Chicken Shawarma Recipe – Recipe & Video. How to make homemade Middle Eastern shawarma in the oven or on the grill. Simple marinade and cooking technique. Step-by-step video below!
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 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 use boneless skinless chicken meat (a combination of dark and light meat) in the recipe. 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, 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 goes great with hummus and toum or 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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Video by Entice Films
6 entree portions
2 hours 10 minutes
DescriptionHow to make homemade chicken shawarma in the oven or on the grill.
- 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.