Chicken Souvlaki Pitas Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + marinating Grill: 10 min.
Loads of lemon and garlic give this easy chicken souvlaki a punch. Pair it with pita and tzatziki for a quick and tasty meal!

Updated: Mar. 26, 2024

The Mediterranean region boasts ingredients like olive oil, olives, several types of herbs and spices, and numerous citrus fruits. These ingredients are colorful, delicious and heart-healthy. Greek-style chicken souvlaki is a beautiful dish that showcases some of these foods. It’s a prime example of how a few high-quality, fresh ingredients and kitchen staples can turn ordinary chicken into a special Mediterranean recipe.

Chicken souvlaki is made of marinated garlic- and lemon-scented meat threaded onto skewers and cooked on a grill. It doesn’t get more classic—or classical—than food cooked on sticks over fire: Homer mentioned a food much like souvlaki in The Iliad, and historical records show that people have been eating bits of flame-kissed marinated meat since the Bronze Age.

Don’t have skewers, or a grill? No worries. We’ll give you some alternatives for preparing chicken souvlaki below.

Chicken Souvlaki Ingredients

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast: This recipe calls for chicken breast, but if you have a whole chicken or prefer dark meat, the dish would be excellent with a mix of breast and thigh meat, or just thigh meat. Get more tips on how to cook chicken with our helpful guide.
  • Lemons: Lemons shine in this dish! Look for bright-yellow lemons that are firm but squeezable. Very firm lemons with extra-thick skins contain less juice.
  • Olive oil: If you have extra virgin olive oil, use it in this dish. Since the marinade contains only a few ingredients, the robust flavor from your oil will serve you well. There is a difference between olive oil vs. extra virgin olive oil in recipes; here are our Test Kitchen’s picks for the best olive oil brands.
  • Tzatziki: Tzatziki is a garlic-cucumber sauce that tastes great on grilled, lemony chicken souvlaki. Our recipe suggests buying it at the grocery store—it’s readily found just about everywhere—but you can easily make it yourself with cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic and olive oil. It’s fantastic with all sorts of meats and vegetable dishes, especially sandwiches. Or just use it as a dip for vegetables and crispy pita chips.
  • Pita bread: Pita is the perfect vehicle for grilled chicken and all the delicious toppings. Use store-bought pita, or make your own traditional pita bread (it’s actually quite easy!). Have pita left over? Don’t worry, we have lots of recipes with pita bread for the extras.

Directions

Step 1: Squeeze your lemons

squeezing the lemon juice into a large bowl using citrus reamerTMB Studio

Cut three lemons in half crosswise (if the top and bottom of a lemon are its poles, you’ll want to cut through the equator). Using a citrus reamer or press (if you have one), squeeze the juice into a large bowl or a shallow baking dish. If you don’t have a reamer, squeeze the juice into a small strainer to remove the seeds.

Editor’s Tip: For even more flavor, you can zest the lemons before cutting and squeezing them, and add the zest to your marinade or to your tzatziki. Here’s how to zest a lemon three different ways.

Step 2: Make the marinade

Chicken chunks lemon juice and other ingredients mixed in a large bowl with a spatulaTMB Studio

Whisk the olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper into the lemon juice. Add the chicken to the marinade, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for one hour.

Editor’s Tip: If using wooden skewers, soak them for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Start that process while the chicken marinates.

Step 3: Build your skewers

Threading the chicken pieces and the lemon slices on the skewers.TMB Studio

Drain the chicken, and discard the marinade. Thinly slice the remaining lemons. Alternately thread the chicken pieces and the lemon slices onto 12 metal or soaked wooden skewers.

Step 4: Get grilling

chicken pieces and the lemon slices on on the grillTMB Studio

Grill the kebabs, covered, over medium (or broil them 4 inches from the heat in an oven), turning the skewers occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. If you have a thermometer, you’re looking for the center of the cubes to reach 165°F.

Chicken Souvlaki Pitas served with bread and lemon on a white tableTMB Studio

Step 5: Serve the skewers

Serve the skewers with pita bread, tzatziki and toppings such as red onion, tomato, cucumber slices and sprigs of dill.

Souvlaki Variations

  • Mix up the meat: You can make souvlaki with pretty much any protein: pork, tofu, lamb, beef, shrimp, fish, you name it! You’ll need to adjust your cooking times according to the protein you choose.
  • Freshen up your herbs: If you have access to fresh herbs, you could use oregano leaves instead of dried oregano. Start with three or four sprigs, pull off the leaves and mince (here’s more about fresh to dried herb conversion). For even more flavor, you could also add dill and/or basil.
  • Get by without gluten: You don’t need pita to eat chicken souvlaki. Try serving it on a bed of rice (we have tips on how to make fluffy rice), easy roasted potatoes or savory Mediterranean orzo.

How to Store Chicken Souvlaki

Slide leftover souvlaki off of its skewers, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. The chicken will last up to four days. Our guide on how to reheat chicken walks you through you a number of ways to enjoy your leftovers.

Chicken Souvlaki Tips

How do you make chicken souvlaki without skewers?

To make chicken souvlaki without skewers, you can cook the marinated meat in a pan on the stove, broil it on a baking sheet in the oven, or grill it atop a piece of tin foil.

What do you serve with chicken souvlaki?

Any veggie dish with Mediterranean vibes will be a good dish to serve with chicken souvlaki. We like to serve it with a Greek salad, some roasted asparagus or a creamy dill cucumber salad.

Watch how to Make Chicken Souvlaki Pitas

Chicken Souvlaki Pitas

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 10 min
Yield 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 medium lemons, divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 whole pita breads
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) refrigerated tzatziki sauce
  • Optional toppings: Chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced red onion and fresh dill sprigs

Directions

  1. Cut 3 lemons crosswise in half; squeeze juice from lemons. Transfer juice to a large bowl or shallow dish. Whisk in oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Thinly slice remaining 2 lemons. On 12 metal or soaked wooden skewers, alternately thread chicken and lemon slices. Grill kabobs, covered, over medium heat (or broil 4 in. from heat) until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve with pita bread, tzatziki sauce and toppings as desired.

Nutrition Facts

1 pita: 369 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 90mg cholesterol, 462mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 1g fiber), 37g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 fat.

This is a favorite at our house, especially in summer. A quick trip to the market for a few ingredients results in gourmet-style Greek sandwiches that we often enjoy outdoors by the grill. Of course, a simple Greek salad on the side is a nice addition. —Becky Drees, Pittsfield, Massachusetts