Imagine this: you’re gathered with friends under the warm Greek sun, laughter mingling with the aroma of sizzling meat. Plates piled high with juicy, marinated chicken skewers, each bite a burst of Mediterranean flavor. This is the magic of Greek Chicken Souvlaki, a dish that embodies the essence of casual, delicious and healthy cuisine.
Recently, while staying at the stunning Villa Serenissima in Corfu, Greece, I had the chance to recreate this iconic dish for our friends. Nestled a stone’s throw from the sparkling Ipsos Beach, the villa’s incredible outdoor dining patio, complete with a large BBQ grill, provided the perfect setting for a taste of Greek culinary tradition.
But fear not, you don’t need a private villa in Greece to experience the magic of Souvlaki! With this recipe, you can bring the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean right to your own backyard. So, grab your skewers, crank up the grill, and let’s embark on a journey of deliciousness!
Buying Meat from an Authentic Greek Butcher
It was so much fun to head down to the local butcher, where I stocked up on fresh cut chicken and beef for the Greek souvlaki skewers. Due to the language barrier, I accidentally purchased lamb instead of beef. Thankfully, it was just a 5-minute drive from our villa, so we were able to go back and get the right meat!
For this group meal, I prepared both steak and chicken souvlaki skewers so there was a nice assortment of meats for everyone. To add a bit more flavor, I added red onions, bell pepper and baby tomatoes to the skewers.
A Legacy of Simplicity: The History of Souvlaki
Dating back centuries, Souvlaki translates to “small skewer” and encapsulates the essence of Greek cuisine – simple, fresh ingredients cooked to perfection over an open flame. Traditionally made with marinated chicken, pork, or lamb, the key to Souvlaki lies in the marinade, which infuses the meat with a symphony of flavors before grilling.
The Secret Sauce: My Authentic Marinade
Traditional Greek chicken souvlaki is made with good olive oil, lemon juice, chopped garlic and plenty of Greek oregano, which I think has a better depth of flavor than Italian oregano. If you don’t have fresh oregano, dried is perfectly fine. In fact, many Greek restaurants used dried oregano for their souvlaki.
My recipe uses fresh, flavorful ingredients readily available in your kitchen:
- Greek Oregano: The star of the show! Roughly chopped leaves release their vibrant aroma and earthy flavor, imparting an unmistakably Greek character.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon juice adds a touch of acidity and brightness, balancing the richness of the olive oil and meat.
- White Wine (Optional): A splash of white wine adds depth and complexity to the marinade, but feel free to omit for a simpler version.
- Olive Oil: The heart of the marinade, extra virgin olive oil infuses the meat with richness and moisture.
- Garlic-Shallot Puree: This aromatic blend adds a subtle garlicky depth without overpowering the other flavors. Minced garlic works equally well if that’s what you have on hand.
Mastering the Flame: Crafting Your Souvlaki Masterpiece
Now, let’s get your hands (and grill) ready for some Souvlaki action! Here’s the step-by-step guide:
- Marinate Magic: Combine all marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss to coat evenly and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight for maximum flavor.
- Skewer Time: Thread the marinated chicken pieces onto skewers, ensuring they are evenly spaced.
- Heat Things Up: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning.
- The Sizzle is Real: Place the skewers on the hot grill and cook for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred.
- Rest and Rejuvenate: Remove the skewers from the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in tender,flavorful meat.
My chicken souvlaki marinade is made with my basic lemon-herb marinade, which can be adapted for so many different types of cuisines. Be sure to marinate your chicken for at least an hour so the flavors develop. You’ll also want to soak your skewers in warm water so they don’t catch fire on the grill.
We were able to sample chicken souvlaki from several restaurants during our stay in Greece. Some skewers were served with the meat only, while others added vegetables. You can also wrap it in a pita for a more hearty meal. Just be sure to serve it with plenty of Τzatziki sauce!
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Greek Chicken SouvlakiRecipe by Jason Hill – CookingSessions.com
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
- Cherry tomatoes
- 1 red onion cut into pieces
- 1-2 bell peppers cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon paprika for sprinkling on chicken
- 1/2 cup Greek oregano leaves roughly chopped
- 1 lemon
- 1/8 cup white wine optional
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic-shallot puree or 1 clove minced garlic
- 4 pitas
- 3 tomatoes sliced
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber skin removed and grated
- 1 heaping teaspoon garlic-shallot puree or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 18 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Marinade: Cut the lemon in half and add lemon juice to a mixing bowl. Add the wine, chopped oregano and lemon zest, followed by the garlic-shallot puree (or garlic). Slowly pour the olive oil into the marinade and whisk quickly until it starts to thicken.
- Marinate chicken 1-2 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, let sit at room temperature about 20 minutes.
- Make the sauce by combining ingredients well. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Preheat the grill to 375-450°F.
- Place chicken cubes on skewers, alternating with the tomatoes, red onion and bell peppers.
- Grill chicken skewers for 5 minutes on each side side, or until chicken is cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Remove chicken from grill. Sprinkle with paprika and serve in pitas with sliced tomatoes, red onion and the garlic yogurt sauce or tzatziki sauce.