Shashleek – Ukrainian BBQ (shishkabob)

Marinated pork roasting over hot coals

Recipe below

Download pdf version of the recipe here

John’s shashleek recipe

This isn’t original with John – it is a variation of what he was taught by our friends over many shashleeks during our early years in Ukraine. As time went on John began to make his own, and the Ukrainian’s judged it as worthy of their approval ie they really enjoyed it whenever he made it.

(Ukrainian BBQ – kind of like a shish ka bob but better)

Remember – a shashleek is an event, a time for friends to gather and enjoy time together as the meal is slowly cooked and enjoyed.  Best to do it when you have a long lazy evening planned, and don’t have to race off anywhere.  Kind of like a picnic, but with a hot meal.

Prep Time: Depends on how much meat you are preparing. 

Marinade time: Best 12+ hours, overnight etc.  The longer the better

Measurements: 1 Kg = 2.2 lbs   1 Kg = 1000 grams    1 liter = 1000 ml  1 liter = just a little less than 1 gallon


  • tender cut of pork (pork tenderloin) or beef (if beef, something like sirloin or tenderloin etc)
    • The meat needs to be a high quality tender cut because it will be cooked slowly over the fire/grill/bbq, and if it is a cheaper, tough cut of meat it dries out and becomes a piece of leather.
    • It is best if the meat has a bit of fat running through it (marbling) as it will be more tender and juicy when cooked.
  • one or two large onions per kilogram (or a few small ones per kg) of meat
  • mayonnaise: approximately 500 ml per kilogram of meat
  • bbq sauce (mild) – approximately 200 ml per kilogram of meat (in Ukraine use a shashleek ketchup)
  • one lemon per 1 kg of meat, or about 2 teaspoons of something acidic (vinegar etc)  per kg of meat (recipe needs an acid to help tenderize the meat)  Actual lemons or lemon concentrate is preferred to vinegar as it gives flavor to the meat also.

Spices: I use spices that I have brought from Ukraine.  When that isn’t available, I find packets of spice that are “Mediterranean” in nature, as it gives a different taste than your usual bbq spices.  Something Greek or Lebanese;  It really is your choice or preference.  Just be generous in using the spices in the marinade.

For each individual, plan approximately 200 – 300 grams of meat.


If possible, prepare this recipe the night before so that the meat sits in the sauce at least 12 hours in the fridge

  • cube the meat up into nice pieces that will fit onto the skewers that you will be using. If you want them to cook quickly, cut them smaller.  Toss it all into a large pot.
  • Salt the meat  lightly, mixing the meat around as you shake
  • Shake ½ to ¾ of the spices onto the meat, mixing the meat around well so that the spices are evenly spread
  • Add half or more of the lemons that you are planning to use.  Cut into quarters and squeeze onto meat, stirring meat as you squeeze so it gets mixed in well.
  • cut up the onion into chunks – if you want to put them onto the skewers, cut them accordingly.  Toss the cut up onion into the pot with the meat.
  • Mix the bbq sauce, mayonnaise, remaining lemon (cut and squeeze) and remaining spices in a separate bowl so that they are well stirred together.  The color of the sauce should be more whitish orange than red, indicating the larger amount of mayo than bbq sauce 
  • Toss the chopped up lemon in with the meat
  • Pour the sauce into the big pot which has the meat & onions in it, and stir very well.  Usually, I just take my hands and mix it like bread dough to make sure that everything is well mixed and that all of the meat is covered in sauce.


Personally, I prefer to cook the meat over charcoal coals or a wood fire that has been burned down to a nice layer of coals.  The key is a very nice bed of coals, and nice even heat.  If you use the gas bbq, the same idea applies.  Nice even heat.  Turn the meat often so that you don’t burn one side.  It is best served right off the skewer.  You can add tomatoes, peppers etc to skewer as you prefer


  • Goes very well with fresh buns and veggies on the side, salads, baked potatoes etc.
  • When eating, sometimes we mix mayo and ketchup (or bbq sauce) on our plate as a dipping sauce for the meat.   (Ukrainians taught us that)
Author: John