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Kabob Marinade Recipes and Sauces for Lamb, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

Shish Kabobs or Kababs are popular grilled baked and barbecued dishes made using pieces of seasoned meat and vegetables on skewers and served with condiments and sauces.

What makes the kabobs perfect, is the marinade used to tenderize and add flavour to the meat and vegetables, and the sauces which are used as a dressing when serving the cooked kabobs.

Getting the correct marinade and using it properly is the key for successful preparation of these dishes. Vegetarian kabobs also benefit from being pre-soaked in marinade.

Learn the secrets of the perfect marinade recipes for Lamb, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp and how to use them properly. Also see a fabulous array of the best ever kabob sauces.

Fabulous kabobs ready to cook after marinating the meat and vegetables
Fabulous kabobs ready to cook after marinating the meat and vegetables | Source
Fresh ingredients ready to make the kabobs
Fresh ingredients ready to make the kabobs | Source
Lovely kabobs made with marinated steak pieces
Lovely kabobs made with marinated steak pieces | Source
Fish and seafood need more delicate marinades and much shorter periods of time
Fish and seafood need more delicate marinades and much shorter periods of time | Source

Why Marinade and How to Do it Properly?

The acid in the marinade causes the meat tissue fibers to start to break down. This tenderizes the meat and allows more liquid to be absorbed and penetrate further into the meat. This produces a product that is more tender and juicier when cooked. Too much acid can made the meat mushy and less tasty. A good marinade has the right balance of acid, spice and oil. The spice adds flavor that penetrates into the meat and the oil adds to the juicy and moist taste of the meat.

A good marinade performs multiple functions simultaneously. But getting the right balance for the components is essential. Be careful to not overdo it , or swamp the flavor of the meat with an overpowering marinade.

One trick is not to leave excess marinade on the meat as it can burn and ruin the taste. The marinade is meant to penetrate, not to be a surface rub or coating.

Peppers, chilies and onions should be used sparingly. Worcestershire and soy sauces add salty taste and flavor, when used sparingly. A lot of marinades include ginger, which again can ruin fish and molluscs when too much ginger is used

Knowing how long to marinate is also important - neither too little or too long. Take account of the texture of the meat or vegetables you are marinating. Generally, fish and seafood needs much less time than chicken. The denser meats such as beef, pork and lamb need longer times. It also depends on the thickness of the meat pieces. Remember that the flavor enhancement by the marinade should be subtle and complement the flavor of the food.

Safe Marinating Tips

Marinating is not without hazards and being aware of the risk of contamination is important. Raw red meat, fish, shellfish, and particularly chicken and ground beef can contain harmful bacteria which may infect and multiply in the marinade. It is important to realize this and to regard all meat and the marinade in which it is put as potentially contaminated.

The main tips are:

  • Long length marinating should be done in the refrigerator to retard the proliferation of the bacteria.
  • Used marinade should be discarded and not come into contact with cooked food or any other food items or utensil used for preparing fresh foods such as salads and dressings. Don’t pour the used marinade over the meat when it is cooked and don’t use it to make a sauce. make a fresh marinade, or some of the original batch that has been or set-aside and not come into contact with the meat.
  • Be careful of the risk of contamination from marinade on surfaces such as chopping boards and knives and forks.
  • Keep the marinade in the fridge in a separate are from the fresh raw food.

Key Components of Marinades


Adding an acid into the marinades for both meats and vegetables tenderizes and allows the liquid to be absorbed into the food items. Wines, vinegars, fruit juices, wine vinegars, lemon and other citrus juices do the job as well as adding specific flavors. Yogurts and other dairy products are used in many Indian marinade recipes such as tandoori. Dairy products also help to tone down the ‘gamey flavor’ of wild game. Bourbon, whiskey and other spirits can be used sparingly in combination with vinegars and fruit juices.


Be careful because adding too much salt tends to dry foods, especially meats and fish, certainly if marinated too long. Wine combined with salt makes a good meat marinade. Too much soy sauce can also kill the taste especially with fish and other seafood.


