Homemade Turkish Lamb shish kebabs, a beloved UK takeaway favourite, are surprisingly easy to make in your own kitchen. Treat yourself to tremendously tasty and tender marinated lamb skewers that you can cook to perfection in just 10 minutes.
Traditionally, Turkish Shish Kebabs are cooked over an open flame, using a charcoal grill or skewers over hot coals. This recipe shows you how to capture the characteristic smoky flavour and charred exterior using your oven, barbecue, indoor grill, or even an air fryer.
Are you a lamb fan? You should take a look at my other lamb recipes like this Keema Rice Recipe, Lamb Stuffed Courgettes filled with lamb mince and a creamy tahini sauce and this tasty Middle Easten Lamb Mince Recipe.
The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!
5 reasons why you'll love this recipe:
- Succulent lamb kebabs in a super tasty marinade made with yoghurt to make the lamb super tender
- Just 10 minutes of cooking time
- Freezer friendly
- Recipe includes oven, indoor grill, air fryer and barbecue instructions
- A crowd pleaser that's perfect for entertaining.
The marinade has two jobs. It gets the lamb nice and tender and packs it with flavour.
- Yoghurt - you won't find this in all lamb shish recipes, but I tested a marinade with and without and can confirm that it does make the lamb much more tender. You can use full or low fat.
- Tomato puree - traditionally, Biber Salcasi, a Turkish mild pepper paste is a key ingredient in the marinade. However, it's not something you'll find at your local store, so I normally use tomato puree. You can of course use Biber Salcasi instead if you have it.
- Other ingredients - lemon juice, paprika, cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder and salt are added to ensure that the tender lamb is packed with flavour. I like to use garlic powder for ease, but you can switch if for a couple of cloves of fresh garlic if you prefer.
- Lamb meat - the best cuts are lamb shoulder, lamb sirloin or lamb leg. You can also use lamb neck, which tends to be cheaper and more readily available. Traditional Turkish shish kebabs have small pieces of tail fat skewered between the meat. Of course, this isn't easily attainable, but choosing lamb pieces that are more on the fatty side is recommended.
- Grilled peppers - go well with the lamb pieces and make sure you get some veggies in. Potential swaps include tomatoes, courgette/zucchini and aubergine/eggplant.
Optional yoghurt sauce
My cooling and fragrant yoghurt sauce pairs up nicely with the lamb kebabs, especially if you are serving with flatbread. This sauce also features in my lamb kofta wraps recipe.
I recommend serving the kebabs with lettuce, pickled chillies, cucumber and a dash of Sriracha sauce.
Substitutions and variations
Note that the recipe has not been tested with the below substitutions and variations, so the results cannot be guaranteed.
- Meat: Swap lamb for beef or chicken. The dish will not be as rich and flavourful, but leaner meats are a good option if you want to cut down on fat.
- Veggies: switch the peppers for other grilled veggies like aubergine/egglplant or courgette/zucchini.
- Spicy shish kebabs: Add crushed chillies, cayenne pepper or hot sauce to the marinade and add hot peppers like jalapeños to the skewers.
- Serve with tzatziki sauce instead of yoghurt sauce
🧑🍳 Recipe steps
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Step 1: Combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, smoked paprika, cumin, ground coriander and salt in a bowl. Toss in the lamb pieces and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours or ideally overnight.
Step 2: Thread the lamb pieces onto wooden or metal skewers, with optional slices of pepper in between.
Top tip: If you are using wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first to prevent them from burning.
Step 3: Cook the lamb skewers using your indoor grill, oven, air fryer or barbecue. Then serve immediately with flatbread, yoghurt sauce and your choice of accompaniments.
Warm flatbread or Pita bread is my go-to. Lamb shish is perfect for entertaining because people can assemble their own wraps/sandwiches and choose the fillings and sauces. I love to put lettuce, pickled chillies, yoghurt sauce, and a splash of sriracha in mine.
You can also serve the kebabs with rice or another grain like freekeh or quinoa, or enjoy them with a salad if you prefer a lighter option.
Here are a few sides to try:
👍 Top tips
- Marinade the lamb for a minimum of 2-3 hours (ideally overnight) to get the lamb super tender and tasty.
- Bring the lamb to room temperature before cooking - remove it from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before cooking to ensure it cooks evenly.
