Chicken Souvlaki

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 — and if you’re still thinking about what you might like to cook up on Memorial Day, 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. And if you’re still thinking about what to serve for dessert — rhubarb buckle? lemon-blueberry crisp? peach-blueberry cobbler? — or what to serve on the side — a simple, summery pasta salad? — or if you should make homemade buns for your burgers or not, I have collected a few ideas here.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, Everyone.

Chicken thighs marinating in olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano:
marinating chicken

Skewered chicken thighs:

grilled skewered chicken thighs

Serve the grilled chicken with tzatziki, lemon and grilled naan or pita. A Greek salad or this simple cucumber, feta and mint salad is nice to serve on the side:

chicken souvlaki & cucumber salad

Tzatziki ingredients:
tzatziki ingredients

Cucumber, feta & mint salad:
cucumber, feta & mint

Grilled Chicken Souvlaki

Serves 6 to 8

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

wooden or metal skewers

for serving:
lemon wedges
naan or pita bread
tzatziki (recipe below)
cucumber, mint & feta salad (recipe below)

1. Wash and dry the chicken. Cut chicken into pieces roughly 2×2-inches in size — it’s ok if these are a little bit smaller or larger in size and if they are more rectangular than square, etc. Place chicken in a large bowl (if your fridge has space for it) or a large ziplock back.

2. Season chicken all over with kosher salt and pepper. Crumble oregano (about a teaspoon or two) over top. Throw in the basil and garlic. Pour olive oil into bowl or bag to submerge chicken.

3. Place bowl or bag of chicken in fridge. Marinate for at least four hours if possible. My mom always starts marinating this chicken the morning she plans on grilling it.

4. When ready to grill. Preheat grill to its highest setting (525ºF or 550ºF). Meanwhile dump chicken out onto a jelly roll pan. Skewer the chicken, trying to place similarly sized pieces on the same skewer if possible. When chicken is skewered and grill is hot, grill skewers for 3 minutes a side. Transfer to a platter.

5. Turn grill off. Place naan or pita on grill. Keep an eye on it — it should be warmed through and read to go after 2 or 3 minutes tops.

6. Serve chicken with tzatziki, lemon wedges and grilled naan.


Note: Use these measurements as a guide. I like my tzatziki garlicky, but others do not. Also, I have received comments on other posts that tzatziki isn’t tzatziki if it doesn’t have cucumber, but that’s really not true. If you like adding cucumber, by all means add it, but it is not necessary.

1 cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt, which will need straining*)
2 T. finely diced red onion
1 T. chopped mint
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

*To strain plain yogurt, rest a strainer over a bowl. Line it with cheese cloth. Add at least a cup of yogurt to the cheese cloth because once drained, the amount of yogurt is considerably less than what you have started with.

1. Stir together the yogurt, onion, mint and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste. Add more salt or lemon or anything else if necessary. Chill until ready to use.

Cucumber, Feta & Mint Salad

Note: Use these measurements as a guide. The dressing for the salad is simple: equal parts olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.

2 cups diced cucumbers (If the skin tastes a little tough, peel the cucumber)
feta cheese, crumbled
mint, thinly sliced (a tablespoon or two)
extra-virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar

1. Combine cucumbers, feta and mint in a bowl. Toss with equal parts olive oil and white balsamic. As a reference, I used 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of vinegar for the 1 cucumber (about 1 3/4 cup diced) I diced up. Season with salt if necessary — the feta is salty, so go light to start.

Love this beer:

When my mother was in town, she made us this same meal, but served a Greek salad in place of the cucumber, feta and mint salad, and it was so so so delicious:
mom's dinner


  1. says

    Awesome meal, love everything about it!

    indeed, easy to put together, but delivers a lot in return….

    Happy Memorial Day, enjoy the break tomorrow!

  2. L Fraser says

    Jeff will love this as will I….some of our favorite ingredients….plus, it’s something I can grill! The kitchen is still in the ‘demolished’ stage, full of scrap lumber and sawdust but he made the most beautiful countertops today out of white pine…every weekend a little progress is made….the vegetable garden is on steroids, it’s about time to pull out the arugula because it went to seed early, the tomatoes are setting and the baby fruit trees have all leafed out…..congrats again on the new little one!!

  3. Trish says

    My husband and I had this tonight and it was delicious! The chicken was so moist and flavorful. The tzatziki was fresh and light with mint straight from the garden. We didn’t even miss the cucumber. Thanks for sharing this recipe and your beautiful stories. You sure know how to set a scene. So talented!

    • says

      Trish — So wonderful to hear this! I bet your fresh mint made all the difference! I prefer my tzatziki without cucumber, and that might just be bc that’s the way my mother has always made it, but I think it’s mostly because it is a little lighter (as you say) without the cucumber. Thank you for your kind words, too. It’s always so nice to hear from you :)

  4. tony says

    HI again! When I saw this dish I immediately thought of “chicken gozleme”! I don’t know why. Maybe because it was the last dish I ate before embarking on a 3 week trip to Shanghai with mom where everything was coated in oil!! I think Gozleme means “eye” because when you heat the crepe dark tiny circles are created on the surface that look like eyes! So good and light, perfect for summer!

  5. Caroline says

    This was so delicious and so easy to make! Absolutely perfect dinner for summer or when it’s 90 degrees in NH in May. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Caroline — wonderful to hear this! And I know, it is hot! I am in CT right now visiting my parents, and we have been sweating through meals on the back porch. Still, I am so happy summer has arrived!

  6. Dorothea says

    Aaaah this is lovely, I went right back to my vacation to Mykonos loooooooong ago when my husband was still my boyfriend :-) We had a hotel outside the towncenter and every night a bus would pick up all the guests and drive us to the towncenter where the smell of souvlaki would enter your nose mmmmm! After a day on the beach and the deep blue water nothing tasted more delicious. Only a couple of “drachme” oh oh the memories, thank your for that AND a great recipe, this is on the list for this Summer!

    • says

      Dorothea — I have fond memories of traveling in Greece with Ben, too, when he was just a boyfriend as well. We didn’t make it to any of the islands, but had a wonderful time up in Thessaloniki. Your memories are filling me with wanderlust! Wonderful to hear from you!

  7. Dorothea says

    Isn’t it great to have those memories from before having kids to share with each other? I just came back with an oregano and mint plant, just made a tiny vegetable garden with herbs as well, no idea where to fit it all in but we’ll make it work! Enjoy the Summer and thanks for your great Blog:-)

  8. Laurie F says

    We fired up the grill last night and made this for dinner….I had to debone and skin chicken thighs because I couldn’t find them at the grocery store and that took awhile! I’m not a seasoned butcher by any means! I hope to find them already done next time. They were amazingly good, the naan was nice and warm, the chicken was moist from all the olive oil and tasted amazing….the tzatziki was scrumptious….no cucumber….we’re having it again tonite! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  9. PhotoGirl says

    I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be making it again.
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Kathleen says

    i love this meal. I love that I can prepare it earlier in the day, throw it on the grill and everyone loves it. Easy, make-ahead, delicious! Does it get better than that? ❤️

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