, Thyme and a Grill) to my wife, she looked at me and said, "There is no more perfect dish on the planet to enter into this contest than Shish Taouk." And you know what? She was right. This is a dish that she ate ravenously as a child in Lebanon, and it's no surprise why. The freshness of the lemon- and thyme-marinated chicken, the addictive qualities of the toum (garlic sauce), the salty chew of the grilled halloumi, and the spice and sweetness of the peppadews and the grilled lemon make every bite a celebration. We love this served on Syrian bread, but it would also be great alongside some rice or couscous. —Oui, Chef

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Oui, Chef is a father of five who spent two years in France studying the culinary arts.
WHAT: Chicken, vegetables, and halloumi cheese come together with a lemony garlic sauce atop a warm flatbread.
HOW: As grilled chicken marinates in a yogurt-lemon sauce, make a smooth garlic emulsion in the blender. Skewer the chicken, plenty of vegetables, halloumi, and lemon, then cook on the grill. Pile it all on bread, cover in garlic sauce, and dig in.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We’ll take any excuse to use our blender for reasons other than smoothies. Power up your machine to make a creamy sauce flavored with lemon and garlic -- it's the perfect complement to tangy, smoky chicken. Oh yeah, and halloumi cheese. Enough said. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the shish taouk
  • 1 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon za'atar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 12 crimini mushrooms
  • 12 peppadew peppers
  • 12 cipollini onions
  • 2 zucchini, cut into large chunks
  • 2 blocks of halloumi cheese, cut into large chunks
  • 2 lemons for grilling, cut into rounds or wedges
  • 4 rounds of fresh Syrian bread
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • For the toum (garlic sauce)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Large pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • Small bowl of ice water
  • Up to 1/2 cup of high-quality mayonnaise
  1. The night before you want to cook: Mix the first 9 ingredients, from the yogurt to the pimentón, in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into medium-sized chunks, toss in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to grill.
  2. To make the toum (garlic sauce), put the garlic cloves, the salt, and 1/4 of the lemon juice in a blender. Blend on medium speed until the garlic is chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the blender still on medium speed, add the egg white through the feed tube and continue to blend. Add half the oil in a slow, thin stream. At this stage, the emulsification should have taken hold. Switch to a slow blend and slowly add the rest of the lemon juice. Add the rest of the oil in the same fashion.
  3. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of ice water while still mixing on low. At this point you should have a sauce with the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Taste for salt and to check the strength of the garlic flavor. If needed, either to thicken the sauce or to cut the raw garlic punch a bit, whisk in up to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Reserve the sauce for dressing your grilled shish taouk.
  4. When's your ready to make the kebabs, preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  5. Place the onions in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, to parboil the onions. Remove from the heat and rinse with cold water to cool. Peel and discard the skins and and save the onions for grilling.
  6. Take the chunks of halloumi and zucchini, the onions, mushrooms, peppers, and lemon slices and toss them in a bowl. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, then place each ingredient on its own metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers for grilling.
  7. Take the chicken from the fridge and skewer the chunks as you did the veggies. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  8. Grill each skewer until it reaches your desired degree of doneness, remove to a platter, and tent with foil to keep warm until all the skewers are complete.
  9. To serve, place a mix of grilled ingredients on a round of warmed Syrian bread, top with a generous helping of toum, sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme, and squirt with a grilled lemon wedge. Devour at will.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Josef Lamberti
    Josef Lamberti
  • KitchVega
  • Brandon J. Li
    Brandon J. Li
  • em-i-lis
  • hennef7
I am a father of five, who recently completed a two year professional hiatus during which I indulged my long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse myself in all things French. I earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. About six months ago started "Oui, Chef", which is a food blog that exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my children a few things about cooking, and how our food choices over time effect not only our own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences through the blog, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, cooking healthy meals as a family, passing on established familial food traditions, and perhaps starting some new ones.

