Our Greek Souvlaki recipe features tender bites of chicken coated in an herby olive oil sauce. Infused with the flavors of grilled lemon and good olive oil—this recipe for Greek Souvlaki will impress. Serve platter-style with warm pita bread and homemade tzatziki.
Table of Contents
What to Know About This Recipe
Frankly, we don’t love most grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts. They’re always a bit lackluster and more often than not we find ourselves cutting into a dry and chalky chunk of meat.
Now that we got that out of the way—we’re here to convince you to grill some chicken breast. And since you know how much we dislike badly grilled chicken, you know we wouldn’t share a grilled chicken recipe that’s anything short of delicious.
First and foremost, during the development of this recipe we aimed to create a grilled (or broiled) chicken skewer that boasts juicy and flavorful chunks of meat. We also wanted the ingredient list to be short and sweet—nothing but the essentials. And finally, it had to be simple and inspired by traditional Greek Chicken Souvlaki recipes.
Why This Recipe Works
In order to achieve the above-mentioned deliverables we focused our efforts on foolproofing the chicken. Instead of marinating the chicken in an herby oil mixture (which is true for most souvlaki recipes) we opted for a technique too often relegated for pork and turkey—brining.
A brief stint in a simple salt water brine is key to guaranteeing tender juicy chunks of lean chicken breast. We found one and half hours to be the sweet spot, but if you want to prep this ahead, you can chicken the brine for up to 8 hours—we don’t recommend going over that.
And that’s it. It’s all about the brine. Toss on a simple and delicious herb sauce, grill or broil until charred and serve it all up with a cooling homemade tzatziki sauce.
Test Kitchen Tips
- Every broiler is different—so if you choose to cook these under the broiler instead of on the grill, keep an eye on them. Your broiler may run hotter than our test kitchen’s, or it may run a bit cooler. We use an open-flame gas broiler, if you’re using an electric, you may not get as much color and char on the chicken.
- Use cook time as a guide and use internal temperature as a rule. Temperature doesn’t lie. Pull the chicken from the broiler or grill when and instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers between 160ºF and 162ºF. Pulling the chicken before it reaches 165ºF accounts for carryover cooking and avoids overcooking the chicken.
Seek out air-chilled boneless, skinless chicken breast. Chicken meat is chilled in one of two ways—water-chilled or air-chilled. Water-chilling chicken is a faster method, thus making it more affordable for chicken producers. The downside is that the chicken tends to absorb some of that excess water, which inflates their weight (costing you money) and makes them less tasty.
Air-chilling chicken takes more time and also draws out a small amount of excess moisture. The result is a chicken breast that’s more flavorful and actually quicker-cooking.
Plus, since we’re brining the chicken, if you use a water-chilled chicken breast, the meat will become overly water-logged and won’t be as flavorful.
Since souvlaki is a Greek dish and the Greek cuisine is essentially built on the back of extra-virgin olive oil, we encourage you to use really good quality extra-virgin olive oil here. Yes, you’ll be using a lot. But the oil is responsible for a good portion of the flavor of this dish.
The Zestful Kitchen Test Kitchen (ZKTK) uses Morton Coarse Kosher Salt for recipe development. If you’re using Diamond Crystal, use this conversion: 1 ½ teaspoons Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt. You can learn more about kosher salt and conversions here.
You certainly can skip the brining step, though through testing this recipe we found chicken that is not brined comes out far less juicy and tender than the chunks of meat that do get brined.
We haven’t tested this, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs should work fine. Try your best to cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks, which may prove challenging as boneless chicken thighs can be on the thinner side. Check the internal temperature of the chicken as it cooks, dark chicken meat should be cooked to 175ºF (pull the meat from the grill or broiler at 172ºF to account for carry-over cooking and avoid overcooking).
Chicken Souvlaki (Broil or Grill)
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Morton kosher salt
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 small red onion, halved root to stem, each half cut into quarters
- Tzatziki sauce and pita bread for serving
- In a large bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons kosher salt into 4 cups cold water. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 1½ hours or up to 8 hours.
- Combine oil, dill, oregano, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, honey, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
- Slice zested lemon into thin rounds.
- Measure out ¼ cup oil mixture and set aside. Drain chicken then arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer chicken to bowl with remaining oil mixture; toss to coat and season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.Wipe baking sheet dry with paper towels.
- Thread 2 chunks of onion onto a 12-inch metal or wood skewer. Thread 4 chunks of chicken onto skewer followed by a lemon slice and another 4 chunks of chicken, another lemon slice and 4 more pieces of chicken. Thread 2 more chunks of onion onto end of skewer; place on baking sheet.
- Repeat threading until all chicken is used; 4–5 skewers total.
- Heat oven to broil with rack set 6 inches from element. Broil skewers until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center registers 160ºF, about 12–15 mins.
- Spritz pita with water then broil just until warmed through, 1 minute.
- Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium. Grill chicken over direct heat, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer registers 160ºF, about 10 minutes.
- Spritz pita with water then grill just until warmed through, 1 minute.
- Brush some reserved oil mix over skewers.
- Serve skewers on a platter with warmed pita bread, remaining oil mixture and homemade tzatziki.