Kabobs, kebabs, or skewers: they go by many names. Food on a stick is part of the fun of summer grilling. Marinate chunks of chicken overnight in an Asian-inspired marinade, thread onto bamboo sticks, grill and glaze for a quick and delicious dinner of grilled Hoisin chicken kabobs.
Hoisin Barbecue Sauce
Since developing my new recipe for Chinese Hoisin barbecue sauce, I’ve been slathering it on chicken, shrimp and scallops then grilling. You can use it thick or thin it with a little water and use it like a glaze.
To make Hoisin, combine low sodium Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce), creamy raw cashew butter (best price on Thrive Market), melted coconut oil, molasses, sesame oil, fish sauce (nước mắm), tamarind paste (optional but delicious), honey, 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.
The Hoisin thickens up in the refrigerator. You can use it thick or thin it just a bit with a little water. It will last at least a month refrigerated, so you can make a batch and try it on different things.
For sticks, use bamboo. Go for the thicker sticks, the 4mm size, not the really skinny ones. The thicker ones don’t burn up as fast. Soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before using. 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. No grill? Use a well seasoned cast iron grill pan pre-heat to very hot.
When grilling chicken on a stick, don’t cut the pieces too small. Cut the pieces into larger chunks, about 1 1/2″ across. What looks bite-sized raw shrinks up to tiny during grilling. Plus small pieces often cook too fast resulting in dry chicken. Marinate the chicken, refrigerated, 4-6 hours or over night for the most flavor. Skewer the chicken and allow it to stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes to get the chill off.
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 with non-stick spray 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. For spray oil I Spectrum Organics Organic High Heat Sunflower Oil Spray.
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.
Overall grilling time was 7-8 minutes for my kabobs, so they cook quickly. Timing will depend on how hot your grill is. The chicken is done when the meat is firm to the touch but still gives a little, not rock hard. Don’t over cook them for tender, moist kabobs.
When you take the kabobs off the grill and place them on the baking sheet (now without the plastic or foil so it is clean), brush them again with the sauce. That way you will get a good layer of flavor and beautiful color.
Complete Your Meal
For vegetables, try snap peas or snow peas drizzled with a little sesame or coconut oil. Add a big salad with avocados and tomatoes, and maybe a small side of brown or black rice.
Grilled Hoisin Chicken Kabobs
- 1 1/2-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 cup gluten-free Hoisin sauce homemade, recipe here
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro optional
- 1/4 cup low sodium tamari wheat-free soy sauce, I use San-J lite 50% less sodium
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil like Spectrum grapeseed
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce I use Red Boat
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 lime juiced
- 8 10" bamboo skewers or more of a smaller size
Cut the chicken breasts into large pieces, about 1 1/2″ 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 4-6 hours or up to overnight.
- 45-60 minutes before dinner, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Drain off the marinade and discard. Completely 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.
Place the chicken kabobs on the grill and turn the heat from high to medium. Grill the first side of the kabobs until golden and you get good grill marks, about 3-4 minutes. Brush the kabobs with a little of the Hoisin sauce, then turn them. 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. Serve with chopped cilantro if desired and extra Hoisin sauce to dip.
When you remove the chicken from the refrigerator, place the bamboo skewers to soak in water until grill time to prevent them from burning.