Chicken Shawarma

Homemade Chicken Shawarma?? Yeah, I went there. You know I wouldn’t post a recipe that I don’t love. Well, I’m in love this recipe. I’ve cracked the homemade shawarma code. And it’s awesome. Seriously awesome.

Okay, so technically this recipe should actually be called Shawarma-Style Chicken. True shawarma is cooked with stacked, spice-marinated meats– lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meats– on a vertical spit. The shawarma turns and cooks on the spit for hours and hours, basted in fat and its own juices. Fat = flavor = tasty, amazing shawarma. Thin slices of meat are shaved from the surface and served, either on their own or tucked inside a warm flatbread, topped with tahini or garlic sauce. Shawarma is one of life’s great pleasures.

I’ve been trying to replicate the flavor of shawarma at home for months, playing with different spice combinations and cooking methods. At first I tried buying premade shawarma spice blends from the Middle Eastern markets, but none of them made my mouth happy. I needed more spice, more flavor, more oomph. So I began to experiment. Then finally, last week, I nailed it.

This recipe is probably as close as I’ll ever come to making shawarma at home. My husband says it’s even better than the shawarma at our local Lebanese restaurant. He’s biased, of course– but he’s also brutally honest, especially when it comes to my recipes. I blind taste tested two of our Israeli friends, and they both asked me if I’d finally gotten that shawarma spit I’ve always wanted (in my shiksa dreams!). Suffice it to say, I’m happy with the result.

You have two choices for cooking this recipe– in the oven or on the grill. To be honest both cooking methods taste great, there really isn’t a big difference between the two. I used¬†boneless skinless chicken meat (a combination of dark and light meat) in the recipe to cut down on unhealthy fat, but the flavor needs to come from somewhere. Shawarma gets a lot of its flavor from the meat fat that it is basted in. I’ve replaced the flavor of the skin fat with olive oil (a healthier oil than chicken fat), including a final saute in olive oil prior to serving. It may seem strange to saute meat that has already been cooked, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The extra saute adds a ton of flavor and really gives it a shawarma-like texture that can’t be replicated in the oven or on the grill. If you’re trying to cut down on your oil intake you don’t need to do the extra saute, it will save you 2 tablespoons of olive oil… it won’t taste exactly like shawarma, but it will be yummy. But please, don’t replace the chicken thighs with breast meat. This dish really needs some dark meat in it to make it taste great. You can make it with all chicken thighs, if you prefer (I actually love it that way), but don’t sub all chicken breast. Pretty please.

This recipe is super yummy. The shreds of chicken meat go great with hummus and tahini sauce, over a salad for a boost of protein, or in a pita sandwich or wrap. It stores well in the fridge, so you can make a large batch and enjoy it for several days afterwards– just reheat before serving. The best part? It’s ridiculously easy to make!

You’re welcome. :)

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Notes: I’ve received several requests asking about the sauce in this post. Here is a link to the recipe: Tahini Sauce. If you are making this recipe for Passover and you are avoiding kitniyot, don’t serve it with the tahini sauce– it’s great without sauce, too.

Chicken Shawarma

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 large thighs)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking oil spray

You will also need

  • Grill or baking sheet, tongs, skillet, spatula, foil, plastic wrap.
Servings: 6
Kosher Key: Meat
  • Slice the chicken breasts into 5-6 pieces each and the thighs into 3-4 pieces each. Place them in a marinating dish or large plastic zipper bag.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the spices, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper (if you're salt sensitive, use 1/2 tsp of salt). Pour the spice marinade over the chicken pieces. Stir with a spoon till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade.
  • Cover the marinating dish with plastic wrap, or close the zipper bag. Place chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

Oven Cooking Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced.
  • Place the chicken in the oven. Let it roast for about 15 minutes till cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once with tongs halfway through cooking.
  • Take chicken out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stovetop over medium. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of oil and saute the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.

