Chicken kabobs are a popular grilled dish consisting of cubed chicken, vegetables, and sometimes fruit skewered onto a stick or metal skewer. They make for a tasty, protein-packed meal or appetizer. But how many calories are actually in a chicken kabob? The number of calories can vary greatly depending on the size and specific ingredients used.
Chicken Kabob Ingredients
A basic chicken kabob is composed of the following main ingredients:
- Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1-2 inch cubes
- Vegetables – Such as bell peppers, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes
- Fruit (optional) – Such as pineapple chunks or peaches
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, spices like cumin or garlic powder
- Oil/Marinade – A small amount of oil or a marinade to add flavor
- Skewers – Wooden or metal skewers
The specific amounts of each ingredient used, especially the chicken, will determine the calories per kabob. Let’s break down the calorie counts:
This is the main source of calories and protein in a chicken kabob. Here are the calories for 3.5 ounces (about 100g) of cooked chicken breast or thigh meat, which is a typical serving size for one kabob:
- Chicken breast: 165 calories
- Chicken thigh: 175 calories
So plain grilled chicken will provide 165-175 calories in a typical kabob. Removing the skin reduces the calories since it contains some fat.
The vegetables used in chicken kabobs are very low in calories. For example:
- 1 cup bell pepper: 30 calories
- 1 cup zucchini: 18 calories
- 1 cup mushrooms: 22 calories
- 10 cherry tomatoes: 27 calories
So around 25-50 calories per cup of veggies is standard. They add nutrients like vitamins A and C, boost fiber, and take up volume to create a filling kabob.
Fruits like pineapple and peach provide natural sweetness and flavor. They have about 60-80 calories per cup. So fruit can increase the calorie count slightly if added to kabobs.
Using oil or an oily marinade adds flavor when grilling kabobs. About 1-2 tbsp of oil per pound of chicken adds roughly 120-240 extra calories. Marinades with sugar and oil increase calories further. A lower calorie marinade option is plain yogurt.
Wooden and metal skewers are very low in calories, providing an insignificant amount per serving.
Calories in a Full Chicken Kabob
Putting together a full chicken kabob with the ingredients above, a typical kabob may contain:
- 3.5 oz chicken breast or thigh: 165-175 calories
- 1 cup mixed veggies: 25-50 calories
- 1 tbsp oil or marinade: 120 calories
This would total about 310-345 calories per standard size kabob.
The calorie count can decrease if you go light on oil/marinade or increase if you add more chicken and oil-based marinade. Using higher calorie chicken thighs versus breasts also increases the calories.
Here is a nutrition summary for a full chicken kabob based on generic nutrition data:
|1 Chicken Kabob (8 oz)
|Chicken breast (3.5 oz)
|Bell pepper (1 cup)
|Onion (1/2 cup)
|Marinade (1 tbsp)
So a full 8 ounce kabob adds up to about 350 calories. Again, the calorie count may vary based on your specific ingredients.
Factors Affecting Kabob Calories
Several factors can raise or lower the calorie content in chicken kabobs:
Chicken Portion Size
The bigger the chicken pieces or more chicken you pack onto a kabob, the more calories it will have. Limiting it to about 3.5 oz of chicken per kabob helps keep calories moderate.
Chicken breast has less fat and calories than chicken thigh. Breast has about 165 calories per 3.5 oz versus 175 calories in thigh.
Skin On or Off
Chicken skin adds fat and calories. Remove skin before grilling to lower the calories by about 50 per kabob.
Marinade or Oil
The type of marinade and amount of oil it contains directly impacts calories. Opt for lower cal marinades like Greek yogurt or limit oil to 1 tbsp per pound of chicken. Sugary barbecue sauce packs on calories so use sparingly.
Loading up on low calorie veggies helps create a filling, nutrient-dense kabob for fewer calories. Limit high starch veggies like potatoes which have more carbs and calories.
While fruits add vitamins and sweetness, their natural sugars increase calorie density slightly. Limit fruit to 1 cup chunks per kabob.
Grilling is one of the lowest calorie cooking methods. Deep frying in batter significantly increases kabob calories from the oil.
Lower Calorie Kabob Tips
Here are some tips to lighten up chicken kabobs:
- Use chicken breast instead of thigh
- Remove chicken skin before skewering
- Limit chicken to 3.5 oz portions
- Load up on low cal veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms
- Skip the sugary barbecue sauce marinade
- Stick to 1 tbsp oil or marinade per pound chicken
- Choose Greek yogurt or mustard/herb marinades
- Grill instead of frying kabobs
- Serve over salad instead of rice pilaf
Following these tips can help reduce the calories in chicken kabobs to around 300 calories or less per serving.
Higher Calorie Kabob Styles
While basic grilled chicken and veggie kabobs tend to be lower in calories, some common kabob preparations pack on the calories:
Swapping chicken for higher fat beef like sirloin or ribeye can add 50-100 calories more per serving.
All Beef Kabobs
Kabobs loaded up with just beef and no veggies significantly increases the saturated fat and calories.
Tandoori Chicken Kabobs
These are marinated in a thick, yogurt-based sauce with spices. The extra yogurt and oil can add 50-150 calories more.
Frying in a heavy batter versus grilling adds a good 200+ calories from the oil.
Ground lamb or lamb chunks have more fat than chicken or beef, tacking on around 100 extra calories.
Large shrimp have about 30 calories each. Skewering 3-4 per kabob boosts the calories, but still less than red meat.
So these kabob variations will all have more calories per serving compared to a plain grilled chicken kabob. Balance it out by limiting heavy marinades or frying.
Besides being lean protein, chicken kabobs offer additional nutrition perks:
Chicken kabobs provide an easy way to get in your veggies. Peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes offer vitamins A and C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Fruit additions like pineapple and peach add vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. They also contribute natural sweetness.
Chicken breast provides over 20g of satiating protein per 3.5 oz. Protein builds muscle, curbs appetite, and keeps you full.
Meat and veggies supply a good dose of iron critical for circulation and energy levels.
Compounds in the vegetables may help reduce inflammation and disease risk.
So kabobs make for a well-rounded mini meal thanks to their combo of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Grilled Chicken Kabob Recipe
This simple, healthy recipe allows you to make chicken kabobs at home:
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
- Wooden or metal skewers
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make marinade: In a bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Add chicken to the marinade and mix until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
- Thread chicken pieces and vegetables alternately onto skewers, leaving a small space between pieces.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill kabobs for 8-12 minutes, turning occasionally until chicken is cooked through.
- Remove kabobs from the grill and serve warm.
Adjust cooking time as needed for larger or smaller chicken pieces. Brush with extra marinade during grilling if desired.
Chicken kabobs can make for a tasty and nutrient-dense meal when you go for lean chicken, lots of veggies, and simple marinade ingredients. Count on about 300-350 calories for a standard size kabob made with 3.5 oz grilled chicken breast, 1 cup of mixed vegetables, and 1 tbsp olive oil.
Use lean chicken, limit higher fat marinades, go heavy on the veggies, and grill instead of fry to keep calories in check. Round it out by pairing kabobs with sides like a fresh salad or brown rice pilaf. Chicken kabobs provide a well-balanced mini meal on a stick that packs protein, essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and fiber into one convenient, portable package.