33 Reviews

Amy August 3, 2021
Excellent. I couldn't find za'atar but improvised with thyme, sesame, oregano and lemon peel. Marinated the chicken for 7 hours and it was juicy and tender. The toum was delicious - didn't need to cut with mayo. Used red onions instead of cipollini. Will make again.
Sara M. August 1, 2021
Simple and lovely. Exactly what I was hoping for. Everyone was so happy with it- thank you!
Barbara July 22, 2021
Made this tonight and followed the recipe. It was devoured and loved by everyone. Definitely putting this new favorite in the rotation. Thank you for the recipe.
Josef L. June 27, 2019
Absolute favorite! and a true party-pleaser! I had leftover marinade- I threw some frozen chicken in it, and had delicious, thawed, marinated chicken to cook up the next day! Definitely take the time to taste the toum- I had to thicken/cut the acidity a fair amount with the mayo, yet the result was fantastic. 5/5!
KitchVega May 19, 2019
Made this the day before yesterday and it was amazing. First of all the marinade alone can be set aside to use like a dip or spread for a sandwich or something, it was that damn good. I didn’t get to let it set overnight and I’m sure it would have tasted even better. I’m glad I followed the directions to a tee because everything was devoured. I could t find hallumi but since I’m gonna make it again today I’m definitely going to Whole Foods to pick some up. We used queso blanco for frying and it just didn’t work out. Double or triple the recipe if you want to feed a big crowd. My Toum came out great and I picked up some pita instead. Great recipe!!!
Brandon J. April 10, 2019
This was absolutely Magnificent though the the only bad part was there were no leftovers. Definitely going to be making this often but at least double what I think we will need. Thank you for sharing :-)
dillybug March 23, 2015
Used the marinaded & grilled chicken portion of this recipe and served it on naan bread with tzatziki sauce. I also made the one pot kale & quinoa salad that I found on this site and heaped that into the naan sandwich/wrap as well. WOW! Envision using this marinaded chicken for many other recipe enhancements. VERY TASTY!!!!
Oui, C. March 25, 2015
So glad you liked it, thanks for letting me know!
mstv July 4, 2014
In the directions for the garlic sauce it refers to olive oil but it lists canola oil in the ingredients. Which is correct?
em-i-lis June 30, 2014
Congrats- this is one of my favorite dishes! Thrilled to see this recipe!
Grapevineforge June 30, 2014
Looks like a perfect match for the Hand Forged Skewers from Provisions by Food52!
braisinfoodie June 6, 2011
This was so wonderful! I made a za'atar paste with fresh herbs from my garden and it was extra delicious. We ate this last night and I now having a craving for more toum-dipped pita.
hennef7 June 17, 2010
Dear Chef,

I live in the burbs and don't have easy access to halloumi. Can you recommend any substitution?

Josef L. June 27, 2019
-Queso Blanco
-also, halloumi is sometimes available w/ free shipping thru Amazon prime.
hope this helps!
thirschfeld June 13, 2010
I have so been looking for a dish like this. I am glad you posted it. It will be put at the top of the "to make list".
cheese1227 June 11, 2010
Wonderful! I love halloumi.
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
With a name like cheese1227, how could you not? For me, the halloumi is one of the surprise stars of this dish. I think you can switch out veggies to suit your tastes, but the halloumi is a must. Thanks for the comment!
thelastcourse June 11, 2010
Really sounds wonderful. I am saving this one!
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
Thanks, it is great dish to add to your summer grilling repertoire. - S
melissav June 11, 2010
Wow! Definitely making this over the weekend.
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
Excellent, melissav...please let me know what you think. - S
melissav June 16, 2010
The garlic sauce is oh so good. We really loved it. It reminded me of the garlic sauce at this wonderful lebanese restaurant we used to go to all the time when we lived in Tampa. Thanks for the memories! I'll be making it again and again.
TheWimpyVegetarian June 11, 2010
This sounds so interesting!! This is completely new dish to me too, but it sounds like something I would LOVE.
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
Thanks Chezsuzanne, the bold middle-eastern flavors in the dish make you feel like your on an exotic vacation with every bite. - S
lapadia June 11, 2010
Ohhh, grilled skewer chicken, vegetables, garlic sauce, Syrian bread; brings back days gone by with my Lebanese friend and her family gatherings…thanks for the memories!
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
You're welcome lapadia. I've yet to travel to lebanon myself, but REALLY love their food. I hope to get there in the next few years and try this dish in its land of origin. - S
monkeymom June 10, 2010
This looks so great! Thanks for intro to it.
monkeymom June 10, 2010
THE intro. ugh there is no editing feature!
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
Thanks monkeymom! With grilling season upon us, I hope you give it a try soon.
EmilyNunn June 10, 2010
Yeah. Toum is something we should all be eating for breakfast. I was obsessed with it for a time. Now, I am again. Thank you.
Oui, C. June 13, 2010
You're welcome. I agree with you, ENunn, even breakfast foods taste better dipped in a little Toum. You know me...I'm happy to fuel anyone's obsessions, as long as they're legal. - S