Have you ever tried Shashlik? If you’re not Russian the answer is probably that you’ve never even heard of shashlik or heard it called by that name. Shashlik is basically any kind of meat on a skewer (pork is traditional, but you find beef and chicken as well) that has been marinated in certain spices and then grilled over an open fire, preferably birch wood. This is the standard Russian food to put on the grill. They sell these massive meat skewers, the kind you see in Turkish restaurants and grill wonderful chunks of meat. It is so juicy and delicious. If you’ve ever had awesome kebabs at a Turkish restaurant, this will get you somewhere similar. I came to Shashlik by way of my dear Russian friend Alexey. He sent me the most drool inducing pictures of his family cooking out the best looking meat skewers ever. I begged him for their family recipe and he kindly obliged. Now, each family in Russia has their own closely guarded secret spice mix or marinate and you’ll find they vary wildly. In fact, as I’ve gone deeper into the world of Shashlik I’ve asked each of my Russian friends for their special recipe. They are often totally different, both in spice mix and base marinade.

Someday, I’m going to have a shashlik-off where I compare each recipe side by side. Right now I’m sticking to the excellent recipe below. One note about this recipe, I mentioned that my friend sent me his recipe. That’s not entirely true. He and his sister in law made me this excellent video of how she prepares the meat for Shashlik. First, you chunk the meat into cubes slightly larger than 1×1. Then you mix beer, mayo and onion rings together. Then, and this was the high point of the video, you rip open the store bought spice pack and dump a good deal of it into the mixture. *facepalm* I pointed out that we don’t have any such mixes and they certainly wouldn’t taste like what he has. So, very kindly he sent me a care package from southern Russia with a bunch of spice packets. I translated the ingredients on the back and viola! Authentic Russian shashlik at home.


One note: I typically grill my shashlik outside, Russian style, however that isn’t possible year round. So I’ve given directions below for the oven version.

Serves 2-? (the recipe below will marinade about 2 lbs of whatever, just increase it as needed)

Reheats: Yes

Freezes: No

Kid Friendly Tasks: None, between sharp skewers, open flames and meat, this recipe is 100% grown up only


Note: Yes I know there are a TON of fiddly spices listed below and yes, you need all of them (hey the Russians just use a prepared mix for a reason!) However what I do is to make four bowls of spice mix at once and then just put the other three in labeled sandwich baggies. That way most of the time when I want to make shashlik I can just open one and go.

Spice Mix

  • 1 tsp sweet red pepper (I use sweet paprika)
  •  ½ tsp chili powder
  •  1 tsp dried mustard
  •  ½ black pepper
  •  ½ tsp oregano
  •  ½ tsp Thyme
  •  ¼ tsp nutmeg
  •  ¼ tsp allspice
  •  2 tbsp coriander
  •  ½ tsp garlic powder
  •  ½ tsp onion powder
  •  1 tsp salt
  •  ½ tsp cumin
  •  ¼ marjoram
  •  1 chunk (maybe a ¼ star) of star anise


  • 1-2 lbs Chicken or Pork, chunked in 1.5 in pieces
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ c beer
  • ½ large onion cut into thick slices
  • 1 c mayonnaise


  1. In a large bowl, mix the mayo, soy sauce, beer and spices. This should make a mix thick enough to glaze a fork, but not change its original color noticeably. Add the onions and the chunked chicken and mix will. Marinade for a minimum of 6 hours or better, over night.
  2. On the grill- skewer the chicken chunks on large wide flat skewers, do not use flimsy bamboo as the inside will not cook as well (the metal will conduct heat to cook both outside and in). Using a very hot grill, cook until cooked through, maybe 10 mins depending on the size of your chucks, probably less. Turn the meat every 2 minutes so both sides cook evenly. The metal skewers should lie over the grill and hold the food about 3 inches away from the heat source, close, hot and quick are the watch words here.
  3. In the Oven- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Skewer meat just as you would for the grill. Using the lip of a baking sheet to hold up the skewers somewhat (the rim should keep the meat from lying totally flat on the baking sheet. The sheet should catch the drips that fall) place the skewers and their baking sheet into the very hot oven. Cook 4 minutes on each side, 8 minutes total. Broil quickly if desired (if you like those charred ends, yum).









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