Chicken Shawarma Shopping Tips
Middle Eastern cuisine relies on some fragrant and expensive spices and seasonings such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, coriander, turmeric, and sumac. If possible, buy and store them whole; whole spices have a stronger aroma and flavor.
Chicken Shawarma Cooking Tips
For a stronger flavor and aroma, toast spices before grinding them, and only grind the amount that you need for the recipe. Keeping spices whole until needed extends their shelf life.
Easy Chicken Shawarma Recipe
Robust and flavorful easy Chicken Shawarma at home! Beats takeout any day of the week, and is perfect for work or school lunch. Plus, my creamy white garlic sauce for Chicken Shawarma adds a bright creamy tang.
Chicken Shawarma is juicy chicken marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices that’s stacked in a cone-like shape and slowly roasted. It’s a really popular street food in the Mediterranean, but you can get those same delicious flavors right at home.
How to make chicken shawarma at home?
I find that boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the best cut for shawarmas. They’re much less expensive than breast meat and also much juicier. More bang for your buck without sacrificing flavor. You just can’t beat that! You can use chicken breast if you like leaner meat. I would even suggest using half breast and half thighs if you can. Let’s go over all of the ingredients.
- olive oil
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- garlic cloves
- chicken thighs and/or, chicken breast
- cumin powder
- black pepper
- pinch of cinnamon
- sweet paprika
- ground coriander
- black pepper
- crushed red pepper flakes
First things first, you’re going to marinate the chicken. If you like a more tangy flavor, use more lemon juice. Ground cardamom smells so good, and just a little bit goes a very long way. All of the spices are going to add tons and tons of flavor. Make sure that the chicken and onions are fully coated in the marinade and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. For maximum flavor, you could also marinate it overnight for 6 to 8 hours.
Garlic yogurt sauce for Chicken Shawarma
My white garlic sauce is amazing. Creamy, tangy, and just the right amount of garlic. Some local takeout shawarma spots go so heavy on the garlic and mayonnaise that it leaves me feeling nauseated after my meal. I make mine with lots of yogurt. It really lightens up the mayonnaise and adds such a creamy tang. I use whole milk plain yogurt. It’s not Greek yogurt, but if Greek yogurt is what you have, go ahead and use it. I just really like the consistency of plain regular yogurt because it keeps the sauce nice and thin. But like I said, use what you have or use Greek yogurt if you like the sauce thicker.
Your sauce should stay fresh in the refrigerator for a while, so put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you want to pack yourself a delicious lunch for work or send shawarma with the kids to school, you’ll have your sauce ready to go.
How to cook your shawarma chicken at home
After your chicken has marinated for at least an hour, you can grill or broil it. Grill it over medium-high heat and let it cook about 6 or 7 minutes per side or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165℉.
To use the broiler, set the broiler to the highest temperature, and make sure your oven rack is as close to the heating element as it will go. Put a cooling rack on top of a baking tray and put the chicken on top of the cooling rack. I’ve tried cooking the chicken directly on a baking tray and the chicken does not come out as juicy. All of the juices and fat drip down to the bottom and then you’re left with that delicious juicy chicken. So, use a cooling rack if you have one.
Honestly, you could also cook it on the stovetop if you wanted to make a small batch. I just find that anytime I make chicken shawarma that I like to make a bigger batch. It’s great for taking to work or sending with the kids to school. So if I’m doing it, I’m going to make a big batch. Also, cooking it on the stovetop will create a lot of smoke and you’ll have to wash the pan out many times. That’s why I prefer to do it on the grill or in the oven.
Cook this under the broiler for 16 to 18 minutes, flipping the chicken over about halfway through. The chicken will get nice and golden brown. Let it sit and rest for about 10 minutes, then go ahead and slice it into strips. Put it in a big bowl and combine it with all of those delicious onions that have caramelized and softened.
Now you’re ready to put your chicken shawarma together
I like to make a pita. You just layer your sauce, salad and chicken mixture on your pita. For the salad, you can just take any of your favorite salad greens and chop them up with a little bit of carrot, tomatoes, and cucumbers. For busy nights, I keep a ready-made salad that I buy from Costco on hand. My favorite is the Mediterranean crunch chopped salad kit. If you guys have a Costco nearby, it’s great to have this on hand for those busy days that you don’t have time to put together a salad.
