Air Fryer Kebabs – Getting Delicious Kebabs Fast

The Air Fryer sitting in our kitchen was a gift from a dear friend when she came Stateside to visit us, and it has seen frequent and consistent use since then. My housemate loves it because those frozen food section mini-tacos and chicken nuggets are made fast, taste great, and none of that 15 minutes of pre-heating the oven before 20-30 minutes of baking. I can’t fault him – those are great ways to get good food fast and that’s the main point of an air fryer, but I like to push what you can do and it turns out making kebabs in the air fryer is 100% fully viable.

As I found out, you can make kebabs with an air fryer in your kitchen by using smaller 6-inch kebab sticks and marinating the meat and vegetables ahead of time for optimal taste and moisture.

While I might still always pick making my shish kebabs over an open fire, that’s because I’m a pyro and grew up tent camping more days/nights in summer than being in a house, so campfire cooking is second nature to me, that doesn’t change the fact that I was downright surprised at how good an air fryer kebab really was.

I honestly expected the meat to be tough and on the drier side and the veggies overdone, but I was surprised at just how good it was. Which is great for me because on those weeks where the amount of work I put in flirts with triple digits I like having a fast option that still tastes delicious when that kebab craving hits.

Why Air Fryer Kebabs?

Air fryer kebabs have become increasingly popular because they are easy to make and, as I found out first hand, surprisingly good. This is always a winning combination and is perfect for shish kebabs or your favorite style of skewer. I personally find marinated chicken, pork, and beef all do great but lamb can be a bit trickier and in that case it’s a meat I’d probably stick to the grill with.

That said, I’m thrilled that air fryers are great for making kebabs because as an avid home cook, I’ve tried out many fryer kebab recipes and techniques, and while I’m not an expert (yet) after a couple dozen kabob runs with the air fryer I’m feeling pretty good about understanding how to use this great kitchen tool to prepare some of my favorite kebab meals.

That’s the experience I’m bringing to the table here to share all the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way. So let’s dive into everything you need to know about making kebabs in the air fryer including ingredients, preparation, cooking times and temperatures, and more.

Let’s dive in and get the full story on air fryer kebabs!

dirty air fryer on kitchen counter
Yes, this air fryer definitely needs cleaning and a wipe down, but it’s been an 80 hour work week and it’s early Friday morning…I’ll get to it this weekend. At least you I clearly use it.

How to Properly Prepare Kebabs for the Air Fryer

While having an air fryer isn’t going to “change and revolutionize” the way that I cook kebabs, I love having a second option for preparing them and they are admittedly probably a touch healthier since I don’t need to use the oil or worry about the known health risks that can come with charred or grilled food. The fact that the air fryer works with a versatile array of meat and vegetables means I have options when preparing a kebab the way I want it and I don’t have to always resort to the same fallback.

Again, I like options, I like variety, and opening up the options for making kebabs by using an air fryer just means more great meals in my future. So I’m always going to be about that.

There are a few important things to note when preparing kebabs for preparation by using your air fryer.

Air Fryer Kebab Quick Checklist

  • Small wood/bamboo skewers or metal kebab skewers
  • Marinade for meats
  • Marinade for vegetables
  • Air fryer
  • Parchment paper lining (optional but strongly recommended to cut down on mess)
  • Cooking spray (optional)
  • Your specific recipe

The cooking spray is optional, but I find by pre-spraying the meat in particular it helps the meat cook in a way that keeps the natural juices sealed. Not everyone agrees this works, but in my experience it does and there are several other excellent kebab sites that also recommend cooking spray as part of the prep process for their recipe.

The versatility of kebabs means that you can have almost any combination of proteins and veggies, though the exact type of meat will make a difference in cooking times. Fish takes less time, chicken is the middle of the road, and beef and other red meats tend to take a touch longer. Still, all of them tend to be in the same general range when it comes to cooking time.

Favorite Air Fryer Recipes

These are great resources to get you started, but remember they are just that: just a starting point!

Wood, Bamboo, or Metal Skewers?

The three most common types of materials for skewers are wood, bamboo, and metal, and you can use any of these three when using your air fryer to cook up some shish kebab skewers, but it’s important to keep a few very important points in mind for both taste and safety.

Soak Bamboo or Wood Skewers

This is a CRUCIAL step for when you’re cooking with an air fryer. Fortunately, I had a friend who warned me about this. Air fryers cook at a much higher temperature and if you don’t soak your bamboo or wood skewers before prepping them, they can char while in the air fryer.

