Think, What is Shawarma?
Chicken Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern dish that has gained popularity around the world. It is made by marinating chicken in a combination of spices, such as cumin, turmeric, and paprika, and then cooking it on a spit. The meat is then shaved off and served in a wrap or pita bread with toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini sauce.
One of the reasons for the dish’s popularity is its versatility. It can be served as a main course, a sandwich, or even as a topping for salads. It can also be made with different types of meat, such as beef or lamb, and can be adjusted to suit different taste preferences by using different spices or sauces.
The origins of chicken shawarma can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, where it was made with lamb or mutton. It then spread to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, where it became a staple street food. Today, it can be found in many restaurants and food trucks around the world.
To make chicken shawarma at home, marinate chicken breasts or thighs in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight for maximum flavor. Then, cook the chicken on a spit or in a skillet and serve it in a wrap or pita bread with toppings of your choice.
Ingredients in Chicken Shawarma
- Chicken – I like to make Shawarma with boneless, skinless thighs as its juicier than breast. But chicken breast and tenderloin both work great.
- Lemon juice – Fresh!
- Olive oil – For a touch of flavour but also to dilute the lemon juice so it doesn’t “cook” the chicken.
- Spices – Nothing out of the ordinary here! The only one you might not have in stock is cardamom, though these days its easily found at any grocery store. It has a piney, sort of citrusy flavour and it is a key ingredient that distinguishes the Shawarma marinade from other cuisines, such as Mexican, that regularly uses the other spices used in this recipe. In short, don’t skip it!
- Spice control – The spiciness in the Shawarma marinade comes from the cayenne pepper. It’s not a key element of the flavour so if you don’t want it spicy, either reduce or eliminate it altogether. I promise you won’t feel robbed. Lots of other flavours going on in this dish!
How to make Chicken Shawarma
For the best results, it’s best to marinate the chicken overnight. But to be honest, the volume and flavour of the marinade is intense enough that you can get away with a minimum of 3 hours of marinating. Been there, done that plenty of times, and nobody has complained!
- Mix marinade – For convenience, just mix the marinade directly in a ziplock bag. A bag works best because the chicken remains nicely coated in the marinade. If you prefer to use a container, either turn the chicken a few times or increase the marinade by 50%.
- Add chicken into the marinade. Seal the bag, removing excess air, then massage to coat from the outside. Leave to marinade for 12 to 24 hours in the fridge. If you’re pressed for time, even 3 hours will do!
- Yogurt sauce – Make the yogurt sauce simply by mixing the ingredients then set aside for at least 20 minutes to let the flavours meld. This will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
- Cook chicken either on the stove or on the BBQ. It will get a great crust on it from the spices, and you will adore the smell. It’s intoxicating!
- Rest chicken for at least 3 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the flesh, else they will just run out everywhere when you slice the meat.
- To serve, just pile everything on a platter and let everybody make their own wraps! The chicken, lettuce, tomato slices, onion, yogurt sauce and warmed flatbreads – homemade or store bought. If the chicken is on the larger side, I sometimes slice it. But if they are smaller, I tend to just leave them whole.
How to Serve Chicken Shawarma
There are two main ways to serve Chicken Shawarma.
- Wraps – As Chicken Shawarma wraps (like Gyros and Doner kebabs), with tomato, lettuce, and a simple yoghurt sauce on the side. Other optional extras include: red onion, cheese (query authenticity? But that’s ok!!), hummus, hot sauce / chilli sauce.
- Shawarma plate – With rice and salads on the side. Thought I usually do serve pita bread or another type of flatbread as well, with a big dollop of either Hummus or the Yogurt Sauce in this recipe, just because it’s very on theme. Below, the Chicken Shawarma is pictured with Mejadra which is a Middle Eastern lentil rice (seriously so good you can / will want to eat it just by itself!) and a Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad
Overall, chicken shawarma is a delicious and convenient dish that is enjoyed by people all over the world. Its unique blend of spices, tender meat and various toppings make it a perfect dish for any occasion. Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a flavorful dinner, chicken shawarma is sure to satisfy.
- 1 kg / 2 lb chicken thigh fillets
- 1 large garlic clove , minced (or 2 small cloves)
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground cardamon
- 1 tbsp ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp salt black pepper
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 – 5 Flat Bread
- Sliced lettuce
- Hot sauce of choice optional
- Marinade chicken – Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken, seal, the massage from the outside with your hands to make sure each piece is coated. Marinate 24 hours (minimum 3 hours).
- Yogurt Sauce – Combine the Yogurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix. Cover and put in the fridge until required (it will last for 3 days in the fridge)
- Preheat stove or BBQ – Heat a large non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon over medium high heat, or lightly brush a BBQ hotplate/grills with oil and heat to medium high. (See notes for baking)
- Cook chicken – Place chicken in the skillet or on the grill and cook the first side for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely charred. Turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes (the 2nd side takes less time)
- Rest – Remove chicken from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice chicken and pile onto platter alongside flatbreads, Salad and the Yoghurt Sauce
- To make a wrap, get a piece of flatbread and smear with Yoghurt Sauce. Top with a bit of lettuce and tomato and Chicken Shawarma. Roll up and enjoy!
Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.