This Margarita-Marinated Pork Shish Kabobs recipe is a great way to celebrate the grilling season.
It may not make you think of traditional Mexican recipes, but the Mexican-inspired flavors make for a very delicious meal without heating up your kitchen!
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Ever since 1987, the National Pork Board has been advertising juicy pork as “the other white meat”. Pork tenderloin in particular has as much flavor profile as a boneless, skinless chicken breast. It may not be the favorite food of everyone, but it is an economical lean meat that is quickly prepared. The problem is it can be fairly bland and dry out when cooking.
A great way to prepare pork is to marinate it and grill it. But since the best flavor is on the outside, it can be pretty boring. So the idea is to get more flavor on the pork, but how do you do that?
Enter the shish kabob. Or is it shish kebab?
What is Shish Kabobs or Shish Kebobs?
Some believe the American spelling is kabobs and the British use kebobs, but it is really a misconception. They are interchangeable terms really.
The spelling may be different but the dish is the same.
Wikipedia states a shish kebab is an English rendering of Turkish: şiş meaning sword or skewer and kebap meaning a roasted meat dish.
A more modern take is cubes of meat marinated and cooked with vegetables usually on a skewer.
The dish is believed to have originated in the Middle East where the traditional kebob meat skewers were threaded with lamb. Although pork is not part of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine due to religious reasons, today you will find kebobs with any kind of meat including beef, chicken, and pork on global menus.
In Greece, they serve one of my favorite things which is a kebob called souvlaki. It consists of marinated pork, chicken, beef, or lamb pieces cooked on a charcoal grill and served with warm pita bread, fresh veggies like salad and onions, and a delicious creamy topping called tzatziki sauce.
In Turkey and India, you often find meatless kebabs with only fresh vegetables threaded and cooked on skewers.
In America, you find steak kabobs with simple ingredients like cherry tomatoes and red onion or other fresh vegetables. Some finish the cooking process with a squirt of lemon juice to counteract the fat of the meat.
Nutritional Values of Pork for Shish Kabobs
Nutrition is one of the reasons I use pork tenderloin in this shish kabob recipe.
Pork is a very lean protein that is much lower in calories and fat than beef or lamb. This seems like a good meat to enjoy on a low calorie diet.
But not all boneless pork is similarly lean.
Examine the nutrition facts of pork tenderloin for instance. A 4-ounce serving contains 167 calories, and 4.5 grams of fat with only 1.6 grams of saturated fat. But it packs over 29 g protein! It has great nutritional value.
Pork shoulder on the other hand has 336 calories in a 4-ounce serving and 24 grams of fat with over 9 grams of saturated fat which is almost half of the recommended daily values for fat intake!
Pork chops are in the nutritional middle. A 4-ounce serving has 236 calories, just over 12 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat.
Additionally, I find it easier to prepare pork tenderloin for skewers than pork chops.
What Equipment Do You Need?
You can use wooden skewers or bamboo skewers if you embrace sustainability, but there are issues with them.
First, you can only use these once with raw meat.
Secondly, they are not as strong as metal skewers. They easily bend under the weight of meat and can break.
Finally, you have to soak wooden skewers before using them on a grill. This also adds time to your preparations.
What is the Best Way to Grill This Pork Shish Kabobs Recipe?
First of all, as with anything you grill, preheat the grill and clean the grates. Start with high heat and reduce it to medium-high heat. Lowering to medium heat will not only take longer, but you may not get the delicious char on your pork skewers.
Definitely marinate your meat! See below.
Pay attention when skewering the cuts of pork. Try not to jam all of the meat together on the skewer. Leave a little room between each piece of pork to allow for more even cooking.
Save a little time with a plastic wrap lined pan. When you have the kabobs prepared transfer them together on a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan lined with plastic wrap. After you place the skewers on the grill, throw the plastic wrap away and use the clean pan to return the grilled kabobs to the kitchen.
Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure you remove the grilled pork kabobs when they reach 140 degrees F. Be careful not to overcook and dry out this delicious dish.
Should I Marinate Pork Shish Kabobs Before Grilling?
Absolutely! There are two main reasons to marinated pork tastes better.
First, marinating gives the pork pieces time to absorb the best marinade flavors. Just 20 minutes can make a big difference in the flavor of the pieces of pork.
Second, cornstarch helps tenderize it. The cornstarch helps the marinade cling to the meat better while grilling and locking in moisture.
You can mix the marinade and toss the pork with it in a shallow dish, but using a Ziploc bag will allow the marinade to completely cover the meat. Remember to save 1/3 of the marinade to drizzle on the kabobs at the finish.
Recipe Ingredients for Margarita Marinated Pork Shish Kabobs
- 2-pound Pork loin
- ¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 4 limes
- 5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil or neutral vegetable oil
- 4 Tbsp tequila
- 4 tsp agave
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 medium red onions
- 12 – 16 Shishito peppers or 2 medium red bell peppers. You can substitute green bell peppers for red, but the best flavor is with Shishito or red bell peppers.
How do I Make This Recipe for Pork Shish Kabobs?
