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 (212)Post a Comment

  1. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    The Story.
    I went on a night out in London and was talked into a Chicken Shawarma from a Lebanese place in Chelsea by a friend of mine. It was amazing! The next day I set myself the challenge of recreating it at home. I failed. Google became my fiend and brought me to you and your recipe, which I duly followed. It too was AMAZING! I had it last night, all wrapped up in some flat bread with lettuce, onion and the tahini sauce. Tori, I salute you, all the way from Little Ol’ England. Best recipe of the year so far!
    Married? :)

    1. Very happily married Blake, but thank you for the compliment. I’m so happy you liked your meal! I’m really proud of this recipe. :)

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I made this today. Pretty legit! I did the prep work last night and let it sit till today. One thing I did was that I used the drippings in the foil after I took it out of the oven as the base to fry the chicken in to get it crispy. I also took the breast meat and rubbed it in the foil after taking it out of the oven to really get that oil and seasonings in there before frying it on the stove top.
    Great work! Definitely passing this along to friends.

  3. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    just tried this, great marinade! only marinated for an hour & used all white meat (all i had) — still tasty. next time i’ll add dark meat as recommended & marinate overnight.

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Living in Florida now -But miss the great Lebanese restaurants in the Detroit area -I tryed your recipe -including the cardamon -curry-coriander-and garlic and tumeric-I believe allspice includes many of these spices?-What I did differant -was I marinaded overnight then I put all the mixture on aluminum foil and rolled it into a log and slow cooked it for an hour and 30 minutes -then I browned it in olive oil-I think I finally got that flavor that I remember that makes this the best way to make chicken -now all I have to do is dip it in my yogurt-garlic sauce and I’m in heavenly bliss -lol–keep up the good work on those recipes !!!

  5. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Shiksa,
    I just came across your recipe today and decided to make it. I live in Vancouver, BC Canada and my neighbourhood has a quite a few donair/shawarma joints (lots of middle eastern and mediterranean residents). I have to say, your shawarma spice mixture and method was delicious and tasted just like, or maybe even better than, the places I regularly eat it at. I put it in a whole wheat pita with cucumber, tomato, red onion, homemade tzaziki, feta cheese and kalamata olives. It was amazing! Thanks!

  6. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I’d tried chicken shawarma at a local Lebanese in Manchester UK and decided I really wanted to replicate it. This recipe is incredible! I’ve just finished eating it, had it with home made flat bread, hummus, tahini sauce, harissa, aubergine (egg plant to you Americans!) halloumi and salad…absolutely fantastic.

    I used the grill method and basted the chicken with the fat as it cooked. I can’t recommend this enough!! Thanks.

  7. I’m so excited to try this. Do you have a beef shawarma recipe? Or do you think this would still work on beef?

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Hi Shiksha
    The recipe looks great, can’t wait to try it. I want to know if its ok to add yogurt to the mix? will it change the taste a lot?
    Please advise.

    1. Hi Hisham, I recommend trying it first without the yogurt. I have never made it with yogurt and everybody loves it without, so it’s difficult to say how the yogurt would change the flavor.

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This dish came out deliciously! I doubled the ingredients to serve a dinner party of 12 people, who made their own pita-filled goodies buffet-style! I also made the tahini sauce which was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken. This was delicious served with Israeli salad in the pitas, also.

  10. Hi,

    I am from the Philippines. I’ve been selling sandwiches to coworkers at my office and i tried this recipe and it was a hit! They ask me over and over to make this for them. Even my husband loves it. There are a lot of Shawarma places here in the Phils but this is the best I have ever tasted! Even my coworker who everytime takes a bite of her shawarma, makes a sound and says it’s orgasmic! :)

    THank you and more power!

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My husband and I just made this for my birthday. We could not BELIEVE how good it was! It was even better than our go-to shawarma place; I’m afraid now we won’t be frequenting them as often. Thanks for this easy and delicious recipe!

  12. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I’ve been striving to follow the Mediterranean lifestyle for the last year for health reasons, never had chicken shawarma before, but gave this a try. Wow, this was awesome! Followed the recipe exactly, I was sure I was eating restaurant quality food! Served on a pita with onion, tomato, romaine lettuce and Tzatziki sauce (wife and I have not developed a taste for Tahini yet). Made a bulgur wheat with veggies side dish and, of course, a glass of red wine! What a great meal, thank you for the recipe, it’s a keeper!

