Cumin-Chile Lamb Kebabs

It was a beautiful late-Spring evening, just perfect for grilling—al fresco dining at its best with low humidity, a slight breeze and temps in the mid-70s. One of our favorite ways to roll when dining outside is kebabs. They can consist of a large variety of proteins, veggies, spices and even fruit. Pots and pans aren’t even part of the cooking equation, so clean-up is a breeze.

As I mentioned in a past blog, make sure to get the right cut of meat for the job. The key to a knockout skewer? Being choosy at the butcher counter. The ideal cuts are often (counterintuitively) boneless braising cuts. Full-flavored, well-marbled, and appealingly affordable, they welcome high heat and won’t dry out the way leaner cuts tend to.

Here we used a 2-pound leg of lamb cut into 2-inch cubes. (This is contrary to the original recipe of 1 1/4-pound lamb shoulder cut into 1-inch pieces); and I substituted roasted garlic paste in place of the grated clove for the yogurt sauce. We completed the meal with veggie skewers that included cherry tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and red onion—and two small potatoes that were first microwaved, cut in half and added to the mix.

The directions indicate to dry rub the lamb after you skewer the meat. I put the seasoning on the cubes early in the morning to let them get happy all day and really permeate the lamb. A perfect cube is not essential, but try to get the lamb into roughly the same size pieces so they cook at the same rate.

Cumin-Chile Lamb Kebabs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Garlic Yogurt

You can make the garlic yogurt sauce up to three days ahead.
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • ½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Lamb and Assembly

  • 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns or 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Vegetable oil (for grill)
  • 2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper
  • Finely grated lemon zest (for serving)


Garlic Yogurt

  • Stir garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice into yogurt in a small bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper.
  • Do Ahead: Yogurt can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Lamb and Assembly

  1. Coarsely grind cumin seeds, peppercorns, caraway seeds, red pepper flakes, and sugar in spice mill or with mortar and pestle until only a few whole spices remain.
  2. Prepare a grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Oil grates.
  3. Thread lamb onto 3-4 skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece of meat. Season with salt, then sprinkle generously with spice blend, pressing it onto the meat with your hands to help it adhere if needed. OR, press the spice mixture onto the lamb cubes earlier in the day, cover and refrigerate, then skewer the meat just before grilling.
  4. Grill lamb over direct heat, turning every minute or so, until browned and beginning to char in spots, about 4 minutes. Move to cooler side of grill and continue to grill until lamb is cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare.
  5. Top garlic yogurt with cracked black pepper and a little lemon zest. Serve alongside lamb.

Do Ahead: Spice blend can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Adapted from a recipe by Chris Morroco of Bon Appétit.

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