KabobsWith Labor Day Weekend coming up, the Karabakh Foundation would like to share a traditional Azerbaijani grilled cuisine—kabobs. Instead of firing up the grill for hamburgers and hot dogs this weekend, we encourage you to explore Karabakh inspired kabobs. If you are not willing to replace your American fare, maybe you can include Azerbaijani cuisine as part of the feast.

Kabobs are an ancient cooking method that is common throughout the Middle East. There is much debate as to where the popular grilled meat originated. The word kabob means “fried meat” in Arabic and was first mentioned in a 14th century dictionary. However, the word kabob did not become synonymous with the current meaning until it was coined by the Turks several centuries later. So, did the modern kabob originate from Turkic or Arabic culture? The eternal kabob debate continues.

Regardless of where it originated, its popularity has spread. Kabobs, along with pilafs and sweets, were carried eastward via the Moguls all the way to India. Today the traditional culinary cooking method is used throughout the world.

In addition to being grilled, a wide array of marinades and sauces often accompany the meat. You can cook the meat in large chunks, lula style with the meat molded around the skewer, or kofta style with ground meat. It is also common to have a “mixed grill” with lamb, chicken, veal, and vegetable kabobs sharing the same grill.

Much like Americans, Azerbaijanis also enjoy family gatherings that include BBQ. They often prefer dry grapevines or wood from fruit trees for the grill due to the added flavor it provides the kabobs. If using an actual grill, they also oil the grill so the meat will not stick. While attending family BBQs, Azerbaijanis play traditional folk music and mugham.

Enjoy the following delicious recipe from The Cuisine of Karabakh, written by Amy Riolo.

Chicken Kabobs/Toyuq Kababi/ Toyuq Kababı

If using wooden skewers, soak in water for an hour before using.

4 Servings


1 large yellow onion, sliced

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

Pinch of saffron


Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pound chicken breast meat, skinned and cubed

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Combine onion, lemon juice, saffron, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

2. Add the chicken cubes to 1 bowl, mixing to coat all pieces of chicken well.

3. Cover and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Prepare skewers. Thread the chicken pieces onto 2 skewers by piercing chicken piece through the bottom. Avoid pushing the meat to close together – the pieces should be touching, but not crowded, in order to ensure even cooking. Sprinkle sumac on top of each skewer.

5. If using a grill:

Preheat grill and place chicken skewers directly on a prepared grill for 7 to 10 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through.

6. If using a broiler:

Preheat broiler and place chicken skewers onto a baking sheet. Broil for 7 to 10 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through.

Post Written by Athena Smith, Karabakh Foundation Cultural Affairs Coordinator

With the Assistance of Amy Riolo, Author of The Cuisine of Karabakh

All content contained in the post is from The Cuisine of Karabakh and is therefore protected by copyright. Please cite references as: Riolo, Amy. The Cuisine of Karabakh: Recipes, Memories, and Dining Traditions from Azerbaijan’s Cradle of Culture. Karabakh Foundation: 2011.