This homemade chicken shawarma recipe is made with a special spice mix that infuses it with classic Middle Eastern flavors. Serve it in a wrap to get the satisfying taste of take-out shawarma at home!
Nothing beats classic Middle Eastern recipes. From shish tawook and homemade falafel to hummus and kibbeh, every dish is a celebration of flavors. Chicken shawarma is one of those dishes that almost everyone has tried at some point, usually in a restaurant. Today, I'm going to show you how to make this classic recipe at home. The key is in the mix of spices!
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About this recipe
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern street food that's packed with flavor thanks to the special spice mixture that brings it all together. You can find both beef shawarma and chicken shawarma all around the Middle East. Traditional chicken shawarma is made with marinated chicken pieces layered on a spit, rotating and roasting for a few hours until fully cooked.
Shawarma is juicy and flavorful with crispy bits. It can be served on a plate with some salad such as Mediterranean salad and spreads such as toum (garlic spread) or as a wrap with fresh and warm pita or lavash.
Since we love shawarma but don't own a spit at home, I worked out a recipe for that uses an easy technique to make the chicken juicy and flavorful like (or even better than) you local shawarma joint!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Chicken - I prefer using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe because they're juicy and tender after cooking. However, you can also use boneless skinless chicken breast or a combination of thighs and breast.
- Olive oil - Extra virgin olive oil is always the best choice.
- Garlic - A few cloves of garlic adds so much flavor to the marinade.
- Lemon - Skip bottled lemon juice and use the real deal for this recipe.
- Spice mix - It's all about the spices when it comes to shawarma. You can find shawarma spice mixes in many shops but I personally love making my own spice mix. The spices used to make the marinade include cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt.
How to make chicken shawarma
This is a recipe for oven roasted shawarma which means no grilling or spits are needed. The key is to marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight.
Marinate the chicken: Mix all the spices in a large bowl and add in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Mix well and then add the chicken to the marinade. Let it marinate for 30 minutes or overnight.
Bake in the oven: When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat it with cooking spray.
Place the chicken thighs in one single layer on the baking sheet and brush the remaining marinade on them. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Take the baking sheet out of then oven and raise the temperature to 425°F.
Chop and make it crispy: Place the chicken thighs on a board and slice them into bits. Return them to the baking sheet and stir to make sure they absorb the juice. Bake in the oven at 425°F for an additional 10 minutes until they have crispy bits and ends.
Pro tip: Another way to crisp the chicken slices is to heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and then simply crisp the chicken slices in the skillet as quickly as possible.
You can serve this dish in so many different ways. Here's a couple of ideas:
- Shawarma plate: Serve with some spicy hummus, white rice or rice with vermicelli, tabouli salad, batata harra and tahini sauce.
- Shawarma wrap: Heat some pita or lavash and top it with shawarma. Add some cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Top with tahini sauce or a simple yogurt and garlic sauce. Roll the wrap and serve. Another way to make a wrap is with garlic sauce (toum), pickles, fries and pickled turnips.
Frequently asked questions
Instead of roasting in the oven, you can grill marinated chicken to make shawarma. Grill the chicken thighs until they are fully cooked then slice them into pieces and serve.
As mentioned above, I advise using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. However if you prefer chicken breast, pound it until it's even on all sides and then marinate and cook it according to the instructions.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
This dish is best served fresh and warm. However, you can marinate the chicken up to 8 hours prior to cooking.
More Chicken Recipes
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Homemade Chicken Shawarma Recipe
- 2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1.5 tsp cumin
- 1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon juice
- In a large bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, all the spices and lemon juice.
- Add chicken thighs to the bowl and mix so they are coated in the marinade.
- Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to 8 hours.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with non stick spray.
- Place the chicken thighs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Take the baking sheet out of the oven and raise the temperature to 425°F.
- Place the cooked chicken thighs on a cutting board and slice them into bits. Return them to the baking sheet and give it a stir.
- Bake in the oven for an additional ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix chopped tomatoes and cucumbers and add some salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Mix yogurt, minced garlic and salt and set it aside.
- Make chicken shawarma wraps by placing chicken shawarma on warm pita or lavash and add some tomato and cucumber salad with some yogurt garlic sauce.
- Instead of roasting in the oven, you can grill marinated chicken to make shawarma. Grill the chicken thighs until they are fully cooked then slice them into pieces and either place them on the grill to be crispy or broil them for a few minutes.
- Another way to crisp up the chicken slices is to heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and then simply crisp the chicken slices in the skillet as quickly as possible.
- I advise using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this chicken shawarma recipe. However if you prefer chicken breast, pound it to it's even on all sides and then marinate and cook it according to the instructions.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.