BBQ Chicken Kebabs

Continuing on with our plethora of cookout recipes, let me just announce to the world that these BBQ chicken kebabs are seriously tasty. Seriously. Tasty.

Unusual in a few ways, a bacon puree (icky in thought, wonderful in application) keeps the chicken deliciously moist and flavorful while it grills. Also, paprika (paprika!) takes center stage for flavor – both sweet and smoky. I can honestly say that this is some of the best chicken to ever come off of my much-used (and very crusty) grill.

The night I made it we ended up having an impromptu BBQ in the backyard with a few neighbors and this chicken was highly praised and quickly devoured. Plus, I have to admit that kebabs are probably my favorite way to enjoy grilled meat. I love sliding off the juicy, tender pieces of meat and my taste buds appreciate how each pieces is lovingly coated with the flavors of the grill.

BBQ Chicken Kebabs

What To ServeGrilled Sweet Potato Skewers
Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Corn on the Cob

BBQ Chicken Kebabs

Yield: Makes about 4-6 kebabs

BBQ Chicken Kebabs

Note: Chicken thigh or breast meat can be used on these kebabs. Whichever you choose, don’t mix white and dark meat on the same skewer since they cook at different rates. Also, I included gas-grill instructions since that is the type of grill I have. Adapt accordingly for a charcoal grill.


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 12-inch metal skewers or 6 wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (I used this awesome homemade recipe)


  1. In a large bowl, toss the chicken and salt together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  2. Turn all grill burners to high, close lid, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  3. While the grill heats, pat the chicken dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the sweet paprika, sugar, and smoked paprika. Process bacon in a food processor until a smooth paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl twice during processing. Add the bacon paste and spice mixture to the chicken; mix with hands or rubber spatula until the ingredients are thoroughly blended and the chicken is completely coated. It is ok to have small pieces of bacon intermixed with the chicken. Thread the chicken meat onto the skewers, rolling or folding meat as necessary to maintain 1-inch cubes. The chicken pieces should be just touching each other. If the bacon puree didn’t completely coat the chicken (i.e. you have clumps of bacon mixture) just grab little bits of it and smash it in between the chicken on the skewers.
  4. Place the chicken kebabs over the primary burner and grill, covered, turning one-quarter turn every 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until well browned and slightly charred, 8 minutes for breasts or 10 minutes for thighs. Brush the top surface of kebabs with BBQ sauce; flip and cook until sauce is brown in spots, about 1 minute. Brush second side with remaining ¼ cup sauce; flip and continue to cook until brown in spots about 1 minute longer and until the chicken is cooked completely through. Remove the kebabs from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing additional BBQ sauce, if desired.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

47 Responses to BBQ Chicken Kebabs

  1. Molly says:

    Made this last night, and everyone said it was the best chicken they ever had. The only variation: My kids must have used my skewers for some craft project because all my wooden sticks were broken at the top. I had to grill the breasts whole. I was worried the bacon paste wouldn’t stick but it did, though it did get a little burned as it was flat against the heat of the grill. But still tasted really, really good! I imagine it would be even better if it was stuck in between the chicken pieces on a stick. This will be part of the regular rotation! I used my immersion blender stick to make the bacon paste and avoid cleaning the food processor. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Becky says:

    I made this tonight and it was fabulous. My husband said it was the best chicken he had ever had. Thanks for sharing.

  3. jennifer says:

    Made these last night. I accidentally added the salt to the paprika mixture instead of salting the meat ahead of time, but the meat still sat for 30-60 minutes while i did other things. Turned out great! I actually didn’t do the BBQ sauce while grilling the chicken, as I like a lighter flavor. The entire family (even those that prefer loads of bbq sauce) couldn’t stop raving how good the meat was with just the seasonings and bacon. Made your shrapnel dip as a cold salad side dish. Awesom!

  4. Kelliott says:

    Sounds fantastic. Can these be made and skewered and refrigerated a while (overnight?) before grilling?

  5. Angie says:

    These sound delicious and once it warms up enough around here, we will definitely try them. One question (it’s probably a stupid question, but…) do you cook the bacon first? My friend told me about your website and I have been trying several of your recipes out. So far, every one of them has been a hit. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

    • Mel says:

      Angie – Nope, I don’t cook the bacon first – it’s raw (and even though that sounds scary, trust me, it works). I am you are loving the recipes!

  6. Khara says:

    I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve been loving your site! Thanks for all the yummy recipes! I am planning on making these over the weekend and just wanted to let everyone know that I found smoked paprika at Trader Joe’s for 1.99.

  7. Mel says:

    Mysti – I haven’t tried it with turkey bacon. It may not have enough fat to blend up quite as well but it’s probably worth a try.

  8. Mysti says:

    Hi Mel! Do you think this recipe would work with turkey bacon? My boyfriend doesn’t eat pork.

  9. Amber says:

    I made this chicken tonite and OMG it was so wonderful! You just gave me my new go-to BBQ chicken recipe:) SO YUMMY! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  10. Liz says:

    Thank you, Mel! The day before you posted the BBQ Make a menu, we bought a new grill! Very timely, indeed. I am so intrigued by this recipe and cannot wait to make it. I looked for smoked paprika at Wal-Mart but they did not have it. I’m about to go work on the marinade for the Island chicken. We are serving it to our best friends tonight. I’m sure we will all love it!

  11. Mel says:

    Liz – the bacon is raw (gross as it sounds) when it’s put in the food processor.

  12. Liz says:

    Hey Mel! This may be a stupid question, but is the bacon raw or cooked when it’s put in the food processor?

