Chicken Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Shawarma is a Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern dish traditionally made with chicken or lamb. Chefs cut meat into thin slices and stack them on a large skewer, then slow-roast them before slicing off pieces to eat with flatbread and sauces. Modern shawarma can also be made with beef or turkey.

I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but a combo of thighs and breasts work well, too. If you use all breasts, they will cook quicker.  

This is a go-to-taste dish. So, taste as you go along! 

Ingredients for Filling 

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts, or a combo 


  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • ½ cup olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced (about six cloves) 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground cumin 
  • 2 teaspoons paprika 
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon turmeric 
  • Pinch or 2 each: allspice and cinnamon 

Instructions to roast in the oven 

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, garlic, both peppers, cumin, paprika, turmeric, allspice, and cinnamon.  

Pour over chicken in a bowl or large baggie, and toss well to coat. 

Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 12 or so. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a rimmed sheet pan. 

Place chicken on a pan in a single layer, drizzling marinade over. 

Roast until cooked through, 165 degrees F. It will be a bit crisp on the edges. This took about 25 minutes in my oven. 

Shawarma with topping.

Instructions for grilling 

Grill chicken over a hot grill for about 20 minutes, giving a quarter turn every five minutes to get nice grill marks. Flip once. The chicken will register 165 degrees F when done. Breasts will be done at 160 degrees F. 

Want crispier shawarma? 

Place cut-up chicken in a bit of olive oil in a skillet.  

Sauté until some pieces turn brown and crisp. This takes about five minutes. 

Let cool a bit, then cut up and fill! 

Cool and cut into very small pieces. 

Fill pita as desired with toppings. 

Serves 6-8. 

Toppings include sour or dill pickles, cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, onions or chives, lettuce.

Ingredients for vegetables and herb toppings 

  • Shredded lettuce 
  • Diced tomatoes 
  • Diced cucumbers 
  • Diced onions or chopped chives 
  • Feta cheese 
  • Thinly sliced or diced sour/dill pickle 
  • Minced parsley, dill, oregano  

Hummus and yogurt sauce.

Ingredients for sauces 


After you make this, taste and add more seasoning if necessary.  


  • 1 can, 15 oz, chickpeas, drained but not rinsed 
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste 
  • 3-4 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste) 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or more to taste 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Cumin to taste — start with ½ teaspoon. 
  • Plain yogurt to taste — start with a couple of tablespoons. 


Mash chickpeas by hand or in a food processor until of desired smoothness.  Add everything else and blend well. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. 

Makes 2 cups. 


A few minced dill sprigs are nice in here. So are finely minced cucumbers. 


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • Lemon juice to taste  
  • Fresh minced mint to taste (optional) 
  • Salt to taste 


Whisk everything together. Makes 1 cup. 

Shawarma with fresh herbs: parsley, dill, oregano.

TIP: Sub in turkey for chicken 

Use turkey breast, sliced horizontally in half before marinating. 

TIP: Mix it up! 

Shawarma can be used to top a grain bowl.  

TIP: Make ahead  

Prepare up to 2 days ahead. Rewarm in skillet. 

TIP: Store spices away from heat and light! 

Heat and light destroy the volatile compounds and makes them lose flavor. 

TIP: Take the bite out of onions 

Soak in ice water for about 20 minutes or so. Drain well. 


TIP: Blister pita for more flavor 

Place in hot skillet or griddle/grill pan until blistered on the bottom. This takes less than a minute. Flip and blister the other side if desired. 

Originally published in the August/September 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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