Shawarma has everything: crispy charred spiced meat rolled up in a soft pita with fresh lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy cucumbers. It’s one of the most perfect combinations on the planet, especially at 2 a.m. It’s one of the best combinations at any time of day, in fact. There’s a reason humans have been grilling meat since the beginning of time, and one of them is the delectableness of shawarma.
What exactly is shawarma?
Shawarma, as we know and love it, is a popular Middle Eastern street food. Shawarma refers generally to a Levantine method of preparing meat in which thin slices of marinated meat are stacked in a cone on a vertical rotisserie and grilled. Shawarma translates literally to “turning.”
Shawarma: A Step-by-Step Guide
Shawarma is available in lamb, beef, chicken, or turkey. In our case, we’ll be using chicken thighs.
Make a spice blend: To make a spice mix, combine cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, aleppo peppers, cinnamon, and ground cloves in a small bowl.
Marinate the chicken thighs in a bowl with the spice mixture, olive oil, and lime juice. Marinate for at least 2 hours.
Cook the chicken in the oven, stovetop, air fryer, or grill. Allow it to rest before slicing when it’s finished.
Serve hot on a platter with shawarma sauce, salad, and a pita; or place everything in a pita and wrap it up, street food style.
Shawarma is all about the spices, so in addition to the chicken thighs, fresh lime juice, and olive oil, you’ll need cumin, paprika, garlic powder, ground coriander, ground cardamom, ground ginger, turmeric, aleppo pepper, cinnamon, and ground cloves.
Aleppo pepper – These tiny dried pepper flakes are incredible. If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, leave out the aleppo pepper in this recipe. But if you’re feeling daring, please give it a shot. It’ll add just a hint of heat and a lot of flavour. They’re half as spicy as regular crushed red pepper flakes but far more flavorful: earthy with a fruity tang.
What if I don’t have all of the shawarma ingredients?
You can buy a shawarma spice blend instead if you don’t have all of the shawarma spices and don’t want to buy them just for shawarma. It won’t taste the same as this recipe because all spice blends/mixes are different, but it will work just as well in a pinch.
Is a vertical spit required to make shawarma?
You can enjoy all of the flavours of shawarma without having to spit! The key is to marinate your meats in the same spices that your favourite shawarma restaurant uses. If you want to add a bit of char to your chicken after it’s been cooked and sliced, aggressively char it in a cast iron pan.
Shawarma Cooking Instructions
Cooktop – Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat until caramelised and cooked through.
Oven baked – Preheat the oven to 425°F and arrange the chicken in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Using an air fryer, cook the marinated thighs at 360°F for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through, flipping halfway through.
Grill – Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. When the grill is hot, grill the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it is charred and cooked through.
What to eat with shawarma: Go all out and make the ultimate mezze platter with the following ingredients:
Salad fattoush pan-fried halloumi tzatziki falafel baba ganoush muhammara hummus
What to Serve
Shawarma can be served tucked into a pita like a wrap or on a plate with rice, salad, and a pita on the side.
Don’t forget about the sauce!
Is it shawarma if it doesn’t come with shawarma sauce? I’ve included a recipe for a creamy garlicky yoghurt sauce with a hint of tahini and lemon. It’s so delicious that you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.