Canola oil, safflower, olive, corn, peanut and soy oils are good choices for marinades. Some oils have neutral tastes such as grape seed oil, rice bran. Some have added a strong flavoring affect, such as sesame, walnut and various types of chilli flavoured oils. Oils depend on acids to be effective and allow the oil and flavours to penetrate. Too much oil can swamp the meat and so keep the oil content to less than 20-25% of the volume.

Natural Tenderizing Enzymes

Papain is a protein-digesting enzyme that occurs in papaya and some other plants that softens and tenderizes meat protein in this case. Prune juice acts the same way. Other food with these properties are Pineapple, Figs, Ginger, Kiwifruit, Mango. Be careful as these enzymes are powerful and so watch the time. Most of the commercial powdered meat tenderizers contain enzymes.

Herbs Spices and other Flavors

The variety is up to you. Oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme work well as well as fresh basil and coriander. Common spices are peppers, anise, cinnamon, garlic, onion, coriander, ginger, cumin, turmeric and lemongrass, lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime and black pepper go well with many herbs and spices.

Soy Sauce‭

Soy sauce provides both acid and salt , but use it sparingly.‭

Worcestershire Sauce‭

Worcestershire is a great peppery and spicy sauce for marinades. Its ingredients include vinegar,‭ ‬corn syrup,‭ ‬anchovies, molasses,‭ ‬spices, pepper and other flavors.‭ ‬It too should be used sparingly

Dry Rubs‭

A dry rub is a made from crushed herbs and spices,‭ ‬including as pepper,‭ ‬chili paprika,‭ ‬garlic, thyme,‭ ‬basil, rosemary,‭ ‬oregano . The famous Dukkah dry rub includes nuts.‭ ‬Avoid dry rubs that contains sugar as it tends to burn when the meat is cooked.‭ ‬Rubs are not really marinades as the flavor stays on the outside and does not penetrate into the meat.

Wet Rubs

Wet rubs are very similar to dry rubs,‭ ‬but they are wet and more like a marinade, but generally thicker. They work well on strong flavored meats.


Brining involves soaking the meat in a moderately strong salty solution for a several hours to one or two days.‭ ‬The brine solution can include a wide range of ingredients,‭ ‬such as garlic,‭ ‬peppercorns, beer,‭ ‬maple syrup,‭ ‬and many other things.‭

How long to marinate

  • Always refrigerate the meat when marinading unless the time period is less than‭ ‬20‭ ‬minutes.‭
  • Large and ‬whole pieces of meat‭ ‬should be left for for‭ ‬12‭ ‬-‭ ‬24‭ ‬hours covered in the fridge.
  • Smaller thin steaks and cubes of meat for kabobs‭ ‬only require 2-3‭ ‬hours marinating time.
  • Vegetables, fish and seafood only need to be marinaded for 20-30 minutes.
  • Times depend on the strength and power of the ingredients in the marinade.

How to cook meat that has been marinated

  • Take the meat cubs to be used for the kabobs lightly dry the meat cubes with absorbent paper before assembling the kabobs on the skewers.‭ ‬If the cubes are not dried the meat will not brown properly.
  • Don‭’‬t pour any marinade over the meat while it‭’‬s cooking. This risks contamination and makes the meat stew rather than roast.‭ Set some of the original marinade aside before adding meat to the remainder. ‬Use this as a moisturizer by brushing on the meat as it cooks.

