Pan-Fried Greek Chicken Souvlaki With Creamy Tzatziki Sauce

Come BBQ season or you can pan-fry them inside like we did, Chicken souvlaki is a classic recipe that is super easy to prepare. Chicken souvlaki is a popular Greek dish that consists of small pieces of juicy marinated chicken that’s grilled or pan-fried on skewers. With just a few simple ingredients, the flavors are incredible and the skewers are great finger food when entertaining, especially when paired with our delicious homemade tzatziki sauce. 

This recipe requires a little time to marinate, and we suggest leaving the chicken pieces to marinate for at least 2 hours (or overnight in the fridge is ideal). Once marinated, lightly pan-fry your souvlaki skewers for around 10 minutes turning them frequently. Cooking time will vary depending on how large the chicken pieces are so check they’re cooked through before serving.

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Grilled chicken souvlaki skewers sit on a black plate.
Grilled chicken souvlaki skewers sit on a black plate.

How to make pan-fried Greek chicken souvlaki with creamy tzatziki sauce

Ingredients

For the chicken souvlaki

  • 4 large chicken breasts (approx. 35 ounces/1 kg)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of dill seeds, ground
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

For the tzatziki sauce

  • ½ cup of finely grated cucumber
  • 1 cup of whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated fine
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon dill seeds (toasted and ground)

Find the full Greek Tzatziki recipe here.


Equipment

  • 12-inch/30cm pan or skillet
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Medium-sized bowl or sealable jar (for the tzatziki sauce)
  • Large bowl for marinating the chicken
  • Box Grater
  • Lemon Juicer
  • Kitchen wrap

Instructions

How to make Tzatziki sauce

  • In a dry pan on high heat, toast the fennel seeds for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer into a mortar. 
  • Gently crush the toasted fennel seeds with the pestle.
  • Grate the cucumber and finely grate the garlic. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  • Combine the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt, half of the fennel seeds, and half of the extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Chill until ready to use.
  • Right before serving, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the rest of the ground fennel seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Preparation note: You can make the Tzatziki before marinating the chicken and cover and refrigerate or make it just before you cook the chicken after marinating, in a couple of hours or the next day. 


Preparing the Chicken souvlaki skewers

  • First, cut your chicken breasts into small pieces. Long strips work well as you can skewer them easily once they are marinated. 
  • Add your chicken pieces to a bowl and add the other spices and ingredients. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and mix well. 
  • Cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 hours (overnight is ideal). 
  • After the chicken is marinated, carefully add the chicken to a skewer, leaving an inch (2.5cm) at the top and bottom of the skewer for handling. 
  • Pan fry or grill your skewers until the chicken is cooked through, turning them frequently so they cook evenly (Around 8-10 minutes on a pan with high heat, or until cooked through). 

Cooking note: As per the USDA website, cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F/ 74°C as measured with a food thermometer.

Origins of Chicken Souvlaki

Chicken souvlaki is a popular Greek dish that consists of small pieces of marinated and grilled chicken served on skewers. The word “souvlaki” is derived from the Greek word “souvla,” which means “skewer.” The origins of chicken souvlaki are deeply rooted in Greek culinary history.

Souvlaki, in general, can be traced back to ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire. In ancient times, people would skewer and grill small pieces of meat over an open flame for a quick and delicious meal. This basic concept of grilling skewered meat has evolved over the centuries and is a firm staple in Greek cuisine today. 

Chicken souvlaki became a popular street food and restaurant dish. It’s a versatile and flavorful dish that incorporates the Mediterranean flavors of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs.

Chicken souvlaki is often served with pita bread, tomatoes, onions, and a yogurt-based sauce known as tzatziki. It has become a beloved dish not only in Greece but also in many other parts of the world, thanks to its delicious and simple preparation.

Best Chicken Pieces To Use When Making Chicken Souvlaki

When making chicken souvlaki, it’s important to choose the right type of chicken pieces to ensure a flavorful and tender result. The best chicken pieces to use for chicken souvlaki are boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Both of these options have their own characteristics that can influence the final dish.