That can add an unpleasant burnt smell and taste to the kebabs, not toe mention create a potential safety hazard.

If you use wood or bamboo kebab skewers than soak them first. You can do this while marinating the meat, so it really isn’t that much more of a hassle and it saves you the headaches that come later if you end up charring the skewers…and possibly ruining your kebabs.

Keep Oven Mitts Around

This is true while rotating wood and bamboo skewers, but it 100% also is important for metal skewers because without question, these heat up. That’s how most metals work so no one should be surprised, but it’s one of those mistakes that can happen once and create a nasty burn on the fingers. You will absolutely want those oven mitts.

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget once if you’re not paying full attention and trust me, you don’t want that mistake. Skip the painful lesson, and just start out with proper preparation and those solid oven mitts on hand.

Choosing the Right Ingredients for Your Air Fryer Kebabs

Everyone has their favorite ingredients when it comes to making kebabs and I’m no exceptions. While these are all suggestions of ingredients worth trying out in your kebab recipes (whether made via air fryer or otherwise), make adjustments based on your taste and preference. For example, my parents love onions with their shish kebabs. I can’t stand them.

Sometimes I’ll add a couple slices of red onion for a bit of smoky sweetness, but even then it’s more flavoring garnish than a regular rotation on my kebabs. Other people may feel very differently.

So while I have these suggestions for prepping kebabs, always adjust for your style and tastes.

Now onto the preparation! Personally, I start by preparing and marinating the meat, mushrooms, and vegetables. I then thread them onto skewers, making sure to use the 6 inch or 8 inch skewers based on the size of the air fryer that I’m using.

Choosing the Meat

When it comes to selecting meat for my air fryer kebabs, I have found that chicken, beef, and pork are are easy and excellent choices. These are easy to cute into cubes, they are great for cooking in an air fryer, and all of them marinate very well. We all have our favorite marinates but I personally love red wine marinades with a touch of lemon juice, garlic, and white/black pepper.

Take time to learn what mixtures of spices, oils, and liquids that come together to create the marinades that do it for your particular set of taste buds.

Fish, imitation crab, and wild meat all have different cook times depending on the type of meat, how lean/fatty it is, and the cuts. Because of this you need to adjust temperatures and cooking times accordingly. Meats like deer and rabbit tend to be lean and definitely need to be marinated and cooked at lower temperatures while fattier cuts of wild meat will have a higher cook time like beef/steak.

Choosing the Best Vegetables for Your Air Fryer Kebabs

For the vegetable component of my kebabs, I’m personally a fan of bell peppers, mushrooms (I know, they’re a fungus, but cut me some slack), tomatoes, and a cut zucchini cut. I know a lot of people swear by squash and onions – and I’m in the group that believes different color bell peppers not only add some amazing color to a good skewer but slightly different tastes to mix in with the protein.

Some of the best veggie options are:

  • Onions: Both red and yellow varieties can add sharpness and natural sweetness to the kebabs.
  • Bell peppers: These not only add a burst of color but also a mild, sweet flavor. Red, yellow, and green bell peppers can be used interchangeably or combined to provide a visually appealing dish.
  • Zucchini: This vegetable boasts a tender texture and subtle flavor, making it a kebab-friendly choice.
  • Mushrooms: With their robust flavor and meaty texture, mushrooms—especially cremini or button—elevate the taste of kebabs.
  • Squash: Ideal for the seasonal touch, both summer and winter squash can be diced and infused with seasoning to complement the meat and other vegetables.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Their natural moisture and slight acidity contribute a tangy note to the kebabs.

Before threading the vegetables onto skewers, I like to toss them in a light coating of oil, such as avocado oil, along with salt, pepper, and other seasonings like garlic powder or soy sauce. Dicing the vegetables into evenly-sized, bite-sized pieces ensures they cook consistently in the air fryer, and a bit of marination is a great way to add even more flavor and make sure the veggies don’t get too dry or overcooked while in the fryer.

Preparation Tips and Tricks

There are a few different options when it comes to prepping, preparing, and then cooking some great kebabs in the air fryer in my kitchen.

Marination Techniques

When preparing Air Fryer Kebabs, the key to flavorful and tender results lies in the marination process. I always make sure to marinate the protein, be it chicken, beef, or shrimp, for a minimum of 30 minutes.