  13. Just got back from deployment in Jordan and chicken sharamas were the best thing we ate. Hope this comes close to it

    1. Thank you for your service Chris! Hope it lives up to your expectations. Lots of my readers love it, as you can see from the comments.

  14. We were really hoping this receipe tasted like the Greek Restuarants around my area, however, it tasted nothing like the Chicken Shawarma that we normally eat. It was still good, but it just wasn’t what we were expecting.

    1. This is Middle Eastern-style shawarma, which is explained in the blog introduction. It’s not Greek-style. If you’re referring to the Greek meat that is used in gyros, which is sometimes referred to as shawarma, the spices here aren’t the same. Greeks also generally use a mixture of beef and lamb for their gyros… here I’m using chicken. So yes, it would be quite different.

  15. Hi Tori,

    Am planning to try this out for my dad’s Eid celebration and was wondering what exactly is in an ‘allspice’, since such mix may not be readily available in this part of the world?

    Thanks so much!

    1. What country are you in Avigayil? Allspice goes by many different names in different countries, including Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, pimento and newspice.

  16. This was an excellent recipe and the dish from the recipe was dam close to the dish I get at the local Lebanese restaurant.

  17. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    After spending time last week in Dearborn, I came back home to Reno with a goal of trying to reproduce what I was treated to there. This was a great recipe! For a first shot, it turned out just fine.

    BTW I used some yoghurt and dialed back on the olive oil. It was really good. Thanks for posting!

  18. Hi, stumbled onto your page while looking for Shawarma recipe, I am in Australia, my husband is Dutch I am Australian he has been asking me too make Shawarma for years as he grew up with it in Holland, I am making it for lunch today,
    Will let you know what he thinks.
    Karen

  19. Thanks for the recipe Tori. I am definitely going to try this as soon as possible. I wonder though if you have a recipe for the salad you would expect to get with the chicken. When I was in Jerusalem in 2008 I couldn’t stop eating shawarma’s but I really loved the spicy diced tomato concoction that came with it. Any ideas on how to recreate that?
    Thanks, Roddy

  20. I don’t know how I missed this, but I just read the e-mail and am really excited to try this. I had the REAL thing in Israel, and I mean I ate schwarma just about every day I was there!

  21. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Thank you, I put the marinated chicken breast and thighs in the Fridge. It looks, smells and tastes really good. I made a couple of very small changes, light on the cayenne and added a dash of crushed mint. Will post results.

  22. I just made this and it’s so good! I cut my pieces smaller and was able to skip the skillet step. I also used only chicken breast and it wasn’t dry at all. We have a favorite restaurant that serves this over hummus or in a wrap.

  23. This is a pretty good recipe. However, if you’re going to do it in the oven I suggest broiling on the center rack it to get that nice char, and skip the time in the skillet at the end.

    1. Wow- thanks, Tori. I am going shopping for the spices I don’t have and am excited to try the recipe. I am new to your blog/site and appreciate how quickly you got back to me!

  24. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Tried this today and I have only one word to say: heaven! You are a genius! I’ve been searching far and wide for a chicken shawarma that would take me back to my stay in the middle east and this hit the spot right on. I made some pitas and garlic sauce to go with the chicken and every bite was just pure, absolute bliss. Thank you so much for bringing me back those wonderful, wonderful memories. I can now make my favorite sandwich anytime I want :D

  25. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi there! I know you posted this last year, but I must have missed it. Thank you so much for this recipe!I made it today, and my husband and I (and not to mention my puppy) loved it! I moved from the Detroit area (known for delicious middle Eastern food) to Indiana not too long ago. I have been looking for the right chicken shawarma recipe that tastes like home and I finally found it here! I think it actually taste better than the chicken at restaurants. So much flavor, and the right shawarma flare. Thanks so much!

  26. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe. My hubby made this schwarma recipe last night and we had it with Toum sauce on Naan bread. The flavours were amazing. This will definitely be a keeper!

  27. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Thank you so much for a fantastic recipe, it took me back to my favourite shawarma place in Jerusalem. Everyone loved it, fantastic!!!!

