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Juicy and tender, Xinjiang spicy cumin lamb skewers with a bold cumin and cayenne marinade, are so flavourful and easy to make on the grill or air fryer. |

Spicy Cumin Lamb Skewers

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  • Author: Sam | Ahead of Thyme
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 skewers
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Juicy and tender, Xinjiang spicy cumin lamb skewers with a bold cumin and cayenne marinade, are so flavourful and easy to make on the grill or air fryer.


  • 1 lb. lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 + 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Add cubed lamb into a zip-loc bag, and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, cooking wine, soy sauce, minced garlic, cumin powder, cayenne pepper, cumin seeds (optional), and salt. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Press the marinade around the lamb to coat. Place in the fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight, to infuse all the seasoning and spices into the meat.
  2. Thread the lamb onto skewers. Depending on the size of your skewers, you should be able to thread 6 skewers with 6-7 pieces of lamb on each.
  3. Preheat grill (or grill pan) over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes and lightly brush the grill with remaining 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil. You should notice the oil shimmer and sizzle when it's hot and ready.
  4. Grill the lamb skewers for 10-15 minutes (rotating every few minutes, or until the internal temperature of the lamb reaches 155 F. For well done, cook for a few more minutes, until the internal temperature reaches above 160 F. Sprinkle some cumin seeds on top of the lamb near the end of grilling (adding the cumin seeds too early can cause them to get too burnt).
  5. Sprinkle more cayenne pepper if desired and serve hot.


Equipment used: skewerstongs for grilling, an indoor grill pan, and a digital meat thermometer.

Marinate the lamb. It is crucial to let the lamb marinate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse into the mean and to tenderize the meat, aka making it juicier. If you have the time, I recommend marinating it even longer or overnight for the best results.

Adjust the spiciness level. These skewers are spicy. For a milder taste, add just 1 teaspoon of cayenne powder or even less, depending on your personal preference. If you want them extra spicy, add up to 1 tablespoon. 

How to make the lamb even more tender. Turn off the heat and remove the the grill from heat a couple minutes earlier, when the internal temperature reaches 150 F (5 degrees lower than the desired level). Let it rest for a few minutes in the pan as the residual heat will continue to cook the skewers. Resting after cooking helps the juices redistribute into the meat. Once the internal temperature reaches 155 F, remove from the pan and serve.

Use a digital thermometer. A digital meat thermometer is very useful when grilling meat skewers for checking doneness. Simply insert halfway inside the meat to get a quick measurement.

How to cook lamb skewers in the oven. If you prefer, you can cook these skewers in the oven instead. This way you can cook them all year round. Simply place the skewers on a baking tray and bake at 440 F for 15 minutes, rotating the skewers halfway.

How to cook lamb in the air fryerCook (unskewered) at 375 F for 15 minutes, shaking the basket halfway. Once done, leave the basket in the air fryer for another 2 minutes as it will continue to cook with residual heat. 

Double up the recipe. This is a smaller batch recipe that makes 6 skewers. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd.

How to serve. Serve this alongside a fresh Chinese garlic cucumber salad.

How to store. Unthread the spicy cumin lamb skewers and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes (+30 minutes to marinate)
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Lamb
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Chinese