tabaka chicken with rhubarb tkemali

Tabaka Chicken with Rhubarb Tkemali (Georgian Salt Slab-Grilled Chickens)

Tabaka chicken is the national dish of the Republic of Georgia. By itself, it has a citrus cinnamon flavor. Dip it in Tkemali for added tartness.

Tabaka is the national dish of the Republic of Georgia. Tabaka chicken is a taste like none other. The zest of citrus combines with the juices, onion, dry white while, paprika, cinnamon, and brown sugar for a unique full-flavored marinade. And when the chicken is ready to serve, make sure that you have a

While the marinade reduces and cools, spatchcock your chickens so they can lay flat on the grill. Marinate for at least 6 hours, or as long as 24 hours; the longer the marinade, the richer the flavor!

marinate tabaka chicken

The sealed grate system of the SABER® keeps fat drippings away from the fire, meaning no flare-ups. Place chicken directly on the grill grate, flesh side down. Use a salt brick or grill press to keep the chicken flat on the grill. Cook for 30 minutes per side, giving each bird a quarter turn every 15 minutes. When finished, the internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees. Use your SABER® EZ Temp Digital Thermometer to ensure your poultry is ready to eat.

The result is juicy, delicious citrus cinnamon flavored chicken with a crispy skin. Dip in the tangy rhubarb sauce for an anything-but-ordinary grilled chicken!

salt block tabaka chicken

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Equipment: 2 salt slabs, or 2 grill presses or bricks wrapped in foil

This recipe was featured on Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke.


  • 3 oranges
  • 2 limes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches long)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 slices (each 1⁄4 inch thick) fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 3-1/2 pounds chickens
  • 1 recipe Tkemali, for serving
  • Fresh dill sprigs, for serving


  • Make the marinade:
  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove 1 strip of orange zest, 1 strip of lime zest, and 1 strip of lemon zest and place in a nonreactive saucepan.
  • Juice the oranges, limes, and lemon.
  • Add the juices, the wine, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and pepper in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered, until the mixture is reduced, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  • Spatchcock the chickens:
  • Cut out the backbone of each bird using poultry shears
  • Open as you would a book, remove the breast bones, and flatten them with the palm of your hand.
  • Tuck the wings back.
  • Arrange the chickens in a baking dish and pour the marinade over them.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Turn 2 or 3 times to ensure even seasoning.
  • Grill:
  • Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat medium.
  • Remove the chickens from the marinade and place on the grate, skin side up.
  • Place a salt slab, brick, or grill press on top of each to flatten it.
  • Grill the chickens until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. (Reposition the salt slabs as needed.)

Tkemali Sauce

  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (sea or kosher), or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste


Step 1: Combine the rhubarb and water in a heavy saucepan and cook uncovered over medium heat until the rhubarb is soft and mushy, 8 minutes.

Step 2: Stir in the lemon juice, oil, garlic, coriander, salt, and pepper flakes and simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a smooth puree. Return the puree to the saucepan and stir in the cilantro and dill.

Step 3: Continue simmering the sauce until thick and flavorful, 3 minutes. Correct the seasoning, adding salt or sugar to taste. Tkemali should be highly seasoned and tart (but not unpalatably sour). Let cool to room temperature and serve. Refrigerated, the sauce will keep for at least 1 week.

tabaka chicken rhubarb tkemali

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