If you want your chicken shawarma like you get it in the shops, you can crisp it up before putting it all together. Heat up a cast iron grill to medium-high heat. After you slice the chicken, put it on the cast iron for about 30 seconds on each side until it gets those crispy bits.
Serve your pita with a vegetable side dish, like greek salad or zucchini noodles.
If you’re staying away from carbs, go ahead and put it over a salad or maybe over some cauliflower rice. If you don’t mind the carbs but you don’t want the bread, put it on some rice. Whatever your heart desires.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
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Shawarma refers to the Middle Eastern method cooking where thin slices of meat, most traditionally lamb, are stack on a vertical spit and slowly rotate in front of a fire or other heat source. The outside meat is slowly cooked and then shaved off to serve. It's a common street food and the result is tender, juicy, well spiced meat. Our version, since it's cooked in the oven, varies greatly from traditional shawarma, but mimics the flavor and tenderness you would find and makes it possible to make at home. Shawarma refers to the meat and is most commonly served with pita and veggies like lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. Use the chicken in a salad, on a pita, or over rice. However you serve it, you're going to love it. Cooking the chicken with the onions adds extra moisture to the pan and helps it further tenderize the chicken and produces some pan sauce that is great tossed in with the cut chicken!
If you're looking for more Middle Eastern inspiration, try out our Falafel next!
Editor's Note: The introduction to this recipe was updated on August 18, 2020 to include more information about the dish.
The ultimate middle eastern chicken shawarma
1 kg skinless boneless chicken cut into thin strips(a 50:50 mixture of breasts and thighs works best)
For the marinade:
1 heaping tablespoon of shawarma spice blend (recipe follows)
1 medium onion cut into strips
Peel of one orange cut into strips
Shawarma spice blend
5 all spice or pimento berries
Sumac onion strips
1 medium onion cut into strips
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons parsley leaves
Prepare the shawarma spice blend by grinding all of its ingredients together. Set aside
In a bowl place the chicken, onions,garlic,spice blend, olive oil , vinegar. orange and lemon peel and toss till all the chicken is coated
Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably over night
To cook the shawarma
Place a pot on a medium high flame, when it gets hot add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the chicken
Stir over high heat for 2-3 minutes
Remove the orange and lemon peel and remove most of the onion strips
Continue to cook while stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and you don’t see any fluids in the pan
Adding a smoky flavor to your shawarma
For the ultimate shawarma flavor, heat a small piece of coal till the edges are glowing
Fold a couple of layers of foil into a rough saucer shape
Place the coal in the tinfoil saucer and then place it in the shawarma pot
Add a small slice of butter on top of the coal, immediately cover the pot
Leave for 7 to 10 minutes
Note: you can use whole chicken breasts and thighs, marinated them and then cook them in the oven or on the grill. When they’re done you can cut them into strips.
(I personally find that cutting the chicken intro strips before hand allows it to absorb more flavors from the marinade and the shawarma ends up tasting better)
10 to 15 minutes before making the sandwiches add the sumac and vinegar to the onions strip, toss to coat.
Allow to marinate for 10- 15 minutes
drain off the vinegar
To make the ultimate shawarma sandwich spread a loaf of pita bread with a thin layer of toum, top it with the chicken shawarma,onion slices, tomatoes and pickles
كيلو من صدور و افخاذ الدجاج مقطعة شرحات طويلة
ملعقه كبيره من بهار الشاورما (الوصفه في الاسفل)
بصله مقطعه شرائح كبيرة
تخلط جميع المقادير معا وتقلب جيدا ونظل نقلب فيها حتى تتغلغل التتبيلة داخل شرائح الدجاج والافضل ان تترك في الثلاجة حوالي 12 ساعة
قبل اعداد الشاورما بنص ساعة نخرجها من الثلاجة ونزيل شرائح البصل وفصوص الثوم و قشر البرتقال والليمون
نضيف القليل من الزيت لمقلاة سميكة ونتركه يسخن قليلا
نضيف شرائح الدجاج على نار عالية نوعا ما ثم نهدي النار الا ان يجف ماء الدجاج و تتحمر قليلا
قبل ان نطفئ النار نضيف شرائح طماطم و نبخر المزيج بفحمة لاضفاء نكهة الشواء
The juicy shawarma meat tastes best wrapped in pita bread with a little spread of creamy, airy hummus. I also whipped up some delicious garlic mayo instead of toum which is what’s used traditionally. Serve this with a bunch of accompaniments like pickled beetroot and onions, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, lemon wedges and coriander. Whether it’s a party or an elaborate Sunday lunch, I like to serve food in a DIY format. And homemade shawarma is one of the best options for this.
