Barbecue Chicken Kebabs with Bacon Rub

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I have never been a fan of meat and vegetable kebabs.  Not because I don't like the meat or veggies, but because the vegetables aren't cooked to my liking by the time the meat is done.  If I get just meat or just veggies on one skewer, I am all in, especially when bacon and barbecue sauce are involved ☺.  

This is a great recipe that can easily be doubled or even tripled (I did this recently for a family gathering) to feed a hungry crowd.  You can use breast meat, thigh meat or both, as I do in my house to cater to everyone's oh so delicate palette.

Normally I put the smoke flavor in my barbecue sauce, but in this recipe that great smoky flavor comes from the bacon in the rub.  How do you get the bacon in the rub, you ask?  It is pureed in the food processor until it forms a paste.  Mmm... bacon paste (said in my best Homer Simpson voice). Mix it with some sweet and smoky spices and massage it into the chicken.  It is messy and you might think that it is never going to combine, but keep at it or hand it over to the kids and let them have at it.

These make an excellent meal when paired with the zucchini slaw. Leftovers make for a yummy barbecue chicken sandwich.
Printable Recipe

Barbecued Chicken Kebabs with Bacon Rub
serves 4-6

For the Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons molasses
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar

For the Kebabs
2 pounds boneless, skinless thighs or breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 (12-inch) metal skewers

For the Sauce
Bring all of the ingredients to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup and has a ketchup-like consistency, about 5-7 minutes.  Using a hand held immersion blender or standing blender, puree the sauce until smooth.  Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to a small bowl; set aside remaining sauce for serving.

For the Kebabs
Toss chicken and salt in a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill with hot coals or high heat on one side of the grill with the other side left cool.  Clean and oil the cooking grate.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the bacon until a smooth paste forms, about 30-45 seconds, scraping down the bowl during processing.  Add the sweet and smoked paprika and sugar and process until combined. Add the spiced bacon paste mixture to the chicken, rubbing with hands until the the ingredients are blended and the chicken is completely coated.  Thread the meat onto the skewers, rolling or folding the meat as necessary.

Grill kebabs (covered if using gas), turning one-quarter turn every 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until well browned and slightly charred, 8 minutes for breasts and 10 minutes for thighs.  (If flare-ups occur, slide kebabs to the cool side of the grill until fire dies down.)  Brush the top of the kebabs with 1/4 cup of sauce; flip and cook until sauce is brown in spots, about 1 minute.  Brush second with remaining 1/4 cup of sauce; flip and continue to cook until brown in spots and breasts register 160° F and thighs register 175° F, about 1 minute longer.  Remove the kebabs from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve, passing the reserved barbecue sauce. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012


  1. I made this recipe and it was delicious; everyone loved it. It was so good, in fact, that I bought a whole package of bacon and pureed it and froze it (put in ziplock bag, roll flat w/ rolling pin and freeze like a bark; break off pieces). Yesterday I used a small piece of the puree to cook some cajun shrimp, and it was perfect. It's really a perfect medium for spice rubs.

  2. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Do you cook the bacon first or is it processed raw?

    1. Use raw bacon and it will cook on the grill.

  3. This was delicious!! I tried it on Jonathan and when he wanted the recipe I knew it would be perfect to serve to the fun party of 8 we are having this Thursday! It is a winner!!!
    Aunt Susie

  4. I made this for the first time yesterday. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and served the chicken with a salad topped with your Pimento Dressing, which is now a new favorite. Thank you for so generously sharing your delicious recipes, which I can usually count on for a repeat performance!

  5. Loved this. The BBQ sauce was "spot on" and my hubbie is a Kansas boy... they know their tomato based BBQ sauces... and he declared it "the best". I'm having so much fun cooking my way through your blog. Don't even shop anywhere else :) Thank you!

  6. Made this last night and it was incredible!! We loved it. Definitely a keeper and will make it again very soon.

  7. AnonymousMay 07, 2023

    This is an America's Test Kitchen recipe. Who was first???

    1. If you read at the end of the recipe, I noted that the recipe was adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012. If you look at their recipe and mine, our the sauce ingredients and sauce technique are different.


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