Chicken Breasts 

Chicken breasts are lean and have a mild flavor, they’re also one of the more affordable cuts of chicken. They are a popular choice for those looking for a healthier option, as they are lower in fat. However, chicken breasts can sometimes become dry when cooked for too long, so it’s important to marinate them well and not overcook them. 

To prevent drying out, you can marinate them for a longer time and cook them until they are just cooked through. 

Chicken Thighs 

Chicken thighs are slightly fattier than chicken breasts, which gives them more flavor and tenderness. The higher fat content helps keep the meat moist during cooking, making them a great choice for grilling. 

Chicken thighs are also more forgiving when it comes to cooking time, as they are less likely to become dry even if cooked a little longer. The extra flavor from the dark meat can also enhance the overall taste of the souvlaki. But they can be trickier to cut if you buy them on the bone.


Plate of uncooked chicken souvlaki skewers.

Preparing and Marinating Chicken for Souvlaki

It’s important to cut the chicken into evenly sized pieces to ensure they cook uniformly. Aim for pieces that are about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4cm) in size. We find that cutting the breast meat into thin strips works well and it’s easy to skewer. This also helps the chicken cook quickly and evenly on the grill or when pan-fried. 

How Long To Marinate Chicken

Regardless of whether you choose chicken breasts or chicken thighs, marinating the meat is key to infusing it with flavor and tenderness. A classic Greek marinade for chicken souvlaki typically includes ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and sometimes other herbs and spices. 

Marinate the chicken for at least two hours, or ideally, overnight before grilling, to allow the flavors to really develop. Always marinate your chicken in the fridge in a sealed container. Be sure to cook within 24 hours of marinating. 

Cooking and Storage Tips

  • Cool Quickly: After cooking the chicken souvlaki, allow it to cool down to room temperature for about 1 hour. Avoid leaving it out at room temperature for any longer, as bacteria can start to grow rapidly, especially in warmer weather.
  • Refrigerate Promptly: If you’re not eating it right away, once the chicken souvlaki has cooled down, transfer it to an airtight container. Place it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
  • Keep at a Consistent Temperature: Store the chicken souvlaki in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is typically around 32-40°F (0-4°C). This helps slow down the growth of bacteria and maintains the quality of the food.
  • Use Within 3-4 Days: Consume the chicken souvlaki within 3 to 4 days of cooking (less if the expiry date of the chicken was sooner). After this time, the quality and safety of the chicken may start to deteriorate.
  • Reheat Safely: If you want to reheat the chicken souvlaki, do so thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed. You can reheat it in the microwave, oven, or on a stovetop pan.
  • Freeze for Longer Storage: You can also freeze it for longer storage. Place it in an airtight container and it can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. To thaw, transfer it to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw slowly before reheating.

a bowl of creamy tzatziki sits eside some grilled chicken souvlaki skewers

Serving Suggestions for Chicken Souvlaki?

Chicken souvlaki is a very versatile dish and can be served either on its own or accompanied by other dishes as part of a mezze plate. Souvlaki is often served with a variety of delicious accompaniments that complement its flavors and create a balanced and satisfying meal. Here are just a few items that go well with chicken souvlaki:

  • Pita Bread: Pita bread is a classic choice to serve with chicken souvlaki. You can wrap the grilled chicken in the pita to create a sandwich-like meal.
  • Tzatziki Sauce: Tzatziki is a yogurt-based sauce made with cucumbers, garlic, dill, and sometimes lemon juice. It adds a refreshing and tangy element to the dish.
  • Greek Salad: A traditional Greek salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese pairs wonderfully with chicken souvlaki. The flavors and textures complement each other perfectly.
  • Rice or Quinoa: Serving chicken souvlaki with cooked rice or quinoa can provide a hearty base for the meal and add some extra sustenance.
  • Hummus: Hummus is a creamy chickpea dip that can be used as a dip for the chicken or as a spread for pita bread.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant add a burst of color, flavor, and nutrients to the meal. Veggie skewers are also ideal during BBQ season, and no plates required! 
  • Potatoes: Roasted or grilled potatoes seasoned with herbs can be a great side dish to complement the chicken.
  • Tabbouleh: Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and bulgur. It’s a light and refreshing choice.
  • Pickled Vegetables: Pickled vegetables like beets, carrots, or cabbage can add a tangy and crunchy contrast to the meal.