- For the Chicken
- 1 Chicken breasts , cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoon Coriander Powder (Dhania)
- 2 tablespoon Red Chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin powder (Jeera)
- 1 teaspoon Black pepper powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder (Haldi)
- 1 tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste
- 2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt , to taste For the Pita
- 2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 tablespoon Active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- Salt , to taste For the Pickled Vegetables
- 1 Cucumber , cut into julienne
- 1 Carrot (Gajjar) , cut into julienne
- 1 Tomato , pulp removed and julienned
- 1/4 cup Chilli vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Sugar Other Ingredients
- 1 cup Homemade Hummus
- 1 cup Tzatziki
- 1 Onion , chopped
The Chicken Shawarma Sandwich
Once the chicken shawarma is grilled, place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and shred into thin slices as per the photo above. Spread those slices along the diameter of a pita bread, add a bit of Lebanese Garlic Paste (check recipe) , some salty cucumber pickles, a bit of roasted tomatoes, french fries, roll it and voila.. you’ve got yourself a nice chicken shawarma sandwich, made at home! The image below is of our Chicken Shish Tawook sandwich just for illustration purposes, so you can see the chicken pieces are similar to kabobs where as in the Shawarma they’re shredded.
If you like beef try our Beef Shawarma Recipe as well. Now on to the recipe…
Whole Wheat Pita Bread:
- Aata (Whole wheat flour) 2 cups
- Maida (All-purpose flour) 1 cup
- Namak (Salt) ½ tsp
- Cheeni (Sugar) ½ tbs
- Khameer (Dry instant yeast) 1 & ½ tsp
- Olive oil 4-5 tbs
- Neem garam pani (Warm water) as required
- Chicken boneless ½ kg
- Dahi (Yogurt) 3 tbs
- Adrak lehsan paste (Ginger garlic paste) ½ tbs
- Garam masala powder (Whole spice powder) 1 tsp
- Lemon juice ½ tbs
- Lal mirch powder (Red chili powder) 1 & ½ tsp or to taste
- Namak (Salt) 1 tsp or to taste
- Kali mirch powder (Black pepper powder) 1 tsp
- Olive oil 1 tbs
- usion Tahini Sauce: 4 tbs
- Garlic mayo 2 tbs
- Dahi (Yogurt) Strained 2 tbs
- Namak (Salt) ¼ tsp or to taste
- Pani (Water) 1-2 tbs
- Tomatoes (Tamatar) Deseeded Julienne ½ Cup
- Gajar (Carrot) Julienne ½ Cup
- Shimla mirch (Capsicum) Julienne ½ Cup
- Kheera (Cucumber) Julienne ½ Cup
- Bund gobhi (Cabbage) Julienne 1 Cup
- Jalapenos ¼ cup
What To Serve It With
Other than the obvious chicken shawarma, there are so many things this sauce tastes amazing with!
- Yogurt Marinated Chicken (you could even use the leftovers of this sauce as a chicken marinade)
- Roasted Crispy Chickpeas with Shawarma Seasoning
- Pita Bread (if it’s hot and fresh, even better!)
- Potato Wedges or Fries (it makes the best dip)
- Kabobs (or kebabs)
- Sandwich Spread (or a burger sauce…yum)
- Use It As A Salad Dressing
- Use It As A Veggie Dip (it would be great with this festive veggie platter!)
- Ground Beef
- Lebanese Food
Reviews ( 55 )
Would like it better if we could save the recipes to our box.
this was delicious! I cut back slightly on crushed red pepper but next time will use it all! Even my husband liked it and he's fussy when it comes to "different"
My family loved this recipe! I made it with chicken thighs and served it with the yogurt sauce (I did add some honey and it was perfect), pita bread and tabbouli salad. Some sprinkled some feta on their pitas, others did not. I will add this into the rotation!
I agree that this is a great weeknight dinner. We really enjoyed these pitas. I halved the red pepper and next time I would use all of it. I did not have tahini so I left it out.
Very yummy and easy to make. We added a little bit of feta cheese, which was a nice addition. I didn't have any tahini on hand, but added some hummus to the sauce instead and it turned out great.
