Souvlaki (Greek Beef Kabobs) is the juiciest, most flavorful meat you ever tasted!
This Greek Beef Souvlaki with tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and onions are crazy tender, exploding with flavor and a complete meal in one, not to mention an impressive crowd pleaser! Serve your souvlaki with Tzatziki or dunk each tender morsel in my irresistible refreshing, creamy, heavenly Whipped Feta Tzatziki Dip! I’ve included instruction to make this Souvlaki both in the oven and on the grill because you are going to want to make these beef kabobs year round!
One of my favorite fast sit-down places is Luna Grill. I love the fresh Mediterranean flavors and of course, the Greek Beef Kabobs. I wanted to be able to devour this favorite any time – in my slippers – so I developed this sensational Souvlaki recipe. I think it is every bit as delicious as your favorite Greek restaurant – and then some.
The marinated steak is melt-in-your-mouth tender, wonderfully smoky, juicy and just plain delicious. This Souvlaki can also be very quick to assemble IF you get some helping hands to skewer. We made kabobs in Cabo, and with everyone skewering at once, our kabobs were assembled in minutes!
What is Souvlaki?
If you aren’t familiar with Greek Steak Kabobs (Souvlaki), Souvlaki is one of the most popular street foods in Greece that dates way back to 200BC. It consists of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer served with cooling tzatziki sauce, so basically our modern day kabob, or kebab or shish kabob or skewer. By whatever name, we have the Greeks to thank for this epic smoky, bite size deliciousness.
I also can’t wait to tell you what Souvlaki is not. Souvlaki is not a Gyro, or Shwarma, which often are used interchangeably. First, Let’s discuss what Souvlaki is. What the power of this yummy and simple meat dishes to offer.
To pare it down, Souvlaki is the fast food of Greece. Some liken it to McDonalds in the United States. However, I think Souvlaki cannot be compared to our version of fast food. I am not alone in this thinking either; a renowned tour guide said this about the two fast foods.
“To give you an idea of the power of souvlaki, Greece is the only country in the world where McDonalds loses money, caught between the Goody’s hamburger chain and the resurrection of the souvlaki.” -Matt Barrett, Athens Guide
Basically, we are talking yummy power that everyone needs to be making and eating!
What kind of meat is souvlaki?
Souvlaki meat is cooked horizontally, on skewers that are rotated on a grill. The meat usually used in Greece and Cyprus is pork.
In other countries (and for tourists), souvlaki may be made with meats such as lamb, beef, chicken, and sometimes fish. In Europe, the tourist’s favorite is swordfish. In the US, chicken and beef are the most common.
I chose to make my souvlaki recipe out of beef because it emerges wonderfully juicy and is loved by all but literally ANY protein can be used so try out everyone’s favorite meat in your family with this versatile souvlaki recipe!
What are the differences between Souvlaki, Gyros, Doner, Shwarma and Kebabs?
A million years ago man invented fire and since then he has figured out many ways to cook meat over it. Every culture has its own unique ways of cooking meat over a fire. Here are some of them from the regions around Greece:
- Souvlaki: Greek meat dish which is traditionally pork. Meat is cooked on skewers and rotated in a grill, or spit (Greek for spit is souvla). They are cooked horizontally over the flames. Some souvlaki are served on the skewer, but they can also be taken off the skewer and served in pita bread with a sauce and garnish.
- Gyros: Greek dish traditionally made with lamb, beef, pork or chicken. The meat is marinated with Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Gyros means “turn” in Greek named for the turning rotisserie and shaved off. The main difference between a gyros and a souvlaki is the way the meat is cooked. Gyros are cooked as vertical cones of meat, not horizontally on a spit.
- Doner: Has the oldest heritage and dates back to the ottoman empire in Turkey. Meat is cooked in a large Cone shape, on a vertical spike that is turns as meat is roasted. Like the Gyros, the meat is shaved off as it is cooked. The Doner Kabab is the granfather to the Greek kebab.
- Shawarma: Is an Arabic dish. It is their version of the tacos al pastor in Mexico. Shawarma is more about the flavor of the meat than the plethora of toppings on it. The meat (mainly beef, lamb and chicken) marinate for up to 24 hours. Bay leaves, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and coriander are all spices used and the meat is topped with tabbouleh, fattoush and hummus with the sauce is usually being tahini.
- Kebab: kalamaki in Greek, is where the meat is cubed into 1-inch chunks, marinated overnight in lemon juice and olive oil. The main spices in the marinade are Greek herbs such as oregano and on occasion thyme. Middle eastern and Asian culture all have versions of kababs. In American culture we associate with being cooked on a skewer, but that’s not necessary.
What does Greek Souvlaki taste like?