When I am making pork recipes that require me to cut the meat before cooking I put it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes to firm up. It is much easier to cut.
So, the first step is to place the pork tenderloin in the freezer for 20 minutes.
However, the most important step is to preheat your grill.
Preheat the Grill
For using a charcoal grill: Open the bottom vent completely. Light one chimney starter full of charcoal briquettes. When coals are partially covered with ash, pour over the bottom of the grill. Place cooking grate on top and cover. Open the lid vent all the way. Let the grill heat up for 5 – 10 minutes.
For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, close the lid, and heat grill for about 15 minutes until it reaches a high temperature. Leave the main burner on high and turn off the other burners.
Clean and oil the cooking grate.
Prepare the Pork and Vegetables
Remove pork from the freezer, trim, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place pork cubes in a large bowl or sealable gallon plastic bag which is recommended for marinating.
Combine the marinade ingredients of cilantro, the juice of 2 limes, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, tequila, agave, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a mini food processor.
Pulse for 10 – 15 seconds until incorporated. Reserve 1/3 of the marinade; pour the rest over the pork in the plastic bag. Seal and massage the bag to coat the pork. Let stand at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes.
Cut remaining limes into wedges and set aside.
Cut each red onion into 1-inch rounds, then into quarters. Do not separate.
Keep Shishito peppers whole. If using red peppers, remove the stem and seeds and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Thread onions and peppers onto skewers. Brush with remaining oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove pork pieces from the marinade and thread pieces of meat onto skewers leaving a little room in between the pieces of pork. Put the rest of the marinade in a small bowl for basting. Place pepper, onion, and pork kabobs on a plastic wrap lined rimmed baking sheet to transfer to the grill.
Grilling and Serving the Pork Shish Kabobs
Grill the pork for 4 – 5 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with marinade, and grill until the internal temperature of the meat registers 140 degrees F on a meat thermometer. About 4 – 5 minutes longer or about 8 – 10 minutes total cooking time. Transfer skewers to a clean plate or serving platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.
Grill the onions and peppers, turning occasionally, and baste with marinade, until slightly charred, about 4 minutes per side.
Sprinkle the pork, onions, and peppers with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with the reserved 1/3 marinade.
Serve with lime wedges and more cilantro, if desired.
Invite Friends Over for this Recipe for Margarita Marinated Pork Shish Kabobs
When the summer grilling season is in full swing these delicious pork kebabs are the answer to a great meal on the patio with friends. Pour some delicious red wine or make margaritas and savor the conversation.
Serve these kabobs with delicious Grilled Zucchini with Cilantro Vinaigrette. And add a side of Instant Pot brown rice if you like.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, just invite friends over and enjoy a good meal of Margarita-Marinated Pork Shish Kabobs together!
P.S. Share with friends on social media, please! Thanks in advance. And when you make this delish dish, comment below and let me know how it went. Cheers!
Margarita-Marinated Pork Shish Kababs
- Equipment: 8 – 10 skewers (12 – 16-inch)
- 2 pound Pork Tenderloin
- ¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
- 4 limes
- 5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Tbsp tequila
- 4 tsp agave
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp salt plus more to taste
- ¼ tsp pepper plus more to taste
- 2 medium red onions
- 12 – 16 Shishito peppers or 2 medium red bell peppers
- Place pork tenderloin in a freezer for 20 minutes.
- Preheat grill. For charcoal grill: Open the bottom vent completely. Light one chimney starter full of charcoal briquettes. When coals are partially covered with ash, pour over the bottom of the grill. Place cooking grate on top and cover. Open lid vent all the way. Let grill heat up for 5 – 10 minutes.
- For gas grill: Turn all burners to high, close lid and heat about 15 minutes until hot. Leave main burner on high and turn off other burners.
- Clean and oil cooking grate.
- Remove pork from the freezer, trim and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a sealable gallon plastic bag.
- Combine cilantro, the juice of 2 limes, 4 tbsp EVOO, tequila, agave, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a mini food processor.
- Pulse 10 – 15 seconds until incorporated. Reserve 1/3 of marinade; pour the rest over the pork in the plastic bag. Seal and massage bag to coat the pork. Let stand for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Cut remaining limes into wedges and set aside.
- Cut onions into 1-inch rounds, then into quarters.
- Keep Shishito peppers whole. If using bell peppers, remove stem and seeds cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Thread onions and peppers onto skewers. Brush with remaining oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove pork from marinade and thread pork onto skewers leaving a little room in between pieces. Put rest of bagged marinade in a bowl for basting.
- Grill the pork 3 – 4 minutes. Brush skewers with marinade. Flip skewers, brush with marinade and grill until meat registers 140 degrees F, 3 – 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving platter, tent with aluminum foil and let rest 5 minutes.
- Grill the onions and peppers, turn occasionally and baste with marinade, until slightly charred, about 4 minutes per side.
- Sprinkle the pork, onions and peppers with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with the reserved 1/3 marinade.
- Serve with lime wedges and more cilantro, if desired.