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 lucious, 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.

62 thoughts on “Chicken Shawarma

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

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

  1. 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!

    • 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

    • 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!

    • 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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!

    • 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…..

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

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

  8. 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!

    • 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!

  9. 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!

    • 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.

  10. 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.

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