Hands down one of my favorite dishes of all times, a Home Style Chicken Shawarma is easier to make than you might think. Best of all, this recipe is absolutely going to deliver on taste and flavor!
If you know Chicken Shawarma, you know it’s one of those street foods that are cooked on a rotating vertical spit, then the chicken is shaved off to order. I can’t help with the vertical spit, but I can get you all the flavor of this Middle Eastern specialty. Right at your house! One taste and you’ll be transported to a far off and exotic land!
About Home Style Chicken Shawarma:
First of all, did you know Shawarma is pronounced like “Shower-ma? I didn’t. I always said Shwar-ma, just ignoring that extra little “a” in the word. Even if you’re not that familiar with Shawarma, you might be familiar with one or the other of its cousins. The first, the Gyros, which often in the States is made with a pressed meat, in Greece is made with either pork or chicken. The other is Tacos al Pastor, a Mexican preparation that has its roots in the Shawarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese workers. All are said to have roots in the Turkish Donar Kebab.
This Home Style Chicken Shawarma has all the gorgeous flavors of the spit roasted, rotisserie style Shawarma, without the spit, without the rotisserie, and without the hassle. There were two things that upped my game on the Home Style Chicken Shawarma and both gave me the “Aha” moment and neither was the cooking methods I had been fooling with. I knew at the first beautiful, luscious bite of my Home Style Chicken Shawarma that these are exactly what had been missing from all my previous versions.
They are Ras El Hanout, a rather complicated spice mix that I posted for you the other day (and I’ll give you a simpler shortcut, too, if you’re in a “just get dinner on the table mood.” And of course, you can buy it, too) and Sumac, a dark, rich spice used in Middle Eastern cooking that’s said to taste lemony. Those two spices are what just “makes” the Home Style Chicken Shawarma. It seriously tastes just like it came from a restaurant.
Making Home Style Chicken Shawarma:
I’ve tried to replicate all of the Donar style kebabs at home with little to no success, pretty much because I was always trying methods that mimicked the spit/rotisserie method of cooking. And I tried a lot of them. (If you have a rotisserie, try it with this recipe & let me know – I don’t have one.) I finally I ditched all those variable, cutesy and/or complicated methods of cooking. They all had the same serious flaw no one mentioned: the only bites of flavorful, toasty, slightly crispy and delicious meat you are going to get are from the outside layer. Once that was cut off, the rest is boring and it is too long of a wait for any of the home methods to deliver a second round of flavorful, toasty, slightly crispy and delicious meat! I found it was much better to just cook thin slices on my grill (I’ll give you oven directions, too) where every piece had a chance to pick up some lovely grill marks and that crispiness.
Other than the cooking method and using the right spices, the single biggest thing you can do to really bring the flavor in your Home Style Chicken Shawarma is to marinade it for a long time. Of course, it will be really good 30 minutes in, and it will be a little better if you marinade overnight, but it will even be better if you leave that chicken in the spices for two days or even three. It’s a long time, but the choice is yours. This is a great recipe to double as you’re making it. Divide the rest into packets & then stash that marinated chicken in your freezer; it will pick up all the flavor it needs as it thaws.
I based a lot of my recipe for Home Style Chicken Shawarma and the sides on a recipe I found from the famed London Chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I’ve made a few of his recipes (and want his books!) and every one has been outstanding. I’ve only slightly tweaked his Chicken Shawarma, going by taste & converting to the U.S. measurements. I also tossed in a few ideas from a Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives episode featuring Zaytoon Restaurant’s Chicken Shawarma and of course, I always need to toss in a little extra flair of my own!
Serving Home Style Chicken Shawarma:
You can definitely serve your Home Style Chicken Shawarma with any Middle Eastern style salads or pilafs. I don’t know why I have never really gone that direction and posted any recipes for you, other than
I am obsessed with Mexican and Asian Cooking this Turkish Rice Pilaf or this Greek Brown Rice Salad. I would really have in mind something like a Tabouleh salad to go with this. And for an appetizer, you don’t want to forget the Hummus! Here’s my Classic Hummus but look under my Appetizer Menu for others.
I like my Home Style Chicken Shawarma with flatbread or a pita, with lots of fun sauces and here’s where Chef Ottolenghi really helped out. The spicy, green sauce Zhoug is fantastic with this (I’m a sucker for green sauces like – well, just look on my Condiments Menu) as is the traditional Lemony Garlic Tahini sauce. And while many people like to serve Chicken Shawarma with a kind of salsa that has tomatoes in it, I love the rich Red Onion & Cucumber Salsa shown in the pics with all these different spices in it. Those recipes are all coming, each on their own post & all are easy & make ahead.