For best results, marinate them in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours. My go-to marinade includes a mix of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and chili powder for some heat. Feel free to experiment with your own marinade recipes, this is one of those long-term projects that everyone should try given enough time because marinades can be made from such a wide variety of ingredients and as a result offer a variety of flavors.

Assembling the Kebabs

Assembling the kebabs is an easy and fun part of the process, especially if you have kids who can help you out. I prefer using metal skewers, but wooden skewers work well too. If you use wooden skewers, do not forget to soak them in water for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning during the cooking process.

When assembling your kebabs, make sure to cut the protein and vegetables into roughly equal-sized pieces for even cooking. Once you’ve cut your chosen ingredients, simply thread them onto the skewers, alternating between meat and vegetables. Avoid overfilling the skewers, as it’s possible this could result in uneven cooking of some pieces.

Cooking Time and Techniques

The ideal cooking time for Air Fryer Kebabs varies according to the meat that you use. However, a general guideline is to preheat your Air Fryer to 400°F (200°C) and cook the kebabs for 8 to 12 minutes. If you’re following an individual recipe that gives specific cooking temperatures and times, go with those specific settings as opposed to the more general rule of thumb basics.

Remember to:

  • Turn the skewers halfway through the cooking process for even cooking.
  • Check for doneness by using a meat thermometer or cutting a piece to ensure it is cooked through.

Here are some general cooking times for various proteins:

  • Chicken: 12-15 minutes
  • Beef: 8-12 minutes
  • Shrimp: 5-7 minutes

By following these preparation tips and tricks, you’ll be on your way to making delicious and flavorful Air Fryer Kebabs in no time!

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to serving juicy and tender air fryer kebabs, I have some great ideas to make your dinner truly unforgettable. In this section, I’ll cover some delicious accompaniments that you can serve alongside your air fryer kebabs.

Accompaniments for Air Fryer Kebabs

  • Rice: Serving your flavorful air fryer kebabs with a side of rice is a great choice. I recommend using a fluffy, aromatic rice like basmati or jasmine to complement the bold flavors of the kebabs.
  • Tzatziki: This creamy and tangy Greek yogurt sauce is a perfect match for kebabs. Tzatziki adds a cool contrast to the smoky flavors of the skewers, leaving both you and your family satisfied with each bite.
  • Bell peppers: I love incorporating colorful and crunchy bell peppers into my serving suggestions. You can either grill the peppers alongside the kebabs or serve them fresh in a salad. Another option is to stuff the peppers with your favorite ingredients, creating a visually appealing and flavorful dish.
  • Dinner rolls or flatbreads: Soft dinner rolls or warm flatbreads make for an excellent pairing with kebabs. They can be used to wrap the kebabs and the accompaniments, creating a handheld meal that’s fun for the entire family.

In terms of serving sizes, always consider the appetite of your guests. Typically, 2-4 kebabs per person should suffice. However, if you have a lot of side dishes, you might be able to get away with fewer kebabs per person.

Remember that the key to a successful dinner is finding the right balance of flavors and textures. Serve your air fryer kebabs with these suggested accompaniments, and everyone is sure to enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal.

Dealing with Common Problems

One issue I’ve encountered when making kebabs in an air fryer is the risk of burning. To avoid burning your kebabs and ensure even cooking, it’s important to turn them halfway through the cooking process. Cooking kebabs in an air fryer typically takes 8 to 10 minutes at a temperature of 400°F, so turning them around the 4-5 minute mark is crucial.

Another common problem is uneven cooking. A helpful trick I use is threading the ingredients onto the skewer in a consistent pattern, keeping their size and thickness uniform. This ensures that all components of the kebab cook evenly, and the total time in the air fryer remains consistent.

A digital meat thermometer is a great tool to have on hand when cooking kebabs in an air fryer. This allows you to monitor the internal temperature and ensure your meat is cooked to a safe level while still being juicy and tender. The recommended internal temperature for chicken is 165°F and for steak, it’s 145°F for medium-rare.

Enjoy Your Quickly Air-Fried Kebabs!

While I was a bit dubious about the air fryer when when first got one (not that it would work – just that I would use it a lot) it really has been an amazing addition to the kitchen and to my ability to quickly make and enjoy delicious kebabs whenever the hunger hits.

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