- Use foil - to prevent the lamb from sticking if you are baking the kebabs in the oven.
- Check the doneness - using a meat thermometer or by cutting into one of the lamb pieces. Medium is 160ºF/71ºC and well done is 170ºF/77ºC.
🙋 Recipe FAQs
Traditional Turkish shish kebabs are made with pieces of tail fat between the meat to make them tender and juicy. This probably isn't practical when making them at home, you should make sure you choose boneless cuts with enough fat to make them tender and juicy. Lamb shoulder, leg and sirloin are all good choices.
Shish kebabs, known for their skewered and grilled meats, have their roots in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean regions. While lamb is the traditional choice, other meats, poultry, and fish can also be used. In many variations, the skewers feature a combination of meat and vegetables, although Turkish tradition often involves grilling them separately. The West's appreciation for shish kebabs grew with the influence of Turkish culture. During the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Ottoman Empire's reach expanded, Turkish culinary traditions made their way to Europe, and are a popular dish found on many restaurant and takeaway menus.
A shish kebab is made with grilled cubes of lamb cooked on skewers, a kofta kebab is made with ground meat and a donor kebab is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and cut into thin slices. All three kebabs have Turkish roots, but they have evolved and spread across different cultures, resulting in regional variations and adaptations.
The longer the better. Overnight if you can, but at least 2 hours if not. Lamb shish is typically marinaded in yoghurt or onion juice to tenderise the meat and spices like paprika, cumin and ground coriander to add flavour.
You can use either. Bamboo skewers are cheap and widely available, but you will need to soak them in water first to prevent them from burning. Kebabs wooden skewers may need to be cooked for a few minutes longer because they don't conduct heat as well as metal skewers and cook more slowly.
Cooked lamb kebabs can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days and eaten cold or reheated in the oven or microwave.
Considering rustling up a large batch? The good news is that they can be frozen for up to 3 months. The best way to do this is to freeze lamb in the marinade and defrost in the fridge overnight before skewering and cooking. Ensure the lamb is fully defrosted and then cook in the oven, air fryer or on the indoor grill or barbecue.
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Turkish Lamb Shish Kebab
- 50 g (3 tbsp) yoghurt (note 1)
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp tomato puree (or Biber Salcasi) (note 2)
- ¼ tsp garlic powder (note 3)
- ½ lemon juice
- 400 g (14 oz) lamb room temperature and fat removed and cut into 2cm/1-inch chunks (note 4)
- 1 red pepper (optional) cut into 2cm/1-inch pieces
- 1 green pepper (optional) cut into 2cm/1-inch pieces
Yoghurt Sauce (optional)
- 120g (½ cup) Greek or plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ lemon juice
- ¼ tsp garlic powder (note 5)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp black pepper
To serve (optional)
- Pickled chillies
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the lamb pieces, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to marinade. (2-3 hours minimum, ideally overnight)
- Remove the lamb from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook it and thred the lamb pieces and chopped peppers (if using) onto metal or wooden skewers.
- Cook to medium or well done using one of the below cooking methods. (Note 5)
- Serve with flatbread, yoghurt sauce and your choice of accompaniments.
Indoor grill oven
- Grill for approximately 10 minutes, turning halfway.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway. You'll need to light a charcoal barbecue 30 minutes before cooking.
- Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking tray with foil or grease it with little oil to prevent the meat from sticking and cook for 10-15 minutes without turning
- Heat the air fryer to 200°C (400°F), spray the basket with olive oil and place the skewers inside the air fryer when it has come to heat and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway.
- Yoghurt: you can use low fat if you prefer.
- Tomato puree: traditionally, a shish kebab marinade is made with Biber Salcasi, a Turkish red pepper paste. Because it's hard to come by I recommend tomato puree, but feel free to use Biber Salcasi instead if you have it.
- Garlic powder: you can use 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic instead.
- Lamb: lamb shoulder, lamb sirloin, lamb leg and lamb neck are suitable.
- Garlic powder in yoghurt sauce: you can swap it for fresh garlic but you will need to sauté it first to temper and avoid adding a bitter flavour to the sauce.
- Lamb doneness: Use a meat thermometer or cut into one of the large pieces to check. Medium: 160ºF/71ºC Well done: 170ºF/77ºC
- Nutritional information: is for lamb kebabs only and does not include sides or accompaniments.