Persian grilled chicken kabobs are amazingly delicious. Marinated with saffron and perfectly grilled, these are so tender and juicy. Try these Joojeh kababs and you will know why Persian kebabs are so famous!
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Chicken Kabob (Joojeh Kabab)
Persian style grilled chicken kabobs, are often referred to as Joojeh (Jujeh) kababs in Farsi. Decades ago, I had tried these at a fancy restaurant in New York City and was amazed at how delicious they were.
Chunks of chicken marinated in saffron and onion, nicely seared on the outside, so incredibly juicy on the outside and with a hint of brown butter flavor. And served over a bed of steaming hot saffron rice with grilled vegetables on the side.
After that, I learned to make these from my father-in-law, who is a true Persian kebab grill master. And I have been making them for decades, and relish them so much.
Typically these are made with boneless or bone-in chicken. Chicken drumsticks are also a cheaper and delicious alternative. For a boneless option, I prefer chicken thigh meat, as it gives much more flavorful and juicer results.
A final brush with saffron lemon butter will give you a restaurant style flavor.
Chicken, Saffron, Onion, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice (or Yogurt), Garlic, Salt, Pepper
Chicken: Choose boneless chicken thigh meat and cut them into 1½ to 2 inch pieces. I would avoid chicken breast as it will not give you a kabab as juicy as thigh meat. If using chicken drumettes or wings, watch the cooking time, as they may cook a bit sooner.
Saffron: Be sure to use high quality saffron. For more about saffron, check this post about Saffron tea.
Lemon Juice: Add lemon juice to the chicken kabob marinade and basting mixture judiciously. If you use too much, it can make the kabobs tangy.
Yogurt: Instead of lemon juice, you can use a combination of yogurt and lemon juice. It will give a flavor that is distinct and equally enjoyable. Marinate for at least 12 hours if using yogurt.
Onions: This is a very important ingredient that gives the joojeh kabobs their characteristic flavor. Try using red onions for a bolder flavor.
To keep them juicy, do not overcook the joojeh kabobs.
How To Make It
*Full recipe at the end of blog post.
- Combine marinade ingredients, coat chicken pieces well and marinate for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator. Make the basting mixture.
- Preheat the grill. Thread chicken pieces on skewers and arrange them on the grill. Place vegetable skewers as well.
- Grill the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes on each side until nicely seared on the outside but juicy inside. Baste all skewers with basting mixture.
- Serve with rice, flatbreads, pickles and sumac.
Make Ahead / Meal Prep
Prepare chicken ahead of time, as per instructions in the recipe and refrigerate. Make basting mixture and saffron water ahead as well. Combine all ingredients for chicken kabob marinade in advance, without adding onion and garlic. It is better to grate these vegetables fresh before adding to marinade and chicken.
What to Serve Along
- Serve it with rice (Dill Rice or plain Barberry Rice — without the roasted chicken).
- Add some flatbreads on the side — Whole Wheat Naan or Barbari Bread.
- Serve some salads such as Shirazi Salad, Kale Lentil Salad or Shallot Yogurt Dip.
- And some cool beverages — Doogh or Ayran.
Chicken is a great source of high quality protein and an excellent alternative to red meat. It is also a good source of niacin, selenium, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Grilling is one of the healthier ways to enjoy chicken, a popular meat choice. Just make sure to not char the chicken too much.
The recipe here is low carb, gluten free, high protein, egg free, nut free and soy free. Lower the salt to make it low sodium.
More Chicken Recipes
Grilled Chicken Kabob (Jujeh Kabab)
- 2 lbs boneless chicken thighs cut into 1½ to 2 inch pieces, see note
- ½ teaspoon saffron ground and dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 onion large, grated
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
or ⅓ cup plain yogurt + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Bell peppers quartered
- Red onions quartered
- Tomatoes roma
- In a mortar and pestle, grind saffron with a pinch of salt until powdered. Then dissolve it in hot water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Trim any excess fat from the chicken thigh meat pieces.
- Combine the marinade ingredients — 1½ tablespoons saffron water, grated onion, grated garlic, lemon juice (or yogurt + lemon juice), olive oil, salt and pepper, in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces, toss well and marinate for at least 6 hours (12 hours if using yogurt marinade) in the refrigerator; or up to 24 hours.
- Leave the marinated chicken out for about 30 minutes at room temperature, prior to grilling.
Ready The Grill
- Preheat the charcoal grill about 30 minutes before grilling. We recommend using hardwood charcoal and not briquettes for perfect flavor. The grill is ready when the flame has subsided, coals glow uniformly and covered with some ash. Tip: A small fan or hair dryer may be useful. Check this tutorial for more about charcoal grilling.
- Alternatively, grill chicken using nicely oiled grates on gas grill at medium heat, for 10-15 minutes. See note for oven baking option.
Skewer Meat and Arrange on Grill
- Meanwhile, thread the chicken on ½ inch wide metal skewers making sure to pass the skewer through the thick portion of the meat.
- Thread the vegetables on additional skewers. (If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water at least 30 minutes before using).
- Arrange the skewers spacing them apart, directly over the grill without the grate, about 4 inches above the glowing coals.
- Place the vegetable skewers together on one side of the grill.
- Make the basting mixture: Combine olive oil, saffron water, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Grill the chicken skewers for 6 to 8 minutes on each side, turning them often, until the chicken is done and juices released are no longer pink. Cut a piece of chicken to make sure it is white and done inside. Brush basting mixture on all chicken and vegetable skewers, while grilling and at the end.
- Avoid placing the skewers too close to the heat source or they will burn on the outside and remain uncooked inside. Do not cook at very low heat and for too long, otherwise they will become dry and overcooked.
- Brush the grilled chicken with basting mixture and remove from the skewers using a piece of lavash or with the help of a fork. And serve with grilled vegetables, flatbreads, rice, pickles and sumac on the side.
- Chicken: Choose boneless chicken thigh meat and cut them into 1½ inch pieces. I would avoid chicken breast as it will not result as juicy as thigh meat. If using chicken drumettes or wings, watch the cooking time, as they may cook a bit sooner.
- Stove top/Oven:
- Brush a cast iron grill pan or skillet with olive oil and heat at medium high. Place the chicken pieces in one layer, spacing them apart. Sear both sides on high heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Continue to cook on the stove at medium or transfer the skillet to an oven preheated at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes until done.
- The chicken kabobs can also be broiled in a preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes per side until done. No need to use skewers.
- Storage: Grilled chicken kabob will keep well in the refrigerator for couple days. Sprinkle some water and reheat quickly.
- Lemon Juice: Do not use too much lemon juice or the meat will become tangy.
- Butter for basting: Traditional recipes use some butter or ghee for basting the kebabs. This imparts a rich flavor while the fat drops off during grilling. Some recipes combine butter and olive oil. That final brush with saffron lemon butter will give you the restaurant style flavor.
- Dried herbs: You can sprinkle some dried oregano or basil on the chicken skewers before grilling for a flavor twist. Though this is not typical.
- Scroll to the blog post above for more tips and details about ingredients.
- Nutrition facts are approximate as marinade is discarded.