  28. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I finally get boneless skinless chicken thighs now and how to scratch the tarna(chicken shawerma) itch now that I am miles from Zankou Chicken. Terrific spice blend, though I cheaped out and skipped the turmeric and all spice as I simply did not have it on hand, wasn’t walking distance to a Middle Eastern Market, and didn’t want to add a new Lexus or yacht to the Morton and Basset spice empire. Hummus, even tahini was wholly unnecessary. Deliciously spiced chicken Shiksa! Makes me rethink my Thanksgiving leftovers strategy.

    Mucho thanks.

  29. This recipe is really something. I tried it and made my friends taste it, they said it tasted better than what you could buy at a restaurant. Keep it up!

  30. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    We love shawarma but I’ve been hesitant to try to make it at home. Your recipe looks great so I’m going to give it a shot tonight. Thanks!

  31. I studied abroad in Granada, Spain and regularly ate at a place called Kabab King. I’ve not found anything like it in Minnesota…until this recipe. This is out of this world and brings me right back to Granada. The second pan-fry cook is key for flavor and crispness since I do not have a large, rotating spindle of chicken. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

  32. My wife and I have long loved the food- especially the chicken schwarma at Montfort in Burlington, ON. Recently finding myself alone at home around dinner time, I thought I would Google a recipe to make a schwarma and found yours.I don’t cook very much- I just bbq. We are a Swedish,Irish,English and Jamaican mix! Your intro convinced me to try it. I went to the freezer to take chicken out and to my dismay we had only chicken breasts. (I always buy boneless thighs!!). I was so “depressed” but I persevered. I started putting the ingredients together sometimes forgetting how much I put in and then would guess and I think I was missing one spice (forget now)also I was putting the ingredients in an empty spice jar-dont ask. When I dumped it all in a bowl, I realized that I just dumped half a bottle of cayenne instead of the recipe! Washed off chicken and started again. Well let me tell you, it was awesome. My wife and kids thought it was fabulous! My 13 year old,who hates 90% of all meat dishes raved about it! And it truly tasted just like Montfort’s! Now need you to come up with the recipe for their special side-sauces they offer with the sandwich. Next time I will use thighs. Thanks Tori. God love ya!

  33. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    OK, so I fell in love with Shawarma while living in London many years ago but never new how to make at home… until I found your recipe. I used free range chicken breast and free range (boneless) thighs. I marinated for only 1 hour (is it any better with overnight marinating?), and cooked in the oven for 15 minutes per your instructions (next time I’ll try the grill) and finished in the pan. It was AMAZING!

    Wondering if there are any variations that you’ve found or have been suggested on this board that are worth a try too?

    For lunch I just made took some leftovers and put in a whole wheat PITA, loaded with some Israeli Salada, Tahina and some hot sauce… and, finished it in the Panini maker. So good! Thanks!

    1. So glad you liked it Steve. Read through the comments for suggestions from others. I generally make it as written here, and I try to marinate it overnight if I can… it does seem to deepen the flavor a bit, but not much.

  34. I was a bit skeptical even when it finished marinating, mainly because the spices were such a simple blend. It didn’t smell like much when it was baking but it tastes just like shawarma once it’s out of the pan. I think I need to cut it thinner and fry it longer to get the texture a bit closer to the real thing. beats spending $1000 buying a proper spit and grill though!

  35. Thank you for the recipe. I made it for a family dinner but I used rotisserie chicken as a base. I removed all skin and bones and separated the meat into little pieces with my hands and marinated them in your spice and oil mixture for couple of hours. 30 min before the dinner I put marinated chicken pieces in the oven on a large baking tray, so I could spread it thin and baked it till crisp, turning once. Everybody loved it. Thank you for your inspiring recipe!
    P.S. I was short of garlic powder, so I used generous amount of fresh chopped garlic and it worked well too.
    Nela

    1. Hi Shoshanna, I prefer it freshly made. You can make most of it ahead and save only the final frying step for later– but if you’re talking about Shabbat, you may not want to do any cooking that day. Using all dark meat will help to keep it from drying out too much. If you’re planning on keeping it in a crock pot to keep it warm, I’m not sure this is the best dish to serve… I would worry about it drying out. If you try it please let us know how it worked for you!

  36. Made this tonight along with the Baba Ganoush. Soooo, good and so easy! I couldn’t get the chicken crispy though. Any tips? perhaps I have to cut the chicken into thinner slices? Thanks for posting.

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