Do you want to know the trick to super tender and incredibly moist souvlaki chicken?
Brining is a fantastic way to lock in moisture. The sodium and chloride ions penetrate deep into the meat, changing the proteins so they hold onto moisture more effectively – which means you loose less of that juicy goodness during the cooking process. Seriously, how great is that?!
Thirty minutes is all you need to brine these bite-sized pieces of chicken. Then toss them into an even faster marinade of lemon, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. The marinade doesn’t penetrate deep like the brine, but it does penetrate into the surface. With the brine/marinade combo you get locked in moisture on the inside with some serious flavor on the outside. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Ideally you’ll want to grill the skewers but you can certainly cook them in a grill pan if you like. Both require medium-high heat and about 7 – 8 minutes of total cook time. Easy, right?
Keep that in mind as you scroll down to look at the recipe. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait.
Ok, ok, so you may be thinking what the (insert choice curse word here) is up with the super long ingredients list! Please don’t be intimidated. You are after all making 5 components for a complete meal. Rather than presenting you with a single entree and leaving you to figure out what sides to make, this recipe gives it to you all on one flavor packed plate.
So let’s talk a little bit about what’s on this plate. I’ve already told you about the moist and juicy chicken with the wonderful garlic and lemon marinade. Well that marinade gets reused when cooking the rice and adds a truly brilliant lemony zest. The rice is then tossed with some toasted pine nuts giving the rice enough flavor to stand out on it’s own. But it doesn’t overpower the other components of this dish – it pairs perfectly with the chicken, the simply roasted veggies, creamy tzatziki, and herbaceous pesto. Together the flavors of this Chicken Souvlaki with Lemon Scented Rice & Roasted Veggies play like a symphony in your mouth.
- 6 skewers
- 8 cups water, warm enough to dissolve the salt and sugar but not so warm it cooks the chicken
- ¼ cup Kosher salt (use ⅛ cup if using table salt)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- vegetable oil for cooking
- Tzatziki (can be made the night before)
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 cups Greek style yogurt
- 1 teaspoon tahini (mix well before using)
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1½ cups English cucumber, seeded and diced
- Pesto (can be made the night before)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup parmesan, freshly grated
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- Kosher salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
- Quick Marinade
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- Lemon Scented Rice
- 4 cups water
- reserved Quick Marinade
- 2 cups long grain rice, washed and drained
- 1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- Oven Roasted Veggies
- 2 red bell peppers, sliced
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 2 small zucchinis, cut int ¼-inch rounds
- 1 small eggplant, diced (about the same size as the zucchini)
- 1 medium red onion, quartered, pieces separated
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- Kosher salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
- If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 15 minutes.
- Combine the ingredients for the brine in a large bowl. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the tzatziki. Use a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic and salt together until it forms a paste.* In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, tahini, mint, and lemon. Add the garlic and salt mixture and combine well. Finally fold in the cucumber. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the pesto. Add to the bowl of a food processor, the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan. Pulse while slowly adding ½ cup olive oil until smooth and desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste then pulse a few more times to incorporate. Set aside and keep at room temp if using soon.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Combine the ingredients for the Quick Marinade in a large bowl. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well under running water. Add the chicken pieces to the Quick Marinade and toss to coat. Allow to soak for about 5 minutes, then thread the chicken on the skewers and keep the marinating liquid for the rice.
- Allow the chicken skewers to rest on a plate while you prepare the lemon scented rice. In a saucepan, bring the water and the reserved Quick Marinade to a boil. Add the rice and salt, bring to a gentle simmer. Give a quick stir, and then cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover, allow the rice to absorb any small amount of remaining liquid. Then fluff with a fork. Toss in the toasted pine nuts.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the roasted veggies. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the veggies and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the thyme and a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turn the veggies occasionally.
- While the veggies are roasting, heat your grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the grates or the pan well with oil. Once hot, shake off the skewers of any excess marinade and add them to the cooking surface, working in batches if needed. Cook for 7 - 8 minutes until the chicken is done, turning once.