Grill Cooking Method

  • Spray the grill with nonstick cooking oil and preheat to medium heat. Thread the marinated chicken pieces onto wooden skewers.
  • Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes, giving a quarter turn every 5 minutes, till cooked through (slice into the thickest piece of meat to check for doneness).
  • Let the chicken cool slightly, then remove it from the skewers. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stovetop over medium. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of oil and saute the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.
  • Note: If you are making this recipe for Passover and you are avoiding kitniyot, don't serve it with the tahini sauce-- it's great without sauce, too.

Comments (207)Post a Comment

  1. Oh, Tori, this looks unbelievably good!!!!! I just printed the recipe (I think I have printed almost all of your recipes LOL) and will try it this weekend. Thank you for the best recipes, as always!

    Your Shiksa friend,
    Carol

    1. This was fantastic! Years ago our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant burned down and we’ve been craving Chicken Swarma ever since. This was as good if not better! Thank you!!!!

  2. great idea,ive been doing this for years,PEREG spices availble in brooklyn produces a very authentic shwarma blend for those that dont wanna ‘potchky’with blending it yourself

    1. Hi Coco! Potatoes would be great. I’m not sure about other veggies, the spices may overwhelm a bit. It’s a great idea, though… if I have a chance to try any other veggies I will let you know!

  3. Thank you for the recipe! My husband recently fell in love with shawarma when he was on a business trip in Ecuador of all places and he’s been begging me to try to make it. I can’t wait to surprise him with this!

  4. Hey Shiksa! (sounds funny saying it – hope you are not offended ;)) i really like your blog… totally stumbled upon it while looking for some recipe… this recipe looks great! i gotta check out your other recipes… are these all kosher recipes? (i keep kosher) I’ve been making “fake” scharama for years. i usually use chicken breasts for it. In israel (where i live), the dark part of the meat (when de-boned) is called “pirgiyot” and its the best part of the chicken! so this would be called “shawarma pirgiyot” (as oppose to “hodu” – turkey etc.). i saute onions with the chicken pieces and also add “hawaige” which is a yemenite spice. don’t know if you know about this spice, but its great! i also like your idea of sauteing after grilling… i will definitely try this one day!

    1. Hey Leah! Not offended at all, I’ve embraced the nickname and have a sense of humor about it. I’m actually a convert to Judaism. Yes, all recipes on TheShiksa.com are kosher. Recipes on TheHistoryKitchen.com are not necessarily kosher (though many are). I do know hawayej spice, it is terrific. I use it in Yemenite soup, among other things. Welcome to the site!

  5. I’ve never had shwarma. There are no restaurants or markets in our area that sell either the cooked meat or the spice mixture. It sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to try your recipe. I’ve pinned it and I’ll be sharing the link forward on my FB page today. Thanks.

  6. Hi you adorable shiksa you!

    I googled hawayej and guess what was at the top of the list????!!!
    link to theshiksa.com

    I’ll buy it first and if I love and use it, I’ll use your wonderful recipe. But wait! Can’t find it on the internet! Interesting!

    Anyway, your schwarma recipe looks fab, Tori. Going to try it. Thank you so much!

  7. WOW! I made this last night for some my friends, it was like taking a trip back to Israel. Not only did we have this delicious shawarma and pita but homemade hummus, pickled veggies, roasted eggplant and Israeli salad. This was a meal to remember and make again.

    Thanks Tori!

  8. This is the BEST! I followed the recipe exactly and the result was shawarma that my family raved about and that I could not distinguish from my favorite Middle Eastern pita pit. I love your recipes, but this one is tops!!! Thank you!

  9. I’m not very familiar with this kind of cooking/ but this looks awesome and I WILL try it. However, what is the white sauce served with it? and do you have that recipe? Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe. :o)

  10. I am so excited to find your web site, with the flavor filled recipes accompanied by helpful photos, and the bonus of gluten free recipes. I get a lift out of reading your chatty ideas about developing recipes. I am definitely in love with food, the one love that never fails ha ha. I live in a rural area right now and must cook spicy interesting foods for myself if I want to eat well. THANK YOU

  11. I’ve also been experimenting but mine never looked quite as delicious and authentic as the one depicted above.

    Thanks for this recipe, can’t wait to try it.

