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Grilled Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki
Tender, juicy and flavorful!
Grilled Lamb Souvlaki is a delicious make-ahead meal, perfect for summer gatherings on the deck. With everything prepped early in the day, all you have left to do is grill and serve!
Souvlaki is Greek street food at its best. The word souvlaki actually means small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer. Sometimes confused with kebabs which are made with well-seasoned ground meat formed into football shaped meatballs, also grilled on a skewer.
This recipe can be made with lamb, as we’ve done here, or with chicken, beef or pork. This marinade recipe works very well with chunks of chicken breast or thighs, a high quality cut of beef or a nice pork tenderloin.
Chicken is probably the most popular type of meat used for Souvlaki. If you plan to make a chicken version be sure you don’t overcook as it has a tendency to dry out. When making grilled chicken skewers, we prefer our recipe for Grilled Greek Chicken that starts with a yogurt based marinade.
Ingredients for Lamb Souvlaki:
For the marinade and sauce:
- fresh lemon juice – about 3 lemons
- olive oil
- fresh oregano leaves, diced
- garlic – minced
- lamb – remove any visible fat and silver skin. Cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes.
- lemon zest
- red onion cut into 1 and 1/2-inch pieces
- red bell pepper cut into 1 and 1/2-inch pieces
- lemons – cut in half for grilling
- small firm tomatoes like Campari – cut in half for grilling
- fresh parsley and/or oregano leaves for garnish
- pita bread
- tzatziki sauce
- french fries (optional)
How to make Lamb Souvlaki
Combine the marinade ingredients and pour half into a large zipper bag.
Add the lamb, seal and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.
Add lemon zest, honey and parsley to the remaining half of the marinade. Cover and store at room temperature until ready to serve. This sauce will be brushed or drizzled over the grilled skewers just before serving.
When ready to grill, thread lamb on skewers alternating with pieces of onion and bell pepper. Discard lamb marinade.
Preheat the grill and clean well. Oil the grates and grill the skewers until well browned on all sides.
Grill the lemon halves, tomatoes and the pita breads.
Drizzle with reserved marinade sauce and serve.
What is Tzatziki Sauce?
Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt based sauce made with cucumber, olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic. It’s the perfect sauce for grilled meats whether on skewers, kebabs or sliced in a pita sandwich. Tzatziki is easy to make and keeps well for days. Use fresh herbs like parsley, dill and oregano for the best flavor.
How to make Tzatziki Sauce
- First peel half of a large English cucumber.
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out any seeds using a spoon.
- Shred the cucumber on a large box grater and transfer to a strainer. Allow the cucumber to drain for 10 to 15 minutes while preparing the remaining ingredients.
- Combine the Greek yogurt, olive oil, fresh dill, parsley, garlic, pepper and salt.
- Add the drained cucumber. Stir to combine.
- Check the seasoning and add salt or pepper if needed.
- Cover and refrigerate until needed.
What’s the best cut of lamb to use for Souvlaki?
Leg of lamb, shoulder or tenderloin are the best options for these skewers. I usually buy a large, boneless leg of lamb and cut it in half. I use half for this recipe and freeze the remaining lamb to use later.
When preparing the lamb, remove as much fat as possible and any large sections of silver skin. This connective tissue does not melt like fat and will end up chewy and tough. Carefully slide a sharp knife under the silver skin to loosen. Grab a large section and pull to remove and discard.
How to make Greek-styled wraps
While traveling in Greece on the Island of Crete, I enjoyed an authentic and delicious pita wrapped around sliced lamb, tzatziki and french fries. Who knew?!
Try it at home. Bet you’re going to love it, too. Add a little hummus and grilled vegetables too. So good!
What to serve with Lamb Souvlaki
Another great option is to serve the skewers with French Fries, or even better, try these tasty Greek Lemon Potatoes!
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Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki
For the lamb skewers and marinade:
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice about 3 lemons
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds lamb trimmed of fat and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- zest from 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves chopped
- 1 large red onion cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
- 2 red bell peppers cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
For the tzatziki:
- ½ English cucumber
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves minced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- lemons cut in half
- tomatoes cut in half
- fresh parsley or oregano leaves chopped for garnish
- Pita bread
- Tzatziki sauce
- french fries optional
To prepare the marinade:
- In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic. Pour HALF the marinade into a large zipper bag. Add the lamb cubes to the zipper bag and seal. Refrigerate, turning frequently, for 4 to 8 hours.
- Add the lemon zest, honey and parsley to the remaining marinade and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature. This sauce will be drizzled over the grilled lamb just before serving.
To prepare the tzatziki:
- Peel the cucumber and slice in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Shred the cucumber on a large box grater over a strainer. Drain for a few minutes then transfer to a small bowl. Add the remaining tzatziki sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Tzatziki sauce can be made 24 hours in advance. Serve the remaining cucumber (sliced) with the Souvlaki, if desired.
When ready to grill:
- If using bamboo skewers soak in water for one hour before grilling. Thread the lamb cubes on skewers alternating with pieces of red onion and bell pepper. Discard lamb marinade. Set aside at room temperature while preparing the grill.
- Preheat grill on high for 10 to 15 minutes. Clean and generously grease the grill grates using folded paper towels soaked in vegetable oil. Use long grilling tongs for oiling the grates to prevent burns.
- Cut the lemons and tomatoes in half. Lightly brush the cut sides with vegetable oil. Grill, cut side down, until well charred. Remove to a clean pan and set aside.
- If needed, oil the grill grates again. Grill the lamb skewers turning occasionally until charred on all sides. Remove from the grill. Quickly heat the pita bread on the grill until warmed through.
- To serve, brush or drizzle some of the remaining marinade sauce over the Souvlaki.
- To make a pita sandwich: Hold a warm pita in your left hand, and the skewer in your right. Pull the contents from the skewer into the pita bread. Top with french fries, if using, tzatziki sauce, a squeeze of grilled lemon juice and a few tomatoes. Drizzle with more reserved marinade, if desired. Serve!
- Gently rewarm leftovers to avoid overcooking
- Recipe makes approximately 8 skewers depending on length of skewers and amount of vegetables added.
- Lamb can be grilled on skewers without vegetables, if desired. Or, grill vegetables separately brushed lightly with oil.
Originally published July 2011, updated June 2021