- To plate, add the Lemon Scented Rice and Roasted Veggies to a plate or bowl. Top with a few skewers, a dollop of tzatziki, and drizzle with pesto. Serve and enjoy!
** To make this dinner come together more quickly, you can always make the tzatziki and pesto the night before.
How juice the chicken looks! I love Yakitori and need more different flavoured recipe! This will be great:D
Oh my gosh, I love Yakitori too – so freakin’ good! This dish will definitely give you some different flavors 😉
many things captured my attention in this post: 1) crazy adore you marriage of flavor profiles by splitting the marinade between the chicken and rice. 2) considering the number of dry pieces of poultry and pork i have eaten in my time, the glory of proper brining needs to be in everyone’s back pocket. i dig how you showed the brine does not have to be overly salty or full of flavors other than that which is needed to moisten the meat. 3) your tzatziki has tahini and mint? mind blown and am 4sure making that even before i make this dish (aka tonight to eat with chips as i snuggle with jimi and watch netflix). 4) i believe everyone needs to grill lemons on a daily basis.
ok. this session of grabbing finished. now, it is time to cook and graze. until ~
Absolutely! A proper brine needs to be in everyone’s back pocket! You definitely have the right idea with the tzatziki – it’s one of my favorite dips and I’m often noshing on it as I go through my Netflix binge watching too 😛 I hope you enjoy and have fun with these recipes! I can’t wait to hear what you think <3
kathleen, have you eaten this chicken souvlaki cold? i was so pissed off at not having much leftover that i made it again tonight and purposely doubled up so i would have cold bits to shove into my tummy tomorrow or the day after. and that tzatziki… hello!?!?!?!?! two batches made and enjoyed. batch #3 will be made tomorrow to pair with the COLD souvlaki. tomorrow is also salt cured egg day so i feel like a kid watching the clock on christmas eve. oh, and don’t bother apologizing for the time it takes to post back; do what you do and never concern yourself with me. all cool on this end. actually, don’t even bother answering this reply to a reply. love all that you push, my friend. cyaaaaa soon~
I have not actually had the chicken souvlaki cold. That being said, I am notorious for eating cold leftovers and enjoying them as much as if they were warm right off the stove. My mom tells me that’s the Swedish side of me 😛 My husband looks at me like I’m crazy.
Ooo… I’m so excited to find out what you think about the salt cured eggs! Here’s a little tip – I happened to dip my finger in the curry mayo I made for the Japanese Scotch Eggs, and then into the grated cured eggs – holy (expletive) I could have eaten a bowl of curry mayo topped with grated salt cured egg – pure ecstasy! 😛 I’m currently trying to come up with a recipe to feature the two 🙂
Mon Petit Four (@byMonPetitFour) says
Kathleen! This looks incredible! The chicken looks so juicy, and that garlic lemon marinade is just mouthwatering! I agree that brining chicken is the way to get you really juicy and flavorful chicken – it’s just so good! P.S. I’m so glad I got to meet you this past weekend! You are just as sweet and fabulous in person <3
Thanks so much, Beeta! It was SO great to finally meet you too! And you are also every bit as wonderful and sweet in person as you are in your blog! xoxo 🙂
This looks mouth-watering!
GiGi Eats Celebrities says
OH HELLO my FAVORITE FOOD ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!
Isn’t it just the best cuisine! Seriously, I could eat it everyday!
Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop says
I haven’t tried brining but I am intrigued….I need to give this a try!
Oh please do give it a try! It’s such a wonderful and simple way to keep meat juicy! (It’s how I make my turkey every year) 😉
Claudia | The Brick Kitchen says
OMG Kathleen this is like my dream meal!! I LOVE tzatziki and pesto, and it is just so vibrant and healthy looking (and easy, too?! – so good!). This is so happening in our house this week – I might just have to make homemade pita to go with them too though…what do you think? Thanks for the tips on brining too! SO much love <3
Yes, yes! Homemade pita will be amazing! Oh my gawd… warm, fresh bread is the best, isn’t it?! I’m coming to your house 😉
Rachelle @ Beer Girl Cooks says
You know what? I don’t think I’ve ever brined a piece of meat and I almost never cook chicken breast (unless it’s attached to a whole bird) because I always jack it up and dry it out. I’m totally trying this!