  12. My naturopath put me on the Repairvite diet–a diet for people who have a lot of food allergy issues–and it’s tough finding good recipes on this highly restrictive diet, but yours fits perfectly! I’m going to make up a batch today and I’m so excited to have found something spicy that seems it would go well with fermented foods too, which is a big part of the Repairvite diet. Thank you for the awesome recipe and great directions on how to make it!

  13. Do you gave any ideas for cooking beef or lamb shawarma without a spit? Our family loves lamb. Your chicken shawarma sounds great think I will make tonight. Thanks, Linda

  14. Another terrific recipe ….we had a feast tonight! The chicken Shawarma was delicious and super easy, the blend of spices worked really well and the aroma had me drooling as it cooked. I also made baba ghanoush – with mayo not tahina (just how we used to eat it on kibbutz), cruv adom, hummus, matbucha (your fabulous recipe that I can’t stop making), a few fries, some other raw veg and warm pita. Oh and to follow we had Lokshen Kugal – your recipe too Tori…also yummy. Once again you scored huge points in our house.

  15. I made this and husband was AMAZED on how GOOD this tasted he lived since 7yrs old in Israel, and always craving and trying to find the place with the “close enough” taste to all the foods from his hometown … Thank you so much for sharing this and making our tummys SUPER HAPPY with DELICIOUS food ;)

  16. I made this last night for a sukkah party. I did 12x the recipe because we were have about 125 people over. Everyone raved about it and thought it was catered. We served it with tahini sauce, pita, yellow (turmeric) rice, and a Mediterranean marinated skirt steak that I grilled and cut into pieces like the shawarma.

    Here’s a couple of notes of what i did differently to make it easier for a crowd. I kept the piece slightly bigger when I was marinating them so they’d be easier to grill. In fact, I bought at Costco the packs of fresh boneless thighs and chicken breast tenders. I cut the thighs twice but the tenders didn’t need to be cut at all. Then, starting 1.5 hours before the party, I grilled the chicken on my charcoal grill and the pieces were big enough that I didn’t need to skewer them. They also cooked much quicker than I expected — 4 or 5 minutes a side or less.

    Maybe next time I’d grill it even earlier, chop it, and refrigerate it until right before the party when we could saute it.

    Terrific recipe. Huge success. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sam,
      How much chicken did you use for 125 people? I am looking to make enough for about 50 or so people. Thanks!

  17. I want to thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. It turned out perfectly and was really well received by my husband. (I’ve had multiple requests for additional batches). Your blog has truly been an inspiration for me. My husband is Jewish and I’m not, so as I’ve sought to incorporate more traditional Jewish food into my cooking repertoire, I’ve heavily relied on your posts for guidance. Thank you for offering a window into your personal experiences and adventures. Your efforts are truly appreciated!

  18. I had a delicious dish called “arabic sphaghetti” in Nazareth at the Abuna Faraj Guest House. After taking a close look at the dish, it was schwarma chicken with some thinly sliced carrots & onions and spaghetti noodles. I’ve not attempted to make it yet, but this is going to be my starting point. Thank you for providing the schwarma chicken recipe!

  19. Man, that was tasty. I have been craving shawerma since I’ve been away from Saudi Arabia for awhile, and your recipe hit the spot! Thanks again, and happy holidays!

  20. When I studied abroad in London we lived in an area with some of the most amazing Chicken Schwarma. I made this dish tonight and was instantly brought back to that wonderful time in my life. Thank you for your fabulous dishes!

    1. Hi stacey, i love te shwarma in london, from Al-dar’s..and from Helen’s.. In edware rd. ad ive tried tonreplicate that flavour,to no avail.
      Could u please tell me which shwarma place ur referrin to?
      Thankou

  21. We just tried this yesterday and it was delicious, we want to call it Tori’s SharWOWma! Thank you so much for this recipe and all of the others that you share!

