Skewer recipes come in all sorts of varieties. These chicken skewers are easy as can be, require just a handful of ingredients, and take on a lovely Thai lilt thanks to coconut milk, which lends the chicken sweetness and tenderness without leaving it overwhelmingly coconutty, and fish sauce, which lends the chicken just the right complexity.

Common Questions

What can I do with leftover coconut milk?

You’re going to be left with a little extra coconut milk after making the marinade for these chicken skewers. If you want our advice (actually, it’s the advice of LC tester, Jackie Gorman), consider tossing together some coconut rice as a subtly sweet side that goes perfectly with the slightly pungent and peppery chicken. Simply cook rice as you usually would, substituting the coconut milk for an equal amount of water. Watch and stir the rice frequently as the natural sugars in the coconut could cause it to scorch more easily than usual. And don’t forget a pinch of salt.

What is a good substitute for fish sauce?

Fish sauce, in case you didn’t know, is made from salted fish (usually anchovies) that’s fermented in barrels for about a year. The longer the fermentation period, the less fishy, and more flavorful the sauce becomes. That said – it’s incredibly pungent and some folks just can’t get past that fragrance to enjoy the flavor it adds to a dish. If that’s the case for you, or if you just don’t happen to have fish sauce on hand, here are a few options for you: Soy sauce, Tamari, coconut aminos, or oyster sauce – at a 1:1 ratio. Feel free to add a little minced anchovy or anchovy paste for more authentic flavor. You can also substitute seaweed, or a bit of mushroom/soy broth.

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

6 grilled chicken skewers piled on a wooden cutting board and sprinkled with slices of red onion and cilantro.

Chicken Skewers

5 / 3 votes
These chicken skewers are magnificently easy to toss on the grill for a quick dinner. The distinct Thai taste comes from a simple marinade of coconut milk, fish sauce, cilantro, and curry.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories271 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time4 hours 25 minutes


  • 6 to 12 skewers (metal or wood)


  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • Thinly sliced red onion, for garnish


  • In a resealable plastic bag or baking dish, mix together the coconut milk, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, curry powder, and pepper. (Or, if you prefer to save yourself the chopping by hand, simply toss everything into a food processor or blender and pulse prior to pouring it into the bag or baking dish.)
  • Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place them on a cutting board and, working with 1 chicken breast at a time, hold a sharp knife parallel to the cutting board and cut all the way through each to create two skinny chicken cutlets. Then cut the chicken into bite-size pieces or long strips. Place the chicken in the marinade and squish the bag or turn the pieces in the baking dish to coat. Seal the bag or cover the baking dish and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. (If you're in a hurry, you can marinate the chicken for less time, although the flavor will be quite faint.)
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them in water at least 1 hour before grilling. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread it on the skewers.
  • Place the chicken skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook, turning frequently to char all sides, until the chicken is cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Pile the skewers on a platter or, if desired, use a knife to slide the chicken off the skewers and onto individual plates. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and thinly sliced red onion. Serve immediately.  
The Total Grilling Manual Cookbook

Adapted From

The Total Grilling Manual

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 271 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 32 gFat: 15 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 97 mgSodium: 214 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2016 Lisa Atwood. Photo © 2016 Weldon Owen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These chicken skewers are very juicy and the flavors are wonderful.

I am one of those people who gave up chicken breasts years ago for chicken thighs after too many disappointing recipes which produced dried-out chicken. The marinade takes about 5 minutes to throw together. I marinated my chicken for 3 hours. Two pounds of chicken breasts gave me 5 long metal skewers full of meat.

Do yourself a favor. Save the rest of the can of coconut milk and make coconut rice to go with the chicken. This was a fabulous meal which we enjoyed with grilled summer squash and a medium-bodied Pinot Noir.

These skewers are unbelievably easy to prepare and just as delicious. The chicken was soooo tender and very flavorful.

My grill was nicely heated to a toasty 600°F. I placed the skewers directly in the grill and rotated the skewers about every 2 minutes for 8 1/2 minutes total grill time. I made these on a hot summer day along with corn on the cob and a nice salad. I served the chicken on the skewers.

