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Xinjiang Lamb Skewers (新疆烤串, chuar)

5 from 16 votes
The real-deal recipe that helps you cook exactly the way that Chinese street vendors do. Learn the best practices of choosing cuts, making the marinade, and grilling over charcoal.
This recipe yields about 12 skewers, but the number changes depending on how big a skewer you make.
If you're hosting a party, prepare 1 lbs/450 g meat for 4 people serving as a main dish with other sides and appetizers, or 1 lbs/450 g meat for 6 people serving as an appetizer. For meat lovers, prepare up to 1/2 lbs (220g) meat per person if the lamb skewer is the theme of the party (it is a thing in China).
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 12 skewers
Author: Maggie Zhu


  • 1 pound (450 grams) lamb meat (lean fat ratio 7:3) (*See footnote 1)
  • 1/2 onion , sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds (Optional)


  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder and extra for grilling
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and extra for grilling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder (Optional)


  • Combine oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, cumin powder, chili powder, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well.
  • Trim fat from the lamb meat if necessary. Cut lean part into 1.5-cm (0.5-inch) cubes. Cut fat into thin pieces half the size of the lean pieces.
  • Thread lamb cubes closely onto skewers, alternating between lean meat and fat cubes (*see footnote 2).
  • Spread onion inside a 1-gallon ziploc bag. Place lamb skewers on top of the onion. Pour the marinade over the lamb. Massage the bag so the lamb is covered evenly with the marinade. Seal both sides of the bag and place upside down, the onions facing up. Let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  • Build a modified two zone fire, and leave some space without any coal.
  • Transfer the lamb skewers onto the grilling grate, one finger’s width apart. Flip frequently until the lamb turns dark brown on all surfaces. Move to indirect fire. Generously sprinkle a layer cumin powder, then chili powder (or you can skip the chili powder if you don’t want the lamb to be too spicy). Flip, then sprinkle another layer of cumin powder. Sprinkle whole cumin seeds onto the lamb for extra flavor, if using. Grill until the meat is cooked through.
  • Serve immediately. Or move to the side of the grill without coal to keep warm.


  1. Just like I mentioned in the post, you can serve beef alternatively or additionally if some of your guests do not eat lamb.
  2. If you really don’t like lamb fat, you can put one piece of fat for every two to three pieces of lean meat. Again, the fat will shrink a lot because a lot of it will render and drip off during roasting. The fat left on the skewer will be crispy and add a nice flavor to the meat.


Serving: 1skewer, Calories: 94kcal, Carbohydrates: 0.8g, Protein: 10.8g, Fat: 5.1g, Saturated Fat: 1.4g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 278mg, Potassium: 140mg, Vitamin A: 50IU, Calcium: 10mg, Iron: 1.3mg