General‭ ‬Purpose Meat Marinade Recipe

Ingredients for Meat Marinade

  • ‏3‏ small spring onions (or chives), chopped (optional)
  • 1/2‏ ‎cup honey
  • 1/3‏ ‎cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2‏ ‎tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1/2‏ ‎cup wine vinegar
  • 1‏ teaspoon, black pepper,‬ ‭freshly ground
  • 3‏ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 3 teaspoons of dry parsley flakes)
  • 1/2‏ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4‏ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4‏ cup soy sauce
  • ‏1 1/2 cups oil

Method for Marinading Meat

Place all ingredients, apart from green onions) into a blender‭ (‬except the green onions,‭ ‬if using add them in after blending‭)‬.‭ ‬Blend for about 25- 40 seconds (no need to over do it). Add the spring onions.‭ ‬This recipe provides‭ ‬3-1/2‭ ‬cups of marinade. Marinate the lamb, beef or‭ ‬pork for‭ ‬6‭-‬24‭ ‬hours, and chicken up to‭ 3-‬8‭ ‬hours, in the refrigerator.‭

Best Ever Marinades for Specific Types of Meat

Lamb Marinade for Kabobs (can also be used for lamb chops)‬

  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Rind of 1 lemon grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, add the lamb pieces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. Stir once or twice to ensure even marinating.

Bourbon and Blueberry Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan using medium heat. Sauté the onions until tender and beginning to brown (about 2 to 4 minutes). Add the jalapeno and garlic and cook while stirring for about 30-45 seconds. Add the bourbon, turn-up the heat to high and heat to boiling. Simmer vigorously for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the brown sugar, molasses, blueberries, vinegar, ketchup and allspice. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, while stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens (about 20-30) minutes.

Gentle‭ ‬Fish marinade

2‏ ‎teaspoons fresh ginger,‭ ‬finely chopped
1‏ ‎garlic clove,‭ ‬chopped finely
2‏ ‎scallions,‭ ‬chopped‭ (‬or‭ ‬2‭ ‬green or spring onions‭)
3‏ ‎tablespoons soy sauce
1/4‏ ‎cup olive oil
4‏ ‎salmon fillets,‭ ‬steaks‭ (‬or other firm fish cut into pieces after marinating‭)

Mix‭ ‬all the ingredients in a bowl or bag,‭ ‬add the fish and‭ ‬marinate for‭ ‬45-60‭ ‬minutes in the refrigerator‭ (‬no longer‭)‬.‭ ‬Grill,‭ ‬bake or grill‭ ‬the fish for about‭ ‬4‭ ‬minutes per side, or cut into pieces for the kabobs.

Pork Marinade

  • 2‏ ‎lb (1 kg) pork tenderloins chopped into large cubes for the kabobs
  • ‏ ‎1 pinch garlic powder or‭ ‬2 teaspoons of fresh chopped ginger
  • ‏ ‎2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ‏1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1
  • ‏‎‏ ‎1 1/2 teaspoons minced onion
  • ‏ ‎2 tablespoons sherry
  • ‏ ‎1/4 cup brown sugar,‭ ‬packed
  • ‏‎1/4 cup soy sauce

Put all the marinade ingredients into‭ ‬a large resealable plastic bag.‭ ‬Seal,‭ ‬then‭ ‬shake to mix.‭ ‬Add the pork,‭ ‬shake,‭ ‬seal,‭ ‬and refrigerate for‭ ‬about‭ ‬6‭ ‬-‭ ‬12‭ ‬hours.

Best Mustard Marinade

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2‏ ‎teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2‏ ‎teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4‏ ‎cup soy sauce
  • 1/4‏ ‎cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4‏ ‎cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4‏ ‎cup olive oil

‏Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Chicken Marinade

  • 1‏ ‎1/2‏ ‎teaspoons finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1‏ ‎tablespoon black pepper
  • 1‏ ‎teaspoon salt
  • 2‏ ‎tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1/2‏ ‎cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4‏ ‎cup soy sauce
  • 1‏ 1/2 cups vegetable oil

‏In a small bowl, combine the oil, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, wine vinegar and the lemon juice. Mix in the mustard powder, pepper, salt and parsley.

Vegetable Marinade

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ‎‏1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ‎‏1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ‎‏1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • ‎‏1/4 cup minced onion
  • ‎‏1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ‏2/3 cup olive oil

‏Combine all ingredients and mix well. Marinade the cut vegetables for the kabobs for 3 - 4 hours

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson


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