I teamed up with California Ripe Olives to bring you these Chicken Skewers with Olive Pesto. I’ve been compensated for my time. All opinions are mine alone.
An easy recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers topped with a delicious Olive Pesto. Fire up your grill on those hot summer nights or any time you want a fresh meal option. Great for backyard barbecues, too!
Grilling is really a year-round luxury for those of us who live in temperate climates and also for those die-hard grill masters who battle the elements for the perfect burger, chicken skewers, or any number of other grill-worthy recipes.
And as far as grill-worthy recipes are concerned, these Chicken Skewers with Olive Pesto are something to put on the menu stat. The salty, briny flavor of olives makes the perfect pesto for these chicken skewers or anything else you can throw on the grill!
Pesto, Tapenade, or Gremolata?
I’m calling this sauce Olive Pesto, but it’s more like a hybrid of three classic sauces: pesto, gremolata, and tapenade. This recipe is all about big flavor. Each ingredient packs its own punch, but also plays nicely with the other components.
The recipe starts with California Ripe Olives. Either black or green olives can be used, but I went with a combination of the two both for color and flavor. These are a pantry staple that I always keep on hand.
California produces more than 95% of the olives grown in the United States. There are two family-owned canning facilities and 700 farmers. The farms come in all sizes – from small five-acre lots to thousands of acres. Many families have been growing California Ripe Olives for generations!
I prefer to finely chop all of the ingredients and stir them together rather than blitzing everything in a blender or food processor. This is because I like a little texture in this olive pesto. I don’t want everything too processed or pureed into a paste like I do with traditional pesto.
Classic Gremolata ingredients are:
- Lemon Juice
- Lemon Zest
- Fresh herbs (especially parsley)
Classic Pesto ingredients are:
- Nuts (especially pine nuts)
- Fresh herbs (especially basil)
- Parmesan cheese
Tapenade, on the other hand, is made with chopped olives and served as a topping or as a dip/spread to accompany a cheese platter or appetizer course.
The key to juicy chicken skewers is to marinate the chicken for long enough, and also to make sure the marinade is as flavorful as can be. This means the marinade contains concentrated flavor – more than you might use if whisking up a vinaigrette.
The marinade will be a little saltier, more acidic, and should contain a little sweetness to round out the flavors. I add in plenty of fresh minced rosemary. Some of the marinade will be reused to brush on the skewers right before they go on the grill. (For food safety reasons, make sure both the chicken and vegetables are thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to avoid food borne illness.)
What are the best vegetables for grilling?
Zucchini, sweet potato, potatoes, butternut squash, onions, and bell peppers hold up well. Onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms also work for the shorter cooking time, hence they are most frequently used when making chicken skewers with vegetables.
How do you grill kebabs?
The best way to cook the skewers is to use a hot, but not too hot grill set up for direct heat with a side set up for indirect heat. The skewers are seared on the high heat, then moved to the indirect heat to finish cooking. This yields juicy, flavorful chicken.
Chicken skewers can be made on the stovetop using a grill pan or in the oven using a high heat setting (400°- 425°F), if desired.
Can you put wooden skewers in the oven?
Wooden skewers can go in the oven and on the grill, but it’s important to pre-soak the skewers for plenty of time to prevent them from burning. The best way is to soak them the night or morning before they will be used (always soak at least 30 minutes).
Another good tip is to soak a whole bunch of skewers at the same time and freeze them in a resealable bag so they are always ready to go.
Chicken Skewers with Olive Pesto Recipe
For the olive pesto:
- 1 bunch fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1/2 cup California Black Ripe Olives and/or California Green Ripe Olives, drained and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons scallions finely minced
- 1 tablespoon capers drained and rinsed, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 lemons zested and juiced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken skewers:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely minced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar, optional
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
- 1/2 large red onion cut into 1 1/2-inch dice
- 2 medium bell peppers cut into 1 1/2-inch dice
- 16 ounces mushrooms white button or cremini, stemmed
To make the olive pesto:
- In a medium bowl, combine parsley, olives, pine nuts, oregano, basil, scallions, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Stir in olive oil until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with chicken skewers or cover and refrigerate up to one week.
To make the chicken skewers:
- Soak bamboo skewers if you have not already done so.
- Combine olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, honey or sugar (if using), salt and pepper in a jar and shake until combined. Set aside.
- Place the cubed chicken in a zipper-top plastic bag or a large bowl. Pour marinade over the chicken and cover. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
To grill the skewers:
- Preheat indoor or outdoor grill for direct heat on one side and indirect heat on the other side. Remove chicken from the marinade, reserving marinade to brush on skewers before grilling. Thread chicken, onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms onto metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Brush each skewer with the reserved marinade, then discard.
- Oil grill grates and place skewers on grill. Sear the skewers on each side over direct heat, then move to the indirect heat to finish cooking (usually about 5 to 10 minutes per side). Turn skewers over as needed to avoid burning. Chicken and vegetables should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees when tested with an internal thermometer.
- Remove from grill and cover with foil until ready to eat. Brush with olive pesto before serving.
To bake the skewers:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup.
- Remove chicken from the marinade, reserving marinade to brush on skewers before grilling. Thread chicken, onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms onto metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Brush each skewer with the reserved marinade, then discard.
- Bake the skewers about 10 to 15 minutes per side. Chicken and vegetables should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees when tested with an internal thermometer.
- Remove from oven and cover with foil until ready to eat. Brush with olive pesto before serving.
Israeli Couscous Salad (in photos above):Ingredients:
- 1 cup Israeli couscous, cooked according to package directions
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped or baby arugula
- Combine everything except the spinach or arugula. Cover and refrigerate.
- Just before serving, stir in spinach or arugula and serve chilled or at room temperature.