Greek chicken souvlaki is one of my favorite meals and couldn’t be simpler to throw together: marinate the chicken and make tzatziki in the morning; skewer the chicken while the grill is preheating; make a simple, refreshing salad somewhere in between. Served with warm pita or naan, this meal couldn’t be more summery!

A plate of chicken souvlaki.

When I think of summer dinners growing up at home, I think of this meal.

I think of the smell of charred garlic and basil; I think of my stepfather sweating at the grill, a slave to his stopwatch, the wrath of my mother should the chicken be the slightest bit overcooked driving his utmost concentration; I think of sitting at the table in our screened-in porch with my brother and sister and eventually Ben, too.

I think of eating for hours, a time of considerably faster metabolisms. I think of the candles melting into the tabletop, the humidity just beginning to subside, and the buzz of the crickets as we clear the table at the end of the night.

This is one of my favorite meals — grilled chicken, tzatziki, warm pita, and some sort of salad. This couldn’t be simpler to throw together: marinate the chicken and make the tzatziki in the morning; skewer the chicken while the grill is preheating; make a simple, refreshing salad somewhere in between.

What is souvlaki?

  • Souvlaki comes from the Greek word souvla, which means “spit.”
  • Souvlaki is marinated, skewered, cooked cubes of meat (often lamb, beef, pork, or chicken).
  • Traditionally,  souvlaki is dressed with tzatziki (a cucumber-yogurt sauce), and served with chopped tomatoes and onion, and warmed pita.

Souvlaki Marinade

There’s no real need to measure with marinades in general, and souvlaki marinade is no exception. Just be sure the chicken is coated in olive oil; be generous with the basil and garlic; use a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat; grind pepper to taste; a few good pinches of oregano should suffice.

  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • basil
  • oregano
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

What to Serve with Souvlaki

How to Make Chicken Souvlaki

Gather lots of garlic and basil, and transfer them to a food processor. You can also mince by hand if you prefer.

A food processor with garlic and basil.

Purée into a fine paste. Scrape down the sides, add a splash of olive oil, and purée again.

A food processor with pulsed basil and garlic.

Transfer to a large bowl.

Minced garlic and basil in a bowl.

Add cubes of chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer.) Season with salt, pepper, and oregano (optional); then toss to coat.

A bowl of chicken marinated with garlic and basil.

Transfer to the fridge for a few hours or up to 48 hours. Then skewer the meat.

Chicken souvlaki skewered on a tray.

This 4-qt glass bowl comes with a lid, which is so nice for storing. This is the bowl I use most often for mixing bread, too. I have two of them because I use them so often.

A bowl of chicken marinated with garlic and basil aside a tray of skewered chicken.

Prepare a grill or preheat your broiler to high.

Skewered chicken souvlaki ready to be grilled.

Broil for 5 minutes on one side. Flip. Broil 4-5 minutes on the other side. If you’re grilling, it may take much less time, 3 minutes a side or so depending on how hot it is.

Broiled chicken souvlaki on a sheet pan.

Recently, I’ve been smearing the tzatziki on a platter and tumbling the skewered chicken over top.

A plate of chicken souvlaki aside tomato salad and lemon.

I love serving chicken souvlaki with a simple tomato or cucumber and feta salad. The dressing is simply equal parts olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, basil or mint, and feta to taste:

Tomato-Feta Salad on a plate.
Chicken souvlaki on a plate with tzatziki.

An old photo of this favorite meal:

Overhead shot of the dinner table: Greek chicken souvlaki, Greek salad, tzatziki, grilled pita.
A platter of Greek chicken souvlaki with cucumber salad, tzatziki, and lemon.
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A plate of chicken souvlaki.

Super-Easy Greek Chicken Souvlaki


  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8
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Description

This Greek chicken souvlaki recipe can be prepared in various ways. In the summer, we always fire up the grill and grill the skewers of meat; in the winter or when the weather doesn’t cooperate, we simply broil the meat. Either way is delicious.


Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • lots of basil (at least once cup packed), roughly chopped
  • 3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • extra-virgin olive oil

for serving:

for the salad:

  • 2 cups diced tomatoes or cucumbers (if the skin tastes a little tough, peel the cucumber)
  • feta cheese, crumbled or sliced
  • basil or mint
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • white balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken. In the bowl of the food processor, purée the garlic and basil into a fine paste. Stop the processor, scrape it down, add a splash of olive oil, and purée again. Transfer the paste to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you can simply roughly chop the garlic and basil.)
  2. Cut chicken into roughly 1- to 2-inch pieces. Transfer it to the bowl with the garlic-basil paste. Season chicken all over with kosher salt and pepper to taste — a good rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon (or slightly less) of kosher salt per pound of meat. Crumble oregano (about a teaspoon or two) over top. Add a splash of olive oil. Toss to coat. Cover bowl and transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least two hours if possible. If you don’t have space for a big bowl in your fridge, you can use a ziplock bag. 
  3. Cook the chicken. When ready to cook: Preheat the grill to its highest setting (525ºF or 550ºF) or preheat the broiler to high for at least 15 minutes. Skewer the chicken. Season lightly with salt and pepper all over. If grilling, grill skewers for 3 minutes a side or until charred to your liking. If broiling, set the chicken on a lightly oiled broiler pan or a cooling rack set in a sheet pan. Broil 5 minutes. Flip. Broil 4 to 5 minutes more or until charred to your liking. Transfer to a platter. (Optional: smear tzatziki on a platter; then tumble the grilled or broiled pieces of meat over top.) Season lightly with sea salt and squeeze some lemon over top. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving with more tzatziki on the side, lemon wedges, salad, and warm naan or pita.
  4. To make the salad: Place the tomatoes or cucumbers in a bowl. Season all over with salt and pepper to taste. Add a tablespoon of each olive oil and vinegar — use more or less depending on how many tomatoes or cucumbers you are using. Add basil or mint leaves. Toss to coat. Transfer to a platter. Crumble feta over top. Crack more pepper over top. 
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Grill or Broiler
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Greek, chicken, souvlaki, marinade, garlic, basil, olive, oil, lemon, tzatziki