Oh man, I love brining! Try it with your turkey this Thanksgiving, it’s my favorite way to prepare it 🙂
I’d love to know what you think!
I fixed this last night and it is every bit as delicious as it looks! Thank goodness there is enough for us to have leftovers tonight. Can’r wait!
That’s fantastic! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
This sounds fantastic! I love the idea of brining the chicken. I need to make this!
Made this for company last night. Simply delicious. I ended up using white meat and it was moist. Followed your directions exactly even your grilling tips and it came out perfectly The sauces and sides were amazing. Definitely making again. Where are the leftovers???????
Oh my gosh, Lyn! I’m SO thrilled that you and your guests enjoyed the dish! Don’t you just love how brining keeps the moisture in even when you’re using white meat?! Next time you make it, I would LOVE to see your picture!
Natasha @ Salt & Lavender says
Looks tasty!! I was just reading about brining chicken yesterday. I really need to try it!
Kathleen, oh my gawd, this chicken souvlaki looks freaking amazing. . and YES to the brining!!!! We should just brine everything huh? I feel like the only time I brine is Thanksgiving for the turkey. . thanks for the reminder! love this!
YES! Isn’t brining the best! And no worries, you’re not the only who brines their turkey for Thanksgiving. Personally, I think it’s the only way to go! 🙂
Helen @ Scrummy Lane says
Wow! Kathleen, this has got to be the ultimate souvlaki (and I’m a BIG fan of that!). I’ve been eating veggie soups all week (tooth problem!) and could kill for a bite or 20 from this plate right now.
What an absolutely stunning dish, with stunning photos to match 🙂
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
Omg, Kathleen, I swear you are a mind reader! There was this awesome little place near my house in FL with the best souvlaki in town and I have been craving it! This is fantastic, because I am sure your chicken souvlaki bowl is 5 billion times tastier than theirs! Score! Loving this whole sha-bam of a meal, girlfriend! The scented rice, the sauces and the veggies WITH the chicken? Gimme dat! Love that you brined and marinated the chicken, you so clever girl! 😉 This will be gettin made in my kitchen ASAP! Pinned! P.s. long lists of ingredients never scares me. Although I’m sure you already know that! Lol Cheers doll! Xo
mila furman says
This is soooo my type of meal!!! And I love that you talked about the chicken and brining!!! It really is an incredible way to eat meat! It’s the only way that I ever make my turkey! I love the pesto on this!!! Ahhh and the pics! This is so gorgeous and just screams EAT ME!
I wish there was a way other than brining to keep the moisture in chicken breasts. I’ve found that brining leaves the meat way too salty for my taste. Apart from that this recipe sounds really nice.
Hi, Susan! I’m so sorry I’m just responding now, I’ve been at a jam-packed conference out of town.
Do you remember what ratio of salt to water you tried and what kind of salt you used? I agree, some brines are WAY too salty and depending on what kind of salt you use, it can taste even saltier (for instance table salt is ‘saltier’ than Kosher salt). And then you always have to rinse, rinse, rinse when the chicken comes out of the brine. A good brine shouldn’t leave the meat tasting overly salty. Maybe give this brine a try with just one of the chicken breast and see what you think. I’d love to know what you think! 🙂
Perfection! You are so right about brining! This chicken looks perfectly cooked and tender. Will definitely try your recipe! Pinned:)
Love both your recipes….thinking tonight I might go Greek with this one….I’ll probably buy boneless skinless thighs instead…(I prefer white but husband insists dark stays more moist)…I’ll report back to you unless I get lazy…:)
Thanks so much, Lyn! Yes, by all means go with the chicken thighs! That will also certainly help in the moisture department. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Anu-My Ginger Garlic Kitchen says
Love the trick to super tender and incredibly moist souvlaki chicken. Thank you for sharing. My mouth is watering by looking at these skewers. So vibrant and delish.
I love brining! it’s such a quick and easy way to keep lean meat moist! I will definitely be implementing this trick over Thanksgiving.