Everyone loves a secret Shashlik Recipe, (Шашлык) usually passed down from family to family. Often, a well guarded secret marinade determines how tender and tasty your shashlik is.
What is Russian Shashlik?
It's a type of shish kebab meat skewer popular in Russia and Central Asia and around the world. It's not actually Russian in origin, but enjoyed across Russia, and is often referred to as Russian Shashlik.
It's origins are from the Caucasus and Central Asia, and popularity spread by the Russian and Soviet empires. In other cultures, other popular skewered meats are Japanese Yakitori, Asian Satay, Pork Shashlik, and my tasty Chicken Souvlaki. There are 3 parts of any Shashlik. Meat, Marinade and Onions.
How to Cook Shashlik?
Traditionally Russian Shashlik is cooked on a long narrow open style bbq (without wire grills), called a mangal. It's like a rectangle Skewer Bbq Grill, that's on metal legs. You always cook Shashlik over wood charcoals. You will need long, re-usable Metal skewers, called Shampuri to pierce the meat. You can't use bamboo skewers for this meal!
I use my Chargriller Charcoal Bbq to make Shashlik. I remove the grills and light the charcoal briquettes. Whatever you use, make sure you have natural charcoals to make genuine smokey Shashlik. It won't taste the same on a gas bbq. Really, not at all! When cooking Shashlik, we also make Asian Chicken Wing Skewers.
What Type of Meat for Shashlik?
Lamb is traditionally used for making Shashlik, and that's my favorite way to enjoy lamb. However, there are many variations for shashlik. If it's a meat you can skewer, than you can make Shashlik! Often people will use pork or beef, and I've even had deer, moose, and even kangaroo shashlik. For me, any red meat will work!
Everything from Kefir to Vinegar to Pomegranate Juice has used as the secret ingredient to make the shashlik meat flavorful and juicy. The one thing we all agree is to use lots of onions. Some people like to use a food processor to puree the onions, but I don't like burnt onion pieces on the skewers. I prefer to thinly slice the onions then fry the marinated onions pieces afterwards. Handy if you are putting your shashlik in a pita, the fried onions will be great on top.
I once tried using red wine in my Shashlik marinade, but will never do that again as I put too much in and my meat was purple! That was fun serving to guests! If you are reading this and remember that meal, I'm sorry!
Shashlik Marinade Ideas
- add 1 cup Sour Cream and 4 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 4 tablespoons of white vinegar and 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of Soy Sauce and ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¾ cup of milk and ¼ cup of mayo
- ½ cup of Pomegranate juice
- 3 cups of Kefir
- carbonated Mineral Water (Borjomi)
- Herbs like parsley, oregano, thyme, dill
- Spices like Cumin, Paprika, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Fennel, Coriander
How Long To Marinate Meat?
You can't take a shortcut with this step. Always start your Shashlik preparation the night before you plan to serve it to your guests. The onion marinade needs to have enough time to marinate. Overnight is best, in the refrigerator.
What's My Secret Shashlik Recipe?
What's the secret part of my Secret Russian Shashlik recipe? Simply this. Use the very best cut of meat you can afford, marinate with LOTS of onions as the acidic agent, add herbs and spices as required, and finally add WATER to mixture. That's it. Let me explain.
Adding water or specifically I add Mineral water, allows for the flavors to combine together and to absorb into the meat, keeping it juicy as it cooks. Salt added to onions releases acidic juices, onions are acidic so use lots! Don't mask cheap cuts of meat with secret ways to make it tastier and softer, that's the real secret. Do it right the first time. It's really simple. It's almost like a brine for your shashlik. We don't think twice about brining meats, and this recipe takes a page out of that.
You can add more acidic items to the marinade like a splash of vodka, but I think you'll find you won't need to. I definitely avoid adding vinegars. Finally I like to sprinkle hot paprika on the Shashlik as it's cooking, for a spicy kick.
Sides to Serve With Shashlik
- Olivier Potato Salad
- Sweet Pepper Salad
- Vinegret with Beets
- Korean Carrot Salad (Morkovcha)
- 7 Bean Salad for Large Parties
- and don't forget the Homemade Kvass!
Give this Russian Shashlik Recipe a try. Quality meat, onions, spices/herbs and water. If it feels too simple, use Georgian Borjomi sparkling mineral water instead of tap water for a more believable story. There is something special about Borjomi, all Russians should know what it is! It's healing waters impact everything from sickness to hangovers. I like how it impacts my Shashlik! 🤣 Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 2 kg lamb cut into 2" cubes (shoulder or leg)
- 4 bay leaves ripped in half
- 4 medium onions sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper to taste
- 2 tbs oil
- 1-½ cups of water Borjomi Mineral Water
- hot paprika powder optional
- In a large bowl, combine the lamb, sliced onions, bay leaves, salt, oil and water. Using your hands, mix them all together set aside in the fridge to marinate overnight. If in a hurry then for minimum 4 hours.
- Thread the meat pieces onto metal skewers, about 6 per skewer, with any fat positioned towards the outside of the skewer.
- Prepare the mangal. Place charcoals in the mangal, and light and allow to burn for about 30 minutes, or until the charcoal is all white. Your mangal is ready.
- Place the skewers on the mangal and cook until the meat is cooked. The length of time is determined by the heat and height from the charcoal. Don't burn your meat! Keep turning the shashlik as it cooks, so it doesn't burn. I like to add hot paprika spice directly on the skewer for a spicy kick.