Is Heaven the right answer? Souvlaki is tender and juicy. Lemon juice and oregano are the two main ingredients which translate to zesty, fresh and earthy but not overpowering. I also infuse my souvlaki marinade with balsamic vinegar like I do in m Greek Chicken.
By using both lemon juice and balsamic as well as layers of spices such as garlic, paprika, onion powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper, we ensure our souvlaki isn’t flat/one note but seeping with a symphony of flavors and oh so tender!
This souvlaki recipe is very flavorful but with all familiar taste, you should not be afraid to venture out of routine to try Souvlaki.
How is Souvlaki made?
To make traditional souvlaki, the meat is trimmed, spices are added, and time is given to marinate (for the magic to happen). Traditionally the meat is cooked on skewers and rotated in a grill, or spit (Greek for spit is souvla) over open flames. Today, we can cook it in the oven, BBQ, or at a campfire. For this Souvlaki Recipe, we are going to use the grill and you will LOVE the smokey, tender results.
Step 1: Chop Beef
Chop your beef into 1 1/2 inch cubes in order to keep them juicy. Avoid cutting the beef too small or it can overcook. Try and chop the beef roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
Step 2: Chop Veggies
Vegetables are optional in this souvlaki recipe, but I love how they create a meal-in-one so you don’t need any additional sides. I’ve used bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and red onions but you can substitute with your favorite vegetables.
Step 3: Marinate
These Greek Steak Kabobs (Souvlaki) owe their mouthwatering Mediterranean flavor to the easy dynamic beef kabob marinade. Marinating not only tenderizes the beef but helps it stay juicy and moist while cooking and infuses it with flavor all at the same time. To marinate, simply whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and our hand picked herbs and seasonings then add a few tablespoons to the vegetables and the rest to the beef. Let your steak bathe in the tenderizing/flavor infusing marinade for 4-6 hours.
Step 4: Soak Skewers
You can use metal or wood skewers but just take care you soak your wood skewers for at least 30 minutes otherwise they can catch fire! For this souvlaki recipe, I recommend soaking your skewers when you start marinating your beef.
Step 5: Assemble
Thread the beef and vegetables onto the skewers in alternating fashion. If you don’t want to worry about alternating the ingredients, you can make all beef skewers or all vegetable skewers. You can also add a few lemon or tomato slices to the skewers, which not only makes them look great, it helps keep the meat extra moist on the grill.
How much space? As far as spacing, I like to pack everything pretty close together – not smashed together, but touching. Having the cubes closer prevents overcooking and promotes juicier beef.
How to Grill Souvlaki
Can I Bake Souvlaki?
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Evenly space kabobs on baking sheet and bake 12-16 minutes, turning once OR until beef reaches desired doneness (cooking time will vary depending on steak size, so you can check a beef cube for doneness if desired). Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
What to Serve with Souvlaki?
I love to serve souvlaki with tzatziki – especially my Whipped Feta Tzatziki! This indulgent dip is creamy, tangy and positively addicting! Think of your traditional Tzatziki Dip with Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill but with the addition of whipped cream cheese and feta – I’m drooling. Are you drooling?
You are welcome to make traditional Tzatziki if you wish and it will still be cool and refreshing, but for an extra delicious oomph, you are going to want to try this luscious Whipped Feta Tzatziki Dip.
These Greek Steak Kabobs (Souvlaki) with Whipped Feta Tzatziki Dip are a stand-alone meal or I like to serve with warm pita bread, fried potatoes (French fries) lemon rice, Greek Pasta Salad, hummus, fattoush as well as fruit such as grapes or a big fruit salad for a dazzling Mediterranean feast.
How to Store Souvlaki
Remove the meat and vegetables from the skewers and place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Can I prepare Souvlaki ahead of time?
Yes! Meat loves to marinate. You can keep in the ridge for up to 2 days. Therefore, you can make the sauce one day, add the meat the next and cook the next day. Alternatively, make the meat, sauce together and leave to marinate in the fridge in an airtight container.
How to reheat Souvlaki?
- Brush the meat lightly with olive oil to keep it from drying out.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Wrap beef and veggies in foil.
- Place foil pouch(es) on a baking sheet and cook until warm or 165 degrees internally.
- Or, skip reheating and eat cold on a sandwich or salad!
Can I Freeze Souvlaki?
The rule of thumb is that you can freeze meat/chicken once when raw, and once when cooked. Place the meat in a a freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn, or place in an aright container.
Pop the meat in the freezer, and freeze for up to thee months. When ready to grill, grill straight from frozen. No thawing required. Yes, it really is that easy!
The veggies will not freeze well and will become a funny texture, so I would skip freezing them.
Consider making a batch of beef kabobs for the freezer. This smart method means a fast dinner is always on hand to go from the freezer to grill at a moment’s notice — no thawing required.
Now gather your family around and dig in for some souvlaki AKA heaven-on-earth!
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