Smoky and Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs Recipe

Two skewers of smoky and spicy yogurt marinated chicken kebabs
Photographs: Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Using chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts results in juicier and more flavorful kebabs.
  • The yogurt in the marinade helps keep the chicken from drying out over high direct heat.
  • A mixture of both smoked and hot paprika gives a delicious smoky and spicy flavor, plus an attractive red color.

Simple, delicious, and extraordinarily versatile, good skewered meat is the perfect excuse to head out to the grill on a summer's afternoon with a nice, cool beer (or three). You're totally being productive, we promise. Start off with our guide to great grilled kebabs. Grill, eat, repeat. Not bad, huh?

This recipe is all about spice. As I went to put together a traditional tandoori marinade for these chicken kebabs, I paused for a minute and decided to take things in a new direction. I kept the yogurt base, which keeps the meat juicy, as well as the lemon, ginger, garlic, and cumin. But then, instead of mixing in an Indian spice blend, I tried an equal combo of smoked paprika, hot paprika, and cayenne.

The resulting kebabs were equally, if not more, delicious than the tandoori chicken I'd originally set out to make. The two paprikas gave a strong smoky and spicy boost to the moist, tender chicken. It just goes to show how even a small change can create something totally and wonderfully new.

Recipe Facts



Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Active: 40 mins
Marinating Time: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 50 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 1 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice from 2 lemons

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 pounds skinless,boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes


  1. Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, oil, ginger, salt, smoked paprika, hot paprika, garlic, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for 4 to 8 hours.

    Cubed chicken thighs marinating in yogurt and spices in a zip-top plastic bag.
  2. Thread chicken tightly onto skewers.

    Skewers of marinated chicken thigh meat resting on a foil-lined backing sheet.
  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill skewers until well browned on all sides and center of chicken registers between 160-165°F (71-74°C) on an instant read thermometer, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

    Two cooked chicken kebabs resting on grill grate.

Special equipment

Grill; wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use


Nutrition Facts (per serving)
295 Calories
15g Fat
3g Carbs
39g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 295
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 187mg 62%
Sodium 505mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 88mg 7%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 514mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)