Shashlik (Pork Shish Kabobs)
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Here is my veggie-filled take on a traditional Caucasus dish called shashlik. This pork shish kabobs recipe is a quick and easy way to create a flavor-packed meal with your grill! Plus, the honey, lemon and mint sauce is just THE best on these!
For both health and religious reasons, many Muslims (and people of other faiths) refrain from eating pork. This is probably why there are so few pork recipes originating from areas along the Old Silk Road.
Nonetheless, pork is still popular and widely used in recipes throughout Asia, the Mediterranean, Balkan Peninsula, and Russia. Today, we’re following the Old Silk Road into Caucasus region for an easy shashlik recipe made with marinated pork. The Caucasus, or Caucasia, is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea; mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia.
Shashlik is a Caucasus recipe for pork kabobs. It’s traditionally made with marinated pork without any vegetables. I decided to add fresh vegetables to the skewers with the meat as a fun and filling twist. I find that they work really well with the pork, and the veggies round out the recipe so that it’s a full meal. Serve with another side like rice or salad and you’ve got yourself a delicious dinner option!
Shish kabobs originated in Turkey, but grilling meat on skewers is popular in many other countries as well. Some other favorites include Moroccan kafta and Lebanese kafta, and Persian koobideh and joojeh kabobs. It’s no secret: grilling meat is one of the best ways to highlight its flavor.
As you know, this blog is all about sharing my favorite foods found on the ancient Silk Road. I share a lot of recipes that originated in Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. Today we’re heading north to Russia!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Pork – Always opt for boneless center-cut pork loin chops for your meat. Avoid using pieces of lean meat like pork tenderloin as they will only dry up on the grill! You can also substitute chicken or lamb for the pork.
- Bell Peppers – Use red, green, and yellow bell peppers that have been cut into 2-inch pieces.
- Onion – You’ll also add fresh chopped onion to your pork kabobs! Stick with red onion, which is milder and a bit sweeter than yellow or white, and caramelizes on the grill.
- Marinade – When you marinate your pork before you grill it, you’ll only add to its flavor. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make your own:
- Olive Oil
- White Wine – The alcohol will burn off as it cooks! You can also replace it with broth or lemon juice.
- White Onion
- Sauce – This simple sauce adds so much to this recipe! To make yours you need:
- Chopped Mint Leaves
- Black Pepper
Names: Shashlik, shashlyk, kabob(s), skewers
Course: Main dish
Recipe difficulty: Easy 🥄
This recipe for pork kabobs features boneless center-cut pork loin, colorful bell peppers, and red onion. The meat sits in marinade for a couple of hours before skewering and grilling it. Just before serving, the meat and vegetables are drizzled with a delicious honey mint sauce.
HOW TO MAKE SHASHLIK (PORK SHISH KABOBS)
- Marinate the Pork. In a small bowl, mix your marinade ingredients together. Cut your pork chops into cubes (you should get 6-8 from each cut of meat) and place them in a Ziploc plastic bag along with the marinade. Seal the bag and massage the meat so that it absorbs the marinade. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better!
- Prepare Your Skewers. Preheat your grill to 400°F. Take the pork out of the marinade and place the bell peppers, onion, and pieces of pork on skewers, being sure to alternate.
- Make Your Sauce. Mix together the juice from one lemon, honey, and mint in a small bowl. Season your sauce with salt and pepper while stirring. Slice the rest of your lemons into ½-inch thick rings and set to the side.
- Grill Your Pork Kabobs. Spray each shish kabob with cooking spray or olive oil and place them on the grill. Let them cook for 1-2 minutes on each side — aim for an internal temperature of 145° F. You can use a food-safe thermometer to determine the temp. Grill the lemon slices as well.
- Let Rest and Serve. When your kabobs are cooked through, allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle with a bit of the homemade honey and mint sauce and serve with the grilled lemons. Enjoy!
Best cut of pork for kabobs
Just about any cut of pork is delicious when it’s grilled properly. That being said, small pieces of lean meat tend to dry out quickly on the grill. When you make pork kabobs, it’s important to avoid using lean cuts like pork tenderloin.
