What are the spices in shish kebab?

Written by c.k. adams
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What are the spices in shish kebab?
Zucchini, yellow peppers and pork loin combine with spices on a grill. (Getty Creative)

The Turkish word for skewer, "shish kebab," describes a grilled dish that combines meat, fruit and veggies on a skewer. Shish kebabs originated in Persia and use multiple spices found in the Middle East. For meaty skewers, coriander, basil and rosemary develop different flavours, from lemony to rustic tastes. Other spices, such as those used in Armenian shish kebabs, create a hot dish that jolts the taste buds. Since many ways exist to cook shish kebabs, the seasoning depends on your own tastes, but garlic, salt and pepper provide the basic spice for every skewer recipe.

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Hot and sweet paprika

Paprika comes from dried sweet bell to spicy chilli pepper plants. Paprika adds colour and flavour to shish kebabs. Hungarian, Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese recipes all use paprika. The spice adds both mild and hot flavours, depending on the choice of sweet or hot paprika.


Recipes around the world use coriander in shish kebabs, such as Latin, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Indian versions. Coriander dates to 1550 B.C. Found in tombs of pharaohs, coriander adds a lemony spice to meats, like lamb, chicken, pork and shrimp.


Whether on a marinated pork shish kebab or a chicken skewer, basil adds a minty pepper flavour to meats. In shish kebab recipes, tender meats sprinkled with basil or grilled green peppers with basil create a pleasing flavour.


Turkish cooks make shish kebabs with garlic tahini. Other recipes create a lemon garlic shish kebab. In each case, garlic is a standby spice for both the vegetables and meats that slide off the skewer. In lamb shish kebabs, garlic cloves mix with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried mint and oregano to create a hearty flavour.


Armenian shish kebabs combine rosemary leaves and other spices. Multiple shish kebab recipes call for this spice, whether in orange and rosemary shrimp or charbroiled chicken shish kebabs. The rosemary leaves go into the marinade. Another shish kebab recipe pairs pork loin with pineapple chunks spiced with rosemary and citrus-honey.

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