Slathered in a deceptively simple shawarma spice marinade then cooked – in one of three methods; grilled, seared, or oven-roasted – the flavor and aroma of this juicy chicken is unbeatable! Served with a cool and creamy garlic yogurt sauce this flavorful chicken is ready to be wrapped up into warm pita, scattered over salads or served alongside other Middle-Eastern inspired dishes like; Hummus and Roasted Eggplant.
I’ve been making this chicken shawarma a lot lately. It really is a perfect food in my mind. Tangy, spicy chicken, warm and glistening served with garlicky yogurt sauce for dipping. It’s divine! The marinade does a lot of the heaving lifting. It’s made with an abundance of aromatic spices, most of which you likely have on hand already if your pantry is decently stocked.
As far as cooking methods, you have a few options. You can oven-roast, grill/BBQ or pan sear. Each method has its benefits but no matter which you choose you will want get some good color and caramelization to most closely replicate the flavor of traditional shawarma cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Of course that’s easy enough if you’re using a grill or searing the chicken in cast iron. If you’re planning on oven-roasting be sure to finish the chicken, just at the end, under a broiler to really get some good color and caramelization on it.
You can serve this chicken so many different ways – wrapped up in pita bread, lavash or flour tortillas, on top of a large salad with crumbled feta, cucumber, pickled shallots and romaine lettuce, or alongside other Middle-Eastern dishes like; rice pilaf, Jerusalem salad, zhoug, hummus and pickles.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
*Scroll to the bottom of the recipe card for ingredient notes and substitutions.*
How to Make Chicken Shawarma
Step 1. Make the Shawarma Marinade
Combine all of the shawarma marinade ingredients in a large bowl or ziplock bag. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat. Let the chicken marinated in the garlic and spices for at least 1 hour but ideally, for the best flavor, 3 hours or overnight.
Step 2. Cook the Chicken
Assuming you don’t have a traditional vertical rotisserie in your kitchen, you can cook the shawarma a few different ways. On a grill (gas or charcoal), in a cast iron pan or oven-roasted. No matter which cooking method you choose, be sure to cook the shawarma until it is cooked through. The internal temperature of the shawarma should reach 160 F after resting.
Step 3. Garlic White Sauce
While the chicken is cooking whisk together the garlicky white sauce.
Step 4. Serve
Arrange the cooked chicken on a platter – serve warm with garlic white sauce on the side.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern dish that originated in the Ottoman Empire. It is made with thin slices of meat, typically lamb, chicken, or beef, that are stacked on a vertical rotisserie and roasted slowly over an open flame. As the meat cooks, it is shaved off the spit and served in a pita bread with vegetables and a sauce. Shawarma is a popular street food in many Middle Eastern countries, and it can also be found in many restaurants around the world.
Allow the chicken to marinate in the garlic and spices for at least 1 hour but ideally, for the best flavor, more like 3 hours or overnight. Don’t marinate for any longer than 24 hours otherwise the meat will start to break down, becoming mushy and losing its texture.
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Chicken Shawarma with Garlic White Sauce
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 large cloves garlic grated
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp kosher salt
Garlic White Sauce
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1 tbsp za'atar spice
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Place the chicken thighs along with the rest of the shawarma ingredient into a Zip Lock bag or large bowl and then toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-hrs or up to 24-hrs.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge to temper 20 minutes before you intend to cook it.
- Shawarma Cooking Methods: Grill: Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the grill, and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the underside is caramelized and the chicken releases from the grill, then flip and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach at least 160F.Cast Iron Pan: Preheat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken into the pan in a single even layer – you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of you pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the chicken) or until the underside is caramelized and the chicken releases from the pan, then flip and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach at least 160F.Oven-Roasted: Preheat your oven to 425 F. Arrange the marinated chicken on a sheet tray in a single even layer. Bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway through. After 25 minutes turn the oven to broil and broil for five minutes or until the chicken is caramelized and slightly charred.
- Arrange the cooked chicken on a large plate or platter. Serve with Garlic White Sauce on the side.
Garlic White Sauce
- Add all of the ingredients to a small mixing bowl – whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are preferable but, you can use this marinade on chicken breasts or any cut of bone-in chicken if that’s what you have on hand or prefer.
- Shawarma Spices: Many spice companies make pre-mixed shawarma spice blends. While making your own blend is preferable, a spice mix can be a good, economical substitute if you don’t already have spices on hand.
- Leftover chicken shawarma can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To reheat: bake for 3-5 minutes in a preheated 350F oven.