The combination of a sumac and garlic rub for grilled chicken  along with a sweet and tangy pomegranate-tamarind sauce would be sufficiently beguiling. And yet it gets even better when you realize this recipe couldn’t be simpler. Rub the chicken, plop it on the grill, sit back, and relax. Sounds like a perfect evening to us.Angie Zoobkoff

A platter of shish taouk or Middle Eastern grilled chicken and thighs slathered with a pomegranate-tamarind sauce

Shish Taouk | Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken

5 / 2 votes
This spectacularly exotic grilled middle Eastern chicken, known as shish taouk, is coated in a sumac and garlic paste and served with a tamarind-pomegranate sauce.
David Leite
CuisineMiddle Eastern
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories748 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes


For the chicken

  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons sumac
  • One (3-pound) whole chicken
  • 11 ounces boneless skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 thighs)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pomegranate-tamarind sauce

  • 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 5 ounces peeled walnuts, chopped and toasted if desired
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
  • Olive oil


Make the chicken

  • Preheat a grill to high.
  • In a medium bowl combine the crushed garlic cloves with the olive oil and sumac.
  • Butterfly the chicken, flatten it out a bit with a rolling pin and place 2 skewers in a cross shape through the butterflied chicken to keep it flat during grilling. Rub with 2/3 of the garlic mixture and season with salt and pepper.
  • Season the chicken thigh with salt and pepper and thread the chicken onto metal skewers. Slather the rest of the garlic mixture onto the chicken thighs.
  • Grill the butterflied chicken over indirect heat until golden brown and cooked, 40 to 60 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the chicken skewers and grill until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Make the pomegranate-tamarind sauce

  • In a small saucepan set over low heat, combine the tamarind paste, water, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a simmer then season with pepper, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside the chicken.
Souk Cookbook

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 748 kcalCarbohydrates: 31 gProtein: 29 gFat: 58 gSaturated Fat: 9 gMonounsaturated Fat: 25 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 75 mgSodium: 80 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 19 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2018 Nadia Zerouali | Merijn Toul. Photo © 2018 Ernie Enkler. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What a wonderful spin on grilled chicken this shish taouk is. The sumac paste was very easy to make. Be forewarned the sauce is very sweet. I wasn’t sure this was going to be good. The sweetness of the sauce is offset by the earthiness present in the garlic and sumac rub so they worked together very nicely.

We served this with a cucumber-onion salad and couscous. I would absolutely make this chicken recipe again but next time I would just make the chicken and leave the thighs for another meal.

With a simple rub of garlic, sumac, and olive oil, this shish taouk went from ho-hum to extraordinary! We loved the tender juicy meat. The rub was so spectacular it was hard to believe it was so simple to put together.

The sauce is very nice alongside the chicken too, and the strong fruit flavor paired nicely with the garlic and sumac. Cook times were perfect for both the whole chicken and the thighs. The skewers worked well for holding the chicken flat and for flipping. I started it skin side up, over indirect heat, keeping the grill around 45°F. After 20 minutes, I flipped it to skin side down, still indirect, then after 10 more minutes, I turned a burner on low under the chicken to crisp the skin up. It was perfectly cooked at 40 minutes. While the whole chicken was resting, I cooked the thighs on the skewers. It didn’t say anything about cutting up the thighs so I threaded them on the skewers whole. This worked ok, but in the future, I think I’d cut them in half. Also, I’d recommend skewering the whole chicken before rubbing it with the mixture. Otherwise it’s kind of hard (and messy) to grab the chicken covered in oil to try and skewer it.

I cooked this dish taouk on a Saturday when I had the time to use the grill and leisurely prepare dinner. We all enjoyed the chicken but all agreed that the sauce needed more of a punch. Perhaps some chili flakes or some other source of heat.

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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