Sliced Red Onions: Thinly sliced red onions add a touch of sharpness and color to the dish.

Some chicken souvlaki skewers being served with some tzatziki and some carrot sticks.

FAQs and Cooking Tips for Chicken Souvlaki

Is chicken souvlaki healthy?

Chicken souvlaki is a relatively healthy dish, made using unprocessed ingredients. It depends on the ingredients used but the typical marinades include very healthy ingredients like olive oil, herbs, and spices. Accompanied with vegetables or salad, and some rice or quinoa, it’s a well-balanced meal. 

Is Tzatziki healthy?

The yogurt-based tzatziki sauce is a common accompaniment to chicken souvlaki and offers probiotics (beneficial for gut health) and protein. Be mindful of portion sizes and the fat content of the yogurt used (Natural or unsweetened Greek Yogurt is best). 

How long will chicken souvlaki last once cooked?

Cooked chicken souvlaki can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days (be sure to check the use-by date on the chicken package first). Always store refrigerated in an airtight container. 

How long does tzatziki last?

In the unlikely event you have any tzatziki leftover, store it in a sealable container in the fridge and it will last up to 3 days. 

​​How long can tzatziki be unrefrigerated?

When serving tzatziki, it can be left at room temperature (26°C/ 80°F) for up to 2 hours. Avoid serving it in direct sunlight.

Nutrition Facts

Per skewer of approx 3.5oz. (100grams).

Amount per serving 
Calories202
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9.6g12%
Saturated Fat 1.9g10%
Cholesterol 71mg24%
Sodium 65mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 2.3g1%
Dietary Fiber 0.9g3%
Total Sugars 0.3g 
Protein 26.4g 
Vitamin D 0mcg0%
Calcium 30mg2%
Iron 5mg30%
Potassium 250mg5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Some chicken souvlaki skewers being served with some tzatziki and some carrot sticks.

Pan-Fried Greek Chicken Souvlaki With Creamy Tzatziki Sauce

Byron
Chicken souvlaki is a classic recipe that is super easy to prepare. Chicken souvlaki is a popular Greek dish that consists of small pieces of juicy marinated chicken that’s grilled or pan-fried on skewers. With just a few simple ingredients, the flavors are incredible and the skewers are great finger food when entertaining, especially when paired with our delicious homemade tzatziki sauce.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
marinade time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Greek, Mediterranean
Servings 10 skewers
Calories 202 kcal

Equipment

  • 12-inch/30cm pan or skillet
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Large bowl for marinating the chicken
  • Lemon Juicer
  • Kitchen wrap

Ingredients
  

  • 4 large chicken breasts approx. 35 ounces/1 kg
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds ground
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, cut your chicken breasts into small pieces. Long strips work well as you can skewer them easily once they are marinated.
    Chicken breast cut into small slices
  • Add your chicken pieces to a bowl and add the other spices and ingredients. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and mix well.
    Chicken pieces in a bowl with spices and a marinade.
  • Cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 hours (overnight is ideal).
    Chicken marinade covered
  • After the chicken is marinated, carefully add the chicken to a skewer, leaving an inch (2.5cm) at the top and bottom of the skewer for handling.
    Plate of uncooked chicken souvlaki skewers.
  • Pan fry or grill your skewers until the chicken is cooked through, turning them frequently so they cook evenly (Around 8-10 minutes on a pan with high heat, or until cooked through).
    Grilled chicken souvlaki skewers sit on a black plate.

Video

Notes

Nutrition facts based on a skewer of approx 3.5oz. (100grams). 
Cooking note: 
As per the USDA website, cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F/ 74°C as measured with a food thermometer.
Keyword Chicken, chicken skewers, Chicken Souvlaki, Greek chicken thighs, Greek souvlaki, souvlaki

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