Succulent chicken kebabs marinated with aromatic saffron and tangy lemon, you won’t believe how easy and how delicious these skewers are!
As I spent part of my childhood in living in the Middle East I have a deep appreciation for the the cuisine. With dishes like hummus, kibbeh, kebabs, pita, foul, shawarma, falafel and so on, the sheer smell and flavors of garlic, onion, parsley, olive oil and saffron bring fond memories back to me.
So when it’s grilling season her in the U.S I tend to grill a lot of middle eastern flavored kebabs and re-live my childhood. One such kebab is the the succulent Joojeh Kebab one of my favorites at a Persian/Iranian restaurant back home in India. It is mildly flavored kebab with essentially an onion and lemon marinade, but stands unique with the distinct flavor of saffron. It’s cooked over charcoal making the chicken succulent and juicy and served over fragrant butter saffron rice known as chelo and grilled tomatoes. It is such a simple dish but so elegant and flavorful I haven’t found another to compare it too.
This recipe is very simple with a few ingredients, but the secret lies in letting the chicken marinate for 12-24 hours so it really soaks in all the flavors. Also some versions of this recipe don’t use any yogurt while some do, but I prefer to use it as it makes the marinade thicker to stick to the meat and acts as a tenderizer for the chicken, making it all the more succulent. I served my Joojeh kebabs along side grilled tomatoes and over long grain butter basmati rice with saffron. I also accompanied the meal with sumac red onions (finely sliced onions with sumac and red wine vinegar) and a fresh grain-free tabbouleh salad (tomatoes, red onion, garlic, parsley and mint with lemon juice and olive oil) for a refreshing summer dinner fit for a king.
Here’s how you ca make the kebabs.
- 2 lbs Chicken Breast, cubed
- 1 Small onion, diced
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp Saffron threads, crushed & dissolved in 1-2 Tbsp Hot water
- 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt,
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Salt, to taste
- - Add the diced onion and lemon juice to a blender and puree into a smooth paste. You can also finely grate the onion instead and add the lemon juice to it.
- - Dissolve the crushed saffron threads in 1-2 tablespoons of hot water in a bowl for 2-3 minutes
- - Add the onion-lemon juice paste, yogurt, turmeric, pepper and salt to the saffron bowl and mix well. This is your marinade.
- - Add the marinade to the cubed chicken breast in either a zip lock bag or a bowl and allow the chicken cubes to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight for the best tasting kebabs.
- - Skewer the meat onto flat skewers and cook on the grill (charcoal is best!) until the meat is cooked through.
- - Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the kebabs when done and serve garnished with onion & chopped parsley.