Food on a stick makes for easy summer grilling. Marinate chunks of chicken overnight in an Asian-inspired marinade, thread onto bamboo sticks, grill and glaze with Hoisin barbecue sauce for a quick and delicious dinner of grilled Hoisin chicken kabobs. The flavor is fabulous. Use either homemade Hoisin or store bought.
What is Hoisin Sauce?
If you've ever had Mu Shu at a Chinese restaurant, the corresponding sauce is called Hoisin. It's sometimes called Chinese barbecue Sauce. It has a sweet-tart flavor that makes it delicious for marinating, basting, or glazing meats, seafood and vegetables.
Grilled Hoisin Chicken Kabobs
I love Hoisin but didn't like the ingredients in store bottled brands, so I playing mad chemist I created my own recipe. I've slathered it on chicken, ribs, burgers, shrimp and scallops. Make it thick or thin it with a little water for a glaze.
It's terrific with chunks of chicken, both boneless skinless breasts and thighs and a nice switch sweet-savory-tart up from standard barbecue sauce.
How to Make Homemade Hoisin Sauce
I know there is a few ingredients to this, but once you make it I'll think you'll be pleased. Plus a batch lasts awhile for many uses. If you're adventurous, make some. If not, buy some but read labels closely.
Ingredients for Homemade Hoisin:
- Low sodium Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce, I buy San-J Light)
- Creamy cashew butter or tahini
- Melted coconut oil
- Sesame oil (regular or toasted)
- Fish sauce (I buy Red Boat)
- Tamarind paste (optional but delicious)
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Chinese Five Spice Powder and granulated garlic
Shake well in a jar until smooth or whirl in a blender for a few seconds. Hoisin thickens up in the refrigerator. It will last at least a month refrigerated.
I know this sounds like a lot of ingredients, but it's so tasty. Some you may not be familiar with, like Chinese 5 spice (a blend of 5 warm spices) and tamarind puree or paste (sweet-tart flavor). You'll find more things to do with them than just this sauce. This article gives you ideas with the tropical fruit called tamarind.
If you love to find new ingredients to play with, I think you'll have fun with these..
Pieces of chicken breast skewered for grilling on a tray.
Grilling Sticks, Food Safety and Faster Cleanup
For sticks, use bamboo. Go for the thicker sticks, not the skinny ones. Soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before using. Alternatively use metal skewers.
For food safety and faster cleanup, cover a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap or foil. Place the raw kabobs on the lined sheet to transport to the grill. When the chicken is on the grill, remove the plastic, toss, and you have a clean tray to transport finished chicken back to the kitchen. No grill? Use a well seasoned cast iron grill pan pre-heat to hot.
Grilled Chicken Kabobs Tips
When grilling chicken on a stick, cut the pieces into larger chunks, about 1 ½" across. Small pieces cook too fast resulting in dry chicken. Marinate the chicken 1 hour on the kitchen counter, 4-6 hours refrigerated, or over night for the most flavor. Skewer the chicken and allow it to stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes before grilling.
When the grill is hot and the grates are brushed clean, oil the grates. Use tongs and a wad of paper towels dipped in oil. To further prevent the chicken from sticking, spray the meat lightly with non-stick spray oil (like avocado oil) right before you place the kabobs on the grill. You'll have no problem turning those kabobs or leaving half of the meat stuck to the grill.
Place the chicken kabobs on the grill and turn the heat down to medium. When you get good grill marks on one side, turn the kabobs and brush with the Hoisin sauce. Cook kabobs on the other side for another 1-2 minutes, turn and brush with sauce again.
Timing will depend on how hot your grill is. Overall grilling time was 7-8 minutes for my kabobs. The chicken is done when the meat is firm to the touch but still gives a little. Don't over cook them for tender, moist kabobs.
When you take the kabobs off the grill and place them on the clean baking sheet, brush them again with the sauce. That way you will get a good layer of flavor and beautiful color.
Platter of grilled Hoisin
- Bamboo or metal grilling sticks
- 1 ½-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- ½ cup homemade or bottled Hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro optional garnish
- ¼ cup low sodium tamari (wheat free soy)
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil toasted or regular
- 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce Look for Red Boat brand
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 lime juiced
- Cut the chicken breasts into large pieces, about 1 ½″ in size. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour at room temperature or 4-6 hours refrigerated, or overnight.
- 45-60 minutes before dinner, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Drain off the marinade and discard. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil or plastic wrap. Spear the chicken pieces onto the bamboo sticks, placing the chicken pieces snugly together. Lay prepared kabobs on the covered baking sheet.
- Pre-heat the grill (or grill pan) to hot. For outdoor grilling, scrape the grill grates clean and oil them. Use a wad of paper towels and tongs. You can also use a grill-approved non-stick spray or avocado spray.
- Turn the hot grill down to medium. Place the chicken kabobs on the grill and grill the first side of the kabobs until golden and you get good grill marks, about 3-4 minutes. Turn and brush with a little Hoisin. Grill the other side for another 3 minutes, brush with sauce and turn. Do not over cook the chicken. When done it will feel firm to the touch with a little give in the center. Glaze with more sauce upon removing from the grill if desired. Serve with chopped cilantro if desired and extra Hoisin sauce to dip.