You don't need a rotating spit to make great chicken shawarma. It's easy to make amazing chicken shawarma at home! A simple marinade of lemon, yogurt and spices infuses the chicken with incredible Middle Eastern flavor. Serve chicken shawarma on a salad or packed in a pita. Any way you serve it you are in for a big treat!
Shawarma is famous throughout the Middle East. It's typically eaten on the go - street food. It's quite similar to the Turkish Doner Kebab, and the Greek Gyro. The common denominator of all three is seasoned meat that's pressed onto a rotating spit and flame-cooked as it turns. The meat is then sliced, wrapped in pita and topped with assorted sauces and salads.
I was encourage to make shawarma by my 16 year old son Paul, after he spent a month touring Israel with friends from summer camp. He had the time of his life, despite the fact that his itinerary had to be revised regularly in order to stay clear of rocket-fire. The week after Paul landed in Tel Aviv, three missing Israeli youths were found murdered, which ignited a spark between Hamas and Israel. More than 2,000 enemy rockets were fired into Israel during Paul's visit.
Over the course of the month I tried to remain calm but I occasionally lapsed into a state of anxiety about the situation, which was escalating by the day. I couldn't wait for him to get home.
From Paul's point of view, he felt totally safe. The few times I Face-Timed with him, he reassured me that he was fine. He wanted tell me all about the amazing stuff he was learning, seeing, and eating.
It turns out he was eating a lot of chicken shawarma. In fact when I asked him if he bought anything good with his spending money, he said that he'd spent most of it on shawarma. When Paul returned from Israel late Monday night, (after I gave him an enormous hug), we decided we would make shawarma together.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN SHAWARMA
Most of us don't have a rotating spit at home. But luckily most of the magic of shawarma is in the marinade.
I love boneless skinless chicken thighs on the grill so that's what I chose for this shawarma. Leave the thighs whole and marinate them for at least 2 hours.
After soaking in a mixture of olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and spices, the chicken is tenderized and infused with amazing flavor!
While the chicken is marinating, you'll have plenty of time to make the tahini sauce and chop up cucumbers, onions and tomatoes for the chopped salad.
Grill the chicken and slice it into bite-sized strips.
Heat up some pita.
Paul really liked the chicken shawarma I made. When I asked him what he thought, he said "Is-raeli good."
The only problem for Paul was that I didn't include french fries in my version. Paul said that he always had his shawarma with french fries stuffed into the pita, along with everything else. If you want to stuff some french fries in, I'm sure it will be delicious!
But it's also great without! (And way lighter!)
HOW TO SERVE CHICKEN SHAWARMA
Chicken shawarma doesn't necessarily need a side dish. If you have chopped salad and pita, you've already got a whole healthy balanced meal.
But in case you're interested in a more bountiful spread, here are a few dishes that I recommend serving alongside chicken shawarma.
- This delicious Mediterranean Chickpea Salad makes a perfect accompaniment for chicken shawarma
- One more tip from Paul: Hummus is delicious with shawarma
- Mediterranean Rice Salad A fantastic side dish with anything grilled
- Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad This salad is easy and goes with everything
Here's the recipe for spicy chicken shawarma. If you make this, please come back to leave a review and let me know what you think!Print
Spicy Chicken Shawarma
- Total Time: 42 mins
- Yield: 6 1x
An easy home-cooking recipe for the delectable Middle Eastern street food: Chicken Shawarma
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 3 small garlic cloves, crushed (2 teaspoons)
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- Chopped Salad
- 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled and diced (1 ½ cups)
- 1 small red onion peeled and diced (½ cup)
- 1 ripe tomato, diced (½ cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- a pinch of salt
- a few grinds of black pepper
- Tahini Sauce
- 7 tablespoons tahini
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ⅓ cup water
- 6 pitas
- Olive oil for warming the pitas
- Optional Garnish
- Sriracha Chili Sauce
- Marinate the Chicken Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
- Make the Tahini Sauce Whisk all of the tahini ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
- Make the Cucumber and Tomao Salad Mix all of the salad ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
- Grill The Chicken Heat your grill to medium-high. Cook the chicken for 6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then slice into strips.
- Heat the Pita Bread Just before serving, coat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet with a thin film of oil. Heat over medium-high heat. One by one, lay each pita in the pan and press down on it with a spatula for about 30 seconds per side, adding more oil, if needed. Set warm pitas on a paper-towel-lined plate. Tent with foil. This heats the pita and gives it a great texture for stuffing, so it won't be dry or crumbly.
- Assemble the Shawarma Slice the pitas in half. Open each half and spread some tahini sauce around. Fill with chicken and cucumber salad. Add Sriracha, if you like. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 12 mins
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Grill, Barbecue
- Cuisine: Israeli
Keywords: chicken shawarma, grilled chicken shawarma
I know this recipe is several years old, and I have been making it for almost as long, but a thank you is long overdue. My family always enjoys this when I make it, and I have made it on several occasions for large groups at our house or to deliver as a meal to families in our church. I consistently hear from people that it is the best chicken they’ve had in their lives. You are a wonderful cook, thank you for sharing this recipe.
Hi Amy - I'm actually glad you waited because now I know you've been enjoying it for years. Thank you for this great review and rating of the shawarma and for your kind words. You made my day.
Wow Lisa this was delicious. I liked how easy it was to make and the fact that it could be mostly made ahead and then all was left to do was grill the chicken and put it together. I will make this again and again because the flavors were so good.
Hi Mary! I'm so glad you like the chicken shawarma! Thank you for the rating and comment 🙂
this looks INCREDIBLE. I love Shawarma!
Thank you for this. I have turkey this which is what Israeli shawarma is made of and I wasn't sure how to prepare it, so I will try this recipe. I leave out carbs due to diet restrictions. Love the twisted yogurt, you don't see that in Israel due to koshrut issues.
Looks amazing...adding it to our Panning the Globe queue!
I made this tonight and it was delicious! The only thing I would add is perhaps a bit of salt to the chicken, but otherwise it was perfect. Would definitely make this again or even serve it as a salad with the tahini as a dip with pita chips on the side!
Thanks Kate. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
Awww!! I cried when I read this post! I found your recipe when I was searching for hassleback potato recipes, loved your site so I started exploring! We are big fans of Schwarma in our house also! My husband makes them when we have dinner parties to delight our guests who are either missing Israeli food or never had it before all in all everyone loves this dish! Thank you for sharing!
I'm really glad that you enjoyed my post about Shawarma,Leona - I think you might be the first person who ever shed a tear when reading my blog! 🙂 So happy that you found Panning the Globe. I hope you'll stick around and try some of the recipes. - L
Hi Lisa, thanks for posting this delicious n healthy recipe.Even if after being in the middle east for a long time, the idea never clicked me to make shawarmas at home, until i see ur recipe.It was easier in dubai to get it from small roadside restaurants.With ur recipe now I can make it at home anytime.thank u for explaining iin an easy way....God bless !
Thank you Anu!
Betsy @ Desserts Required
I am not sure which I loved more on my trips to Israel, Shawarma or the frozen coffee drink. I have tried Shawarma here from a fabulous Lebanese bakery but the ingredients differ ever so slightly and the taste is not the same. I love your recipe and can't wait to give it a try. Thanks, also, for the tip about heating up the pita so it stays stuffable vs breakable!
Your blog is already one of my favorites. Your photos are amazing and you pulled me right in by talking about your son. My take-away from the Food and Wine Conference was to add more stories from my life, which I do only once in a while. May I also say that, as a mom, you have nerves of steel! Thanks for sharing this recipe as well. I love learning about food from other cultures. I'll share with recipe with my friends and co-workers.
Alaiyo, You are the best! Thanks for all of your encouragement! I look forward to reading about your life on Pescetarian Journal!s
Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom)
Hi Lisa - I can't imagine what you were going through with your son in the middle of the mess over there. Thank goodness he made it home safe!
I have two of Ottolenghi's cookbooks - Plenty and Jerusalem - and have not made a thing from them...yet!
I'm so glad I barged in on your breakfast last weekend at the Food & Wine Conference! It was great chatting with you!
Hi Amy - Yes, I'm extremely happy and relieved to have Paul home!
As for Ottolenghi cookbooks, they are amazing! When you start cooking his recipes, you're in for a treat.
I'm also so glad we had a chance to chat at the conference!!
PS - I can't wait to try your Bulgogi recipe !!!
Marlene @Nosh My Way
Wow! What a trip your son had. So glad to hear he is home safe and sound and that you decided to make this incredible chicken dish. It's on my list of things to make.
This was excellent Lisa! I made it tonight and loved every bite. I will definitely make it again!!
Hi Leslie! That's great news - Great to hear from you and I'm so glad you loved the shawarma! It took me a while to perfect it - it had to pass muster with Paul!
So glad Paul is safely home & we thoroughly enjoyed this meal. Thanks Lisa.
Thank so much Ruth!
Spent some time with Jennifer this summer! We talked about you and your blog and all the good times we had in NYC! So many years ago! Love your blog! I am a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi and his cookbooks. Thanks for sharing this recipe, on the menu for the weekend. Glad to hear your son is home safe and sound!
Peggy DiPietro (Schiffenhaus)
Hi Peggy, So great to connect with you through Jen. I hope you enjoy the Shawarma! Lisa
LOVE this, Lisa! I love the technique for heating the pita! I have never heard of that and I am always so frustrated how pita falls apart. Can't wait to try. THANK YOU!
Matt of Matt and Barb
I didn't know he was in THAT Israel. I thought he was in the other one. Looks like a great sandwich!
Carol at Wild Goose Tea
I am so impressed that you remained relatively calm about your son. But then what would hysterics do anyway. So might as well be calm. I can see why he spent his money on this. Hearty and delicious. I was a believer as soon as I scrolled down and saw the photo.
Thank you Carol!
Actually Israel is a very safe country to visit unless one is Palestinian. Israel is only dangerous for Palestinians -- not Jews. Palestinians are illegally occupied and that is why it is far more dangerous to be a Palestinian than a Jew in Israel. I know because I have lived in Lebanon and my husband is from there.
This looks so fresh, lite and delicious Lisa! When r u going to write a cookbook? I know all your recipes r easy to access on-line but it would be so lovely to have a book so I can have the visual pleasure of relaxing while turning pages and having beautiful photos stare back at me.
Thank you Carrie. I would love to write a cookbook! It's a dream of mine - maybe some day 🙂