Although the marinade is delicious as-is, I’d reserve about 1/2 cup before adding the chicken, cook it down to thicken it a bit, and then add a teaspoon of peanut butter and a pinch of red pepper flakes to make a wonderful dipping sauce. And this makes a lot of marinade for 2 pounds of chicken, so I strongly suggest maybe using 4 pounds of chicken as it’s too delicious for just 3 skewers per person!

I love how a minimal number of ingredients went into these chicken skewers yet the flavor was spot on. Even with a short marinade, the chicken wasn’t mild, which was a concern of mine.

Because there are so few ingredients and the recipe is so simple, this is a great weeknight option for the summer. The only thing that I would like to investigate would be the limit for marinating–1 to 4 hours gives kind of a big window if you’re looking to get these on the table quickly. I wonder if a marinating window of 6 to 9 hours would be detrimental to the result. If I could marinate these in the morning and have them ready to go when I get home from work that would seriously up the ante.

I was able to milk 2 hours of marinating while I prepped other ingredients and had cocktail time. We served the chicken off the skewers over a rice noodle salad with a dressing made of soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal, lime, and sugar, and tons of fresh crunchy veggies and herbs. The very subtle spice on the skewers from the sizeable amount of black pepper in the marinade went really nicely with the cool fresh components of the salad.

These chicken skewers were fast, simple, and delicious. The ingredients were quick and easy to put together and they cooked nicely on the grill. The curry, cilantro, and coconut milk were very flavorful and we had no leftovers. I marinated the chicken for 1 hour and it had lots of flavors. It served 4 of us—2 adults and 2 kids. I made a peanut sauce that went nicely and I was able to use up the remaining coconut milk from the can.

I went into this recipe with serious doubts. A full 1/4 cup fish sauce? Yikes! And I’m someone who likes fish sauce. But I forged ahead and I’m so glad I did. The coconut milk tempers the fish sauce and, left to mingle for a time, the marinade takes on a lovely, sophisticated flavor. You still get the fish sauce flavor but much more nuanced than usual. Add the cilantro and garlic and it was divine.

The recipe couldn’t be easier to put together. If you’re able to find pre-cut chicken pieces, it’s even easier. Do the marinade in a blender or food processor and it’d be even faster. I cut my chicken pieces into 1-by-2-inch cubes and I had 5 pieces per skewer tightly scrunched together which gave me 10 skewers. I had to be away and left it for 6 hours and it was DEEElicious. Frankly, I don’t think less than 3 hours would be adequate. I’m just saying that my 6 hours of marinating worked.

Mine were well done at 7 minutes so watch the chicken on the grill carefully. All in all, we enjoyed the unusual flavors of the coconut and fish sauce and I’ll absolutely be making this again. I’m thinking a southeast Asian fried rice full of vegetables with the chicken on the side without the skewers will be a perfect choice. Or maybe a Thai green papaya salad.

I was trying to find something to make for lunches this week for a friend and myself. She can’t eat spicy food and we’re both trying to eat healthfully. It was a beautiful weekend so I wanted to grill. These skewers fit the bill. I doubled the recipe for the marinade and used 4 lbs of chicken breasts and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for a good 7 hours. I was very leery of the quantity of fish sauce (1/2 cup) but it balanced out well and we both loved the flavor of the finished product with the red onions.

This recipe, doubled, made 8 lunches total. To complement the chicken, I stirred some of the leftover coconut milk and chopped cilantro into cauliflower rice and topped it with a bit of lime zest. Gorgeous flavors all around. Hooray for healthy and delicious!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I’ve only used fish sauce once before and did not like the results. I wonder if it was the brand I bought. Are all created equal or are there some standouts?

    1. Ann, Red Boat fish sauce is generally considered superior as far as brands go, but they all have a distinct flavor which some people don’t enjoy. If you dislike it, you can try substituting soy sauce.

    1. Sonja, fish sauce is a great ingredient, and there’s nothing like it. But if you can’t get it, try 1 tablespoon of soy sauce plus 1 mashed-up anchovy fillet. Or equal parts soy sauce and vinegar/

  2. 5 stars
    Hi, Is there a big taste difference using thighs instead of breasts? This really looks delicious but I only. have thighs at the moment! Thanks!

      1. Thanks David! I really love your recipes…they always turn out perfect and delicious! 🙂 I usually don’t change a thing about them!