Turkish Shish Kebabs with Garlicky Tahini


Turkish pit masters devised an ingenious "divide and conquer" approach to shish kebabs: They grill the meat and vegetables separately to allow foods with different cooking times to reach the perfect degree of doneness. Serve with a creamy tahini sauce.

Turkish Shish Kebabs with Garlicky Tahini
Photo: © William Meppem

Cooks throughout the Middle and Near East serve this creamy, garlicky tahini as a sauce for grilled lamb. It is also wonderful with chicken or swordfish.


Garlicky Tahini

  • 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

  • 1/3 cup tahini

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Shish Kebabs

  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried mint

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1 small bunch of fresh mint

  • 1 large red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • Vegetable oil, for the grill

  • Lemon wedges and pita bread, for serving


Make the Garlicky Tahini sauce

  1. In a blender, puree the garlic with the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper until smooth. If the sauce appears thick, add a little more water. Scrape the sauce into a bowl, sprinkle with the parsley.

Make the Shish Kebabs

  1. In a large bowl, combine the garlic with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried mint, and oregano. Add the lamb, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 hours.

  2. Thread the lamb onto skewers, placing 1 fresh mint leaf between the pieces of meat. Skewer alternate pieces of onion and bell pepper and brush lightly with olive oil.

  3. Light a grill. Lightly brush the grate with vegetable oil and grill the lamb and vegetables over a medium-hot fire, turning frequently, until the lamb is medium, about 6 minutes, and the vegetables are tender and lightly charred, about 8 minutes. Let the kebabs stand for 2 minutes, then serve with the Garlicky Tahini, lemon wedges, and pita bread.

Make ahead

The Garlicky Tahini sauce can be refrigerated for 1 week. Bring to room temperature and stir before serving.

Suggested Pairing

The berrylike fruit of a young, robust Zinfandel has an affinity with grilled lamb, especially when the dish includes pungent garlic and herbs.

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