  13. […] BBQ Chicken Kabobs with Rice Marshmallow Creme Fruit Dip for Strawberry, Blueberry, & Banana Fruit Skewers Grilled Corn on the Cob Mini Cheesecakes – testing this recipe to maybe bring to the cabin this weekend if they will hold up. […]

  14. Alison says:

    Megan, I’m making these for a BBQ tomorrow and you’ll be pleased to know I found smoked paprika at Winco!

  15. Megan says:

    I made these tonight. I gotta say they were to die for! Thank you!!!

  16. Megan says:

    Smoked paprika is my new best friend. It was on the pricey side, especially since I am sure they don’t carry it at winco. But worth every cent. These are so good. I am making them and the beef ones for my sons birthday in June. We all loved them. Thanks for another winner.

  17. Deb says:

    Yum, these were delicious. Very flavorful and perfect for a summer dinner. I found them a little bit clumsy to turn on the grill because they stuck a little and the paste on the outside made them slippery to turn, but still tasty.

  18. Lisa says:

    Made these over the weekend and they were divine! The best barbecued chicken recipe ever! Very tasty – will make again and again! Thanks Mel!!

  19. Paprika seems to be a newest love for me too. Adding it to almost anything to boost the flavor. I will be grilling these soon, they sound great.

  20. Heather says:

    Fabulous! Great flavor, so easy and incredibly yummy! i love Cook’s Illustrated.

  21. Pam says:

    They look and sound delicious.

  22. Carie says:

    Just made this tonight: Another DELICIOUS dinner for my family courtesy of your blog. I don’t know how you do it, but keep it up!

  23. Mariann says:

    I cannot wait to make these. Seriously. Can’t. Wait. It’s on the list for next week.

    I love your blog. It has literally changed my life.


  24. That looks so good! I am so ready for BBQ season.

  25. BBQs with friends and family – isn’t that what summer’s all about. LOVE it!
    Mel these look delicious and I’m drooling.

  26. Amy S. says:

    I’ve heard of paprika, but smoked and sweet??? I had no idea! Are they different spices or something that you do with regular paprika??? I know, I sound ignorant, but I am!! These look delicious, and I’d love to try them.

    Again, you’re my favorite!!!! Seriously!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Amy – smoked and sweet paprika are different varieties of paprika and are bottled separately. They are fairly common in most spice aisles at regular grocery stores.

  27. Kensi says:

    We made these tonight for dinner and they were seriously SO delicious!! I loved them and we will def. be making them over and over again! My 6 yo ate 2 kebabs!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you Mel!!!!!!

  28. I don’t think I’ve left you a comment yet, but THANK YOU! You make my life so much easier, I just browse through your website find a picture of something that I might like to eat, make it and I know it is going to be good. I have been a fan for a couple of months (I think I found you from BLOOM?) I have made dozens of your recipes. We eat your French Bread once every couple of weeks, last night we had Moo Shu Noodles for the second time, Kicked-up Ramen, Chicken Bacon Alfredo, Mac and Cheese…what else? Love it all. My son and I made our first dessert from your blog last weekend: Black and White Brownies, a lot of work (just more steps than opening a box:) and a long time from start to finish) but worth it, they were delcious. I am going to try your menu planning method, but I was wondering what you do for breakfast and lunch. Maybe after BBQ Bonanza you can address planning especially for summer with the kids home and all….do you just have the same thing every day or what? I just really like you, thanks for helping me a better WIFE and MOM. I enjoy cooking when I know that it is going to be good and good-ish (at least from “scratch”) for my family.

  29. StephenC says:

    Here’s something I know I could do on my stove top grill (don’t have a barbie).

  30. Pauline says:

    What did you serve with these? I’m always looking for something outside of the potato salad/baked bean/cole slaw combos. Anything different/interesting? Thanks!

  31. This looks absolutely fabulous!

  32. Julie says:

    They really do sound great! And if I ever do have to eat a pureed diet, I hope it will include bacon!

  33. Cathy Clark says:

    These look absolutely delicioso! Can’t wait to try them. We’ve been trying to come up with something relatively easy and inexpensive for a party and think this may be exactly what we have been looking for! Thanks for sharing.

  34. jill says:

    Thanks for posting these Mel! I saw these in CI and was wondering how they would turn out. I thought the raw bacon paste sounded kinda icky too, but I will have to give them a try.

  35. Beautiful photo! I like the idea of cooking the chicken on one skewer and any veggies being grilled on another.

  36. Yum! We have been seriously obsessed with the grill this summer. I can’t wait to make this next time we grill out (which is probably tonight!!).

  37. Melanie C says:

    you had me at ‘bacon paste’!!!!

  38. These are fabulous! I actually blogged about them last week – guess our minds are thinking along the same lines!

  39. Those look incredible! I want to be in the same country as my grill! Desperately!

  40. Kim in MD says:

    Melanie- after printing this recipe out I noticed that there are beef kebobs in the background. As the risk of soundy pushy/greedy…I hope you post that recipe tomorrow! I would love to serve chicken and beef on the 4th! Hmmm….I think it may be an all Mel’s Kitchen Cafe menu again! 😉

  41. Kim in MD says:

    Those are gorgeous, Mel! You can’t go wrong with CI recipes, and what is it about food on a stick that just makes it more fun to eat? 🙂 I am printing this recipe to make for my July 4th BBQ. Thank you for sharing your amazing recipes! 🙂

  42. kristy says:

    How gorgeous is the colour of the kebabs! Bookmarked it for later use. thanks so much for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *