Chicken Shawarma

After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this luscious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!

Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.

To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

By Published On: June 29th, 201859 Comments on Chicken Shawarma

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. orna2013 June 29, 2018 at 6:31 AM - Reply

    Guess what we’re having for supper tomorrow!! Great recipe.

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 6:56 AM - Reply

      Thank you Orna! Wish I could visit you both in your beautiful home.

  2. Teagan R. Geneviene June 29, 2018 at 6:40 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this post is both fascinating and delicious! TGIF hugs!

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 6:55 AM - Reply

      Thanks Teagan. I love your blog, I just don’t read much any more. Shameful, really.

  3. chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 6:55 AM - Reply

    Don’t hesitate about all of that cardamom- it works!!!

  4. Eugenia June 29, 2018 at 7:13 AM - Reply

    This looks lovely – it reminds me a bit of Greek gyro, only the marinade is a bit more med-style ;) – loving the yogurt dip too!

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 7:54 AM - Reply

      You’re exactly right. Gyro, fajitas, falafels – all the fun stuff you get to put in breads and add sauces and other goodies to! The yogurt sauce is really good.

      • Eugenia June 29, 2018 at 8:04 AM

        :D :D

  5. okiewinegirl2015 June 29, 2018 at 7:50 AM - Reply

    What a perfect summer dish! plus anything paired with Pinot gets my vote ;)

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 7:53 AM - Reply

      Does anything not go with a Pinot?!!! Thanks.

  6. chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 7:53 AM - Reply

    I thought it was a typo at first – I never seen that much. But I followed her recipe, and it’s outstanding.

  7. David June 29, 2018 at 8:15 AM - Reply

    I have always loved chicken shawarma, and I know we would both love the lamb! Will have to check out Nagi’s post! This recipe is perfect for us, as we are grilling almost every evening!

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 4:30 PM - Reply

      Don’t be put off by the amount of cardamom, because it works. It’s a surprising intense combination of seasonings, in fact, which I love. Lots of folks like pinches of this and that, but this dry rub of sorts is serious!

  8. This is a fabulous idea for a summer grill. Love the spice mix.

    • chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 4:30 PM - Reply

      It’s a lovely combination of spices!

  9. Sarah Walton June 29, 2018 at 3:26 PM - Reply

    Absolutely adore shawarma. When I lived in Dubai it was on every street corner, but since I moved back to Australia I’ve missed it and have had to resort to cooking it myself.yottam ottalengi has a lovely recipe (also originally a lamb one) that I use, with whole chicken thighs (which I slice after cooking) so you get the rendered fat like the fast food version 😉. It’s quite an ordeal though, with lots of fresh ground spices, so the above looks easier. Thanks!

  10. chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 4:29 PM - Reply

    Yes, she’s very talented and a versatile cook as well. And, she has a cute dog, so I’ll always follow her blog!

  11. chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 4:30 PM - Reply

    Thanks Angela. Really fun to eat, with all of the goodies.

  12. chef mimi June 29, 2018 at 4:32 PM - Reply

    There was certainly nothing hard about this recipe. I’ll have to check Ottolenghi’s recipe out – it’s probably in one of my cookbooks. I really want to make the lamb shawarma, but I have to wait until one of my lamb-eating friends visits!

  13. Jodi June 29, 2018 at 6:51 PM - Reply

    yum! and I feel like you are doing something new and wonderful with your food photos! They are stunning!!!

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 9:22 AM - Reply

      Oh wow – thank you! I really appreciate that!

  14. Laura June 29, 2018 at 11:01 PM - Reply

    Lovely spice mix Chef Mimi….

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 9:23 AM - Reply

      I’d love to take credit for it!

  15. Tandy | Lavender and Lime June 29, 2018 at 11:53 PM - Reply

    I might try the spice mix on the chicken pieces I’ve taken out for dinner tonight.

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 9:23 AM - Reply

      Perfect! It’s a wonderful seasoning mixture.

  16. gloria June 30, 2018 at 1:53 AM - Reply

    look really good !

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 3:24 PM - Reply

      Thank you Gloria!

  17. June 30, 2018 at 8:38 AM - Reply

    I wonder why I never made this dish either! Love the spices and all your “goodies”.

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 3:25 PM - Reply

      It’s a Middle Eastern (sort of) version of fajitas, with goodies!

  18. June 30, 2018 at 8:42 AM - Reply

    This looks fantastic! My husband won’t eat lamb either but he’d love this chicken!

    • chef mimi July 2, 2018 at 8:08 AM - Reply

      What a pain!!! At least I know a few people who will eat lamb with me!

  19. Chica Andaluza June 30, 2018 at 12:27 PM - Reply

    Beautiful, just my kind of food! And I’d have all the “goodies” too :)

    • chef mimi June 30, 2018 at 3:26 PM - Reply

      And the chicken is so tasty with all of those wonderful spices!

  20. Liz Berg July 1, 2018 at 4:48 AM - Reply

    What a fun party idea! This chicken shawarma looks amazing—and such a fun summer entree!

    • chef mimi July 1, 2018 at 8:50 AM - Reply

      Exactly. We had two friends over one night when I served the chicken shawarma – just a small party – but it was fun to make your own, like a fajita party, which I’m known for!

  21. Frank Fariello July 1, 2018 at 6:42 AM - Reply

    They both look droolworthy but you really must work on your husband. Doesn’t eat lamb, one of the most delicious things ever…?!?!

    • chef mimi July 1, 2018 at 8:49 AM - Reply

      Oh, he’s just full of it. He used to eat it. I remember an early Easter in our marriage when I made a leg of lamb with a dried fruit stuffing, and he loved it.. I don’t know what happened to him.

  22. Lauren July 1, 2018 at 7:43 AM - Reply

    I love shawarma and I was just thinking about adding shawarma dish to my next dinner party! It’s going to take some testing…. Rough job but someone has to do it right?! I’m thinking quail…

    • chef mimi July 2, 2018 at 8:07 AM - Reply

      Interesting! The seasoning mixture is fabulous.

  23. Kelly, RD July 1, 2018 at 8:31 AM - Reply

    I love Middle Eastern flavors. I love lamb, but haven’t been able to eat it since the day I hung a photo of a baby lamb on my son’s wall. I’m happy to see this recipe made with chicken and will try it soon! I’d love to make the pickled radishes as well!

    • chef mimi July 1, 2018 at 8:47 AM - Reply

      I know what you mean. On Instagram, I follow food folks, of course, but then I follow animal sanctuaries. It’s tough when lamb and a baby lamb are juxtaposed…..

  24. Susan@savoringtimeinthekitchen July 1, 2018 at 3:25 PM - Reply

    I think I’d prefer your chicken version to lamb and a great way to first try a shawarma recipe :)

    • chef mimi July 1, 2018 at 3:36 PM - Reply

      If you like spicy seasoning, not hot spicy, but just super spiced seasoning, you’ll love these flavors!

  25. My Little Italian Kitchen July 1, 2018 at 3:32 PM - Reply

    I have never tried this dish and it looks really good! I am bookmarking this. Your recipes are all great Mimi. Have a great week ahead.

    • chef mimi July 2, 2018 at 8:07 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much Alina!

  26. Fran @ G'day Souffle' July 3, 2018 at 5:39 PM - Reply

    I’ve probably had something similar at Greek restaurants that serve lamb on a rotisserie- luv ’em! But I’ve never tried it with chicken- betcha tastes great and your yogurt sauce looks delish! I also had a look at Nagi’s recipe with the pomegranate seeds- wow!

    • chef mimi July 3, 2018 at 6:01 PM - Reply

      Yeah. It does look really good!

  27. Marie July 4, 2018 at 7:45 AM - Reply

    Chicken shawarma is so delicious! I’ve never tried to make my own; I’ve always picked it up from my fav restaurant spot. After seeing this recipe, I’m tempted to try to make it.

    • chef mimi July 4, 2018 at 7:46 AM - Reply

      Well it would be tempting to just pick it up… but you might want to see how this recipe is different. Or the same!

  28. kitchenriffs July 4, 2018 at 10:05 AM - Reply

    Terrific recipe! I’ve never made chicken sharma either — always been a restaurant thing for me. I really should make this — such good stuff. Thanks!

    • chef mimi July 4, 2018 at 10:15 AM - Reply

      It is. It’s funny how certain things get ignored, forgotten, surpassed…. I’ve made it three times now, at my husband’s request, which doesn’t happen often in my kitchen. He might light it more than fajitas, which I shouldn’t compare, but they’re familiar with a flatbread, meat, and goodies! And they both go well with margaritas!

  29. Eva Taylor July 4, 2018 at 2:40 PM - Reply

    I have to say that I’ve never been a shawarma meat fan, here we actually call it mystery meat because it is pressed together to form this tall tube and it is rotated directly under a heat lamp. It is from this reheated tube that they slice for sandwiches. But to make my own shawarma a bit perfumie, so I might cut it back. Sounds like a dish my husband would love too!

    • chef mimi July 4, 2018 at 3:15 PM - Reply

      Oh my. That’s probably why I’ve never stopped at one of those gyro stands. They seem to be on every street corner in Europe.

  30. StefanGourmet July 5, 2018 at 1:45 AM - Reply

    This looks great, Mimi. Shawarma is very popular around here, and usually made using lamb, pork, or turkey. I would go for thighs rather than breasts. The yogurt sauce is great with a lot of garlic, especially if it is allowed to rest for at least a day. This is great party food. You are taking good care of your guests.

    • chef mimi July 23, 2018 at 6:58 AM - Reply

      Thank you Stefan! My guests always feel loved!

  31. Greg Henry (@sippitysup) July 5, 2018 at 10:04 AM - Reply

    Well spiced. Well presented. well done! GREG

    • chef mimi July 23, 2018 at 6:58 AM - Reply

      Thank you Greg! Sorry, I just found your comment. Love the spices in this dish!

  32. Chris Salman April 21, 2022 at 7:38 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this is stunning. I was head over heels in love with the Shawarma. I already own a Shawarma Machine, so trying something new will be fun. That is why I am looking forward to making this on my Shawarma machine. It is an excellent dish, and I hope I’ll enjoy it.

    • Chef Mimi April 22, 2022 at 10:45 PM - Reply

      How exciting! I’ll have to check that out!

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