Bursting with flavor, pork souvlaki is a traditional Greek dish that features juicy chunks of marinated pork skewered and grilled to perfection. Whether you’re a fan of Greek cuisine or simply looking to switch up your dinner routine, this recipe is sure to become a crowd-pleaser.
Growing up, every year I looked forward to eating the delicious souvlaki from the booth of the local Orthodox Greek Church at our city’s summer festival. It obviously wasn’t only my mom’s favorite. It always had the longest lines of all of the street food there. I remember impatiently waiting in line while enjoying the aroma of their delicious barbecue grills.
After years of living in Spain, I still haven’t forgotten that extraordinary combination of flavors.
One year, we went to visit one of my aunts in Seville and she served us some delicious grilled pork chops reminiscent of the flavor of souvlaki. Those pork chops transported me back to that souvlaki I once loved. I asked her how she transformed ordinary pork chops into something so delicious. It turns out, the secret is in the marinade!
Once my aunt shared her recipe, I used it as inspiration for making souvlaki. This simple recipe has two main components: the meat cubes and the delicious marinade.
Choosing the meat
Souvlaki can be made with a variety of meats, generally lamb, pork, or chicken. (Some people also use beef.) The Greek church made their souvlaki with lamb but it’s much easier for me to find pork here in Spain so that’s what I generally use.
For the juiciest, most tender souvlaki, choose a cut of meat with some fat marbling in it. Many people choose pork tenderloin but I prefer using pork shoulder. When choosing chicken I prefer dark meat like chicken thighs.
The marinade is the secret to infusing the meat with a mouth-watering flavor that will transport you straight to the Greek islands. It’s really amazing how such a simple combination can pack such a flavorful punch!
For my pork souvlaki recipe, I use my aunt’s simple combination of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and thyme. Some people use vinegar instead of lemon juice and others use a different combination of herbs with or without garlic. For the best flavor, I use fresh oregano and thyme from the garden, but dried herbs can also be used if that’s your only option.
If using dried herbs, you’ll want to reduce the amount by a third. So, use a teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herbs.
To begin, prepare the marinade. First, juice the lemon. Then, peel and mince the garlic cloves. Rinse the herbs, if using fresh, and bruise them with a mortar and pestle (or cut them with a knife or herb scissors). Combine the lemon juice, garlic, herbs, salt, and olive oil in a small bowl.
Once your marinade is ready, prepare the meat by cutting it into approximately 1 inch cubes.
Add the pork cubes to a large bowl and pour the marinade over them. Cover the bowl with a beeswax cloth wrap or plastic wrap and allow the pieces of pork to soak in the marinade for at least half an hour in the refrigerator (several hours is better). I generally marinate mine overnight!
Once you’re ready to cook the meat, remove the pork from the marinade and thread the pieces of meat onto metal or wooden skewers.
Heat your grill to medium-high heat, and cook the skewers for around 5 minutes per side until the meat is fully cooked through. (Internal temperature should reach 145ºF.) If you don’t have a grill, you can also pan-fry the kebabs over a hot skillet. (I use an iron grill pan over the stove.) While I haven’t personally tried it, I imagine cooking the souvlaki in an air fryer would also be a good option.
Once your souvlaki is ready, you can serve it as is, or accompany it with warm pita bread or rice. In the past, I served mine atop grain-free pitas, but lately, I’ve been ditching the carbs and have found that they are delicious enough to eat on their own. For another keto alternative, try a side of Greek salad with cucumber, red onions, and tomato topped with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Souvlaki is often served with tzatziki sauce (or just use Greek yogurt as I generally do). You can see in my pictures that I often accompany my Mediterranean meals with some grilled padrón peppers. Other typical garnishes include sprigs of fresh parsley or mint leaves.
Pork Souvlaki Marinade Recipe
For the souvlaki marinade
- 800 g pork (pork shoulder)
Prepare the souvlaki marinade
- Juice the lemon and add the juice to a small bowl.
- Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the bowl.
- Rinse the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. Bruise the herbs with a mortar and pestle or cut them with a knife or herb scissors. Add the herbs to the bowl.
- Finish the marinade by adding the olive oil and salt to the bowl and combining all of the ingredients.
Prepare the pork
- Cube the pork into chunks that will comfortably fit onto a skewer (around 1 inch cubes). Place them in a large bowl.
- Pour the marinade over the pork and make sure the meat is well coated in the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of half an hour. Several hours, or overnight, is preferable. (Marinate up to 2 days.)
Cooking the souvlaki
- Remove the pork from the marinade and thread the pieces of meat onto metal or wooden skewers.
- Heat your grill to medium-high heat, and cook the skewers for around 5 minutes per side until the meat is fully cooked through. (Internal temperature should reach 145ºF/63ºC.)
Cooking alternativesWhile souvlaki is generally made on a grill, it can also be pan-fried in oil or lard over the stove. (Ideally use a grill pan if you have one available.) In a pinch, and air fryer should also work.
ServingSouvlaki can be eaten alone or served on pitas or with rice. It pairs well with tzatziki sauce or Greek yogurt.
Make aheadSouvlaki can be made ahead of time and stored in the marinade in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If you need to make it further in advance, the marinated pork can be frozen until the day you plan on serving it. (Thaw several hours before cooking.)
ReheatingLeftover souvlaki can be reheated in the oven or an air fryer at around 350ºF/180ºC until fully warmed through.
This post was originally published on May 9, 2015. It was rewritten in 2023 with clearer instructions, new tips, and added nutritional information.