Who knew it was this easy to make oven-roasted chicken shawarma at home? You don’t need a shawarma machine or spit to make juicy, crisp Middle Eastern shawarma. I have developed a simple marinade and cooking technique that results in a delicious batch of chicken shawarma. My recipe can easily be made in the oven or on the grill. I’ve cracked the homemade chicken shawarma code, and it’s awesome! I’m excited to share it with you.
What Is Shawarma?
True shawarma is cooked with stacked, spice-marinated meats– lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meats– on a vertical rotisserie machine or spit. The shawarma turns and slowly roasts for hours and hours, basted in fat and its own juices. 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.
Technically this recipe should actually be called Shawarma-Style Chicken. It doesn’t cook on a spit, but it’s got all the flavor that you might expect from your local Middle Eastern restaurant!
How to Make Shawarma at Home
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 pre-made 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, I nailed it!
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 use boneless skinless chicken meat (a combination of dark and light meat) in the recipe. Shawarma gets a lot of its flavor from basting in its own fat. I’ve replaced the flavor of that skin fat with olive oil, including a final sauté in olive oil prior to serving.
It may seem strange to sauté meat that has already been cooked, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The extra sauté 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. I’ve shared the whole process below, and the video in this post will also show you the method in great detail!
Can Shawarma be Made Healthy?
This preparation of shawarma is lighter than one you might find at a local restaurant. That’s because skinless chicken is used. So this shawarma recipe is a pretty healthy, lean protein option!
You can actually lighten up this recipe even further. If you’re trying to cut down on your oil intake, you don’t need to do the extra sauté. That will save you two tablespoons of olive oil… it won’t taste exactly like shawarma, but it will still be tasty. 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.
What Do You Eat Shawarma With?
This recipe goes great with hummus and toum or tahini sauce, over a salad for a boost of protein, or in a pita pocket or wrap. It stores well in the refrigerator, 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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Video by Entice Films
- 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
- 1 pinch cayenne
- Salt and black pepper
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
You will also need
- Grill or baking sheet, tongs, skillet, spatula, plastic wrap.
- 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 are 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. Spray the baking sheet 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 until 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, until 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. Goes great with toum - a creamy Middle Eastern garlic sauce - or tahini sauce. It also makes a great pita bread sandwich, garnished with cucumbers, tomato, lettuce, red onions, and Middle Eastern pickles.