Shashlik (Russian Shish Kebabs)

19 Jun

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab commonly found in Russia and the former Soviet republics. It was likely brought to Moscow from Central Asia in the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular summer food cooked over an open fire at social gatherings. It’s traditionally prepared with lamb, but chicken, pork, and beef variations are becoming increasingly prominent. With summer in full swing throughout the country right now, I thought it would be a great time to share this tasty dish!

There are a few tricks that I came up with when developing this recipe that I think are pretty sweet. While the dish is traditionally marinated in either vinegar or lemon juice, I found that the combination of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gives the meat a tangy and subtly sweet flavor. Secondly, leaving the salt out of the marinade and saving it for the last stage of the recipe provides for a really great complementary texture to the tender and juicy meat.

You’ll Need:
1/2 lamb shoulder (2 lbs)
2 medium onions, blended
6 cloves garlic, blended
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon (2 tsp)
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt

I had my eye on this beautifully-marbled lamb shoulder from Lava Lake Lamb for a while now, and it was the perfect cut of meat for this dish. It’s such a versatile cut of meat that I actually only used half of it (two of its four pounds) so that I could save the rest for another creation!

Don’t forget that I’m giving away a $100 Lava Lake Lamb gift card this week; it’s easy to enter! See here for details.

Cut the lamb into 2″ chunks, and place in a ziploc bag.

In a blender or food processor, blend the onion, garlic, and water. Combine with the bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, pepper, oregano, and lemon juice and pour everything into the ziploc bag. Marinate in the fridge for four hours.

After four hours, skewer the lamb pieces (if using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes first) and warm up your grill on med/high heat.

Grill on direct heat, rotating the skewers with a pair of tongs every few minutes, and sprinkle the salt over the skewers as they cook.

When you have a hard time looking at the skewers because they are so delicious, remove them from the grill. Should take about 10 minutes altogether.

Let the shashlik rest for five minutes and serve. This dish is commonly served outdoors in Russia, with fresh, lightly-salted vegetables like tomato, mushrooms, or cucumbers as its only accompaniment. Enjoy!

30 Responses to “Shashlik (Russian Shish Kebabs)”

  1. jwintersmith1 June 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Liked the Domestic Man on Facebook!

  2. Alex Boake June 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    Um, yes. I think it is high time I had lamb again! This looks so simple, and simply delicious.

  3. OilyRice June 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I lived in Kazakhstan for a few years and the only food I miss is the Shashlik – Thanks for the recipe and reminder.

  4. trangquynh June 21, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    love the way you made the marinade, absolutely flavorful and delicious ^^ these shashlik russian shish kebabs will go great with a huge bowl of vegetable salad!

  5. TheWordpressGhost June 22, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:

    From the land of the original Barbarians (I think), comes the shish ka bobs of choice for MILLIONS.

    Everyone, HAVE you tried Shashlik?

    If not, the Domestic Man shares a really great recipe with us.


  6. BlueDustCollector June 22, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    looks so delicious! Great!

  7. kalenkimm June 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    This looks great. I don’t know anything about Russian food, but I just started working for a company with a large Russian engineering team that loves to BBQ. I am going to have to ask them to make this now.

  8. Eileen July 26, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    We were in Kazakhstan a few years ago & miss Shashlik. We had pork, chicken, beef & lamb. Do you think the marinade would go well with other meats (or have you tried it with other meats) like beef & pork? Thanks!

    • Russ Crandall ( July 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Eileen, they most definitely will work well with other meats! I’d love to hear how they turned out.

      • Eileen July 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

        I sure will Russ & thanks for getting back to me! We’ll be making these tomorrow!

  9. Stormy @Maoomba January 7, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Moldova. Shashlik was the specialty of one of the restaurants in town, and I probably ate it at least once a week. Thank you for a recipe that will let me reminisce a little this coming weekend!

  10. Alisha March 23, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    I truly loved eating this when I live in Russia!!! They layered the huge chunks of lamb between chunks of onion and you always paid by the weight. One HUGE Shashlik would cost about 4 bucks and it was traditional to eat it with ketchup. Hahaha!! I’m so happy you shared this as I have yet to find anyone here in the states come close to the taste and delicate texture.

  11. zhan June 6, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    I marinated this over night and will cook it this evening for some Kazakhs. Hopefully they’ll consider me one of them when they taste it! :) thanks for this recipe

  12. kelby price June 18, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    My wife is from Russia. She told me all about this when we were dating. We had it in Baltimore at an Uzbek restaurant while visiting Russian friends. We are having it tonight at our home in Missouri. Thank you for sharing.

    • Russ Crandall June 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Kelby, thanks for sharing! Let me know how it turns out.

  13. Raelene Bauer August 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    I love Shashlik’s. They are my favorite summer food. My Grea -Grandparents from Russia used pickeling spice instead of vinegar. They put lemon and onions to marinate for at least 2 days . The flavor is out of this world and does not taste like lamb at all. You know that mutton taste.

  14. Dana Johnson February 17, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    I lived for a year with friends from Azerbaijan here in the US. The husband would make shashlik for us. It was a special treat and we would always beg for more! Here’s an interesting side note: a friend of mine from Turkmenistan said that many times, women wouldn’t make shashlik because their changing hormones from month-to-month compromised the meat in some way! So he would never let me marinade the meat.

    • Russ Crandall February 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Wow, that’s interesting! Thanks for the insight.


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