What a great weeknight or weekend meal! I made the sauce and mixed the chicken and seasoning ingredients and covered in the fridge to marinate for an hour or two. Then to get dinner ready all I had to do was saute the chicken and eat. Easy and very tasty!
This is a great "light" recipe, however we made some modifications to make it less light, mainly by substituting the greek yogurt with sour cream. This made the chicken a lot more tender. We also varied the spice amounts. Our full review with pictures can be seen here: http://www.nickandalonakitchen.com/2016/03/chicken-shawarma.html
Tahini is in most supermarkets, but it can be hard to locate, try asking an employee. I couldn't find it at my supermarket until I asked. it was in a weird place I wouldn't have thought of (by the pickles or something, I think, it was a while back). You can also use it to make hummus.
wow!! i've been wanting to try this, but kept passing it up. what a treat. so awesome! used extra spices on the chicken too. followed recipe, but added some honey to the yogurt spread, mentioned by another. this is company worthy. can have everything prepped/cooked ahead of time. the next night i used the leftover chicken on a pizza, making an indian type tomato sauce, with purple onion and sweet red pepper.
We liked this a lot, hubs wants to add it to our weekly rotation! I used chicken thighs but next time would stick to the recipe with breasts. I used less spice and my pre-schooler ate some chicken too.
Very good. I will make this again, but will leave out the red pepper flakes. My husband and I both agreed that the flavor was out of place here. I will add more garlic also.
We've made this many times and love it. The only additions I make is feta cheese and cooked on the grill pan with Pam instead of oil. .
Delicious and easy. Prepped everything the night before and then we were able to make it in just a few minutes after work. Doubled the spice mixture as others recommended and it was great!
Good flavor in the chicken, although I didn't get a good browning on it, but that my have been b/c I used too small a skillet and this caused a lot of liquid. Served with kale chips. Over all good taste and nice for a Friday or Saturday casual meal.
This was delicious. I left the chicken to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours. I couldn't find tahini locally, so I omitted that from the spread, but it was still delicious. Hubby loved it also and asked it to be a "keeper" recipe.
This recipe was delicious! It was my first try at chicken shawarma and it was a success! I added some honey to the greek yogurt mixture to soften the bite. I also served it in whole wheat pita pockets, and made a gluten-free version by serving it on gluten-free flatbread. I plan use the leftover chicken to make a Mediterranean salad for lunch tomorrow!
Really enjoyed this recipe for a weekend lunch! A few changes to ensure max flavor: 1) used 2 tbsp of greek yogurt in the chicken marinade and let the mix rest at room temp while I heated up the pan / oven 2) Used prepared hummus (not tahini) in the sauce (canned in Intl Aisle at major food stores) and added some additional cumin, corriander and salt to the sauce to give flavor 3) toasted my pitas in the oven (Broil on High 1-2 min each side) 4) used 1 whole elephant garlic clove (half with chicken & half with sauce). Overall results = excellent, filling and light. Would absolutely make again and again for summer weekend lunches (though probably not fanciful or elegant enough for dinner or company) total time was
25 minutes including chopping of the veggies and mixing the sauce (do these while chicken cooks). Something a little different than your traditional American food and we loved the deviation from our "norm." Served with sliced cold watermelon excellent! Enjoy!
I am not sure I understand the rating on this one. I thought it was just okay. Nothing special. At our house we like food that is very flavorful and this just didn't cut it. I won't make it again, it didn't taste bad, it was just wimpy and not worth preparing again.
Fast, simple, very flavorful, very healthy. Will make this again and again - next time to try with grilled chicken. Added all garlic to the chicken coating (on accident), black pepper in the yogurt sauce instead. Happy with the results though
I loved the smell of this and all of the ingredients. My husband enjoyed it and would like to have it again. It was flavorful and good, but I don't think I'll make it again. I used all of the ingredients and made it as written. It was just not something that I'd likely cook again.
I adore this recipe. I personally like to slice, rather than chop, my cucumber, but that's more for texture than anything else. Lacking tahini, I was able to make my own by adding a little olive oil to sesame seed paste, and the result was simply phenomenal. My only complaint is that I hadn't noticed it was intended to serve four, rather than the six I was preparing for, so my pitas weren't as stuffed as they could have been, but that was a personal error I'll be sure not to make next time. The entire process took about an hour from start to finish, and I paired it with seedless grapes and carrot salad (served warm). This is something that would work for lunch or dinner year round. Definitely a favorite!