So no matter how you serve it, how simple you keep it or how complicated you want to be with your sides, don’t miss out on making this Home Style Chicken Shawarma. I was so happy to have had my Son’s Girlfriend here to help make and grill these (and she cleaned up for me, bless her heart!) We’re both giving this a thumbs up, especially with the three sauces~ I think the sauces just took Home Style Chicken Shawarma over the top! I’ve had this now for dinner three days in a row (hey it made a lot) and just finished the last of the chicken in a bowl (all out of Pitas) and now I’m so sad it’s gone!
Saving Money on Home Style Chicken Shawarma:
I talked about the spice mix Ras El Hanout here and on its own post, but I realize that not everyone is going to want to make a 13 item spice mix or want to order it online if you can’t buy it in your area. There’s a kind of shortcut that might come in handy and I’ll include it in the recipe notes. It is really worthwhile seeking out the Sumac & the Ras El Hanout if you want that elusive real deal flavor Chicken Shawarma has, but if you’re just all about getting dinner on the table, feel free to skip it.
If you’re in a hurry, use the shortcut spices, marinade for as long as you can, make the Tahini sauce and get dinner on the table. There’s no shame in that game. If you want to go all out and make or order the Ras El Hanout, make all the side dishes, etc., this Home Style Chicken Shawarma would be a great party dinner! This meal might just be the ideal planned potluck where everyone brings something. It’s so festive and fun.
You might notice, too, that this recipe makes a lot of chicken, 2 1/2 pounds. Use breast or preferably thighs, boneless is easiest and buy it on sale. My chicken breasts were $1.49 a pound on a Labor Day sale. Yeah, I know, right! That’s why a freezer is so nice to have, to pick up items like that on sale and stash them. The Home Style Chicken Shawarma would be a wonderful meal prep chicken. Just vary the sides a bit for each meal and you won’t feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over. Not that I minded!! 🙂
I can never figure out why on earth flatbread is so darned expensive in my area! It’s a basic bread. If you have a Middle Eastern or Indian restaurant in your area, call them up and see if they’ll sell you some at a decent price. They were $4.99 for six at my store. If you love making bread, it’s a pittance to make your own.
Home Style Chicken Shawarma
- 2 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally or boneless thighs
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed & minced
- a 1″ piece of 1″ ginger grated, about a generous tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander or cardamom
- 3 to 4 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 to 12 flatbreads or pitas
First, make the marinade and marinate the chicken:
Combine the lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Dry-fry the remaining spices on medium heat until their aroma is released and then add these to the bowl along with the cilantro and olive oil.
Pat dry the chicken pieces and place them in the marinade. along. Massage the mixture into the chicken well, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 to 3 days.
If cooking on a Stovetop Griddle:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a large ridged griddle pan on high heat. Once red hot, cook the chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side until nice and brown. Transfer to an oven tray to cook the meat through in the oven; about 6 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting the chicken into thin slices or chunks. Any remaining juices from the pan can be drizzled over the meat.
If using a Gas Grill:
Preheat grill gas grill to medium-high. Check by the hand method. Hold your hand three inches above the grate. If you can hold it there for only two to three seconds before it becomes so uncomfortable you have to move it, your temperature is right. Turn one of the burners to low.
If using Charcoal, set up a two-level fire. When grill is at medium-high heat, check by the hand method. Hold your hand three inches above the grate. If you can hold it there for only two to three seconds before it becomes so uncomfortable you have to move it, your temperature is right.
For both Grills:
Place chicken pieces over the hottest part of the grill, turning each piece as it becomes browned and has good markings. They’ll cook through quickly so keep monitoring. As each is turned, place it on an area that’s just a little cooler to finish off.
For the Oven Method:
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a rimmed sheet pan. Add the chicken, spreading everything evenly across it. Put the chicken in the oven and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Watch closely and check several times. Remove from the oven, allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice into thin slices or bits.
To Prepare the Flatbread:
Wipe pan or scrape grill clean. Spray or drizzle each flatbread with a little water and place water side down in the pan, on the grill or on the oven rack. Heat for one to two minutes and turn. Wrap in a clean towel to keep warm for serving.
Notes: For a shortcut spicing, do not add any of the above spices, instead use:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
I’ll be sharing my Home Style Chicken Shawarma at Fiesta Friday #240. The co-hosts this week are Deb @ The Pantry Portfolio and Laurena @ Life Diet Health. Stop by and check out Fiesta Friday – it’s where so many great bloggers share their recipes weekly and you’re bound to find a lot of inspiration and something to cook! So funny, Deb’s latest post is for a Garlicky Hummus and Laurena’s for a Warming Spicy Lentil Dal. No, it’s not a conspiracy! We just all picked Middle Eastern Recipes this week! Perfect for fall days!