Lamb Souvlaki skewers are Greek kebabs with bold garlic-lemon-oregano flavour. Sensational flavours for lamb! The smell when they hit the grill are to-die-for. Make wraps with pita bread or plates with lemon rice or Greek lemon potatoes.
Souvlaki is essentially Greek fast food but to think of these being compared to McDonald’s is somewhat laughable because hello! Succulent pieces of tender lamb infused with bright lemon flavours, a stack of garlic, and earthy oregano, that smells so outrageously good as they cook you can’t help but grab one straight off the grill and eat it hot, straight off the stick…..
Nope. That is not the reaction anybody has at Maccers!
So, make this for your next gathering or marinade it today to serve for dinner tomorrow. Let’s bring a little bit of Greece to your table!
Ingredients in Lamb Souvlaki
Souvlaki is all about the marinade which tenderises the lamb and infuses it with gorgeous bold, lemony, intensely garlicky flavours.
Best lamb for lamb souvlaki
I think most people associate lamb leg with roasting, but it’s sensational for quick cooking like steak when it’s butterflied or cut into cubes like we do with souvlaki. Beautifully tender and juicy, especially after marinating, with great lamb flavour.
Boneless lamb leg – For ease of cutting, I use boneless lamb leg which is literally just your favourite roast leg of lamb with the bone cut out. It’s readily available at grocery stores and butchers here in Australia.
Other cuts that can be used:
Lamb backstrap doesn’t have as good a lamb flavour and is a little too lean for a good souvlaki, in my opinion. Better to cook it whole and slice (like in this recipe) but it can be used, if you want.
Lamb chops – Thick cut juicy chops, like chump chops and forequarter chops, will work (see this recipe for what they look like) but there’s quite a lot of bone and fat that needs trimming.
Lamb cutlets – I personally wouldn’t use pricey lamb cutlets – too expensive! Also, they are too thin (unless you cut the meat off a lamb rack but I don’t know anyone who’s got the budget to use a premium roast like that for something like souvlaki!).
Chicken – See here for the Chicken Souvlaki recipe.
Not suitable – Slow cooking cuts like lamb shoulder and shanks aren’t suitable because they will be tough when cooked in this manner.
LAMB SOUVLAKI Marinade
Next, here’s what you need for the marinade. Lemon juice and vinegar helps tenderise meat but the key is to use the right amount of each plus enough olive oil else the acid can “cook” the lamb (makes it turn white like ceviche) or make the meat turn leathery instead of tender.
Lemon – We use both the zest and juice. The zest adds great lemon flavour whereas the juice adds tang and plays a part in tenderising the meat.
White wine vinegar – Gives the meat tenderising another helping hand. It’s less harsh than lemon juice. Another excellent meat marinade tenderiser. White wine vinegar is best here because it’s more mild than other clear vinegars and is made from wine so the flavour is on-point for souvlaki. But you can substitute with similar vinegars like apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar.
Extra virgin olive oil – This is to reduce the tanginess from the lemon and vinegar as preventing the meat from “cooking” due to the acid in these ingredients.
Garlic and dried oregano – Two Greek favourites! We use a good, bold amount of both.
Bay leaves – For even more flavour. I like using fresh because you can crush them in your hand to release flavour. Dried bay leaves can be used too but don’t crush them because they’ll disintegrate.
Salt – To season the meat inside.
How to make Lamb Souvlaki
Minimum marinating time of 12 hours is essential to ensure the marinade works its magic to tenderise and infuse flavour! 24 hours is ideal. 🙂
Trim excess fat and cut the lamb into meaty 2.5cm / 1” cubes. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut into thick 2.5cm / 1” slices, trim the fat off, then cut into cubes.
Marinate – Mix the marinade in a bowl then mix in the lamb. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours. You will notice the lamb becomes a little white on the surface which is due to the acid in the lemon and vinegar beginning to “cook” the lamb at the 24 hour mark. This is tenderising in action!
TIPS: To marinate for longer, add 2 extra tablespoons of olive oil to dilute the acid so the lamb doesn’t get “cooked”. The marinated meat can also be frozen and cooked at a later date – directions in the recipe card.
Thread onto skewers. I usually make 12 skewers with 3 to 4 pieces on each.
TIPS: If intending to cook on the BBQ using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning and cook on the flat iron side of your BBQ. If using the grill line side, it’s best to use metal skewers as wooden skewers can catch on fire easily.
Cook for 3 minutes, turn then cook the other side for 3 minutes (ie just cook 2 sides, not 4 sides). This can be done either in a pan on the stove or on a medium high BBQ (I demo both in the video).
The lamb pieces should have a great sear on them, and be blushing pink inside for medium rare. To be exact, use a meat thermometer and aim for an internal temperature of 60°C/140°F for medium rare (blushing pink, optimum juiciness).
Pile onto a platter with serving fixings of choice – to make wraps, eat hot straight off the sticks or to make plates! See next section below for ideas.
How to serve Lamb Souvlaki
Wraps – My favourite way to eat Souvlaki is Greek fast-food style, bundled up in a warm flatbread, stuffed with either Greek Salad that’s chopped up small (as shown in the video) or with finely sliced lettuce and tomato (as pictured in this post).
Either way, a big smear of tzatziki is essential – though I’m partial to hummus too and if both those options are just too hard, I’ll resort to a quick lemon-yogurt-olive oil sauce that takes 30 seconds flat to make. (Of course I’ll pop it in the recipe for you!)
Make plates – Another way to serve Souvlaki is to make plates with a pile of hot, steamy Greek Lemon Rice topped with freshly grilled Lamb Souvlaki and a big pile of juicy Greek Salad on the side. Or, other Greek sides – such as Greek Risoni Salad or Greek Lemon Potatoes.
Eat it hot, straight off the stick – Then of course, there’s the most obvious way: just eat them, hot, straight off the stick. For the impatient. You’ll see me demonstrate this in the video too. I know, shocking. 😅 – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
- 1.2 kg/ 2.4 lb boneless lamb leg , fat trimmed, cut into 2.5cm/1” cubes (~900g / 1.8lb after trimming) (Note 1)
- 1 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 8 – 12 skewers , wooden or bamboo
Lamb souvlaki marinade:
- 5 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 5 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 3 fresh bay leaves , crushed in hand (or 2 dried kept whole)
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat.
- Marinate in fridge for 12 – 24 hours.
Skewer & cook:
- Skewer – Remove meat from marinade and thread 3 to 4 pieces on each to make 12 skewers, or 5 to make 8 larger skewers (pictured in post).
- Sprinkle the meat with the salt and pepper. (This really makes a difference to the finished dish, better than just in the marinade).
- Cook – Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. Cook half the skewers for 3 minutes, turn then cook the other side for 3 minutes until nicely seared (target internal temp 60°C/140°F for medium rare, optimum juiciness).
- Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining skewers.
BBQ cooking (Note 2):
- Soak skewers – Soak wood/bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes if planning to cook on the BBQ (prevents burning). My skewers are 18cm/7” which fit in a pan (stove cooking).
- Preheat BBQ to medium high. Flat iron hot plate is safer for wooden skewers (so they don't catch fire) else use metal skewers on the grill side.
- Skewer, oil & season – Skewer per above. Drizzle with the oil (so it doesn't stick to the BBQ) then sprinkle both sides with the salt and pepper.
- BBQ cook for 3 minutes on each side.
More lamb recipes
And for Greek food lovers!
Gosh, even I’m surprised how many Greek recipes I’ve done over the years!!
Life of Dozer
A familiar sight when you walk into the kitchen:
Then on the other side of the island, this is what you see:
Hard to resist!