Lamb Shish Kebab is a very popular dish served in restaurants or kebab shops but you can easily make your homemade version from scratch with this simple recipe. Not only it's so easy to make them, but these lamb skewers also deliver the best flavors.
Same as my Shish Tawook (Turkish Chicken Kebab) recipe, Lamb Skewers are popular in Western countries as takeaway food and are usually wrapped in a flatbread with some garlicky yogurt sauce.
Although Lamb Kebabs are originally from Turkey, they are very popular globally. There are many different recipes for marinating the lamb or presenting the shish kebabs. Authentic Turkish lamb skewers are not usually prepared with vegetables on the same skewer. It is a modern invention by Turkish restaurateurs to make the skewers look more "elegant" to customers.
Why This Recipe Works?
- It is delicious and very easy to make with step-by-step instructions and pictures.
- They taste better than takeaway kebabs and are also much healthier!
- You can cook them on the BBQ, on a grill or in the oven.
- You can prepare them ahead and keep them refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Lamb - Choosing the right cut is crucial for perfect lamb kebabs. The best cuts are the shoulder, leg, loins or neck fillets. Try to have a good amount of fat on the meat for the juiciness but make sure it's not too fatty either.
- Olive oil - I use cooking olive oil instead of extra virgin olive oil for the marinade. It adds flavour to the meat and keeps it moist.
- Onion - It tenderises the meat. I grate the onion and squeeze the juice to use in the marinade instead of the onion itself as they tend to burn quickly.
- Milk - Many recipes include yoghurt for the marinade. I prefer milk instead as yoghurt tends to burn quickly and it's not ideal for marinating meats that require a long cooking time.
- Tomato paste - They are commonly used in Turkey for marinating chicken, lamb or beef. They tenderise and give umami flavour to the meat. You can find it in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it from .
- Red pepper paste - Turkish red pepper paste is a rich, delicious paste made with juicy, spicy red peppers and I use it quite often with my Turkish recipes. You can buy it from Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it from . Alternatively, you can omit it and use same amount of tomato paste.
- Spices - Adjust the amount to your taste.
- Vegetables - Onions, peppers and tomatoes are typically used for kebabs but you can use any other vegetables you fancy, such as chillies, mushrooms or aubergines.
This is a very simple, straightforward recipe and to achieve the best results, you need to follow a few simple steps:
Prepare the meat and the vegetables
Try and cut the meat into equal size, ideally 2-3 cm cubes. Work with the structure of the meat as much as possible. Trim any excess of fat on the meat but not totally as the fat keeps the meat juicy and delicious. Cut the vegetables to a similar size to the lamb.
Marinate the kebabs
The secret of juicy and delicious lamb shish kebabs is the marinade. Marinating process is necessary to get the flavours into the lamb while tenderizing them. Marinate the lamb ideally overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours for the best results. You can keep the meat in the marinade for up to 2 days if you want to prepare in advance.
To make the marinade for lamb kebabs, peel and finely grate the onion or blitz in a food processor. Juice the grated/blitzed onion using a clean kitchen cloth or a fine sieve. Put the onion juice in a bowl and then add the rest of the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine. Add the lamb cubes and then cover them with marinade. Cover the bowl with a lid or cling film and keep in the fridge to marinate ideally overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours.
Thread the meat into the skewers
If you want to get everything cooked to perfection it is best to thread the meat and the vegetables on separate skewers to be able to control the level of doneness easily. Try not to overload the skewers when threading, the pieces of lamb should be close just to touch each other.
The best skewers to use for shish kebabs are stainless steel, blade-shaped. They perform better than round skewers because they hold the food better and prevent it from spinning around when you turn them. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for half an hour before threading to avoid them burning.
Cook the Lamb Shish Kebabs
Cook them on a hot grill or BBQ for soft and delicious kebabs. The size of 4 to 5 cm cubes would require 14 minutes to 16 minutes of cooking time. It would take less for smaller sized lamb. Cook the vegetable skewers separately for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they are cooked to your taste and then serve immediately when still hot.
How to Cook Lamb Shish Kebabs in the Oven?
Although the best option to cook lamb kebabs is to cook them on the BBQ, it is still possible to cook them in the oven.
Prepare your meat and the marinade for the lamb kebabs, marinate them overnight and thread them into the skewers. Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Line your baking tray with foil or spray it with oil to prevent the meat from sticking to the tray. When the oven is hot, cook the kebabs for 15 to 17 minutes until they are cooked to your desired doneness.
For more delicious lamb recipes why not try:
There are many ways to enjoy these homemade kebabs. One of the most popular ways to serve them is with Homemade Pita Bread and some dips such as Yoghurt Dip (Haydari) or Hummus and some salad such as Tomato and Walnut Salad (Gavurdagi Salatasi) or Greek Cucumber Salad. you can also serve them with pilaf dishes such as Turkish Rice Pilaf, Bulgur Pilaf or Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with Lentils.
The best parts for making kebabs are the parts with a bit of fat on, such as leg, shoulder, neck fillet, or the loin. Trim the excess of fat if necessary.
In my opinion, kebabs are healthy as they are grilled and served with salad, grilled vegetables, and pilaf dishes. Avoid adding extra sauces or unhealthy side dishes if you are on a low-calorie diet as one portion of lamb kebab has only 452 calories on its own.
Top Tip From the Chef
- Marinate your meat overnight if possible, or a minimum of 6 hours as it will allow the aromas to infuse the lamb and give it the desired flavours.
- Bring the lamb kebabs to room temperature before grilling them.
I hope you enjoy the process of making these delicious Lamb Shish Kebabs as much as you enjoy eating them!🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Lamb Shish Kebab
For the Marinade
- 1 large onion
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional) (replace with tomato paste if you prefer)
- 120 ml semi-skimmed or full-fat milk (½ cup)
- 100 ml olive oil (6-7 tbsp)
- 1 teaspoon flaked chili (adjust to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tablespoon salt
For the Lamb Shish
- 800 g lamb (shoulder, leg or neck fillet) (cut in 4-5 cm cubes)
- 1 bell pepper (or 4 Turkish green chilies)
- 1 red onion
- 2 medium tomatoes (or 8 cherry tomatoes)
Preparing the Marinade
- Peel and finely grate the onion or blitz in a food processor.
- Juice the grated/blitzed onion using a clean kitchen cloth or a fine sieve.
- Put the onion juice in a bowl and add the rest of the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine.
- Add the lamb cubes and cover with marinade.
- Cover the bowl with a lid or cling film and keep in the fridge to marinade ideally overnight or a minimum of 6 hours.
Making the Shish Kebabs
- Peel and cut the red onion into cubes similar size to the lamb.
- Wash and cut the bell pepper the same as the onions. If using Turkish chillies, slice them into 4 pieces.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut in 6 wedges each. Keep whole if using cherry tomatoes.
- Thread the lamb and vegetables onto metal or soaked bamboo kebab skewers separately as lamb has a longer cooking time than the vegetables.
- Cook the lamb kebabs on the BBQ or the griddle for 15-18 minutes and the vegetables for 10-12 minutes.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
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Did you make this recipe?