Instead, choose a cut that cooks quickly but also has a bit of fat, like center-cut pork loin or even boneless pork shoulder
Most boneless pork comes from the center or back loin area of the animal.
Also, pork loin and pork tenderloin are two completely different cuts! Pork loin is fattier and lighter in color than the tenderloin.
Shashlik recipe notes
- Substitutes for pork
This recipe can be made using any type of boneless meat or poultry. Lamb and chicken are popular choices.
- Want to use different veggies? No problem!
As long as each of the vegetables you choose are a similar consistency, you can add anything you like to your pork kabobs. Avoid combinations of soft and firm veggies though; they require different cooking times and/or temperatures.
- Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling
About 30 minutes before you are ready to grill, take the meat out of the marinade and skewer it. Then let the pork kabobs sit at room temperature. It’s difficult to form a nice sear on cold meat.
How Do You Grill Shish Kabobs Without Burning The Vegetables?
Some chefs struggle to grill pork kabobs without burning the vegetables in the process. It makes sense — you’re so worried about making sure that the meat is cooked through that it can be easy to overcook everything! You can avoid this by making sure that the veggies and meat are cut into even pieces.
You’ll also want to make sure that all of the vegetables you add have a similar consistency. Don’t mix firm and soft veggies on the same kabob. That’s why using bell peppers and onions (both firm) works best!
What Can I Serve With Pork Shish Kabobs?
If you’re wondering what to serve with your own creations, I’ve got a few ideas. I love serving my Moroccan couscous or this fregola salad as sides. You can also keep things simple and opt for lentils, rice, or pasta salad!
Can I Make Shish Kabobs In The Oven?
If you don’t have a grill, or if the weather doesn’t permit you to be outside to cook, you can definitely cook shashlik in the oven! Preheat your oven to 450°F. Prepare your pork kabobs as instructed on the recipe card and place them on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, making sure to flip the skewers about halfway through the cooking time. Drizzle with your homemade sauce before serving!
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Shashlik (Pork Shish Kabobs)
- 2 lbs boneless center-cut pork loin chops
- 3 colored bell peppers cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 large red onion cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 small white onion grated
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 2 large lemons (1 is for grilling)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- Mix together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Cut each boneless center cut pork chop into 6-8 cubes. Transfer pork and marinade to a Ziploc bag. Cut each boneless center cut pork chop into 6-8 cubes
- Squeeze air out of bag and seal. Massage pork with marinade and marinate overnight or 4 hours minimum in refrigerator.
- Preheat grill to 400°F. Remove pork from marinade and discard marinade. Alternately skewer bell pepper, onion and pork on skewers.
- In a small bowl mix together the juice from one lemon (about 3-4 tablespoons), honey and mint. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Set aside. Slice remaining lemons into 1/2 inch thick rings and set aside.
- Spray pork kabobs with cooking spray or olive oil to coat, then grill 1-2 minutes per side, or to an internal temperature of 145°F. Grill lemon slices on both sides along with kabobs.
- Allow meat to rest 5 minutes, then serve with grilled lemons and a drizzle of honey mint sauce over the top.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Barbecue and grilling are widely popular in Russia. Most of the time the Russians enjoy Caucasian style shashlik. The main difference to European or western style barbecue is the size of meat pieces. In the Caucasus, small pieces of meat and vegetables are thread onto long metal skewers.
Appreciate your insight here, thanks Gela. I hope you give my version a try and enjoy!
What? It has nothing to do with Russia.
Shashlik is Caucasian dish and everyone should know that.
Indeed it is and stated as such. Thanks Gela!
You have your places mixed up!
The Caucasus Mountains (NOT Caucasian) are boardered with Russia, Georgia & Azerbaijan.
If you need more clarification….
So tasty! Served over rice.. the mint sauce takes it to a new level of yummy! Don’t hesitate to give this a go!
Thanks so much Lorraine.
I’ve been making shish kabob for years, including a marinade, but I’ve never made it with a sauce. For anyone reading this comment, be sure to make a double batch of the lemon mint sauce. It is delicious!
Sorry for the late reply Don, I just saw this and apologize. Thanks for making this one and for taking the time to come back and let me know. That sauce IS everything on top, right?! 🙂