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Recipes

From Brighton Beach to Your Backyard: Shashlik-Style Beef Kebabs

A visit to Brooklyn, New York, inspired our take on this flavorful cousin of kebabs.
By Published Aug. 24, 2022

I didn't know I was hungry until I smelled it—that unmistakable aroma of smoke and flame-kissed beef. My wife and I had been walking around the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, when we followed our noses to a street vendor tending a wood-fired grill with a dozen or so sword-like skewers of sizzling beef. 

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

It wasn't until we took our place in line that I asked the person next to us what exactly we were waiting for. He responded, “Shashlik.” We’d take it.

After eating my fair share of the juicy, deeply seasoned, and well-charred beef, which is traditionally topped with an onion-charged yogurt sauce, I was convinced this was worth trying to reproduce at home.

What Is Shashlik?

Shashlik is a popular street food in Russia, Kazakhstan, the Caucasus, and anywhere in the United States with immigrant communities from these areas. Shashlik marinades vary, but there are three common elements: an acidic liquid such as vinegar, wine, or fruit juice; olive oil or vegetable oil; and a lot of onion.

Test cook Christie Morrison makes host Bridget Lancaster Shashlik-Style Beef Kebabs.

How to Make Shashlik at Home

  • Start with the Meat: Use sirloin steak tips. These are one of our favorite cuts for kebabs because of their juiciness, big beefy flavor, and the loose grain that enables them to soak up ample marinade. Cut them into 1-inch pieces so that they’ll fit nicely on the kebabs.
  • Add a Bold Marinade: The marinade in Brighton Beach was rounded out with warm spices that beautifully cut through the richness of the meat. To mimic this, blend up a mixture of vegetable oil, sugar, red wine vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and an onion. It’s important to puree the mixture in a blender for a smooth texture that clings to the meat. 
  • Grill Over a Hot Fire: After threading the meat onto skewers, crank the heat in your grill. For a charcoal grill, use a mounded chimney (7 quarts of coals), and pour it over half the bottom grate to create a very hot fire. If using gas, preheat your grill for 15 minutes over high heat and leave all burners on high. Then arrange the kebabs on the hotter side of the grill, if using charcoal. And cover them, if using gas, to maximize the heat and char. 
  • Serve with a Cool Yogurt Sauce: Sauté a little bit more onion with a reserved portion of that flavorful marinade. Then stir that with plenty of tangy yogurt and cilantro for a complex, yet simple sauce.

That street corner moment is now yours to experience in your own backyard.