  22. I am very surprised there is not fresh garlic, or more garlic in this recipe. The Chicken Shawarma in Louisiana is very garlicky. I am trying this weekend, as this is one of my favorite foods. We have a Lebanese restaraunt on every corner in Baton Rouge, but it sure would be wonderful to have it at home !

    1. Feel free to add more garlic if you wish. The shawarma in Israel and in California (where I live) is not overly garlicky, so it must be a regional thing. :) Enjoy!

  23. My wife and I have been to several restaurants around town and here outside of Detroit Michigan, there is only ONE place that makes delicious shwarma wraps, do you have recipes on tahini or garlic sauce?

  24. I’ve gotta say that I’m a new convert to your website. I have been wishing for a good chicken shawarma recipe for years after leaving my favorite Egyptian restaurant in Amsterdam, and found your site while looking for recipes that didn’t involve marinating in dairy. It certainly looked the ticket, and then I saw the recipe for the warm eggplant salad, so decided to try both tonight for shabbat–my wife was raised South African Orthodox, my brother-in-law was in town, and we had two other South Africans visiting us in San Francisco. In short, my wife says it was the best thing I’d ever made, and we do a *lot* of cooking. I can honestly rave about these two recipes, and those were just the first ones that we’ve tried. Your website looks amazing, and we’re delighted to have found all you’ve shared. Thank you so much!!!

  25. Hi,

    I cannot thank you enough for this recipe! I had guests coming over for dinner and used another much more elaborate recipe, thinking more spices meant a better shawarma. There must have been 20 ingredients in it and I had it marinating overnight and everything was good…until it was cooked and the guests were due to arrive in an hour. I tasted the meat and it was so sour and bitter, no way on earth I was serving it. So I did a frantic search online and found your recipe. I read your post and going on good faith and trust that your taste in food was good, I mixed it up and had it cooked in record time. I didn’t marinate it for any period of time and only used chicken breast…Let me tell you, it was sooooo good my guests were raving about it even as they were leaving! Amazing stuff! And given how simple the recipe is, I was surprised at the flavour and punch it had! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my dinner! This ones a keeper.

  26. Thank you for this awesome recipe.
    Please could you help me with a recipe for the flat bread / wrap.
    I experimented with pita bread and it tasted good, but then we ate shawarma at a local restaurant and their bread wrap tasted super soft (and was so nice and thin)…

    Really hoping you can help me with a recipe for the wrap.

    Love visiting your website, thank you for your creative recipes.

  27. Wow what a great recipe! My 15 month old son approves of it too! And that was the first time he was having a lot of those spices. It really does make a difference to do that last cooking step in the pan. I also made your matbucha recipe to eat with this and it was just perfect. Thank you and I love your site :)

  28. This looks good!
    My go-to local lebanese joint closed JUST TONIGHT, literally within less than an hour of my posting this comment. Sadly, my favourite one is clear across the country, and… well, to be honest, I’ve been meaning to make shawarma at home for the longest time. I will be trying this very soon, as I have a craving!

  29. I just recently purchased some delicious garlic sauce and wanting to use it in a homemade chicken shawarma. I do not eat dark meat. Would it taste that horrible or different if I only used white meat?

    1. White meat will still taste good… the dark meat tastes more shawarma-like and more flavorful, but the spice blend is good on breast meat too. Enjoy!

    2. If you haven’t tried them, you may try some chicken thighs from free range chickens. They made me(a former dark meat hater) a convert…very tender and very little, though just enough, fat to flavor well.

  30. I am a person who is not in your Faith. But, this sound’s very good. Where can one pick up the ingredient’s. I live in Rahway, New Jersey. That you. I want to try this.

    1. Hi Tracey, your regular grocery store should carry all of these ingredients. If you have trouble finding anything, try your local Middle Eastern or kosher market. Enjoy!

  31. Hey,just devoured these tonight,took us straight back to Muscat in Oman,absolutely amazing,definitely be making them again

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