These Barbecued Chicken Skewers are beyond delicious, with tender chunks of spice-rubbed chicken breast, smoky bacon and crisp red onion. They’re grilled to perfection, then charred with a super easy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce.
With over 1100 recipes in The Café archives I often forget about wonderful meals from years gone by. It seems there are always a slew of new ideas to try and I just don’t have (or take) the time to go back. But a comment from a reader this past spring drew my attention to a recipe I posted back in 2011, in the very early days of the blog. I had forgotten all about it, but thanks to this thoughtful reader, it became the inspiration for these delicious Bacon Bourbon Barbecued Chicken Skewers.
The comment was regarding these Grilled Chicken Kabobs (don’t look too closely at the pics or food styling – we had no idea what we were doing back then). This is what the comment said:
This recipe was fantastic! The chicken was so tender and flavorful – worth the extra steps! Thank you!
The recipe employed a genius trick from the smart chefs over at Cook’s Illustrated. They had taken bacon, combined it with spices in a food processor, then pureed it into a paste. The paste was rubbed on chunks of chicken breast before grilling, producing fabulous flavor and moist, super tender chicken. It was a wonderful recipe but honestly, making a “paste” out of bacon was not very pleasant. And the food processor was a pain to clean up.
I thought about the delicious and tender grilled chicken though and decided to work on a recipe that would produce the same delicious flavor, minus the bacon paste. It took a few weeks of testing and tweeking (and lots of taste-testers) but I think you’re going to love these barbecued chicken skewers as much as we do!
How to make these Bacon Bourbon Barbecued Chicken Skewers
How does it work? It’s a much simpler (and not so messy) technique than the Cooks Illustrated recipe. Cut up chicken breasts into bite-size chunks and place them in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss the chicken with a delicious spice rub, then thread on skewers alternately with bacon and squares of red onion. This can all be done in advance and then popped in the fridge until right before dinner.
Clean, spray, then heat up your grill and add the skewers. As they begin to cook, the bacon fat will baste the chicken, keeping it moist and tender. And although most of it burns off into the grill, it also envelops the skewers with a wonderful smoky flavor.
An easy and delicious sauce to finish with
Once the chicken’s pretty much cooked through comes the” pièce de résistance” or the “crowning glory”, slathering the skewers with a super flavorful barbecue sauce that’s made from a purchased barbecue sauce that’s doctored up with a few secret flavor bombs (bourbon and soy sauce). The hot grill carmelizes and chars everything a bit, melding the flavors into a crazy delicious meal!
Believe me, you want this one in your summer grilling recipe arsenal! But guess what? If you don’t have a grill or it’s not grilling weather, these barbecued chicken skewers can also be made in the oven. Just crank up the temperature and roast until everything’s nice and golden. Add a few (optional) minutes under the broiler to create a bit of char.
Café Tips for making these Barbecued Chicken Skewers
- You can make the spice rub ahead and store in an airtight storage container or a jar with a tight-fitting lid. I like to double or triple these rub ingredients so it’s super easy the next time I want to make these barbecued chicken skewers. (Believe me, there will be “the next time” despite my propensity to charge ahead to new recipes!)
- Use your favorite barbecue sauce for this recipe. We really like the original Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce.
- To prepare in advance, follow the recipe directions through step 5, then place on a sheet pan, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate until ready to grill.
- If you want to be super organized and enjoy your guests, these skewers can even be grilled in advance. When completed, place on a foil lined sheet pan, cool slightly, cover with more foil and refrigerate. When read to serve, warm in the oven (350˚F) for 10 minutes, covered with the foil. Uncover, flip skewers to opposite side, brush with a bit more barbecue sauce and bake for another 5 minutes (or broil for 2-3 minutes to char a bit).
- To make these barbecued chicken skewers completely in the oven, follow directions in recipe through step 5. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a sheet pan with foil, spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and line up the skewers in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway in between. Brush with the bbq sauce and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the bacon are nice and crisp.
- Don’t have any bourbon or don’t like to use alcohol? Just skip it! It does add a nice layer of flavor, but the skewers will be delicious without it too.
- A good set of tongs is essential for grilling and especially for grilling skewers and kabobs. These 16-inch GRILLHOGS Tongs are not expensive and will last a long time.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
These Barbecued Chicken Skewers are beyond delicious, with tender chunks of spice-rubbed chicken breast, smoky bacon and crisp red onions. They're grilled to perfection, then charred with a super easy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce.
- 6 slices thick-cut smoky bacon, cut into 1-inch square pieces
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breast or skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 large red onion cut into 1-inch pieces
- For the rub:
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- For the sauce:
- 1 cup barbecue sauce we like Sweet Baby Ray's
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Heat gas grill to medium-high.
- Prepare the spice rub by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Combine barbecue sauce, bourbon and soy sauce in a small bowl. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
- Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks and transfer to a medium-size bowl. Drizzle chicken with the oil and stir well. Sprinkle the rub over the chicken and toss to coat.
Thread (in a pattern) the bacon, chicken and red onion onto skewers, starting and ending with the bacon.
- Spray the grill well and heat to medium-high heat. Grill the skewers for approximately 8-10 minutes, rotating every couple minutes or until lightly browned and chicken is cooked.
Brush with prepared sauce and grill another 5-7 minutes, rotating every few minutes, until the edges of the bacon are crisp and slightly charred. Remove to a clean platter, tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with any remaining barbecue sauce.
- Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing more barbecue sauce separately.
See Café Tips above for further instruction and more detailed tips.
Every grill is different. Grilling times, temperatures and hot spots need to be taken into consideration. Cooking times are approximate.
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