Grilled tender, yogurt-marinated chicken - an example of Turkish BBQ

Thick Greek yogurt tenderizes the chicken. A smoky pepper and lemon-garlic combination infuses it with intense bright flavor.  It comes off the grill golden, tender, flavorful, delicious.  It is truly one of the best chicken dishes I have ever tasted.  And it’s so easy.  Mix some spices with yogurt.  Slice some lemons.  Smash some garlic cloves.  Mix it all together with the chicken.  An hour in the fridge.  12 minutes on the grill. Voila!

Aleppo pepper mixed with waterFlattening garlic is a really easy way to get the skin off.  Using one hand, hold the clove down against the cutting board with the flat side of a broad knife.  With the heel of your other hand, pound the knife, crunching down on the garlic.  When you lift the knife the skin on the clove will be loose and you can just pull it off.

how to flatten garlic and remove the skinIn my quest for understanding the magic of this recipe, I discovered that yogurt is an ideal marinade base for beef and poultry.  Any dairy – yogurt , milk, buttermilk – is an excellent tenderizer, partly because is is not very acidic.  Acidic marinades can actually toughen meat. According to Fine Cooking contributor Shirley Corriher, dairy products are the only marinades that truly tenderize.  She goes on to explain that calcium seems to activate enzymes in the meat, causing the proteins to break down.  I have to assume all that “breaking-down” makes way for the delicious flavors of pepper, lemon, and garlic to move in.

yogurt marinade for Aleppo Pepper Chicken

Barbecued chicken with Aleppo pepperTurkish BBQ often involves threading the meat on a skewer before grilling – the kebab – and serving it with rice.  Part of my love for this recipe is the ease of preparing it but if you want a more authentic presentation, you can cut the chicken and thread it onto skewers before grilling.  But don’t forget to throw the marinated garlic and lemons on the grill too – those are delicious!

Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Turkish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
Grilled tender yogurt-marinated chicken thighs - an example of Turkish BBQ
  • 3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper (crushed or flakes) or 4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper plus 4 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt (16 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10-12 garlic cloves, flattened and skins removed
  • 2 unpeeled lemons, sliced into thin rounds.
  • 4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  1. In a large bowl combine the 3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper with 2 tablespoons warm water. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes for the water to be absorbed. (if using red pepper flakes and paprika, combine 4 teaspoons of each in the bowl with 4 tablespoons warm water)
  2. Add the next six ingredients to the bowl: Yogurt, oil, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  3. Next mix in the garlic and lemon slices. Add the chicken and stir to fully combine all ingredients.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour (and up to a day)
  5. Preheat the barbecue to medium-high heat. Rub oil over the grates. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken about 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
  6. Serve with grilled lemons and garlic. Enjoy!


11 Responses to “ALEPPO PEPPER CHICKEN from Turkey”

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  1. Shari says:

    Is this the chicken that’s so moist you’ve been making
    all summer?0

  2. Jean says:

    This is the best recipe. Thanks Lisa. I use this basic marinade for lamb as well. It’s so moist and delicious.

  3. Tracy Clark says:

    In classic Lisa style, you have created a visually appealing, informative, beautiful, interesting and really useful blog. I’m syked!!!!

  4. Deb Perugi says:

    Glad to see the site running smoothly. Congratulations!
    This looks delicious. I make a simpler version with just chicken cut up into bitesize pieces, greek yogurt, garlic sliced, lemon juice and turmeric. Stir fry or broiled, it is an easy dinner.

  5. Michael says:

    I made this last night. So simple to make and so delicious. I found Aleppo pepper at Penzey Spice in Arlington, MA.

  6. Beverly Waite Greenberg says:

    This was fantastic, one of my new and favorite meals. It was so easy to make and the chicken comes out incredibly moist…loved the grilled lemons and garlic too!


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