chicken shawarma

Shawarma close up_Fotor

shawarma 1

shawarma plates

There are many reasons why I love living in NYC. Within a few steps from our apartment door, we have access to dishes that span the globe–bagels & lox, fresh east coast oysters, Mediterranean kebabs, homemade pasta, Belgian frites & beer, Spanish tapas, the list goes on. Recently, we’ve been eating a lot of Shawarma. Shawarma is a spit-roasted meat sandwich–the quintessential Middle Eastern street food. A great Shawarma is a symphony of flavors and textures : juicy meat topped with delicious condiments (crunchy vegetables, creamy white sauce, etc.) wrapped in warm pita or flatbread. Inspired by NYC’s food scene and faced with chicken breast defrosting in the fridge, I decided to make Shawarma at home. The results? It was surprisingly easy and really delightful!! Does it beat NYC’s best? No. It’s hard to mimic the taste of slowly roasted meat on a spit. Nonetheless, for something whipped up at home, it’s darn delicious and really flavorful. Despite the loooooooong ingredient list, not much cooking is involved. Most of the work entails measuring, mixing, & chopping.

The how to…
Shawarma recipe adapted from NY Times and Feasting at Home
4 servings

shawarma spices_Fotor

shawarma spices and yogurt

shawarma in ziploc


1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
handful cilantro, roughly chopped
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
4 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, cut in wedges
Pita, warmed in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, for serving

shawarma pickled onions_Fotor

quick pickled red onions
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
pinch red chili flake
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
handful cilantro

creamy cucumber salad
4 persian cucumbers, sliced in thick strips
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, grated
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
handful cilantro, roughly chopped

shawarma skillet


  1. Prepare marinade. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, cilantro, lemon zest & juice, olive oil, garlic, spices, salt & black pepper. Transfer yogurt mixture into a large ziplock bag and add chicken pieces and onion wedges. Seal the bag and gently massage the chicken to assure that all pieces are coated with marinade. Let marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour (or for at least 30 minutes).
  2. While the chicken is marinating, make condiments. For the pickled onions: Place all ingredients into a glass jar. Screw on the lid and shake until sugar is dissolved. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. For the cucumber salad: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, & cilantro. Add sliced cucumbers and toss until well coated. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Sear chicken (optional). Set a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/2 Tbsp of vegetable oil. When skillet is hot (slightly smoking) add chicken and onions. Brown chicken and onions, 2-3 minutes per side (If necessary, divide ziplock contents in half and brown chicken in batches).
  4. Finish cooking in the oven. Transfer cast iron skillet to a 400 degree oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve with warmed pita, pickled onions, and cucumber salad.

Some extras…
*Step 3 is optional. Too lazy? Skip step 3 and transfer chicken and onions to a baking dish and continue with step 4 (increase roasting time as needed). No cast iron skillet? Use a regular pan. Make sure pan is really hot before adding the chicken and onions. When ready to roast, transfer chicken & onions to a baking dish.


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